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Love is in the air at Langston Hughes Library

John Crow Alexander, a community associate for the Langston Hughes Community Library, shares the library’s history.
Photo by Madina Toure
By Madina Toure

Renowned African-American romance novelists discussed everything from how they get inspired to creativity in romance writing at the seventh annual Langston Hughes Literary Arts Festival at the Langston Hughes Community Library in Corona over the weekend.

The panel, titled “For the Love of the Words: Master Storytellers” featured Rochelle Alers, author of “Cherry Lane” and more than 50 titles; Donna Hill, author of “My Love at Last,” who is considered the one of the early pioneers of the African-American romance genre; and Renee Daniel Flagler, an award-winning writer and creative writing teaching artist.

Alers has visited the library multiple times, saying that it is like “coming home.” Flagler teaches creative writing courses at the library throughout the year and Hill worked for the Queens Library for 10 years.

Alicia Evans, president and founder of the Sugar & Spice Club, moderated the panel. The authors fielded questions about how they got into romance writing, what makes the genre appealing and how they keep their romance stories fresh.

Hill said it can be challenging to come up with new ideas for sex scenes, which must be written in a way that is not sleazy given the genre’s romantic nature.

“I think the biggest thing that I have is, you write enough romances, how many ways can you have sex?” she said, jokingly. “OK, so on the table, in the hallway, in the beach, in the kitchen, on the floor, what else can I say? That’s the most difficult part to write.”

For Flagler, romance is the perfect genre simply because “love rocks.”

“It’s real and it is powerful and I’m a champion of it because I don’t think it gets enough credit,” she said.

Alers, who described writing as a “sedative,” is working on a project that features romance for baby boomers, who are sometimes deemed too old for passion.

“Unfortunately, one of my editors … thought they were too old for love,” she said. “So I said, ‘OK.’ I couldn’t give it to her. I just couldn’t give it to her. Baby boomers need love, too. So I was able to find an editor who’s a baby boomer and was more than willing to take it.”

Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center is recognized as a literary landmark by United for Libraries. It is the first public institution named for the famed poet and author of the Harlem Renaissance.

“Most of the things that are now very commonplace in libraries throughout the country and the world in many cases were started right here at Langston Hughes Library,” John Crow Alexander, a community associate for the library, said. “Your Harlequin books, your DVDs, CDs, VHS, those were first circulated here at Langston Hughes Library, before any other place.”

The event kicked off with a presentation by author Mary Bounds on her book, “A Light Shines in Harlem: New York’s First Charter School and the Movement It Led.”

MK Asante, an author, filmmaker, rapper and college professor, presented his memoir, “Buck: A Memoir.” Kwame Alexander, a poet and author of 18 books, presented his book, “The Crossover.” Radio show host and blogger Flo Anthony discussed her journey as a writer and her latest works.

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