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Sunday, June 21st, 2009 by

Author Foster Dickson writes about a recent book signing at Black Belt Treasures:

Since my book I Just Make People Up: Ramblings With Clark Walker was published, I’ve had a number of book-signings. One of the most rewarding to date was an event at Black Belt Treasures in Camden, Alabama, a few weeks back. Leaving Montgomery, Clark and I eased off of Highway 80 onto State Road 21, heading southwest toward Camden. After about an hour and a half of winding through barely more than fallow green fields bordered by dilapidated barbed wire fence, we got into Camden.

Whether to call Black Belt Treasures a bookstore, or a gift shop, or a gallery, or a cultural center, I don’t know for sure. It’s actually all these things and more. Situated in Camden’s downtown Black Belt Treasures is housed in a stand-alone building with a variety of arts, crafts, books, packaged specialty food items, and clothing on display — some items attractively placed in the windows to lure passersby. Judy Martin, who coordinated our visit, and Sulynn Creswell, who handles the artwork end of things (I think), were very kind and gracious to Clark and me. Copies of I Just Make People Up were set up on a table in the middle of the store, with a pen already sitting beside the stack. While I talked to one man who had arrived early and wanted to ask a few questions, everyone else jumped on the task of bringing in Clark’s paintings, which would also be made available for sale, and getting them hung on the walls.

The day was a good one. I signed some books, and Clark sold some paintings. The pace was steady. The ladies fixed coffee for everyone, and we chatted or browsed during the lulls. And I got an opportunity to notice in the process how vital this store has become to the Camden community. Alabama’s Black Belt is richer for it.

On the way home, Clark and I were both glad that we said yes to the trip. We settled for a eating a fast-food cheeseburger because Gaines Ridge, a semi-famed restaurant right outside of Camden, didn’t seem open. We got back onto route 21, turning left at what appeared to be an abandoned BP station, and headed through the same green fields home — past the now-bustling people at the small local grocery stores or the not-so-bustling ones sitting around their front-yard picnic tables on a Saturday afternoon. Clark and I rode home, northeastward to Montgomery, knowing we’d discovered new friends at a great store in a place we’d never been before.

I Just Make People Up: Ramblings with Clark Walker is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

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