Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Book Clubbing

This Saturday morning, I get to do one of my favorite book-related things: participate in a book club. Over the years, I've belonged to bookclubs. Some were more about the wine than the reading (nothing wrong with that); but all of them were about coming together to share a love of books.

Since my novel came out last July, I've met with over 20 different book clubs. Each group has been wonderful and different. We've met in private homes, churches, coffee shops, and bookstores. I've talked with groups in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Virginia, and Kansas as well as my home state of Missouri. We've chatted in person, by phone and live-chat. At the end of one meeting, I was asked to stay and help decorate the Christmas tree. After another, I got to play with the owner's new golden retriever puppy. When I was getting ready for my first visit as an author, I was nervous (even though the woman hosting it was someone I've known for 15 years since we live in the same town and our kids played soccer together). I wondered what they'd expect from me, if they'd be disappointed in my lack of "authorness" (whatever that is, I doubted I had it). But each time, no matter how tired I am beforehand, I come away from a book club meeting feeling energized. These are women who intentionally chose to read my book, felt it was worthy of discussion, and cared about my characters as if they were the real people they'd become to me. Each group helps me to see different layers of my book; they view it with varying lenses which allow me to see it differently too. Their questions are thoughtful and insightful and make me think about the very words I penned.

And the funniest thing about each meeting? They thank me when it's over. They appreciate my willingness to attend. Silly them, I think as I'm getting in my car to go home or hanging up the phone. They're what makes all of this possible for all of us who write and who love to read. Without readers, we're toiling away in a vacuum. Yes, I write because I love it, because I don't feel as though I have a choice, but the real thrill is in the connection with readers.

12 comments:

Larramie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larramie said...

And it's that emotional connection that makes your writing work, Judy. Your characters say, think, feel, act, etc., as so many would or might want to. So, when the book club members meet you, they feel as though you've read -- then written about -- their lives and they're honored.

Enjoy Saturday!

P.S. Had to Trash my spelling errors.

Therese said...

Judy, I'm so glad you share things like this; I'm already nervous about my first author-appearance and it's not until October!

To most aspiring writers and to almost all readers, authors are celebrities. To have written a novel and had it published is very, very unusual--which I think we tend to forget.

Generally speaking, we do need readers more than readers need us, but let's not let that word get out!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks, Larramie. I do hope readers see me--or at least my characters-- as an old friend or acquaintance. It's wpnderful to knwo you feel that way.

Therese, you'll be great. You'll all have something in common--a love of your story. It'll feel like family.

Lisa said...

Three or four years ago I attended a reading at my favorite (now closed) indie bookstore, The Chinook in Colorado Springs. Natalie Goldberg was there to promote Top of My Lungs and I had my copy of Writing Down the Bones for her to sign too. I was so overcome I couldn’t even ask a question and was nervous to even stand in line to have her sign my books. Published writers are a little like rock stars to a lot of us! Now that I’ve had a peek behind the Wizard’s curtain and understand the anxiety is a two-way street, be assured that if any of you published authors plan to stop in Denver on a book tour, you can count on me to for advance support on the ground – I’ll drive you to the bookstores (I'll even wash my car!), pretend I’m your security detail and walk around out front with a sandwich board to bring people in off the street if you want :)

Kanani said...

Yay! I love your energy and enthusiasm.

Right now, each person in our group is putting together a list of authors. There are 9 of us and we read such different things. Anyway, you're on my list, and they're aware of your book. We'll sift through of them and come up with a plan for 2007-08. We try to be democratic about this thing!

Fingers crossed ---

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Lisa, I remember when I got to meet Tim O'Brien at a reading--your description of "rock star" is dead on. It's still a little Unbelieveable to think anyone would feel that way about meeting me . . .

Kanani, thanks for the support and I'll keep my fingers crossed, too.

Ghost Girl said...

Amen, Judy. What a wonderful experience. Connection--that's what I ache for, and that's the second thing that keeps me writing. The first is the people in my head who want their stories told. Okay...that makes me sound like a schizophrenic...

In the meantime, I dream of an experience like yours. Thanks for sharing it.

cce said...

I wish I hadn't been exiled from my book group after one of my earliest posts (intended to be amusing but ruffled some feathers nonetheless) because I would love to have arranged for your visit.
It must be so rewarding to get feedback and observation on your work. This weekend I posted a short story...filler as I was out of town. I was so pleased to return and find people had read it, people had like it. A relief to write for an audience for once.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Ghost Girl, don't give up the dream . . . all of us who are published spent years dreaming about it before it happened. Hang in there.

CCE, loved your post (sorry it got you booted!)

The Writers' Group said...

Judy, your posts are always inspired. All of your hard work, determination to learn craft, and that wonderful positive attitude of yours is what got you published. I love that you're humbled by it.

Amy

Anonymous said...

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