A little over a week ago, I was fortunate enough to have a fun-filled book weekend. On Saturday, I attended the National Book Festival with Swapna (S. Krishna's Books) and Candace (Beth Fish Reads.) We saw some great author like Suzanne Collins, Ken Follett, Brad Meltzer, Elizabeth Kostova, Diane Gabaldon, and more. It was a great time but so very, very hot! And on Sunday, I headed to the Baltimore Book Festival to participate on a panel made up of book club members. It was just a fantastic weekend -- because of the books and the company!
Here's the official scoop about the panel:
Join veteran book clubbers for an hour of ideas guaranteed to help you bring out the best in your book club. Topics will include ways to liven up your club, tips on choosing books, suggestions for dealing with problem members, and more. Bring your questions – we’ve got answers!
Heather Johnson, also known as The Book Club Madam, is the head of Storie delle Sorelle, a 20-member book club in the Glen Burnie area. She reviews everything she reads on her book blog where she also writes about topics of interest to readers everywhere. If Heather could make a living out of reading and running book clubs, she’d do it in a heartbeat; until then she freely shares her knowledge and experience with anyone willing to listen.
Melissa McCrory Hatcher - After completing my PhD in English, I needed a new place to discuss books! When I moved to Maryland, I found Storie delle Sorelle online, and they happily made me a member of their book-loving family. We are women in varying stages of life who meet monthly to share our thoughts. We average around 10 people and 1 bottle of wine per meeting.
Swapna Krishna - I'm a member of 2 book clubs, one online and one in-person. Our online group has 11 members and has been meeting for about a year and a half. We meet via Skype, with audio and video chat, while the in-person group has just 4 members and has been meeting for a year. Both have been very successful and a lot of fun for all members! You can also find me at my blog.
Julie Peterson - I am a big fan of book clubs, so much of one that I belong to three different ones that meet monthly. My regular book club is called The Preschool Moms Book Club (although that's no longer true anymore since our kids have moved on!) and we've been meeting for eight years. We usually read literary fiction, but we've been known to try other genres every once in awhile. My on-line book club, Wired & Bound, is made up of fellow book bloggers from around the United States and England. We have been meeting via Skype for around a year and a half and usually discuss literary fiction. My final book club is a mother-daughter one called The Tweeny Bookworms. We've been meeting for around two and a half years and consist of nine mother-daughter groups. Find me online at Booking Mama.
Faye Houston – Book Club Coordinator for the Pratt Library Central Branch - Our Saturday book club was originally started by 2 library staffers, me and Richard Oloizia (now also retired), 15 years ago. We meet on the last Saturday of the month, generally, and read a broad range of fiction, non-fiction, children´s books, sci-fi, and non-fiction (history and biography).
I thought the panel went extremely well and I think the participants had a lot to offer about different types of book clubs! And I have to tell you that Heather was perfect as the moderator -- she really should consider doing some sort of moderating as a career. I was honored to be included on this panel and I feel like I walked away from it with lots of new ideas for my book clubs.
We covered much of what you'd expect -- types of book clubs, lists of books that we've read that generated the best discussion, goals of our groups, etc. However, one of the highlights for me was when we talked about some of the "out-of-the-box" things that our book clubs have done. I mentioned my group's recent Mardi Gras themed-meeting, but I got some other fantastic ideas for other themed-meetings. One idea that particularly sparked my interest was when a book club picked a specific theme and everyone in the group picked their own book to discuss. The example was Jackie Kennedy and members read all sorts of books written about her. One read a book written by Jackie's mother's housekeeper, another read a book that Jackie wrote with her sister, another read a tell-all biography, etc. I absolutely love this idea and I'm trying to figure out a way to incorporate it into a future book club meeting!
We also spent some time discussing the pros and cons of author chats -- both phone calls and in-person visits. Some groups have experience that when an author is "present," their group doesn't feel as free to discuss the book. I totally understand that, but my group has always met for a little while before the author "arrives" so we can have our real discussion. Bottom line for me is that author chats are fantastic and a great way to liven up our meetings. I always walk away from these author chats having much more insight into the book as well as appreciation for what the author set out to do.
Another highlight of the Baltimore Book Panel was getting to meet some authors. We just happened to have an author in the audience for the Book Club Panel who spends a lot of time discussing his book with book clubs -- Justin Kramon author of FINNY. This was my first time to meet Justin and I have to say I just loved him. He is a wonderful guy and I can't to read his next book because I think he is an extremely gifted writer!
Overall, I had a great time at the Baltimore Book Festival and especially my hour spent participating in the book club panel. It was an honor to be included and it's an experience that I won't soon forget!
(And because I haven't had a chance to write up my weekend experiences, I thought I'd list a few more of my highlights:
- Having a fun dinner with lots of fellow bloggers
- Meeting Aviva Goldfarb, author of SOS! Six O'Clock Scramble cookbooks
- Meeting Sarah Pekkanen, author of THE OPPOSITE OF ME
- Attending the Book Blogger Panel
- Meeting Heather's husband and son
- Hanging out in the author hospitality building -- one of the perks of being a panel participant
- Meeting the J-Crew (Jenn's Bookshelves entire family) and being served the most wonderful Jerk Chicken made by Jenn's husband John. I was amazed that he not only made the book bloggers a fantastic meal, but that he even brought chafing dishes to keep the chicken and rice hot. And, he even sent home leftovers with us!
- And much, much more!)