I recently spent a few days in the quaint, historic town of Jefferson, Texas, as a guest at the Pulpwood Queens Book Club Girlfriends Weekend. It’s an enthusiastic, bombastic, coming-together of 300 book clubbers who represent book clubs from all over the country. It’s a three-day celebration of the marriage between authors and readers, complete with boas and tiaras and leopard print, but most importantly, it comes with a true love of reading.
But I did get surprised with a question, like I normally do at any event. When you think you’ve heard them all, you haven’t. It was a two part question, and the first part didn’t surprise me.
“Do you like visiting with book clubs?” someone asked.
“Yes,” I answered. An easy one. Then came the second part.
Not a jarring question, but it was certainly one I’ve never been asked before. It wasn’t one I really thought of answering. And there I was, on the spot, needing to answer in front of a crowd. Fortunately, after a moment’s pause, it occurred to me. And this was my answer.
I enjoy meeting with book clubs for many of the same reasons I enjoy hanging out in bookstores. There’s a feeling of community, of camaraderie. A feeling of goodwill. A feeling of creativity and imagination. Whenever I’m meeting with a book club, whether face-to-face or via technology, I always come away thinking, that went well. Or, they seem to like each other. Or, it was so good to hear from that group of people. This strange job of writing novels can be lonely. And even on days when it’s not lonely, it is at least solitary. And my experience with book clubs has been an experience of shaking off those long and quiet hours and realizing that my work has reached out to someone, somewhere, and not only do they want to talk about it with others, they want to talk about it with you. And that goes a long way for a writer.
I think book clubs are important to help foster community and ideas. To create new relationships. To offer a little while away from the hustle of life. To get us away from that little electronic thing that beeps too much. And I know the next time I visit with one, I’ll feel encouraged when it’s over. I’ll feel good. Because I’ll be reminded there are people out there sipping wine or drinking coffee and visiting with each other, and enjoying their time together, and enjoying what we do.