Monday, January 16, 2012

In Praise of Book Clubs

By Pamela

I've yet to meet a writer who wasn't also a voracious reader. It's akin to saying you compose songs but never listen to music or sing. One can't be proclaimed without the other.

Me (bottom left) with my Illinois book club friends, circa 2002.
So when my neighbor, Tracy, asked if I might be interested in joining a book club that was just starting out, I said sure! Before I moved to Texas from Illinois, I was in a book club that met for five years. We started out with about six women and grew to around a dozen or so, varying in attendance each month, as most groups do. I've been gone for over six years now but still stay in touch with most of them and always will.

I must admit, my book reading has been a bit off lately. Whether it's due to the fact that I 'read' at the computer so much during the day or that I tend to be a little fickle in my reading preferences, I'm not sure. Maybe a bit of both. I'm excited about the reading prospects this new group will bring.

My new book club met this past Wednesday and for our first selection we read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I felt a little smug about his title being our first: Not only do I have an autographed copy of the book but I also heard Jamie speak when he was in town.

As the discussion got under way, I contributed little to the conversation and instead enjoyed hearing the women around me speak so passionately about the story. They talked about the characters they loved, the ones they didn't really relate to and others they felt made the tale come alive.

Then I imagined what might be debated if they had read my manuscript. Which characters would they find intriguing/irritating/forgettable? What issues would they discuss and possibly disagree on? Would they love or hate the ending? Would they wonder what happened to my characters after the story ended? Would they even care?

What I concluded, after pondering these questions, was: I have to up the stakes. I need to create more passion in this story--make the reader really care about how these characters relate to one another, make the people in the story come alive on the page and dwell in the mind of the reader. The reader needs to become invested in the outcome of the book enough to keep reading--even wish the story didn't end.

Time to get busy!

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