Tag Archives: Oprah’s Book Club

Ten Tips for Organizing a Successful Book Group

Do you belong to a book group? I do, and this is one of my observations: a fabulous book does not necessarily guarantee a fabulous discussion.

Ten Tips for Organizing a Successful Book Group

When everyone is in agreement, there isn’t much to talk about. But if there are diverse opinions, it makes for a much more satisfying conversation.

My book group has been around for 20 years or more. None of us can remember exactly when it began. It is primarily a women’s group, but once a year we invite our husbands/significant others to join us for the book and a potluck dinner.

Now having read hundreds of books, I can say that success is often hit or miss and there is never a guarantee that  well-recommended book will spark a great discussion. Sometimes we are surprised which way it goes.

Anyway, here are some tips that have worked well for my book group and may work for yours.

Ten Tips for Organizing a Successful Book Group

  1. An August get together is when we share suggestions. This is how we come up with selections for the coming year.
  2. If we need ideas, we can use online resources like Goodreads and Oprah’s Book Club.
  3. We make sure that at least one person in the group has already read the book.
  4. Historical fiction is a consistent winner, especially little known history.
  5. We try to choose a book with content that relates to social issues or contains controversial subject matter.
  6. We like to read authors representing the spectrum of nationality and ethnicity.
  7. Usually we opt for contemporary novels, but memoir, classics and the occasional non-fiction mix it up.
  8. We are conscious of the length of the book. We want everyone to be able to finish it in time.
  9. At each meeting one person is responsible for researching the book and the author, to add background and context to the discussion.
  10. It is OK to agree to disagree. No opinion is wrong.

Last month my book group read Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. It is the story of ordinary, intertwined lives in the midwest small town of Amgash, Illinois. If you’ve read Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton you will recognize many of the characters in this novel.

I loved, loved, loved this novel. But I expected to. I am a huge fan of Strout’s writing.  I thought her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge was pure magic.

About half of the group agreed with me on Anything is Possible. The rest had mixed feelings.

“I couldn’t follow it,” said one. “Too many characters and too many connections to figure out.”

I disagreed.

“Don’t you like when you reach a part where it starts coming together, and you say OMG, so that’s what’s going on?” I asked. “The ‘aha’ moment!”

“No, because I don’t like to have to go back and reread,” she responded.

“It was relentlessly sad,” said another.

I couldn’t deny that. “But there is beauty in the sadness,” I said.

Viva la difference!

This is exactly what makes book group discussions so much fun.

 

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

In the Company of Writers

I'm Going to BlogHer Writers '11!

BlogHer Writers was a one-day conference for … well, writers who blog. Two hundred of us gathered for a day of education and sharing, and if the enthusiastic conversations on Twitter are any indication, the other 199 enjoyed it as much as I did. All the elements of an awesome conference — knowledgeable and articulate presenters, well-designed sessions and workshops, and relevant topics yielding many takeaways — were in place. Best of all, this was a community of smart and savvy women (and a few good men) who also happened to be NICE PEOPLE. What a pleasure it was to spend the day with them.

I’m a writer because I love to write. Always have. Yet my unfinished novel sits waiting for me to complete it. What’s my problem?  Oh, I have a million excuses, like working full-time and being too tired at night and not having the time, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and time marches on. How much longer can I procrastinate? The time has come to stop kvetching and start producing.

I started this blog, booksiswonderful, to flex my creative writing muscles which were mightily in need of the exercise. A writer needs to write (a recurrent theme at the conference). Most successful writers will tell you that they produce something every day. It doesn’t have to be perfection. It just needs to get typed on that Word document. That is what I need to do.

The well-spoken presenters at BlogHer Writers talked frankly about the publishing process, the challenges to the industry (increased costs, disappearance of Border’s and Oprah’s Book Club, growth of self-publishing, among others) and the even more intense competition for writers. But the good news is that new talent is still being sought, and literary agents often read blogs to discover that talent.

What else did I learn? Here’s a smattering:

Using the f-bomb in blogs is OK.

Getting rejected by a gazillion agents is normal and does not mean your book is worthless. Nor does it mean that you are without talent.

It is important to get rid of toxic people in your life.

Editors and book cover designers usually, but not always, get it right.

Scrivener is worth looking into.

Publishers really do look out for your best interests.

A blog is not a book. But good writing transcends all.

I hoped this conference would teach me HOW. How to get started, how to shake off the self-doubt. How to just do it.

I came away feeling inspired. I think I can, I think I can.

I know I can.

BlogHer Writers, I will see you next year. With book proposal in hand.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Start