Presentation on theme: "Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start… Presumably, you have a few friends who have expressed an interest. It’s nice to have friends."— Presentation transcript:
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start… Presumably, you have a few friends who have expressed an interest. It’s nice to have friends. Now you need to have a meeting: friends turn into a club when you meet. HOT TIP If you plan to meet once a month, the perfect number of members is 12: each nominates one book a year. We ARE all busy with work, kids, etc.; we WILL all miss one or two meetings. So a membership of 8 to 16 is feasible.
Choose a book Choose a book, any book. It will enable you to hold your first meeting, and the dynamic of your club will start democratically from within. Make your plans overly long and overly elaborate and you will be dictating to the other members…not a good idea: discourages freedom of expression. Clubs that work best are those with enough cohesion to make you want to return next month, yet enough dissension for some lively discussions. Try, if you like, the method of the Standard Deviation Club… which may be an urban myth. According to one source (a friend of a friend of mine) the all-male members of this club give the book a score out of five and then they calculate the mean and the standard deviation. The higher the deviation, the more controversial the book because there was a wider divergence of opinion. (I am not sure that a poll of 12 is sufficient to be reliable. And an all-male club? That has to be an urban myth) Make sure that you give intending members reasonable time to get the book and read it. A month is a reasonable time. We’re all busy. There are clubs where everyone brings along the books they've read that month and they all swap books until next meeting. Other clubs are genre-based - they read only crime or romance; biographies or history. The most popular method is to have each member nominate one book for the year. Mix genres. You should all read books that you would not choose for yourself.
That IS why you’re in a book club, isn’t it? You might want to note your thoughts about the book, to keep your questions or insights fresh until the meeting. Try writing them on sticky notes and sticking those notes onto the page where you observed whatever it is. Especially try to mark those bits that you thought really good (for one reason or another) or those that you didn’t like; it’s easier to find them this way. The sticky bit goes inside, but leave most of the note you’ve written – it might be only one word – sticking out from the book. Sure,your book looks like a sick echidna with all those papers spiking out of it, but you can pull them out later without damaging your book. But don’t worry too much about notes; READING is the important thing.
It’s easy to say “have a good time” but you are probably charged with anxiety. Well, nobody’s going to shoot you: your friends spend money on books, not ammunition. You, as the founder (or first host), will need to start things. Explain why the book has been chosen – e.g., you simply had to start somewhere. Invite comments KEEP QUESTIONS OPEN-ENDED, i.e., avoid questions that call for a yes/no response (unless you follow up with “Why?”) You may have to construct a few questions of the “Why?” type to keep the ball rolling, because first nights can make people a bit shy. OR: the person who has chosen the book for the month can commit to doing some research and prepare FIVE questions based on his or her reading. These should not be yes/no or right/wrong questions. They should be directed towards starting a discussion Try to avoid holding your meeting at a member’s home. Sure, it’s an attractive idea but, every month, someone’s going to have to worry about providing sandwiches or drinks or chairs….and about washing up. And all the other members are worried about finding the address! Join a local registered club; if you want to buy dinner (or lunch) and drinks, the club will probably give you a room free. Saves a lot of hassle, lets you all focus on the book.
Then comes the bit your friends are waiting for: ask them what they want to list for coming meetings. Now it will pour out…all their preferences on the table. Now you’re firing on all six cylinders. Unfortunately, you will have more suggestions than you can deal with; result: tension. Let them sort it out. Try to identify a balance in their thinking, between fiction and non-fiction; between genres; between current best-sellers and classics. Above all, try to avoid books that are hard to find, unless someone is willing to undertake to source enough copies of the book she or he wants. This might be exhausting the first time. After that, it’s easier and as you get used to one another, effortless. Books that are hard to find: Collections or anthologies from popular media columnists and commentators have a short shelf life – about six months after publication, you won’t see them at a bookshop; you might find one or two copies at a second-hand shop. Things that were called classics when you were at school will be hard to find. They may indeed be classics like The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence; “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell; The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles; that won’t make them easier to find in the numbers you require. Vanity publications – yeah, well you might call them autobiographies – do not normally have more than one print run: 12 months, tops. Political memoirs have a smaller market and rarely extend beyond one edition. That doesn’t make them less readable or less valuable, just less gettable.
To keep your club going you do need someone to keep the troops up to the mark. This person usually: is the archivist, and note-taker, remembers the order in which the club circulates, prompts people to make their choice, maintains the list, and sends out reminders. This role should not be filled by the group's bossiest person – she or he will soon generate resentment. It is not a heavy burden, but without someone to shoulder the housekeeping responsibilities, most organisations, even the best-intentioned, will fade, stumble and.... HOT TIP
Timing Most book clubs meet for about two hours. As you get to know each other better they start to stretch out as the gossip quotient increases. That’s healthy: interest is maintained and, if literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum, why should the discussion of literature exist in such splendid isolation? Whether you meet by day or at night, weekly or fortnightly or monthly, will be determined by the other commitments of all the members. Attendance is unlikely to be perfect. Enjoy the discussions with those who can attend. Next time it will be a different book and a slightly different group.
Venue Some clubs meet at one person's home but more often the group takes turns. There also are open book clubs run by independent bookshops and others run by public libraries – or, in Newcastle, the WEA* Don’t forget the library! Libraries in Australia are linked via the National Library – you can get just about any book if you have time to wait. Your local library might have only one copy of the book your group is reading, but that might be enough to get one more member equipped. Newcastle Region Library [Laman Street] Adamstown [Brunker Rd, corner Victoria St] Hamilton [James St, corner Murray St] Lambton [Morehead St, corner Elder St] New Lambton [93 Regent St] Mayfield [Hanbury St] Stockton [King St] Wallsend [Bunn St] HOT TIP
It is important that someone record the books chosen. Record: the date, the host, the venue, the book and author, and the members present. You can just keep notes in a notebook. You can run a weblog if you like; put it all on Facebook; e- mail a weekly newsletter… But keeping a record of some sort will help avoid repetition, and also those enervating delays while members grapple to recall details from several meetings ago. (That stuff drives the group nuts!)