Saturday, 7 September 2013

Don't judge a book club by its...just don't judge!

Do you know someone who's a member of a book club? Perhaps I should re-phrase that. Do you know someone who admits they're a member of a book club?

You see, until recently, I thought that people who attended book clubs were...well...on the nerd scale of one to ten, they were like...eleven.

When I heard 'book club' I thought aging spinsters sitting in a circle, sipping sherry and giggling over the naughty bits in Lady Chatterley's Lover.

How wrong I was!

After the release of my book Torn, Dymock's Camberwell invited me to talk at one of their book club meetings about writing, publishing and Torn in general. This particular book club meets on the first Tuesday of each month, so on the agreed evening, I trotted along, expecting to find a group of no more than half a dozen older ladies who lived their lives vicariously through books because Channel Nine stopped airing Days of our Lives.

In truth, I looked forward to it in a way because it was something different. And after all, Dymock's Camberwell has been a huge supporter of me and my books. It was the least I could do.

I dragged Stuart along for company and ate a chocolate bar before going in (when rewarding myself I like to pay-it-forward!).

A thousand apologies Dymock's and book club members everywhere. I was wrong, wrong, wrong!

There were some 40 - 50 people at this event united by a common love of the written word. Everyone was friendly, intelligent and welcoming and all cultures, genders and ages were represented.

I spoke to the gathering, as invited, then took a seat among the audience to enjoy the remainder of the evening.

Individuals addressed the meeting about books they had recently read. I experienced a particular buzz when books I had read were discussed and I found myself nodding...yes, I thought that, I couldn't believe it either! 

I started making notes - titles and writers of recommendations I would read for myself. Glancing at Stu, I found he had the same rapt look on his face that I knew would be on mine. We were hooked!

We joined the book club that night and we are now regular monthly attendees. Which gave me reason to pause and think it over.

I know that I wouldn't have been alone in my previously stereotypical idea of book club members. Non-book clubbers do tend to look at book clubbers as if they're a bit odd. I mean, people generally think it's pretty cool that I'm a writer. They will eagerly tell me about the latest book they have read or cheerfully discuss Dan Brown, Stephen King, Tolkein et al. 

Yet drop the words 'book club' into the conversation and watch them retreat - you just know they're conjuring visions of a sherry-sipping D.H. Lawrence appreciation society.

Well, I can honestly say I'm a convert. In the past I have been guilty of discrimination on the basis of a misguided and entirely wrong idea of what a book club is - a terrible thing for a writer to admit!

So I started to think that book-clubbers tended to keep their membership statuses to themselves - probably because so many people shared my earlier misconceptions. Which prompted me to do some research.

I have discovered that there are book clubs everywhere. These are not imaginary or secret societies, they exist because people are members and attend meetings...real people!

The 50 year old guy on the train next to you could be a member. The teenage boy writing an essay in the school library might be preparing to address his audience. The 20 something office girl reading a Kindle at a cafe might be planning to talk about it at her next meeting - that's what she really means when she says she's going clubbing!

There's no exclusivity of membership, contracts or fine-print - you can even start up your own without the government wanting to know why, who and how.

The Meetup Groups website has a listing of book clubs you might consider - you can filter it by your location. Alternatively, you'll find many book shops run them, schools, and libraries too. You only need to ask and a whole new world is revealed.

Still, a book club may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm a convert...I'm out and proud and I'm shouting from the roof tops:

 I'm in a book club!

Dymock's in Camberwell - supporting Torn and local writers.

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