My First Presentation to a Book Club - Jo-Ann Carson

My First Presentation to a Book Club

Busy Week

How it came about…

To set the scene you need a wee bit of back story. I have an amazing friend, I’ll call Spinnaker here. She’s the kind of friend who  gets the nurse to fix your morphine drip when you come out of surgery (true story),  gives you a pedometer when you’re not sure you’re going to live (true story) and who’s  always there for you. She’s warrior strong, yet sensitive, and sees through all the bullshit in life. We’ve known each other for sixteen years.
Rain or shine, we go on weekly walks along the harborfront to ‘catch up’. Talk mostly about crazy husband behavior, our children who never fail to amaze us, and the trivial details of our daily lives, which reminds me, I forgot to ask her about sink drains.  You get the picture.
A few weeks back, she asked me to join her Book Club and talk about my writing. I gulped. Me, talk about my writing to strangers? I’m not published… The last writer they hosted, Chevy Stevens, made the New York Times Best Seller list twice. I got that empty feeling in my stomach. Spinnaker assured me the ladies would be interested in hearing about my process.
If anyone else had asked me, I would have said no. But it was Spinnaker doing the asking.

The Meeting

Wearing my favorite purple blouse and my heart lodged in my throat, I entered Spinnaker’s living room. I’ve faced down an irate New York agent who didn’t like me or my pitch, I can handle a group of women. Maybe.
The room filled with six smiling ladies who didn’t look like they’d bite.  But they haven’t listened to me yet. The group discussed their book selection for the month, Will Ferguson’s, 419. I noted they were well-read, had a good understanding of plot and character and knew how to discuss books. That could be good or bad…
My turn came. I shared a graph comparing the sales of Romance books to other genres (Romance taking a good chunk of the market share). I told them  I like to cross genres and write Romantic Suspense and gave them each a signed pitch card for my third book, Black Cat Blues.
I read the first chapter of my second book, The Lost Vermeer, which opens in Delft and involves the search for a cursed masterpiece. They listened intently. You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet, and I swear my author heart sighed. This was the first time I shared this chapter outside my writing community, and the sky didn’t fall. In fact, they seemed to like it. Heat radiated through my chest.
Avid readers, the ladies were an amazing audience. They genuinely seemed to love hearing my stories about entering contests, going to conferences, and pitching to agents and editors. I felt like they were cheering me on. I told them about stories I wrote on the Haida Gwaii and about my daughter, J.C. McKenzie, who will be publishing her book this spring, and how we are critique partners.
Being with them had a surreal dream-like quality. It was like I’d entered a special room in Writer’s heaven, a healing room, where all the “owies” of rejections smooth over and my writing stands out.
They asked me questions– good ones– about writing and my process. They made me feel validated. They even expressed disappointment that they couldn’t read any of my books yet.
I hope to return to that book club with a published book. Writers need readers, and this group truly rocks.
Thank you ladies.

Your turn. Do you belong to a Book Club? Do they host writers?

0 Replies to “My First Presentation to a Book Club”

  1. Great post! Very brave of you!
    I belong to a book club that invites writers to speak Many times I’ve yearned to invite one of the ladies from RWA-GVC to speak but am reluctant because I can’t be sure the reception would be good. Why expose one of my writing buddies to that? Oh, I’m sure the ladies of my book club would be polite to the guest; they’re much too nice to heckle. But how many times have I heard snotty remarks about “those” sort of books? I haven’t come out of the closet to my book club as a romance writer because I really don’t have the energy for the debate. People can’t seem to get past the concept of bodice rippers, even though they are such a small part of the market – if they even exist any more. I wouldn’t know since I don’t seek them out. Yes, the covers can be an embarrassment, both to writer and reader, but notice how quickly those changed once writers started designing their own covers and marketing their books on line!
    PS – I’m learning Scrivener, too, and love it. I’m a die-hard Word person since I’ve used it in the business world for years. Scrivener is taking me a bit of time to learn as well even though I slurp up new programmes like a sponge. Every time I think, “I wonder if I can do this in Scrivener?” I look it up and, sure enough, the developers had thought of it!

    1. Hi Natasha
      So great to hear from you. I remember swapping stories about our writing in the bar at Nationals in Anaheim. It seems like yesterday.
      I fully understand your hesitancy to share Romance stories with your book club, but I’m hopeful that people are beginning to see the genre in a more realistic light.
      It’s wonderful to hear of another Scrivener fan and I love your last comment, “Every time I think, ‘I wonder if I can do this in Scrivener?” I look it up and, sure enough, the developers had thought of it!’ So true.
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      I hope to meet up with you again soon, so we can catch up.
      Till then, happy writing
      Best Wishes

  2. Love this post, Jo-Ann. I can really identify with your feeling of validation. I attended RomCom (a readers’ conference) last June before my first book came out. I was there as an author, but felt so not one. I was amazed at people’s enthusiasm and excitement for me that my first book would come out in July. Readers are really special folks. I’m thrilled (but not surprised) that you had such a great experience with the book club.
    To answer your question, no I don’t belong to a book club. Jerrie does and they’ve been super supportive of her and her writing. Right now, I can’t imagine adding that into my crowded calendar. Not writing enough as it is. 🙂 Too much time on Social Media. I’m just about to go jump on the KOD twitter thing. Yikes! Congrats on your great day.

    1. Hi Marsha
      I knew you’d “get it,” that mixture of insecurity and excitement about being an unpublished writer. RomCom sounds fantastic. It’s on my “someday” list.
      Have fun on Social Media .
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. What a great experience! Someday it will be old hat–well, no. It won’t. Every time is special, absolutely! ANd so happy this turned out so perfectly…it’s lovely to have a great friend!

    1. Hank
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I’m honored.
      I hope there’s going to be lots more evenings like that ahead for me.
      And yes, it is wonderful having great friends.
      I hope you caught my blog post the other day when I wrote about your book, Prime Time. I loved.
      Best Wishes

    1. Jacquie
      I’m glad you understand. I was a wreck and kept beating myself up for being so silly. But nothing is more daunting than talking about your passion to strangers. I can’t wait to hear about your first time.
      Best Wishes

  4. Good for you, Jo-Ann! I’m glad you had such a positive experience – and I bet the members of the club really enjoyed meeting you and getting an insider’s view. My book club doesn’t host authors – but most of us are writers ourselves, several of us published. We’ve never chosen to read one of “our” books. I think everyone’s afraid to suggest it, for fear it would get embarrassing. However, I have once been the guest at a book club. They read a wide variety of books, including commercial fiction. They’d read and enjoyed a bestselling erotic romance, and one of the members, who knows me and my books, suggested they read one of mine because (LOL), mine was better written. Wasn’t that sweet of her? They chose “The Dirty Girls Book Club,” which is very fitting as it’s about a book club that occasionally reads erotica. Anyhow, they invited me to attend and I had a lovely time. I don’t think they all agreed that my book was better written (sadly!), but our discussion about my book and about writing and publishing was animated and fascinating. Apparently they still talk about the time they had “a real writer” visit.

    1. Hi Susan
      It must be fun being part of a book club that has writers as well as readers in it. I imagine you’d get a fuller perspective and some killer discussions.
      I love your story about visiting a book club that read one of your Dirty Girls Books Club books. What fun.
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.

  5. Wow! It sounds as if you had a wonderful experience. I’m not surprised they enjoyed your talk because, I think anyone who’s met you or read your blog would agree, you’re entertaining AND informative.
    But, like you, the idea of speaking to a book club would’ve terrified me. So it’s interesting to find you describing it as healing. If anyone suggests I speak to their book club maybe I won’t run screaming for the door. Nope! Still scared.
    But, I’m very glad you had such a positive experience.

    1. Hi Pat
      Aaaah thanks sweetie.
      Can’t wait till it’s your turn and hear your stories. What book club wouldn’t want to hear about romance dripping with chocolate!
      Thanks for stopping by
      Happy writing

  6. Good for you for getting out there. I too have found that non-writers are fascinated by the process, and the business.
    I actually had my book club read my first manuscript quite early in its inception. Yes, the whole thing! Although I see know it wasn’t really ready, they were great. Very open and encouraging and I learned a lot about my characters in the process. They really dug in, I didn’t say very much, just took many mental notes, as they talked about all the problems the characters had (it is a romance that borders on WF) and in the end commented that it generated one of the best discussions they’d had, which I took as a compliment. I also found two of my best beta readers there, so that was a bonus! Maybe sometime you’ll get this group to read yours.

    1. Hi Judy
      You are brave to have so many people read a draft. I’m glad it turned out so well for you. What’s the saying: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained?” Sometimes we do have take risks.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story.
      Enjoy Alabama

  7. Speaking to a group of people you’re not familiar with and whose agenda you’re not sure of is always daunting, but I’ve found that people can quickly tell the difference between those who are passionate about their subject and those who are just going through the motions. This group had no trouble telling which category you fell into.

    1. Anna
      I think you’re right.
      My problem was that I all I could think of when I entered the room was how many ways it could all go wrong.
      But it went so right.
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Best Wishes

  8. Excellent! Excellent! Your meeting sounds like a very positive experience. I’m sure that you will be involved in more book chats. The opportunity to present yourself and your work is definitely a gift. There’s always something to learn from the occasion. Bravo for embracing the idea.

  9. Jo-Ann, I belong to two book clubs and they both have enriched my life through the books we’ve read and the friends I’ve made – very close friends. However, when my first book came out THE BLUE ROSE, indie published and most of the members of both book clubs came to my book launch, I was asked by one of my book clubs if it could be the book read the following month. I smiled and turned her down because as the book wasn’t in libraries yet, it meant the members would be forced to buy it – although most did anyway.. Also, they would no longer feel comfortable about sharing any negative feelings they might have about the book. Very few books we read in either book club are universally loved by all. I can only think of one book read in both clubs which had no criticism and only praise and that was TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. No wonder Harper Lee never wrote another one. How could she live up to that book.
    Would I turn down an offer to speak at a book club I didn’t belong to? No. I thinkit would be a fun event.

    1. Hi Gloria
      Sorry to be so late responding. My mobile app would not cooperate with me and I was out of town. It sounds like you’ve got some great book friends. I love yours story about To Kill a Mockingbird. That is a hard act to follow. lol.
      Thanks for stopping be and adding to the conversation.
      Best Wishes

  10. How brave of you, Jo-Ann, to speak to a room full of strangers about romance. I’m on the same page as Natasha having worked for years in public libraries. I remember similar comments about ‘those sort of books’. My last library would not have a harlequin in the building, although they purchased romances from other publishers. I never could see the logic of that. My boss stated flatly that she read only literary fiction. It made me keep my love of romance close to my chest. But I am glad you had such a positive experience. Good for you.

    1. Hi Helena
      You know me. I love to jump in with both feet and usually one’s in my mouth. lol. It did turn out well this time though. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes

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