Book Clubs

Saturday, April 23, 2022


I recently was the featured author at a book club meeting. This was the third book club (that I know of) that read Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, my novel. The other two were quite different. One was a church group, and my publisher, Margo Dill was a member; all the readers were white. The other was an all-Black group, and one of my friends, Astra, belonged to it.

The group that just met this week involved family... or at least in-laws. We met at my son's mother-in-law's home for a light dinner followed by da da dum: the book talk.

I learned some tidbits from each group, and I thought I'd share how I was schooled by the three groups.

  • Be prepared to be surprised. During Margo's group meeting, one of the women wondered what had happened to Olivia's doll. It was prominently featured, and then was never mentioned again. Clearly, I'd dropped the ball. I decided to thread the needle and tie up that loose end, because it was a completely valid point. (I still have not sent you that part to add. Sorry, Margo.)  During Astra's group meeting, one of the women said she had wished that the married couple who were the "saviors" of the story were Black instead of White. She pointed out that too often, Blacks are portrayed as being unable to save themselves without some outside (White) intervention. I had to let them know that the couple was a real-life couple, and they were White--but I understood.

  • Be prepared to handle some disagreement.  Up front, I was told that some of the women that came to this week's meeting were conservative (they whispered that last word). I figured this was the case. During the meeting, there was some discussion that strayed from the book and mired in some political and racial issues. Everything was civil, but it was obvious that not everyone was on the same page when it came to politics. (Same page... book club. Do you see what I did there?)

  • Be prepared to take pictures--and be prepared to be insistent about it.  I brought a camera, planning on taking a photo of the whole group at some point--hopefully with everybody holding up their copies of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. (I know, I know. Shameless self-promotion.) A couple of the women thought a picture taken with a phone (and a timer) would be better. I said I'd like to take a picture as well, but that idea was shot down... and now, I still haven't gotten that text with the photo. 

  • Be prepared. Mentally, I went over some of the details I wanted to share in the week before the book club met. The head of the group very graciously let me know how their club meetings flowed. I discovered they expected to ask me questions after I had done some talking. Fortunately, the leader had some wonderful questions that kept me yammering for a while. (Why did I choose Henry as the main character? Why not a girl?... What made me choose this historical event to write about?... How long did it take to write the book, and what were some of the obstacles?)
How about you? What could you share either from the perspective of a reader or an author that would help me in the future? Fumbling authors (like me) want to know.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a dog rescuer, and the proud author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. You can see more of her writing by checking out her blog.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux, this is a fantastically honest post! I haven't been to a book club reading in so long. You know, one of the number one arguments writers say is "But it really happened that way" in writing fiction, and even in nonfiction! But just because it happened doesn't mean it's right for your story. Recently I was asked to do a rewrite the end of my essay that's scheduled to be published. The editors suggested I take out some of the things that happened when I broke up with my abusive boyfriend. It wasn't a clean split--I kicked him out, moved, we got back together, etc. before the police arrested him. I wanted readers to know it wasn't that easy to get out of an abusive relationship, and to stay as accurate to the events as possible. BUT I write creative nonfiction, emphasis on the creative, and the editors felt the ending would be stronger without all that detail. So I cut a lot of it out and shortened the timeline. Now the ending is more powerful and thematic, even though it's exactly what happened in real life. We have to remember we're storytellers first. That's a really weird lesson in writing nonfiction, but it's one that continually seems to be coming up in my work lately.

Oh yes, the doll! I did have the same thoughts about that. And the group leader's questions are great! I hope you get the pic soon, and I'm glad to see you're doing these events. :)

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