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?)