Friday, April 23, 2010

Guest Post by Jennie Shortridge: How to Host an Author at Your Book Club Meeting (Not!)

Let us begin by saying book groups are doing more than anyone to save the publishing industry, and I, for one, love you all. Unequivocally. I will do anything I can to help you have a great meeting when you choose any of my books for your group to read and discuss. I’ve now attended well over a hundred, either in person, by phone, or on Skype.

I’ve made cookies, brought wine, called from my car (hands-free!), sent signed book plates, CDs of music inspired by the book, recipes that come from the book, galleys of my yet-to-be-published books, and generally tried to make myself useful to you. Why? Read the first sentence. And also because we who love books and reading have a certain kinship, a knowing between us. Books can save the world or just your soul on a lonely Wednesday night, and those who get it, get it.

It is with tongue planted firmly in cheek that I offer you, oh dear book group people, this list. It was way too much fun to write, and I hope you understand that I am so very kidding. I love you, I do.

Jennie’s Snarkalicious Step-by-Step Guide for Hosting Authors at Your Book Club Meetings

1. We writers are a happy-go-lucky bunch with not much on our schedules. Writing, after all, is really just sitting around eating bonbons and making stuff up. It’s always best to extend your invitation as close to the actual meeting date as possible. This week? Sure! Tonight? Why not?

2. If the author lives over forty-five minutes away, of course he or she will drive to your home. No need to gather your members and find a nice restaurant in the city, of course not. We like to drive. At night. In the suburbs where every street has the same name. We consider it research.

3. Writers are generally extroverts, which is why we sit in front of computers all day, alone. When an author attends your meeting in person, there’s no need to make introductions. Just take our coat and shove us into the middle of the room so that others may gawk, whisper “Is that the author? I thought she’d be thinner/prettier/younger.” We love that sort of thing.

4. We have no need for food or drink. Even if you’re having the meeting at dinnertime. Ritz and celery sticks? Fabulous. We really should have eaten at home anyway before coming at, what time is it? 7:00? Right. Um, maybe just an olive or two.

5. And of course, we have no time limit as to how long we can stay. Go ahead and talk about your children’s latest cute escapades for that first hour or so. We will nod and smile, even though we don’t know your gifted Ashleigh from her little Robby with ADHD. He did what to a cat? Oh, how amusing.

6. If we’re doing a speaker-phone meeting, by all means, use your inexpensive mobile flip phone, set on a dining room table with twelve chatty women gathered around it. The clarity is less than desired, but the enthusiasm more than makes up for it. Especially after the first glass of wine.

7. Here are the questions we enjoy the most:

a. How much do you make as an author?
b. I’ve written a book, too. Can you send it to your agent for me?
c. Do you have a real job?
d. Why did so-and-so do this-and-such in the story? That’s never happened to me, so I totally didn’t buy it.

8. Here are the questions we hate:

a. What inspired you to write this story?
b. When so-and-so did this-and-such, I wasn’t sure why. Tell us what your intention was with that scene.
c. What other books have you written that we might like?

9. When it comes time for the author to sign books—which we really do love doing as a way to thank you for supporting us and your local booksellers—make sure the vast majority of your group has either, A. shared the same book, or B. checked them out from the library. That gives us a warm happy feeling inside that you are not wasting trees.

10. We don’t require thank yous or nice little gifts. Really! No, no, take back that nice note, that card, that box of chocolates. It’s been such a swell (gurgle, squelch, gurgle) evening (well, make that night as it’s after ten), that I really—What? We’re not done? Oh, okay, maybe one more story about little Robby.

Yes, I know your group would never do any of these things, and if you did, I would still love you, just as a wife still loves the husband who leaves the milk out and the kid who forgets to say “Thanks, Mom,” for help with his homework. We were meant to be together, book groups and authors, and you can always find me at

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