Nora St. Laurent

Nora St. Laurent runs three book clubs outside of Atlanta and has established a successful model that has made her a resource for others who would like to establish clubs. To Nora, Book Clubs are a Ministry that revolve around relationships and through this, the Lord would love the women that He put in her life extravagantly. She facilitates a safe environment where women can enter into relationships.

Nora says it best: "This is not about what church you belong to or how well you know the Bible. It also is not a matter of whether or not you go to church. God has called you into relationship with Him and with me and the other ladies in this group to love, to be loved and to encourage each other."

Visit her blog at She has a vision to duplicate the model to reach as many people as possible and is writing a book about how to do just this.

Avoid Book Club Mishaps

The week before my online book club meeting, I meant to review the copies I had of previous author chats. You know the saying “best laid plans . . .”? Well, it was book club week for me; I’d run three of them that week.

I have long hours at work. Hilary, my oldest, had to be picked up from drama practice then dropped off at work; Isaac, my youngest, had to be picked up from choir practice. In the meantime, I picked up Luke from football practice and dropped him at a friend’s house to study. My husband, Fred, called and said he’s running late and won’t be home for a while. Great!

Book club night arrives, and somehow we all land at the dinner table together. I announce that I would be unavailable from 8–9 PM because I’m leading a book club meeting online. “Leading” sounds funny now.

My family knew this meant Dad would clear the table, Luke would put the dishes in the dishwasher, Hilary would put the food away, and Isaac would do his best to make sure everyone did their jobs properly.

Everyone took the news well. Conversation returned to our normal daily range of topics—Fred tells of one more bank merger and how his job is getting harder to do; Hilary tells us how someone beat her out of a part that should be hers; Luke explains how he ran faster than everyone on his team to make a touchdown; and Isaac talks about his favorite subject—bodily functions. Just once I’d like to get through on meal without this discussion.

Suddenly I come to my senses. I yell, “Ohmygosh, what time is it?” Have I just missed the author chat? Isaac hollers, “It’s ten minutes to eight, Mom! What’s wrong?”

“I have a book club meeting!”

“Is that all?” Hilary rolls her eyes and sighs. “We thought the house was on fire.”

I rush to my computer, go to my e-mail inbox, and look for one titled “Live author book chat tonight—come join us!” I can’t find it. Then I remember the girl who usually does the announcements is on vacation.

Now, I can hardly breathe. I yell, “Fred, I need your help! I can’t find the Web address to the book club meeting. I have only five minutes to get there.” I can’t believe I’m lost in cyberspace.

Getting lost usually happens to me in a car.

I have eight minutes left and I’m still not in the chat room. I watch my super computer-master husband save the day with three minutes to spare. I love that guy.

My hands are shaking as I sign in and said hi to the author and a couple of others already there. I’m so glad no one can see what I look like as I catch my breath. We all chat and wait for more members to sign in. Ten minutes later, several people join in all at once and the greetings go around. Again.

The author types, “Nora, are we ready to start?”

“Yes,” I type back. “Remember, everyone, that when you have a question, use the ?, and the ! when you have a comment. Wait to be called on. Go Ahead!”

I never anticipated what happened next.

The screen filled up with ?s with full questions attached and !s with full comments included. The author struggled to keep up with the rapid-fire questions and comments. No one waited their turn.

I recall saying go ahead—not let the race begin. Words filled my computer screen so fast my eyes crossed. The beeps signaling a comment sounded like an alarm! What to do?

The author types, “OK, Nora, get that whip out and take control of this thing. Quick!”

Another member agrees. “Yes, bring out the 6 guns and make us mind!”

The comments go back and forth about the book, the setting, how long it took to write, how she got the idea for the story in the first place, and if her book was based on anyone real.

In over my head, I have no idea how to get hold of this crowd. This is very different from a live, in-person author chat. Face-to-face, I could stare at someone or clap my hands to get their attention. What to do in cyberspace? This is a new frontier.

It’s like riding an ostrich. I can’t hold on, I’m about to fall off and be trampled. My neck tightens and I find it hard to breathe.

In the midst of my panic, an instant message appears. “Nora, hang in there. I used to help run these meetings. These ladies know the author and are having a blast. Better to have lots of conversation than none at all. You’re doing fine!”

Whew! Good news. “THANKS SO MUCH for your note. I hoped I wasn’t in trouble. I would like to try to run a cyberchat again. I appreciate your calming words. Now I can enjoy the meeting, too.”

I take a deep, cleansing breathe and start chuckling at all grins, LOLs and smiley faces I see. This group was having tons of fun. Something else catches my eye, and I focus on what they are saying to one another. At this point we’ve been talking for 45 minutes.

Then this pops up: “You pet a camel?”

“Was it a Bactrian or Dromedary?”

“1 hump or 2?”

“1 hump.”

“Dromedary then, because a Bactrian (from Asia) has 2.”

Next, talk of pirates; baby pirates don’t wear diapers, do they? Or something like that, and they mention Jack Sparrow.

I must have missed something somewhere, because the book I read was about a woman facing hardships on the Western frontier.

See how things can go when you lose control of the group? This can happen at a live, in-person author chat as well—trust me I know.

You can see that being prepared and having an agenda are the keys to a happy, successful book club meeting—online and offline. Nothing fancy, just a few notes to help you and everyone else stay on track.

Here is a sample agenda:

1. Hand outs—showing the book picks and meeting dates for next three months.

2. Welcome new members.

3. If new members are present, have an icebreaker.

4. Announcements—field trips, author book signings, etc.

5. Comments or questions—any new business.

6. Meeting begins—Discuss the questions in the back of the book.

Next month, I’m going to start a special segment featuring different book clubs in my article. I will highlight Rel Mollet, a delightful lady who runs a book club in Australia.

If you have any questions about book clubs and/or would like to have your book club featured in my article, please e-mail me at norafindinghope [at] gmail [dot] com. I would love to hear from you and welcome your questions and comments.

Until next time,

Nora St. Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader