Nora St. Laurent runs two book clubs near the Atlanta area and is the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Book Club Coordinator. She currently writes a Book Club Column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. You can read author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog, located at http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com, and reviews around the web at The Christian Pulse Mag, Title Trakk, Novel Reviews, and Suspense Zone. Nora and her husband run The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org
The Southeast Book Club Interview
What lead you to start a book club? Had you ever been a part of a book club before? What’s your club’s name?
Several years ago our Women’s Ministry Team from Southeast Christian Church polled our current Bible study leaders and asked what else they thought we should offer. Across the board, they all suggested we start a book club. Our Women’s Ministry leader asked my cousin and mef if we’d be interested in leading this effort.
We agreed after lots of prayer and a dash of nerves! Sadly, shortly after we agreed, my cousin’s father was diagnosed with cancer and she felt she had to be with him, which left me at the helm. Scary! But God is faithful, and I quickly learned I had to rely on Him and pray like crazy.
Next we had a meeting for those interested in joining a book club. Several ladies came, and we chose a few books for the first semester. In the beginning, our handful of ladies sat in a circle and discussed the book.
Now, six years later, God has blessed Book Club’s growth. We average fifty to sixty ladies per meeting! We break into smaller groups and sit at round tables, where we discuss the book. Sometimes questions are posed to the entire group, but the majority of discussion takes place at the individual tables.
I’d never been part of a book club, which made it quite interesting to see how we’d handle our meetings! We’ve evolved into a bit of a format; however, when we have authors visit, we take their lead as to how they’d like the meeting to run.
Our book club’s name is ultra original: The Southeast Book Club!
What does your typical meeting look like?
We meet during the school year, once a month. Meetings last ninety minutes, usually from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., on Monday nights. In a typical meeting, we have food and fellowship first. The girls usually bring an appetizer or a dessert and, oh, you should see the food! Then we have an opening prayer, announcements—sort of a “what’s new in the book world” time, a devotional or focus, which usually comes from a theme in the book we’re reading, time for discussion, drawings for door prizes. (All of our door prizes—usually books—come with chocolate . . . that’s my rule I made up and it’s been ever so popular!), and then we adjourn.
Again, when we have authors come, we let them talk about whatever they wish. The girls enjoy asking them questions, and they’ll usually stay and sign books.
When we have authors visit via Skype, they’ll usually spend fifteen to twenty minutes with us. A trick with Skyping is handling different time zones and trying to match our window of time, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., EST, with the authors’ availability. So far we’ve not had a problem, but I’ve heard you can do a recorded Skype to show later, so that may be an option down the road for us.
We get questions all the time about how to join. We are very flexible and love to have newcomers! There’s no official “membership” . . . just show-up-and-enjoy kind of atmosphere. We’ve found that with a non-threatening environment, gals are more likely to come even with walking through the church doors, which potentially could be intimidating.
My favorite stats from book club I love to share are that we’ve had nearly 800 individuals attend, representing 102 churches in our almost six years!
Please describe how the book selection process works for your club. Do you vote with a secret ballet, or some other method?
Well, this is indeed the ten million dollar question! When we met to choose books for 2010–2011, we had forty-five books out on the tables and only nine slots available! It’s always the “too many books, too little time” scenario.
First, we begin with prayer. We have an unofficial committee. We find girls who are fervent readers, and always check several sources: recommendations, ratings, etc. Recently, for our 2011–2012 year, we had three girls from book club, two from the Living Word Bookstore, and one from the Media Center to choose books.
Second, we try to offer a variety of books: fiction, nonfiction, and at least one classic per year. This year our church is focusing on discipleship, so we are offering a couple of selections that will really grow our faith and our walk with the Lord.
Do you share duties at your book club, or do you do all the work yourself?
We are blessed to have a large group of volunteers/angels who help with book club in many areas . . .
To read the complete interview and see fun author-speaking pictures, check out my blog, Finding Hope Through Fiction: www.psalm516.blogspot.com.
It’s always fun to hear from book club leaders. Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing your group with us.
Until next time
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