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How to Host a Book Club

Owner of the book club network, woman with brown hair
So excited to have Nora StLaurent here to tell us about The Book Club Network! They are turning two this month and lots of prizes are being given away.

Noara,  what lead up to you starting a book club? Had you ever been apart of a book club before? What's your club name?

I had gone to a couple of book club meetings before I was asked to lead a book club by my boss. When my boss called me into the office and asked me to sit down because he wanted to talk to me about a few changes being made in the office, I didn’t have warm fuzzy feelings inside! He then told me,” We want to start a book club at our store, and we want you to run it!”

This was the second person within six months to ask me to start a book club. Was this a conspiracy? Didn’t these people know I didn’t read unless I had to? Reading wasn’t fun for me; isn’t that a requirement for being a book club leader – having fun reading?

I was terrified at the prospect of getting up in front of people and discussing a book. Just the thought of reading out loud to the group brought up bad memories of when I was in school and got made fun of every time I tried to do this because I never read the words that were on the page correctly. I’m dyslexic and didn’t get diagnosed until I was 26 years old.

I had my heart to heart talk with God. I felt like Moses going before God and telling him he couldn’t do what he asked because he didn’t talk so well. I pleaded with God: “You know I’m dyslexic. You made me this way. Reading and I don’t get along…remember? This is not funny, God.”

I heard Him say to me gently, “Nora, don’t be afraid. Let me ask you this: Can you love the people I put in your life the way I have loved you?”

What did I just hear? Love people He puts in my life the way He’s loved me? Is that what this is all about? It’s not about how many books I can or didn’t read? What a relief!

“Yes, I can do that. If this whole book club thing is about relationships, then I’m all about it whole heartedly.”

I felt a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders. I told my boss what was on my heart and what I experienced. He wanted the book club to be a way of giving back to the community. I started on a book club journey what would later lead to me becoming the ACFW On-Line Book Club Coordinator and creating The Book Club Network with my husband, Fred. I’m not sure what the future holds but I do know who holds my future. All things are possible with Christ who strengthens me!

Nora, that's amazing. I have a fear of public speaking. What are your book clubs like?2. Hi, I’m interested in being apart of your book club, could you please describe for me what I can expect? What does your typical meeting look like?

I have TWO face to face book clubs. One meets at the church I go to Shadowbrook Church in Suwanee, GA and the other meets inside the book store I work at during business hours.

Both book clubs are filled with passionate readers who love to talk about books. They bring snacks for the meetings and love to talk about the book as much as they love to talk to the author of the month. We call the author and talk to them about their book for about 30 minutes or we have the author “Live” at the meeting. If we have the author “live” I combine the groups so that they all can meet the author and get their books signed.

Please describe how the book selection process works for your club? Do you vote with a secret ballet? Or some other method? Do tell. This will be helpful to book club leaders just starting out!!

We usually have about 40 or so current books on the list. Voting takes place every November. We vote on 12 books that will be read the following calendar year. I want everyone to participate in book club. Giving the reader a whole year start lets them check out the book from the library, get the book on sale, and/or borrow it from a friend. I want everyone the opportunity to read the book and make it to book club.

I gather the books to be put on our voting ballet. I hand them out at our October meeting. They can take them home and think about it for a while. All votes are compiled and counted in November.  

Does your book club socialize outside of your regular meetings? If so, what did you do or have you done as a group that you all enjoyed?

We do socialize a couple of times a year. Once a year we have a cooking night, where we actually read a book and cook the recipes that are included inside of it. We meet at someone’s house.

Once a year we have movie night breakfast brunch. We watch a movie that had been made from a book. We meet at someone’s house.

We have our Christmas party at a Restaurant. Last year we had it at Provino’s Italian Restaurant and had a blast. When a movie that has been made from a book is at the theatre we try to support it as a group and go to it the first week. We’ve also gone on field trips too that coordinated with the book we read. We read The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser and actually went there.

What have you read at a book club recently that really touched everyone’s heart and created good discussion?

We read Lost and Found by Ginny Yttrup. Last year we read her book Words, it was a book that touched our hearts deeply and one you’ll never forget!! There was so much discussion with each other and with Ginny!! Wow, what a book and amazing meeting.

Have you ever had an author speak at your book club, in person, or on the phone? If so, who? How did the meeting go? Any surprises you learned about the author and/or the book you didn’t know about before the chat?

In March of this year we spoke to Francine Rivers about her book And the Shofar Blew. I wanted our group to read a book by this author that no one had read before. We talked to her on the phone for 30 minutes and it was a blast.

We had a full house and learned some surprising things about this author and this book. First of all after Francine Rivers got saved she stopped writing in the market she had been writing for and switched to writing Christian Fiction. The first book she wrote for the Christian market was Redeeming Love. Wow!!

How do you top that? She said that the Lord gave her the title And the Shofar Blew.
She didn’t even know that meant. When she looked it up and learned more she noticed that the fall of Pastors all around the world was high. The story started to develop from there. This book was powerful and lead to a great discussion on how easy it is to take the wrong steps and get in the middle of a mess and wonder how you got there.

Francine said that because of the title of this book it’s in Jewish book stores. What a blessing. She said that there is a seminary that has made it required reading for their students. The university realized that Pastors are unprepared and don’t fully understand all that is involved in being a Pastor. They are also clueless to the pitfalls and dangers!

Can you tell me some books that you’ve read your members just raved about? What made them love the book so much? This might help other clubs in their book selection process.

Last year we read Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson. Neta and her husband just came back from a working trip in China. It was great fun talking to her on the phone about this trip and her book. We had a cooking night and cooked several recipes from the Yada Yada Prayer group series books. Loved it!

We talked to author James Rubart on the phone about his book Rooms! What a powerful meeting that was. It moved so many of the ladies in very different ways. Wow!

Predator by Terri Blackstock was up the list of memorial meetings.  This book touched us to the core of our being at how easy it was and is to gather information about people through social media. The talk with Terri was eye opening and the ladies stories on how Predators’ have affected their lives was heart wrenching.

Kathi Macias spoke at our group “live” about her book People of the Book. She captured the essence of God’s word being the powerful, living word of God himself. By reading His word things happen and people are changed forever without anyone else’s help. It made us aware that God doesn’t need our help in getting his work done but allows us the opportunity to participate in His work with Him.

Ginny Yttrup spoke at our group about her book Words. Wow, talk about amazing. Her book is right up there with Redeeming Love in the fact I saw it touch so many peoples lives including my own. Ginny answers the question, "What does it look like when you say God has healed you from the inside out. How do you explain that He has made your pain a scar and healed you so much so you can share what He’s done for you without all the pain attached to that event." This is Ginny’s personal testimony. Amazing!

What I also loved about this book was the little girl in the story and how she is infatuated with words. How they sound when you say them, what they look like, what they mean and how you can use them in a sentence. Since I’m dyslexic and have found reading to be hard I found this little girls’ excitement about words fascinating.

You’ve created TBCN (The book club network) with your husband how has this site enhanced or helped you with your book club?

Our hope is that book club leaders can learn from one another. I know I was overwhelmed at the thought of starting a book club when I was asked to. What books to I pick? What do you do in a book club meeting? How long is the meeting? Do they go on field trips? Etc. There are about 30 author pages set up right now @TBCN. Book Clubs Share information and learn from each other. Authors  also share the fun they had a book club meetings too!

What have you learned from other clubs at TBCN that have helped you?

I learn all the time. I love reading about what another book club is reading and how it worked for their group. I love reading about other book clubs having authors speak at their groups. I love seeing the pictures and hearing how it went on their book club pages. It helps me to know what books to put on my voting list for my own groups.

I also like hearing about the field trips they went on and if they read a book that had recipes in it and how they food turned out!

What do you like best about TBCN?

Meeting new authors and their books, I also enjoy reading the Author interaction each month during the give away time. The authors come up with the best questions that give a peek into their book. Through the discussion I’ve gotten to know the authors, their passion for writing the book the Lord laid on their heart and how much fun it is to enter act with the author and other readers.

Any comments about TBCN and how it could be used in the future?

My hope is that book club leaders will connect with an author during the book club discussion/giveaway time. That they will also connect with the message in that book and make it their next book club pick. My hope is that they will and/or also want the author to speak at their group via the Book Club Network (they can have the discussion right at their book club page or via telephone or Skype!)

My hope is that more book clubs get brave enough to set up their pages and share what they’ve been doing with the read of the group. SET UP on the EVENT page their book club meetings so that others can join them.

I’d love for people who are looking to join a book club can find one to join in their hometown using TBCN MAP list.

My other hope is that the authors use this to ANNOUNCE their BOOK EVENTS; I’d love for readers and book clubs to go to where the authors are and support them at their functions.

We are turning two years old and will be celebrating the whole month of August!! We will be giving away 10 books a day. 

We hope to see you there!!

Mark your Calendar and join the book fun @ TBCN www.bookfun.org.

THANKS for having me here Diana. I appreciate you letting me share my journey and about our Birthday Party!

Thanks you Nora for such an open discussion on how even the fearful can be used to host book clubs.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to The Bookclub Network and win some books!
woman standing on railroad tracks with books in her arms


1 comment:

  1. THANKS SO MUCH for having me here today Diana!! You have a lovely Blog.

    We are very excited about celebrating our Second Birthday Party in a big way, thanks to Wynn Wynn Media, Bethany House Publishers, and Revell for making our birthday party possible!

    Everyone will have a chance to enter our contests everyday. FIRST you’ll have to join The Book Club Network – it’s free. Then you’ll answer one of the questions that the authors have come up with to be entered into the drawing. Winners will be picked once a week and announced once a week.

    We have so many great books being given away. You'll have a chance to enter drawings for different Christian Fiction books every day. The winners will be picked once a week and announced once a week.

    We are also THRILLED to announce that we'll be publishing our FIRST BOOK FUN MAGAZINE SEPT 1st. It's a digital Magazine about Book Clubs, Book Clubs, Events, Food, reviews and so so much more!!

    Our Birthday Bash is well under way and there is lots of reader and author interaction. You can still enter to win SERPENT OF MOSES by Don Hoesel, To Love and Cherish by Judith Miller and Tracie Peterson, The Haven by Suzanne Woods Fisher and tomorrow you’ll have a chance at winning Irene Hannon’s new book Lethal Legacy!! We have new book giveaways every day. I’m Thrilled to say that many of the authors will be interacting with readers as much as their schedule allows!! What’s has been GREAT fun to read!! The beauty of that is the discussion will be discovered by book club leaders and readers long after this month is gone!!


    Nora St.Laurent
    The Book Club Network CEO