Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Club Report: meeting an author

My book club has been around since 2005 and I really love being a part of it.  There are some fabulous women in there, some of whom I knew before the club began and some of whom I've only met because of the club.  In August we read our 46th book together.  Quite an accomplishment, no?

Finny: A NovelAnyway, our August book was FINNY, by Justin Kramon.  I first heard of this book in an email from the author - he was looking to connect with book clubs to discuss his book.  Then, while I was in NYC for BEA, I ran into Justin and had a chance to talk with him.  I came back from NYC and polled the gals in my club and we decided to read FINNY and invite Justin to our meeting to discuss it.  (I reviewed the book last month, in case you want to check out that post.)

Six club members were at this meeting, which we held at our local library.  Usually we meet at someone's home or church but this time we decided to be more "official".  (Actually, we were hoping we'd need the extra space so another local book club could join us, but it didn't work out.)

Each of the gals brought food to share.  The idea was to bring Maryland themed food since Finny (and our club) is from Maryland.  We had Berger Cookies and Crab Chips, plus local fruit salad and some standard finger foods.  Then we jumped right into a conversation about the book.


To start things off we went around the room and shared which character was our favorite and why.  Some we liked for their good qualities (like Mr. Henckel) and some we liked because it was like watching a disaster in action (Judith).  Then Justin talked a bit about the inspiration behind some of the characters and also where his idea for the book as a whole came from.


From there we talked about several of the books that influenced Justin's writing, but we focused mostly on GREAT EXPECTATIONS.  Justin explained that FINNY is meant to follow the same basic structure as Dicken's classic work, but to have a more modern feel to it. 

When you have an author at your meeting you can't exactly discuss a book the same way you would at a regular meeting.  For example, most people wouldn't feel comfortable saying "Oh I really hated the part whem ..."  So the conversation necessarily focuses more on the author's writing process and the inspirations behind the story.  If you get lucky an author may even give you insight into the why behind a character's actions.  Justin didn't indulge our curiosity in that area though - he really wants readers to draw their own conclusions about the characters and their actions.

One of the gals had already left before I remembered to get out my camera - darn! That's me in the white pants, and of course Justin is the only guy in the photo.

This is the third author my book club has been privileged to host and only the second to attend our meeting in person.  It would change the dynamic of our club too much if we did this kind of thing regularly, so we try to shoot for a once-a-year author meeting.  That seems to work well for us. 

Just is traveling the northern mid-Atlantic area to meet with book clubs; contact him on his website if you'd like him to come to your club's meeting.

I'm looking forward to seeing Justin again at the Baltimore Book Festival ... in fact, he might even drop in at one (or both) of the panels I'm moderating.  If you're there, be sure to say hi to the both of us!


Today's post is my stop on the TLC Book Tour for FINNY.  You can check out what other people thought of the book by following the links here.

20 comments:

Kay said...

Sounds like a good meeting, Heather. I understand what you mean about the author's presence making the meeting a bit different. Each of my book clubs has hosted two authors, but all have been by phone. That made it easy because we talked with them and then hung up and talked frankly with each other.

Love hearing your book club reports!

bermudaonion said...

What fun! I met Justin in New York too and thought he was adorable and I really enjoyed Finny. I wish I could have joined y'all!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Very fun! Congratulations on the 46th book review as a group! That is awesome.

We had our 100th last December and we went all out with the craziness that we had been together that long.

I have to go look at the recipe for the crab chips....mmmmmmmm :)

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Oops - just checked it out.... not a recipe - the crab chips are a product you buy. Hmmmm.... still sounds yumy! :)

Heather J. said...

Kay - We actually started the meeting 30 minutes before Justin arrived, so that we could talk a bit more freely. And of course we continued to chat after he left. :)

bermudaonion - It's too bad you're not closer to us ... we'd have loved to have you!

Sheila - I hope we make it to 100 - that would be fantastic! And unfortunately the crab chips can only be purchased locally. They are SO good though.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Maybe you can bring some to BEA next year? :)

Heather J. said...

Sheila - you got it!

Heather J. said...

Sheila - you got it!

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

How exciting! I hope I get the chance to meet Justin in Baltimore!

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

How fun. I met Justin at BEA and he was so nice.

Justin Kramon said...

Heather, thanks so much for writing about our meeting. I really enjoyed talking to you all, and hope that it was a nice time for everyone.

Kay, your book club sounds great.

Kathy, I hope we'll cross paths again soon.

Sheila, the real secret for most Baltimore-themed food is the Old Bay. You could just sprinkle some on salt-free chips and you'll pretty much get the idea of the crab chip that way.

Jenn, I'd love to meet you in Baltimore!

Michelle, it was great meeting you at BEA, too!

Anyone should feel free to drop me a note through my website if you'd like me to visit your club. I really enjoy doing that.

Alyce said...

It's that change in dynamic that makes me shy away from the idea of having an author at a book club meeting, at least for the book part of the conversation. Our book club spends A LOT of time eating - we go out to dinner and dessert which stretches our meetings to four hours sometimes. We do a lot of gabbing about our lives and non-book stuff and wander in and out of talking about the book and how it relates to us. It's rather informal but works well for us.

Heather J. said...

Jenn - I'll be happy to introduce you if Justin is able to attend the panel!

Michelle - I agree. :)

Justin - Thanks again for coming to MD to meet with my club. I look forward to seeing you again in a few weeks.

Alyce - My club has a very different format from yours, with the majority of our time spent discussing the book (usually 1.5 hours or so). For that reason it is pretty easy to incorporate an author and still leave time for some more "private" discussions. But I think that if you found the right author, your meeting style could be a great fit as well!

Justin Kramon said...

Heather, I'm really looking forward to seeing you soon, too!

Alyce, I can totally understand that different formats work better for different clubs. Heather has some amazing book club ideas, though, and some wonderful ways to make new formats work. I was very impressed by how she ran the meeting, managing to make it both a fun and substantial discussion.

Dave said...

Heather, sounds like a great club meeting. My club has only has one author so far, but it was one of our best gatherings (though the in-depth discussion took away from our eating). The book seemed a bit long, so it was interesting to hear the author say (without being prodded) that he now wishes it had been 10-15 percent shorter!

Heather J. said...

Dave - It's always a treat to meet an author and get his/her perspective on the book - glad to see that it was such a success for your club!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

What a fun alternative to a typical book group meeting - you're smart to limit author visits to once a year, but SO fortunate that your group is open to the concept.

I haven't yet picked up a copy of FINNY, but I've read positive reviews.

Heather J. said...

Dawn - Our first author meeting was really REALLY good, so that has made us more open to the idea, which is great. And I hope you enjoy FINNY if/when you get a chance to read it. :)

TopherGL said...

This is so awesome. I loved Finny, and it's insanely sweet that you got to meet its author. Enjoy your next selection!

Heather J. said...

TopherGL - I'm so glad to hear that you liked this book! Thanks for dropping by, and welcome. :)

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