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Book Club Traditions – A Recurring Series

So many things about writing are unlucky, even frustrating. While I try to focus on the positive things (and I have many), the negative things are sometimes mind-blowing enough for my wounded psyche to take days to recover. Other writers will probably recognize a few of these gems.

  1. Indie bookstore owner – “I won’t read your book, because I’m sure it’s terrible. People are just telling you it’s good to be nice.”
  2. Vendor I (used to) frequent – “Yeah. I know I told your husband I wanted a signed copy of your book, but now that you dragged it all the way out here, I don’t have time to read.”
  3. Numerous people of the nameless, faceless variety – “I only read non-fiction. Fiction is a waste of time.”
  4. More nameless, faceless people – “I don’t buy books, because I can get so many for free………and they all mostly suck……..why can’t writers pen good free books for me to read???”
  5. Dad: “You a reader?” Random people: “No. I don’t read, and I don’t understand why anybody does.” Or: “I only read motorcycle magazines.” (Is that code for p0rn??)
  6. Infamous South Carolina Congressman – “I’ll come back and buy one.” (He never did. Maybe he didn’t want to read a book set on a famous trail, given his association with famous trails???)

Given how much of this my publisher, my publicist and I hear every day, I savor each success. I can run my Happy Tank for weeks from one positive review or successful event.

And book clubs are starting to honor me with multiple hits to my Happy Tank. In September, I’m traveling to Auburn, Massachusetts for a book club appearance, thanks to the awesome Lisa Kramer. The ladies of the Moncks Corner-Pinopolis Book Club have booked me for February 2015. And I have back-to-back book club appearances in Denmark/Bamberg, South Carolina next May, thanks to Emily Guess.

Book club appearances always lead to stories. How clubs were founded. Fun traditions they follow. What they like to eat and drink.

If you’re a member of a book club, I’m starting a periodic series that will feature YOU. I’d love to chronicle the story of how your book club came to be. If you have a favorite book club recipe, I’d love to share it here. Any other off-the-wall traditions? Send those along, too.

Submit your book club story to mystories(at)andrawatkins(dot)com.

Not in a book club? No worries. You know plenty of people who are. Share this post with your book club friends, and encourage them to participate.

Tomorrow, our first story is from the Beaufort (SC) Book Bashers, the first book club to ever honor me with an invitation. I’m sharing their awesome recipe for Kennedy Punch. (I cannot imagine Jackie Kennedy drinking it, but I love the story of how it came to be.)

Actual fan mail. I read and save every bit of it!!

Actual fan mail. I read and save every bit of it!!

Haven’t heard of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether LewisThat’s okay. Most people haven’t. Become part of an elite group – People Who Read TLF Before Everybody Else. Download your digital copy for $4.99 at your favorite online outlet below.


54 Comments Post a comment
  1. Well, I hope some of our leads pan out for you.
    I didn’t even need to click on the link to see that you were dissed by Mark….most policticians take themselves a bit too seriously….which is why they become politicians.
    For the record…I don’t normally read fiction, but I read your book…and it was a great story.
    As the late Og Mandino would say, “Failure only matters if it is the last time you try”

    July 9, 2014
    • I just try to keep focusing on the positive. I’ve had a lot of positive. I’m in Columbia for the first of two presentations, one this am and one tomorrow am. Getting to spend the evenings with my longest-term friend and her family.

      I made a big joke of his stopping by the booth on FB. He was less than not interested until he realized my walk had been a story. I saw the switch flip into politician mode. 🙂 What was even funnier was my mom saying to his face, “Why do you look so familiar????”

      July 9, 2014
      • Love your Mom’s query! Hope it took a bit of air from his sails (if only for a moment).

        July 9, 2014
  2. Reblogged this on The Quotidian Hudson and commented:
    It has been a while since I reminded you about this wonderful book…

    July 9, 2014
  3. A lady that I met online (who lives here in Rochester, too) asked me a few weeks back if I’d like to start a book club with her. We have our first meeting next week! So far, we’ve only managed to get one other person to join us – no one seems to have the time or desire. They either don’t read or are too busy (two offered to join in the fall). So we are going ahead with just 3, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m very excited about it. I’ll let you know how we make out.

    July 9, 2014
    • Several of the clubs I know of take the summers off and only meet September – May. I’d love to hear how it goes, Donna. I hope you’ll submit a story so that I can feature you.

      I was a member of a book club once. A very long time ago. Most of the women were in love with the idea of being in a book club, but they didn’t want to read anything. We assembled everyone’s parameters of what they wouldn’t read (no violence; no bad things to children; no books over 250 pages; no scary books (and everyone has a different definition of scary); no books with lots of words on the page; ABSOLUTELY NO CLASSICS!!!; no non-fiction, unless memoir about the experience of being a woman; nothing anyone had to think about too much, because that was too much work; each individual also had no fill-in-the-blank genre. By the time we put all this together, there was NOTHING to read, so we disbanded. I ended up continuing my periodic meetings with Alice to talk about what we were reading. Talking about books with her are some of my most enriching conversations. I wish I could find several more people like her and have another group.

      July 9, 2014
      • I’d love to also do an online group. If you ever want to do that, count me in! I read EVERYTHING.

        July 9, 2014
  4. #4 amazes me. Who’d say a thing like that?! Too many people, I guess. How rude.

    I’m not in a book club anymore. It just fell apart, which didn’t bother me too much because no one, except me, actually read any of the books! My group was all about gossip and stories about living somewhere better than here. These women were not a happy bunch of suburbanites. Not at all.

    July 9, 2014
    • I think a lot of people join book clubs for social interaction. They think it might make them readers when they’re not. Sometimes, I think people end up reading things they never would’ve, and that’s always great to see. So many people are so over-categorized/closed off/unwilling to experience anything new. I always love to see a person bond with a book they thought they wouldn’t like.

      I have been stunned repeatedly by the rude things people say to my face, things they would never, ever utter to anyone in another profession……..unless maybe to a prostitute………or a politician……….I always chalk the really rude ones up as people who never went for a dream. They’re angry about their failure to take a risk, and they hurl that onto me. It isn’t really about me at all then, and I move on.

      July 9, 2014
      • Your take on rude behavior is a good one. I’ve noticed the same thing: the ppl who mock me for getting a M.A. are the ones who couldn’t hack grad school & gave up. I remind them of their failure, I suppose… so I must suffer. People can be weird.

        July 9, 2014
    • I really think that’s where that animosity comes from, Ally. People are pretty basic. Most of our unhappiness and bad behavior comes from envy.

      July 9, 2014
      • Agreed. But it doesn’t make it any easier to experience the rude comments. I mean really…

        July 9, 2014
  5. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    I’m in two book clubs. One is quite erudite and we almost all read the books every time. The other one I refer to as my Nicholas Sparks book club, which should tell you everything! Sometimes people read the book, sometimes not. I think both of these clubs meet to drink wine and get away from children (most of the members, except me, have small kids). I did belong to a very, very serious book club in Charleston. We met at 9:30 in the morning (no wine) and you didn’t DARE go if you hadn’t read the book. And, if you didn’t attend, it was generally frowned upon unless you were a working woman. Good luck with the travels. I’ll see if my erudite book club would like to have you speak to us in Asheville (hopefully at peak leaf season in the fall, right?).

    July 9, 2014
    • Jill, I’d love to come to your Erudite Book Club. Any excuse to come to Asheville is enough for me. 🙂

      (Also, I will be at Montreat again for a chunk of time to rewrite the memoir. I’ll let you know when by email, so that we can get together.)

      July 9, 2014
  6. Is a book club something you beat people with? “Cronk will hit you with book club.”

    Sorry, tired. Need caffeine.

    July 9, 2014
  7. “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

    “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” ― Truman Capote

    “. . . I savor each success. I can run my Happy Tank for weeks from one positive review or successful event.” — Andra Watkins

    Someday the world will recognize your quotes about failure/success, too! 🙂

    I don’t belong to clubs, book or otherwise, and until you came along I seldom discussed what I was reading with anyone other than my best friend (whose reading tastes sometimes parallel mine). I will, however, continue to support you and your book(s) whenever I have the opportunity!

    July 9, 2014
    • Found you in my spam folder. What is up with that?????

      I’m glad you’re finding more fodder to talk about reading, Karen. I think talking about books is fascinating, and I really enjoy hearing about what other people read and why they choose it.

      July 9, 2014
  8. OK…..I’ve written my commentary and attempted (twice) to post it….Not sure where it’s going, but certainly isn’t coming up here!! If you should find them, feel free to share one or the other (or none). 🙂

    July 9, 2014
  9. I’ve never been in a book club. I suppose I’m my own book club, reading what I want, when and why I want.

    July 9, 2014
    • I guess that’s where I am at the moment. I take recommendations from Alice all the time, and I find books online that some of you recommend.

      I made a big decision about reading last month. I’ve got a couple of big names in my currently reading list, but after that, I might read a big name here and there and focus primarily on small names. I am so sick and tired of seeing the same dozen books in every “must read” list, and they’re all authors who do not need the promotion or attention.

      I’m currently reading a glorious book by Brian Doyle, a Portland-based author who deserves to be read. His writing beats just about every known name on the planet. My next selection will be by an Irish author you’ve never heard of. I found her book through Fiona, who lives in Belfast and sometimes comments here. I hope I will help some of these writers grow a bigger audience by choosing books like these and reporting on them here.

      This entire comment is ironic, given the post that’s getting ready to debut. But, to me, Cassandra King isn’t widely known, either. She’s written and sold waaaaaay more books than me, but she isn’t the household name her husband is.

      July 9, 2014
      • This is the reason you gain the readership you have: Because your heart is larger and more expansive, because you take time to care and show how much you care to others, because whether you like it or not, you are open about your feelings and your way in this world. Again, I admire you and your courage, fortitude and perseverance.

        July 9, 2014
      • I’ve read one or two of Cassandra King’s books (enjoyed them, too, but for entirely different reasons than those of her husband). I happily second Cheryl’s above comments to you. If the world only had more Andras in it…..

        July 9, 2014
  10. I used to read motorcycle magazines but now mainly just follow magazine blogs. It is pr0n, but not the sort you’re thinking of!


    July 9, 2014
    • I only read one magazine in the old school format these days. I don’t know what I’d do without my highbrow trash NY Mag.

      July 9, 2014
      • It’s all porn of one sort or another anyway. Us humans can fetishize anything! 🙂

        July 9, 2014
  11. Sigh. I’ve heard some of these, especially number 3. Or, if they read fiction at all, they certainly don’t read fantasy fiction. But yet they’ll want a free copy of the book when it’s published. (I also wrote a nonfiction book, which they didn’t read either.)

    It’s hard to be an author sometimes, isn’t it? I don’t know why people feel the need to be overly candid to authors in ways they wouldn’t be to people in other professions. I don’t blame you for kicking that vendor to the curb.

    July 9, 2014
    • The VERY HARDEST THING??? (and I read about this a lot before I published and still didn’t believe it would happen to me……)

      How many people have said things like this to me, and I thought they were my friends. They’ve watched me struggle for years, seen me cry, and heard how much this matters to me. One of them actually wrote in an email (unprompted; I didn’t ask her whether she’d read my book): I haven’t gotten around to reading your book yet, and I probably won’t. My crazy life…..I’d rather sleep.

      I have struggled so much with this one, because I send this woman’s children postcards from every single trip I take. Sometimes, I’ve spent two hours of my vacation to find the right postcard for one of them, and why do I do that??? Because I care so much about the kid??? No, it was because I cared about her. Sending postcards to my friends’ children is a way to make them curious about the world, absolutely, but it is also a way to tell my friends that something that’s important to them really matters to me.

      So, while I never confront anyone about these things, I have lost friends who have proven they simply don’t care about me. In the end, that’s a win, but it’s still really, really hard emotionally.

      July 9, 2014
      • Just remember for every one of those, there is someone like me who really pretty much never reads but read and dug your book!

        July 9, 2014
    • Again, it’s all about constantly shifting my focus away from the negative and onto the positive. A few of these have really stung, but I’m grateful to all the friends I’ve gained through writing.

      July 9, 2014
  12. Maybe you could start an all-inclusive resort for book club people and call it Club Book.

    July 9, 2014
    • Jim, if I ever actually make a profit from this, that is an EXCELLENT idea. My business brain started spinning with possibilities the moment I read this comment.

      July 9, 2014
  13. Random thoughts:
    1. People are jerks.
    2. I’m in the same boat as CBSmithern. A book club of one.
    3. Narble’s idea is fantastic.
    4. Where is the Kennedy Punch recipe??

    Good luck with the upcoming book club events. Your determination is impressive. I respect you so much, Andra.

    July 9, 2014
    • I hope you get to meet Cheryl when you’re in Charleston. She lives here.

      Kennedy Punch recipe is coming tomorrow. I devoted a whole post to it.

      July 9, 2014
  14. Responses like #3 and #4 drive me crazy and aren’t they are always delivered with a lot of attitude? I give some right back every time. 🙂 #6 made me laugh. 🙂 Keep holding on to the positives, Andra!

    July 9, 2014
    • Most of these are delivered with a lot of attitude, and many times, as the author, I’m not in a position to give that attitude back. It ends up making me look as bad as they are, and I’ll forever be ‘that conceited/awful/rude/terrible/bitch writer’ to everyone they meet.

      July 9, 2014
      • Frustrating but true. 😦 People are 10x more likely to share a negative story than a positive one…

        July 9, 2014
  15. Andra, I don’t understand any of the negative comments. Most border on the ridiculous, so please pay no attention. Your book is absolutely wonderful. I’ve told you this a million times and unlike your naysayers, I will always be an Andra Watkins reader and fan. I am not part of a book club, but looking forward to reading about them. Your posts may inspire me to at least start reading regularly again.

    PS: I still get a motorcycle magazine (I’m a lifetime HOG member) and, yes, I know what you mean, Kenneth! :-p

    July 9, 2014
    • I think I said earlier that most of these negative comments reveal more about the person saying them than they reveal about me, my talent, the quality of my book/writing, or anything else. They almost always come from a place of disquiet in the other person, and I can almost always put it there and move on.

      July 9, 2014
      • Being in the public eye as a writer, musician, actor/actress, etc. is not for anyone who takes criticism too personally. I’m glad that you assign those comments to the person rather than yourself.

        July 9, 2014
    • heh, I knew there had to be at least one person who did!

      July 10, 2014
  16. As an avid lifelong reader, I have trouble understanding why everyone isn’t a reader. Actually, most of my friends are readers – guess that’s why they are my friends.

    As I have mentioned before, I loved your book. It was quite the story – well written and easy to read. Just turn those naysayers over to me and I will either convince them to read your book (and books in general) or I will send Guido to pay them a visit 😉

    July 9, 2014
    • I’ve met a couple who needed a Guido. Ha.

      I’m like you in the reading department. I visit your Goodreads list pretty often to see what you’re reading, and I’ve read a couple of books because they were on your list.

      July 9, 2014
  17. #3. I actually get the I don’t read non-fiction, only fiction. Maybe there’s a marketing strategy there?

    July 9, 2014
    • I think this excuse is code for, “No, I’m not going to read your book, but I don’t want to be an ass and say that.”

      July 9, 2014
      • I suspect you’re right, but hey.

        July 9, 2014
  18. tarakianwarrior #

    Hard to believe there are such idiots out there…then again….all you have to do to find out how ignorant and uneducated people are is to turn on the radio, T.V., or heck, talk to them. 😦 Grrrr.

    July 9, 2014
  19. I have been in two book discussion groups in my time.

    The first one was when our daughters were quite young and was a subgroup of a local Newcomers Club. Katy referred to it as the “Cucumber Club”. 🙂 It gave me an opportunity to read and talk about books with others of like minds about books in between taking care of two children. 30 years later, some of them are still my friends, and one is part of my current group. It is still referred to by the fam as the “Cucumber Club”.

    My current book group, the Field School Book Discussion Group, has been meeting at each others’ homes for 26 years. We tell others that we sometimes actually talk about the book. We started out, quite casually, when it was mentioned at a meeting that it would be fun to have a book group. Tada! The school principal and a small group of parents decided on a book and we were launched. Milt, the principal, is now quite old and has dropped out. Aging is sure crappy. One of the books we read was written by his wife and was about living with Alztheimer’s – then a strange word none of had ever heard of.

    We lost a long-time member to ovarian cancer. She kept reading and coming to the end of her life.

    One of our members is a gold medalist at the long jump (Senior Olympics).

    We meet September – June, pick books as far out in the year as we can, but, that often changes.
    I think most of us agree that our favorite was “Bel Canto”. We took a tour of Jefferson Park and its environs after reading “The Devil and the White City” and also took a river board architectural tour and we giggled like schoolgirls visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park as we stepped across the threshold where Frank and Mamaw (sp?) made love on the carpet. We read classics, young adult, best sellers, fiction and non and have a standing rule that we discuss the whole book so if one didn’t finish, too bad. We still discuss the ending.

    Now, see what happens, Andra? I do go on and on, but, I really do love my book group. Aren’t you glad you asked? tee hee

    I low it is hard to shake off those negative comments. I’m so proud of you and your book, seeing where this journey has taken you and where you leave yet to go.

    July 9, 2014
  20. i think that some people just don’t think, andra. when my daughter was 10, she made clay jewelry and had a booth in an art show. i can’t tell you how many people came by and said things like, ‘i could do that!’ i wanted to say back, ‘then why aren’t you doing it?, do you have any idea how talented she is and how much work this was and how brave she was to put herself out here?’

    July 10, 2014
  21. I’m honestly stunned at the things people have said to you! I must live in a bubble, because I honestly can’t imagine, Andra. From the very beginning I knew your books was a book club selection! It is made for discussion. I’m only sorry I don’t have one of my own!

    July 11, 2014
  22. I think my book club is falling apart, so I’m on the lookout for a new one. I’ll be happy to tell stories about the old one – as soon as I’m out of it!!! LOL!!!

    July 14, 2014

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