Tell us how Chick Lit got started?
Chick Lit was launched in September of 2007. I wanted to join an established book club but was unable to locate one in my community, so I took it upon myself to start a book club celebrating women and friendship. I created custom announcements inviting friends and neighbors who I knew enjoyed reading as much as myself.
How did you begin to shape the group?
First I read BookBrowse's advice for starting a book club. Then I gave each member a Chick Lit questionnaire asking about their previous experiences with book clubs and reading preferences. With that information I created Chick Lit guidelines for members of the club. The guidelines detailed meeting times, how to choose books, number of members, meeting length and refreshments served. I had a sign up sheet for members to pick the month they would like to host.
How was the first meeting?
Only 3 people showed up at that first meeting. I chose The Secret Life of Bees as our first reading selection. I felt it was a great book to launch Chick Lit.
And what's your group like now?
Since it's inception 2 years ago Chick Lit has grown to 10 members. We are a lively group with strong opinions, with women ranging in age from 40 to 65. Chick Lit meets on a Friday night approximately every 5-6 weeks, as we all agreed that every four weeks comes around too quickly! We don't schedule a meeting in December due to holiday commitments.
Who hosts the group?
Members sign up to host a meeting from a pre-determined schedule which I create. The host of that month's meeting picks the book to be discussed and is the facilitator of the meeting. Any book, including new releases can be selected. (Two weeks before our scheduled meeting I send everyone an email reminding them of the book choice and which member is hosting.) The host is responsible for beverages including wine and non-alcoholic drinks. The other members each bring a dish which usually is an appetizer or dessert. Recently, we've tried to bring a dish which is native to the country highlighted in our book selection, which adds a fun element of surprise to our meetings.
How do you structure your discussions?
The meeting length is 2 hours, but many of the members socialize after the discussion. We typically do not have all members attend a meeting - many Chick Lits travel quite a bit. However, everyone usually reads the book selection, and I encourage all members to email me their impressions and rating of the book which I share at the meeting. We rate our books on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest rating. Chick Lit has read 20 books and not one was rated a 5!
What kinds of books does Chick Lit read?
Our selections have been eclectic, with fiction and nonfiction represented equally. We try to read a classic each year. This year it was Jane Eyre which was awarded a 4.9 - our highest rating ever! I keep an ongoing record of all books read and how we rated the selections. Another favorite was Moloka'i by Alan Brennert. (I picked this selection after reading what an impact it had on another book club highlighted by BookBrowse.) Recently, we read The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. It produced a lively discussion fueled by current political/social economic concerns.
How do you keep from veering off topic?
At times, our discussions have wandered away from the book, which I'm sure all clubs have experienced! To avoid this, we have one member who is keeper of the bell! She has a small bell which she rings to let us know we need to refocus on the book. It's very effective.
What other things do you do to keep the discussions lively?
Another unique feature of our group is that we try to view a movie inspired by the book selection whenever possible. When we read Mrs. Mike, we viewed the film adaptation after the meeting. We are currently reading Tracy Kidder's Strength In What Remains, I suggested members view Beyond the Gates, a film which visualizes the words of the protagonist.
On another night when I was hosting many of the members stayed to socialize after the meeting. The members who live in the neighborhood invited their husbands to join us and that night Men After Dark was created. Once a year, I hope to create another Men After Dark and invite spouses and significant others to join us after the meeting. It was so much fun!
You sent me a great Chick Lit bookbag filled with a beautifully customized calendars, schedules, guidelines, and a treasure-trove of goodies! It's really a wonderful kit, and I think it's a great start-up idea for new book clubs. Tell us a little more about what's in it?
At the beginning of each year I distribute to the members a calendar I created highlighting the dates of each meeting. I also created a book bag with our Chick Lit logo filled with Chick Lit goodies which I give to all new members. This includes book marks, magnets, Chick Lit Club guidelines, and information on how to lead a book discussion.
You sound like a lovely - and well-organized - group!
I am happy to announce that Chick Lit is a great success! We all are looking forward to many years celebrating women, friendship and literature.
Cheers to that, Theresa! Thank you for sharing your advice, and for making me an honorary Chick Lit member!
interviewed by Lucia Silva
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