|Told you reading together was exciting.|
I've got to say, talking to readers is my absolute favoritest thing about being a writer--it's much more fun, in fact, than doing the actual writing. In honor of my readers, therefore, I present this list of Awesomest Things about Being with Them:
10. Foot soaks. Seriously. Last night was the first time I ever got my hands pink-grapefruit-sugared and my feet soaked and scrubbed with walnut-shell something-or-other while we sat and talked about my book. May it not be the last time, because it was awesome. Thanks, Kristina, for that special treat.
9. Food and wine. Local book clubs put out a nice spread. Cake, cheese trays, chocolates, wine.
8. Coming out from under my rock. Writing books consists of hours and hours parked on my aunt Fanny, staring at my computer screen and thinking, "How many times have I used that word in this chapter? Why is it so danged hard to tell a story? Is this ever going to see the light of day? Am I wasting my life? Yes. But am I really wasting it? Like, wasting it worse than other people waste theirs?" Since writing is such a lonely slog, it's a luau-and-a-half to get together with other human beings and just be social.
7. (Related to #8...) Company and laughter. People who read books are thrilling. They're people of ideas and imagination and interest. Books become springboards to talking about life and the larger world. Virtual book clubs will do, when nothing else is available, but it's hard to beat face-to-face sharing and debate.
6. (Speaking of debate...) Learning about other books readers loved/hated and why. As a book club member myself, I always want to know what everyone is reading. What they've enjoyed, what they've despised. Last night we had lively discussions of Margaret Atwood, Nicholas Sparks, Barbara Kingsolver, and whether or not So-and-So sucks or is the best thing since the invention of the alphabet. I always jot down a few titles and authors to check out later.
5. Expanding my horizons. Who can list the bizarre things I've learned from visiting book clubs? Kirkland politics, Awful Movies That Are Best Seen Drunk, names of obscure actors, idiosyncratic reading habits, and which women in my circle of acquaintance still have the good fortune to be hit on in bars. You can't make this stuff up! I was even given permission to use one of these pick-up lines in a future work. Priceless.
4. Growing a thicker skin. Yes, in the past week I have heard my character Ben referred to as "skinny," (physically) "flimsy," and --God help me-- "whiny." Reminds me of when readers called James (in Mourning Becomes Cassandra) "boring." A reader urged me never to use the word "fricking" again, and I have made a solemn vow to obey. Another criticized Daphne in Everliving as more of a phantasm than a ghost and said ghosts should not behave as phantasms or vice versa. Dear reader, it will never. happen. again. I can survive these assaults and more because I appreciate that, if those same readers then tell me they enjoyed the book, I know it's for real, and they're not trying to butter me up!
3. Becoming a better writer. Hey, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. It would be impossible to write in a way that didn't trigger anyone's pet peeves, but I'd love to avoid avoidable ones, especially when they come from the dedicated fan base. ;) Plus, you would not believe how many people ask me about my Cougar Cruise book, which is sitting in a drawer in cyber space. It may have to evolve, but I think I better write it at some point.
2. Discovering things you hadn't thought of. Just for example, one reader last night likened Ben's story being warped by Carson Keller to Daphne's experience, having the truth of her story get lost in all the imaginings and re-tellings. Nice parallelism! Wish I'd thought of it. Another pointed out that Come On Inn owner Joyce never got the closure of learning where "the truth" intersected with her ghost Albert's story. Yet another wanted backstory and more closure on Gladys. What exactly did she discover in that Napa State Hospital? Good question.
1. Seeing your characters and story come to life for others. Hands down, this is the most wonderful part of visiting book clubs. To listen to readers discuss, argue, care about, question, grieve, and celebrate the people you've brought to life and with whom you spent so much solitary time. Total validation. I may be wasting my time and yours as well, but isn't it fun to waste it together? And when you waste time together, does it then become not a waste of time (see #7)?
One more time: thank you, readers. Thanks for your support, your interest, and your emotional investment in these stories! And if I haven't come to your book club yet, what are we waiting for?