We Had a Book Club Before Oprah.

We formed a book club before it was popular. You can tell by our dated name: Women who read too much (and the dogs that love them.) We were an eclectic group of women, of varied backgrounds and status, with jobs that ranged from engineers to doctors to tech queens to research scientists and everything to the left and right. In the beginning we didn’t all know each other but we did have one huge commonality: we loved books. I read the best books of my life with those women.

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The Parliament of Eight Wise Owls book club, with two readers off screen.

Our first book was Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. It set the bar high but I could list another fifty just as good. In the beginning I was a dyed-in-the-wool fiction reader, but being in the club meant reading books that you probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. Every time it was Lauren’s turn, she picked a non-fiction book. I’d silently grumble, then end up wild about the book, until I finally switched sides entirely.

We took turns picking authors from around the world, and then matched our potluck dinner menus to the book theme or nationality. We began each meeting with a glass of wine, but it was the book talk that I valued the most; first reasoning out my opinion, then seeing that book from other perspectives, and then enjoying the routine every month for a few years. There was always a delicious feeling walking up to the door with a covered dish and the latest read, anxious for our particular brand of bookish sisterhood.

And the elephant in my brain the entire time; the un-named what-if was always behind me, leaning against a wall. He whispered, “What if it was your book? What if you ever wrote yours??” It was a dream so precious and improbable that I made up an imaginary sarcastic loner to poke me, rather than share it out loud to my friends.

Life happened; there were weddings and divorces, members transitioned in and out, and eventually I moved away. For a while I commuted back but there were changes in my life that made returning difficult. Some of the other original members fell away that next year as well, but I understand the book club is still reading on. Long live the Women Who Read Too Much; thirteen years later and I’m still curious about what they’re reading.

It’s been a hectic month here, crowded with events I would never have dreamed of in my book club years. I was invited to take part in an event for local authors at the Pikes Peak Library District. Libraries are a sacred place, you know. Then traveling to the Midwest Horse Fair and meeting readers there was amazing, as well as having a day at Main Stay Farm. I gave a webinar I created from a blog post, and I just generally talked with authors and met readers. I’ve been busier with book work lately than my day job. (Which isn’t saying much if your day job is outside work and it’s springtime in the Rockies.)

NIEAseal-2014-Finalist-XLThen this week an email informed me that Stable Relation had been selected as a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards. It’s not a well-known as a Pulitzer but it’s special to me and I’m very grateful. It comes with a promotion. Now I’m officially an “award-winning” author. It means I can post this sticker. With a big smile.

But that isn’t the best thing that happened this week. I got another email, this time from someone trying to find examples of my goldsmithing online. I assumed she was an old client and I told her that I was out of the business. Then she told me that her book club, The Parliament of Eight Wise Owls, from Livermore, CA, had chosen my book. They were meeting that night. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard of a book club reading Stable Relation, but it was certainly my first invitation to join the conversation! I downloaded Skype, tidied myself up, and sat quietly at my computer. At the appointed time, and by the grace of the internet, I joined them. It started with cheers and laughter on all sides. I asked if they had wine, and my computer screen was instantly filled with glasses. So I lifted mine as well and we started by toasting book clubs.

They each introduced themselves with wit and candor, and I was warmly included in their circle like an old friend. We talked about authors we liked and the value of memoir and Stable Relation might have come up. I spoke as an author part of the time, and a longtime book-clubber the rest of the time. My smile muscles were exhausted by the time I said good-bye, but just before that, I offered to send them bookmarks, if someone would send a list of the names for spelling. Susan sent me that list, with a short paragraph describing each member with such affection. They are a group rich in experience and kindness–the perfect bookish sisterhood.

(The Owls found my book online, largely because of reviews. So thanks to you, if you left a review, and if you’ve meant to leave one, a gentle reminder. It makes all the difference on this side.)

And thank you, Owls, from your honorary member! Here’s to book clubs; sharing books is a great way to build friendships. Books have opened unexpected doors for me, connecting the past and the future, in ways that fiction can’t imagine. Because for me there’s nothing that joins people like a good dose of real life non-fiction.

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