A Visit with a Book Group
By Jeannie Mobley - November 8, 2012
More Posts by Jeannie Mobley
A couple weeks ago, I got to meet with a book group for the first time. They first contacted me a month earlier. They went to the library to get a suggestion for the next book to read, and the librarian not only pointed out my book, but told them I was local and might come talk to them. Thank goodness for libraries and great librarians!
The thing about being a writer, is you create your books off in private somewhere, and it isn’t until much, much later that you find out how readers feel about your book. This was one of my first in-person chances to meet my audience. And what a great audience they were!
The group consisted of one dedicated grandmother, three young lovers-of-books, and a little white carp named Goldie. They had chosen Katerina’s Wish as their book for this month (although in truth, I’m not convinced Goldie read it–she was pretty quiet in the discussion.)
I knew they were gathering at 12:30 to discuss the book before I arrived at 1:30. This was a good plan, I thought, because it gave them the freedom to be perfectly honest about the book, just in case. As it turns out, meeting ahead of time gave them time to do more than that.
What do you need for a great book group? Start with three bright young women and a dedicated grandma…
When I rang the doorbell, they all greeted me at once, wearing blue hair ribbons! (For those of you who don’t know, early in the book, two wishes are granted: one for blue hair ribbons and one for plum dumplings.)
So, guess what was waiting around the corner for me in the kitchen? That’s right–the table all set, with place cards for everyone, paper dandelions for a centerpiece (also a reference to my book):
and a big plate of fresh, warm plum dumplings! We also had goldfish crackers and apples. And let me assure you, it was all quite delicious!
…add a plate of yummy plum dumplings and a happy author, and you’re on your way!
Then the hard work began–I had to answer their questions. Of course, it wasn’t really hard work; they asked GREAT questions: who was my favorite character, did I think of Mark as a good guy or a bad guy, how do I take criticism from my editor, and even did I see the lessons that my characters learned as important lessons or struggles in my own life. Boy, do I ever!
I asked them plenty of questions too, and adored their answers. Here are a few highlights:
- They each had a different favorite character, but among them, they picked all my favorites too (Holena, Martina, Old Jan, and Trina)
- They liked that it ended without everything being perfect for the main character, because that’s how life is.
- They thought Mark was his own worst enemy, because he was always being negative and putting himself down.
- They were glad Trina chose the path she did and not the other one.
- One of the girls was even gracious enough to compare Trina’s youngest sister Holena to Beth in Little Women.
After we ate our fill, we moved to the floor, where the conversation really got going. And Goldie admired our fish necklaces.
Then I shared with them everything that went into the book, from the first, handwritten draft, through the copies that came back from the editor, the bound galley, to the finished book. They were complimentary of my handwriting and maybe a little horrified by how many trees died in the process of producing all that paper.
I was supposed to leave after an hour, but I couldn’t tear myself away quite that soon. And when I left, I felt so lucky to be writing for such a bright, exuberant audience.
This is the great reward of writing for children. On the whole, readers are people I enjoy spending time with, but to meet such great kids is truly a joy. It gives me confidence that our future is in good hands, and I am so happy to be in a position to be supporting that. I hope for many more such wonderful chances in the future! And no doubt I will get those chances. After all, these young ladies told me what needs to happen in my next book, so I’ve got my own bright future ahead of me, too!