As you may have noticed, I'm all atwitter over Twitter. Here's another reason I love it--last Friday night I saw this tweet from author Ami McKay: "Gonna hang out with a book club via skype later tonight!"
I was intrigued, and wanted to know more, so I quickly sent Ami a message asking her if she could share her experience with us. So many authors have done the call-in-to-a-book-group thing and I thought, of course, Skype--in which two parties can talk, via the computer and see each other at the same time, like a video conference call--is a natural extension of that, and I want to know how it goes. I have heard horror stories of the traditional phone call-in format: groups who put an author on hold, or who set the phone down and walked off, leaving the author literally hanging on the line to listen to the sounds of glasses clinking and random conversation. And I know that some groups can be shy asking questions of an author, especially when they can't see them, and guage their reaction to a question. From the author's perspective, they're usually alone, talking to a faceless group of people who are all gathered together, and that can be a tad unsettling as well. Skype is a great solution to all of these problems, and unlike a phone call, it's free! Both parties just need to have a computer with a camera (if one isn't in your computer already, you can buy one for around $29 -- grandparents love it -- and they each need to download Skype, which is free, onto each computer.
Of course doing the book group conversation via Skype does mean that authors who are used to calling reading groups while in their pajamas and folding laundry will have to change their ways ;) From my own experience on Skype for work and personal calls, I find that both parties are much more focused and attentive when they can see as well as hear the person on the other end of the line. So I think it must naturally be a better book group experience--for the members and the author. Read Ami's guest post about the Skype discussion of her novel The Birth House below. And you can read how much the book group enjoyed it on this post on one of their members' blogs. I'd love to know if your group has Skyped with an author yet, or if you might now plan to do it. Follow Ami McKay on Twitter, visit her site and her blog.
My First Skype Book Club Slumber Party!
A book club in St. Louis had just read The Birth House and was hoping to connect. I was at home in Nova Scotia in full-on writing mode, working away on novel number two. Packing my bags and heading south wasn’t an option. (Although I’m sure springtime has been far warmer in Missouri than it’s been here in Scots Bay!) Conference calls often feel clunky and impersonal to me. Typing away in an online chat can be tiring, especially if I’ve already spent a few hours at the keyboard earlier in the day. I emailed the woman coordinating the book group, "Have you ever Skyped?"
We agreed on a night and time. They gathered in a member’s cozy basement, her tech savvy partner on hand to help with the set up. I sat in the nook off my kitchen, warmed by the woodstove and my fuzzy slippers. My eight-year-old son, Jonah even popped in front of the web cam to wave hello to all the ladies. He was thrilled to finally be included in one of his mom’s book club visits.
Aside from a few technical to-do’s (web cam set up, adjusting the audio, getting used to the back and forth of communication via Skype) it didn’t take long before we found a rhythm to our conversation. Maybe it was the wood panelling in the hostesses’ rec. room, or the comfort of my fuzzy slippers, but there was something wonderfully slumber party-ish about it all. We covered everything from the truth behind fiction to the importance of women’s stories, moving all the while between laughter, history, and girl talk.
Best long distance book club meeting ever.
writer - mom - human being