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June 23, 2009


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Julie P.

My book club has had an author come to our meeting last May. It was Joshua Henkin, author of MATRIMONY. Like you, I was the hostess and absolutely terrified at having everyone over (plus we added some guest members that month.) I asked a local coffee shop to let us meet there and they "catered" it with iced tea, coffee and cookie plates. I didn't have to do anything!

We decided to meet about 45 minutes before Mr. Henkin arrived to discuss the book and go over our questions. It was a good idea because not everyone liked the book and they had a chance to talk about it without the author being there.

The meeting went very well. He stayed for about 2 hours and just answered everything we asked him. He also threw a few questions our way. I thought it was just a wonderful experience, and I think everyone gained a better appreciation for the novel after hearing Mr. Henkin talk about it.

Good luck!!! It will be so much fun!


We had Maryanna Evans author of the Faye Longchamp mystery series. Usually meetings were at my house & very casual (food & wine but serve yourself style). For a number of reasons another member agreed to hostess this meeting. Apparently she had also been longing for a more structured meeting format.

We arrived to a sit down meal, as-good-as assigned seats & then when I started the meeting as I usually did she interrupted & asked that perhaps Maryanna should begin with how she came to write the books etc. (a perfectly reasonable request & something I should have thought of).

Unfortunately the next two hours the hostess really monopolized the conversation. When anyone else tried to ask a question she interrupted, etc. It was more like watching an interview than participating in a book club.

It was the beginning of the inevitable end for this particular book club member. She has since dropped out & is indeed in the process of forming her own more targeted group (her preference is for contemporary mysteries-no translations; the rest of us prefer a mix of genres & periods).

I would suggest a list of questions gathered from the group beforehand. That way if one person does stand out (or another is just too shy) no one feels side-lined. If you know there are rough spots in your group (such as one member's chronic lateness) you might want to pull them aside & ask "just this once could on time?".

I WOULD do it again (with the same author even, as the rest of us still have questions) but probably not without a spoken understanding of how the meeting would be handled. Good Luck & Have Fun (it is fun, really)!


My book club, the Daughters of Abraham, had author Scott Pomfret visit our club a couple of weeks ago. Pomfret wrote SINCE MY LAST CONFESSION: A GAY CATHOLIC MEMOIR, which was a great choice for the club as we are a group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish women who meet to read and learn about each others' religions. Scott knows a lot about Catholicism and the Boston Catholic scene, and having him was a great opportunity to ask questions specific to Catholicism. Mr. Pomfret was really sweet and gracious, and everyone had a great time. I would definitely invite an author again- this was the first time we had an author visit and it was very, very memorable for everyone!


We asked everyone to come with questions and also reported (via email) on some suggestions we found on the internet from other similar groups. I also am a firm believer in the powers of food to help paper over awkward moments and give people a common experience to share. And you can clean the house forever, but after 5 minutes, someone will spill salsa, or coffee, or smash chips into the floor, or whatever, so you might as well relax on that score! :--)

Pam Fierro

My book club has done phone meetings with Josh Henkin (Matrimony) and Marjorie Leet Ford (The Diary of an American Au Pair). We also did an in-person visit with Fariden Goldin, author of Wedding Song: Memoirs of a Jewish Iranian Woman.

I always feel that having contact with an author adds a new dimension to the discussion and our appreciation of the book.

We usually serve food ahead of time (30 minutes would be sufficient if you can count on the other members to show up on time! We usually give an hour!) Then we are free to focus on our discussion with the author without them hearing our munching in the background! And we also get our chit-chat out of the way.

If it is a phone discussion, I think it helps to have a "point person" - preferably the person with whom the author has made contact - to introduce everyone and facilitate the discussion. I've been the point person in both of the cases I mentioned above, and I usually develop some questions ahead of time in order to keep the conversation going.

In all of the situations I've been involved in, the authors are delightful conversationalists and I've thoroughly enjoyed the event.


Our book club had phone interview with Joshua Henkin during our book club. We met an hour before he called to eat our food and get our questions lined up. We decided who would lead the discussion with him and maintain the conversation. We were all nervous (even though it was just a phone call) but he was very personable and answered our questions (even the tough ones)and made us laugh several times. We'd love to have an author come in person, but not likely to happen here in Iowa. :( We also read up on Joshua's biography on his website and such so we had some history on him before the interview. Have a great time!


I'm glad to read everyone else's comments here. I've been leary of bringing in an author to our book club becuase I just hadn't figured out the logistics. Every one who has commented has given me lots of good ideas. I think it's time to ask my group if it's something they would be interested in.


Our book club as never had an opportunity to have an author visit with us, but I have spoken through e-mail and blogs with Rosina Lippi (Sara Donati) and received a signed book of hers. We usually play podcast of author interviews at our book club, that is the closest we have come. : (


ps: It sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I am sure it would go well!

Delia Elias

I had Anita Stansfield come to a bookclub of mine and it was a lot of fun. We did just was you suggested, we asked her to meet us 30 minutes after the meeting had started so we could get organized, have our refreshments set up, and get our questions in order. It worked really well. Instead of coming in on a meeting just trying to get set up, we seemed like a well organized group.

Sandra Furlotte

I find that having the author on a phone call is often better than a face to face meeting. Club members find it more relaxing to speak with the author without having to look him/her in the eye. I think that it makes for more interesting and honest questions.


My book club has been fortunate to have had phone chats with three authors and a personal visit by one. Phone chat authors have been Donna Woolfolk Cross (Pope Joan), Monica Pradhan (Hindi Bindi Club), and Chris Bohjalian (The Double Bind). Our author who came for an actual visit was Mary Cimarolli (The Bootlegger's Other Daughter).

We have been very fortunate in that with each author contact, we have enjoyed the book and usually have a lot of questions. Each author put their own stamp on the conversation and they were all enjoyable. One author in particular, Monica Pradhan, even recommended books for our club to read. Two authors, Monica Pradhan and Donna Woolfolf Cross, had done book chats before and they would be great for first time phone chats with clubs.

My best tip is to make sure that everyone has read the book and to have a pretalk beforehand.


My book group had a phone interview with Masha Hamilton to discuss her book The Distance Between Us. I had made the arrangements, then started sweating when she didn't call at the appointed time. Turned out her subway was delayed. Once we did connect, we had a very nice 45 min interview. She was very good at putting us at ease & made it easy to chat about this book & her others. For us, it was a good first time. We'd do it again.

J.T. Oldfield

Recently I was visiting my family back home in Detroit, MI. I was at a bar in Royal Oak, just outside of Detroit, and there was a very large book group starting to gather. There must have been at least thirty people. The large turn-out was due to an appearance by the author. The book was called Drama Queers, by Frank Anthony Polito. Polito lives in New York now, but grew up in Hazel Park, another Detroit suburb. I think that book clubs that invite less well known authors tend to have a positive response, because it allows the author to promote their book, and meet new readers, and the book club get a great turn out.

Buying the author dinner might help, too.

Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe

Hello Jennifer,
Our book group has done a number of phone chats. At least 10 authors. Our first speaker phone chat was with Chris Bojhalian. I was a nervous wreck and we had never done it before. The first thing I learned was to give the club a chance to settle in before calling the author( 30 minutes). Have your night organized and timely. For instance 30 min. for this and 10 min. for something else, etc, etc. When picking the book and you know you want the author to chat. One experience I have had is most times members have it fixed in their mind. They hate the book,or they like it. there is not be much to talk when they have it in their mind they hated the book. I don't know why because they can still discuss it. It might be best not to invite the author till you get the moderator or someone to read it first.

Luckily most of the authors that visited through phone or live we enjoyed reading the book.

The other thing is to keep in touch with the author. Make sure that the day is set up to the last minute. NO SURPRISES!! The most embarassing thing is to have it all set on your end and find that the author doesn't call you. The contact person did not follow through and took it for granted it was taken care of. How embarassing. This has happened once and thank goodness it has not happened since.

One of the best author chats we had was with Jenna Blum as a phone chat.
We did research on the author's background and her book this helps. This book was a great discussion.

I found our group was rather shy on phone in's and did better when the author visited. We had T. Lynn Ocean come. We had a great time. Her book was not the greatest but we had a nice discussion. It sort of like meeting a great actor and freezing up. Members still talk about how great the author chat was live.
Of course we served food but not a whole dinner. Rather just snacks because I find members don't contribute to the discussion. It becomes loud and disorganized and disjointed without anyone contributing.

Book Escape

We had an aspiring author come to talk about a draft of her book once. We all had questions ready to talk to her about and then we let her ask us questions.

We've also had two phone chats with authors. Kate Jacobs and Jill Smolinski. We met about 20-30mins before the author called to talk about the book among ourselves and talk about which questions we would each ask. It was a lot of fun and informative to have a live author chat.

I would recommend a round of introductions before everyone begins on the questioning.

We considered having an area author come to one of our meetings. We felt a little too intimidated for that. I look forward to hear how your meeting goes.

sherryl connelly

is there anyone in New York reading the physick book of deliverance dane.
I would love to have a fast email discussion about its secret appeal.
the book has a really taken off.

Alice MacDonald

My bookgroup had Heidi Postlewait, one of the authors of "Emergency Sex", a deceiving title - it is actually about UN peacekeepers in some of the world's toughest warzones during the 1990's. Our discussion was quite lively and very informative. I live in a small town in SE WA state but we've actually had several authors come to our book group meetings, and it always adds a wonderful dimension to our dialog.

Alice MacDonald

Has anybody won the Bag of Books?

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