More and more authors are discovering the pleasure of connecting directly with readers, without leaving the comfort of their home. While phoning into book groups is nothing new, connecting via Skype is a more recent, and growing, phenomenon. It does require that an author (perhaps?) get out of his or her pajama pants for the conversation, but it also allows an author to actually see the group with whom they're interacting, rather than face the phone without ever seeing all the people on the other end of the line. Ilie Ruby, author of the novel The Language of Trees shares her latest Skype book group adventure with us here.
Last night, I had my third SKYPE book group for The Language of Trees, my debut novel released in August this year by the amazing folks at Avon HarperCollins. I enjoy these SKYPE book group events as much as the in-your-living-room book groups (which are proving to be very fattening—too many treats). Last night, as I settled into my office, through the magic of technology, these women and I were offered a window into each other’s lives. This was a fabulous bunch—a diverse group of literary ladies. It took me back to a time when I was allowed to go out at night, sans kiddos, and to talk books, and kids, and life! There was so much laughter last night. What a treat.
We talked about my novel, of course—there were the good and insightful questions about Canandaigua, about hands-on healers, and characters I might have known in real life, about women who love, and about ghosts that won’t let go, and then the questions about process, ie. Group member: “When you write is it like watching a movie in your head?” Me: “No, it’s like I’m IN the movie.” That made them smile. I discussed the necessity of losing yourself in your writing in order to sink into your characters and write from that place, especially if you have multiple narrators. We talked about how to do that for a while, and I explained that it has to do with finding your zen moment—it’s different for every person, the moment when you forget your-self, which some describe as the zone. The women shared their own “in the zone” moments. Moments caught between shuttling children or driving home from work, moment snatched while exercising, baking, teaching, or playing piano, or writing. It was fascinating to hear the stories of women who do it all and more and find time to ground themselves. And then, as I’ve found with most book groups (and I love this) maybe it’s just my style as an author with 3 kiddos, they wanted to talk more personal stories—about kiddos, theirs and yours, about husbands, and college heartbreaks. Isn’t that the point of a book group? Or a book? Even if it’s just one line or one paragraph or a part of a story that makes you reflect and share with others? The conversation went on and on and truth be told, I didn’t want to cut it short even after an hour. But alas my 10-year old was waiting with homework and needed my help.
So, I’d like to celebrate the women of book groups. Readers everywhere. People who love books and sharing stories of all kinds. And I’d like to tell you about this group of fabulous women because they are the real stars of book groups: the women who highlight your words in their books, who prepare the food while dealing with their own families, who moderate, who coordinate, who make the phone calls amidst their busy lives—the ones who find the time to do all this and then coordinate with an author’s schedule—they should be applauded. So I’m going to do just that. Because as generous as they say I was with them, they were with me. So, let me celebrate you Mara’s Maryland Book Group!
I met the moderator when we were 20 years old, living in Israel and we each found ourselves in a Bedouin tent having dinner. Then, another book group member, a Southern belle who loved to read and loved to bake and was described as the “mother” of the group. She had 3 kids and found time to do everything and more. What a spark and sense of humor. And there was the mommy-to-three-turned-yoga instructor, jazzed about her newfound calling and nearly certified, and she was thrilled to pieces, as well she should be. That’s a lot of yoga. Then there was a woman who was the poetry-lover, such an astute reader with a great eye for details, who had fabulous questions—questions about story, references to poems in the book and circuitous themes. She had the comments that make an author smile and think, “I can’t believe she picked up on that.” She amazed and bedazzled me. Finally, there was the the therapist-mommy who plundered me with questions about my life. I loved making her laugh. She gave me the thumbs up at the end of the SKYPE to let me know I passed the test. And then, my old friend, the moderator, who held up her Kindle to show me the highlighted parts of my book, the lines that she wanted to remember. She put it all together, had driven through the rain to pick me up at BWI airport last month and drove me to a bookstore for my reading in Maryland. Thank you, good soul.
To all these women, I offer you thanks. You blessed me with a much-needed reprieve from writing my 2nd book, and delivered not only a fabulous discussion of The Language of Trees but about love, life, and books in general. I’m glad and honored that after last night, you consider me one of you. And to all the ladies in all the book groups all over the world, I know I speak for all authors when I say thank you—for the food, the conversation, for your time, and for your love of books and each other.