by Hannah Brown, Europe Blogger jaBlog!
Artwork by Lucy Zhang
At the end of last year, I decided with a bunch of friends to set up a book club. We got a list of books, 12 in all for the year, and are reading one a month and then meeting up, also every month, to discuss the book we have all read. As none of us had actually attended an established book club before, we made it up as we went along.
Our friendship group isn’t exactly known for being quiet and for staying on task, so I was actually impressed when I learned something: and, not just about the book, but about my friends as well, and about writing.
One thing everyone always tells you that if you want to write, you have to read. But reading is one thing, and learning from it is another. Can you really just learn if you don’t analyze, talk––communicate?
When you’re talking about it, you discover things you didn’t realize beforehand by being prompted by something else, which is why conversations continue. These are called “cues” and are kind of like pathways in your memory, as if you’re standing in a clearing in the woods but don’t know which way to go: when the cue is give, a flare is sent up in the trees and you race towards it, discovering something new when you get there. The great thing about this is that it is reciprocal: your friends learn and you learn too.
A real life example of this is my friends realizing Terry Pratchett doesn’t use chapters in his books. Pick up the nearest fictional book you have and flick through it. I can almost guarantee it has chapters, not text bunched together in pages and pages of words. Through reading, you’ve learned that chapters are something mandatory in fiction. And then, when you discuss something new, you discover that it doesn’t have to be that way, much like my friends did: you can break the rules.
Aside from these “cues,” something else you have at your disposal are the opinions and insights of your group. Although they’re not reviewing your book, they are reviewing a book, and you can use this in your writing. If none of them liked a certain character, probe them for why. Then utilize that in your own writing! You should always write for yourself, but if you’re in a book group chances are you’re reading with people like you. They know what they like and don’t like, and chances are you’ll be the same.
Onto where you can get to a book club––especially if you live in the middle of nowhere. This can be rather difficult. Not all of my friends can make it to each and every meeting, but they join via Skype calls or telephone calls. If you can’t make it, make sure you know what time you’re meeting and get your webcam ready for that all-important date!
Besides being a great help, book clubs are, of course, fun. Time actually dedicated to books, reading and everything to do with the literary stuff you love. It’s learning as well and helping you gain ammunition for your own work. Plus, it’s time spent with your friends, learning more about each other and gaining better relationships. And perhaps you’ll find your next favourite read! What’s not to love about book clubs?