One more thing on my “I’m grateful for list”. . .wonderful writers like Cindy Hudson who are willing to be guest bloggers!
Authors and Mother-Daughter Book Clubs—A Winning Combination
The first time one of my mother-daughter book clubs met with an author, we couldn’t believe she agreed to come to our meeting. A real live author, at Karen’s house for dinner and conversation? It floored us that she said yes, and the moms and daughters both were excited as well as nervous about how it would go. Would we like her book? What would we say if we didn’t?
The author was Laura Whitcomb, whom Karen had discovered lived in our hometown of Portland, Oregon by reading the jacket of her book, A Certain Slant of Light. Laura was easy to find through email on her website, and our author event came together. We needn’t have worried so much. Laura was a gracious guest, and after some initial awkwardness talking about her book most of us dove right in.
That was nearly five years ago, a good two years before I decided to write my first book, a guidebook for mother-daughter book clubs. By then I was in two groups, one with each of my daughters, and I had seen first hand how one-size-fits all didn’t apply when creating a club of your own. Activities and books that fit great with one group, fell flat with the other. The girls in one needed formal prompts for discussion, in the other they all freely joined in. I started by creating an outline of everything I knew would be helpful to moms looking to start their own group, but I knew the advice would mean more if it was illustrated with real-life examples from moms in real-life clubs.
This is where the fun came in. Most writers conduct research of some kind, and my charge was to find women from around the country who were doing dynamic things with their book clubs so I could tell their stories along with my own advice. My research led me to over 20 moms who were volunteering with their clubs, meeting with authors, going away for weekends together, inviting experts to talk on a subject covered in a book, staging their own plays and so much more. I also connected with librarians, booksellers, and parenting experts who talked about the importance of the mother-daughter relationship. Along the way I became even more convinced than I already was that mother-daughter book clubs are one of the best gifts a mom and daughter can give each other.
Even though I haven’t penned a book that’s likely to set a young girl’s heart on fire, I believe encouraging her mom to be in a book club with her is the next best thing. And I believe all authors of books for children and young adults can benefit from connecting with mother-daughter book clubs in some way too.
Some authors, like Laura Whitcomb and Kirby Larson, have met with book groups when it was possible. Others, like Heather Vogel Frederick, frequently meet with clubs through Skype and email when she can’t be there in person. And there are also bookstore readings, where my groups have connected the most with authors over the years. We’ve heard Zlata Filipovic talk about the diary she wrote while living in war-torn Sarajevo, and Gennifer Choldenko talk about her research of Alcatraz Island for her book Al Capone Does My Shirts. We listened to Markus Zusak talk of his parents’ stories from the Holocaust, the inspiration for The Book Thief. Over the years there have been many more and each time we heard an author speak we bought her book and waited in line for a coveted personal autograph. And each time I have watched the spark in the girls’ eyes as literature and history came alive for them.
Now that I’ve signed a few autographs of my own I can appreciate the author/mother-daughter book club connection even more. I believe
the more we connect with young people who read and support reading groups as much as we can, we work to encourage literacy and family relationships, ensuring a spot on the bookshelf for what we write in the years to come.