ROSEMARY HARRIS: Twenty or so years ago, I briefly belonged to a book club known as the Giant Literaries. The GLs were started by one of my favorite people on the planet, an amazing woman named Becky whom I met while we were both working for Crown Publishers. I was sad to see her leave the East Coast - but delighted that she met the man of her dreams and moved to the Bay area, where they still live.
Of course, she started another book group, this one called the Literary Giants and I've been jealous ever since. The LGs have been together for close to twenty years. They meet once a month and once a year they take a house at Stinson Beach and spend the weekend together. I went to a meeting some years ago and have always kept up with what they were reading and doing. Some of them even came to one of my events at the Oakland Public Library. (Here's a pic of half the table, some LGS are missing. Should have had the group shot before we opened the wine!)
This summer I told Becky (she's the gorgeous smiling blond second from the left) that my WIP was something of a departure from the Paula Holliday books and she made an extraordinary suggestion. The Literary Giants would read an early version of my manuscript and give me feedback. For someone who had never even let her husband read an early draft (that would be me) this was a nervous-making prospect. But I did it. Becky made copies, the group read my manuscript and this past Monday I heard what they had to say.
I knew there would be a lot of chat (and a fair amount of wine) so that afternoon I purchased a recorder, so that I wouldn't miss a word. I may be able to use it for blackmail. Will definitely steal great dialogue from it.
First off, I would fly to the coast once a month to meet with these gals! Fun, great cooks, well-read, accomplished, and dang if they didn't make a newcomer feel welcome. I think my book was sandwiched in between Cleopatra and The Lost Memory of Skin. I was honored. And they'd read the Dirty Business books, so they had a sense of my style.
We had a blast. I came armed with questions covering everything from the title to a possible name change for me! Soon the chat was flying fast and furious. It was exhilarating to hear a lively group of women discussing characters and situations that I had created. And I got e valuable information which I will incorporate into the next draft. Needless to say the LGs will be thanked profusely in the acks!
So, JR writers and readers - are you in a book group? Have you ever had an author visit or Skype in? Do you have early readers? Has anyone ever used a group of readers as a focus group? Let's talk!
PS - And if any of you ARE in a book group, the JRs would be delighted to help you plan a discussion of any of our books - questions, topics, suggestions and even recipes!