In my experience, planning and organizing an event has never gone well. It doesn’t matter if the event is public or private, I never seem to reach enough people that are interested and committed to turning up. However, the consistent rejection from friends, family, and strangers alike doesn’t stop me from trying, because if even one person shows up, that’s still better than trying to play Smash Up by myself… right?
As friends who could regularly be relied upon to show up for such aforementioned shenanigans are packing up to move out of state or abroad I thought it might be time to reach outside my current social circles to find new people to be rejected by, all in hopes of finding a few faces that could come together once a month or so and talk about a common interest: reading.
I Googled how to go about doing this, because really how do you get strangers together without coming across like you want to harvest their organs? I really didn’t want to end up on a watch list, or find myself a victim of such a heinous act. Google supplied Meetup, a site I’ve heard other more adventurous acquaintances utilize but never really gave much thought, because most of the time I’m happy to be in my own house with my own things with my own people. Who needs new?
Meetup would mean spending money so I also searched free alternatives, even signing up for a few of them. In the end the free Meetup-like sites didn’t come with some convenient features and it relied on me posting and advertising the event – which would mean the only people seeing it are people I already know have other things going on in their lives, so I’ll see them at Christmas while a I drop sixty on attempting to meet new people.
As I’m making my Meetup group I have about 10 other book clubs open in other tabs. I had no idea how to say come hang out with me without it being weird. I needed some guidance but I also didn’t want to plagiarize another group. In researching other groups I found that they typically seem to be exclusive, which was definitely not what I wanted. Groups tending to be all women, or singles, or couples, or religious, or… I think you get the hint.
This isn’t to say that a book club that is exclusive about its members is bad, sometimes you just want to focus on reading books through a particular lens, or a safe space is needed, or enter another perfectly valid reason here. That’s just not what I wanted to achieve in creating a book club. Honestly, I hope to be in our little corner of the cafe one day, talking about our pick and have some random customers join the conversation because they read the same book, and not be afraid to chime in, the more the merrier.
After my preliminary research, I’ve got a general idea of how to tell people there’s this thing happening and they should come, I’ve got an approximate time that’s not too early but not too late in the day, and I’ve got a location that doesn’t charge to use the space. Within minutes the group is created, I fumbled trying to get a few Meetups scheduled, and then I waited.
Within a day one person had joined. I was ecstatic. I figured it would take at least a week before anyone noticed. Seven days later I had 40 people in my little group, and it continued to grow. As the first meetup drew closer I saw the RSVP list max out and a waiting list start, but as excited as I was about the interest I’m a realist. 20 people may RSVP yes but odds are only 5 are going to show and let’s be perfectly honest here, that number includes myself and my husband.
Sure enough the day before the first Meetup my email was slowly filling with alerts of new RSVP’s, the yeses were turning to noes and no one was on the wait-list. Now, typically this may dishearten me but I was really impressed that people had the wherewithal to actually cancel and let the space open up for someone else. Thank you for your consideration.
As I was gathering books the day of there were still 13 people going. I made my way to the local cafe, ordered myself a lemonade and took a seat and waited. It wasn’t long before a woman approached and asked, “Ashlie?” and just like that book club started. It was about ten minutes after the listed start time when everyone who was going to show arrived. Seven of us total, more than half of the RSVP list, even if only by the smallest possible amount, and it was wonderful.
Our first meeting wasn’t long, only about 40 minutes from our start time to packing up (50 for those of us that got there early.) However, we all took a few moments to introduce ourselves, giving our names, the cities we currently reside in, and what we do to keep our bookshelves flush. We easily moved the conversation to books we had just finished reading and it really spoke to the wide range of interests everyone will bring to this group. There was even a bit of overlap, several members having read the same books. I was so pleased at how natural the conversation developed, because I may have started this thing, but I’m not sure how much of a leader I have the capacity to be.
Since this was the first meeting, I had requested everyone bring suggestions for the first few picks so I could set up a calendar. No one disappointed, and suggestions varied just as much as our discussions on recently finished/currently reading titles, and they all sounded absolutely interesting. I can hardly wait to get together next month and talk about a common read, until then I’m trying to figure out the best way to get information to the members that didn’t make it.
Currently Reading or Recently Finished:
Maria: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson
Robin: The Power of Eloquence: Magic Key to Success in Public Speaking by Thomas Montalbo
Kelly: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Jonathan: Columbine by Dave Cullen
Shari: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Ashlie: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Maria: Dietland by Sarai Walker (October pick)
Kelly: a title by Walter Mosley
Jackee: Empress by Shan Sa or The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela
Jonathan: Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America by Yong Chen
Shari: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Ashlie: The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey (September pick)