Skip to main content


June 18, 2008

Meg Waite Clayton: The Wednesday Sisters Book Club

Posted by carol
Today, guest blogger Meg Waite Clayton recalls some of her experiences as both an author and a book club member --- and why her reading group shares a name with her new novel, The Wednesday Sisters, which was published yesterday. Meg is also the author of The Language of Light.

True confession: well into my neighborhood book group discussion of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao two months ago, I looked down to see the shoes I was wearing didn't match. Hey, they were both black! One mesh slide and one winter-suede moc. I glanced at the faces around me: all far too intent on Diaz's book to smirk at my feet.

That's one thing that amazes me again and again about book groups: the odd mixture of critical reading among uncritical friends embracing each other --- unmatched shoes and all --- as surely as we embrace our favorite books.

To be honest, my first visit to a book club as an author was a bit intimidating. When the members introduced themselves, the phrase most frequently repeated was "English PhD." By the time we'd completed the circle, I felt a bit like A.A. Milne's Piglet: "Oh, d...d...d...dear, Pooh."

Like Brett in my new novel, The Wednesday Sisters, I was a math-science girl in the days when that was about the geekiest thing one could be --- well before geek came to mean "really successful technology whizz." English? That was the one class I didn't AP in. In college, I took the required first term Great Books, then escaped into Shakespeare; the only non-required English course I took was on Tolkien: serious literature, yes, but we're talking (literally!) orcs and elves, in a largely geek-like-me-filled class that I personally took pass-fail.

I've always been a reader, though. I loved The Grapes of Wrath in high school (not that I admitted that then). And my best writer-pal, novelist Brenda Rickman Vantrease, is an English PhD. As was, perhaps, Mrs. Thompson, the eighth grade teacher who first encouraged me to submit a poem to magazines.

(I still have that poem, with its bright red A+ and her request for a copy for herself; I am a sap for praise.)

Well, I settled into that PhD-book-club visit for what turned out to be a mercifully gentle discussion of my little offering. And when the great conversation, the good wine, and the tasty desserts came to an end, I took away an amazing gift: a better understanding of myself as a writer, and of myself as a self.

Not long after that gathering, I was invited to join my wonderful Oscar Wao-reading group, then just forming. Intimidating? Let's just say I may be the only one of us who isn't a red school graduate --- crimson or cardinal, which has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with smart. But this darned iceberg I've crashed upon is (I'm really sorry to break this to you, because I know you think this honor is your own) the best book group in the world.

Really, admit it: how many of you belong to a group in which not a single member would give you grief about unmatched shoes?

We're the Wednesday Sisters, a name borrowed from my yet-to-be-sold-at-the-time novel years after our group first formed, when we wanted to register at a local bookstore. And yes, we were as awkward as any new group that first Wednesday, sharing little more than a neighborhood and a love of books. But that murky old ice shattered to pieces by our third selection --- The Amateur Marriage --- and we laughed and laughed over tales of our relationships.

Not that our spouses are anything to laugh at!

Or maybe they are. But then we ourselves are something to laugh at, too, which is all part of the fun, and part of the learning experience that goes on when the Wednesday Sisters meet.

We're more than just a book group, too, it turns out. Whether it's attending Leslie's readings for her wonderful The Man Behind the Microchip, or applauding Rayme's success in short story competitions, Adrienne's photography, Camilla's acceptance to her fashion program or Diana's to genetic counseling graduate school, we cheer each other on. The group is even hosting a launch party for me tomorrow: The Wednesday Sisters celebrating the The Wednesday Sisters, which Ballantine Books published yesterday.

So which is the first book group to discuss The Wednesday Sisters? The Wednesday Sisters, of course!

I do love chatting with book clubs, and I'd love to chat with yours. I'm working on the matched-shoe thing, but if you are anything like the Wednesday Sisters --- the real-life book group or the fictional sisters who connect over books and bond over writing --- I know you'll laugh with me rather than at me if mine don't match.

---Meg Waite Clayton