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May 15, 2012

5 Reasons I Love Calling In to Book Clubs by Jill Smolinski

Posted by editor

jill smolinski.jpgobjects of my affection.jpgJill Smolinski is the author of OBJECTS OF MY AFFECTION, THE NEXT THING ON MY LIST and FLOPPED. Her short story "40 Days" appears in the anthology AMERICAN GIRLS ABOUT TOWN, and she has also written nine books on topics ranging from origami to supermodels. She lives in Los Angeles with her son. Visit her at

Like many writers, I tend to be shy.  So when my first novel came out --- and on my web site I said I’d call in to book clubs to join in their discussion if they were reading it --- I did so figuring (perhaps hoping?) no one would take me up on the offer.  Two books and hundreds of book club calls later, it turns out that these phone and Skype calls I was so nervous about are now one of my favorite perks of being a published author.

Here’s why: 

1.      I get to connect with fellow book lovers.  That’s why you join a book club, isn’t it --- because you love books?  And for the wine and/or desserts?  And to get away from the kids for a few hours? Okay, there are plenty of reasons you might join a book club, but surely one of them is a love of reading.  I’m a writer because I’m a reader … books, magazines, backs of cereal boxes, whatever… so it’s pure pleasure for me to spend time with other people who share that passion.      

2.      Book clubs give me insight into my own books. I sometimes wonder if Herman Melville had called in to book clubs, and someone asked him, “So, this whale, it was a symbol of Ahab’s struggle against authority, right?” if it might have caused him to stop and ponder exactly why he wrote what he did.  It happens to me all the time when I talk to readers. I suppose it’s because as I’m writing, I know what message I want to convey, but I don’t exactly plan word by word how I’m going to do it.  Book club readers tend to point out to me what were often subconscious writing choices.  For example, in my new novel, OBJECTS OF MY AFFECTION, it wasn’t until a reader said that she appreciated a particular parallel between two of the characters that I even realized it was there --- and that I’d meant for it to be there.   

3.      It’s a chance to revisit my characters.  When I type the words “The End” on my manuscript (and I really do --- it’s so satisfying!) the thrill of having finished is mixed with a certain mourning over having to say goodbye to the characters I’ve created.  After all, I’ve spent literally years with them, day in and day out.  By chatting about them with book clubs, it’s as if I’m at a reunion (and without all the awkward run-ins with old boyfriends). 

4.      Reader feedback has made me a better writer.  Whether it’s sharing with me parts of my books that they enjoyed --- or asking me about what they didn’t “get” or telling me how they’d hoped the plot would have veered a different way --- readers give me valuable feedback.  After all, I’m not writing to myself here, I’m writing to tell a story to someone.  I’m always open to learning how to be better at it. 

5.      It’s fun to see how creative book clubs can be.  OBJECTS OF MY AFFECTION is about a personal organizer who is working with a reclusive hoarder to get her to clear out her home.  The hostess for one book club I called served snacks in a giant, piled-up mishmash of unmatched bowls, plates and cups --- brilliant!  For my last book, THE NEXT THING ON MY LIST (which was about a woman completing a bucket list for shoes.jpegsomeone who’d died before she could finish it,) I was astounded at how many clever ways groups made the theme part of their meeting --- whether by bringing their own bucket lists to share, or playing out some of the items on my character’s list, such as wearing sexy shoes.  (This is a far cry from the book club I belong to, where we’re proud if most of us have even read the book.)

I am thrilled to have the chance to be an honorary member of so many book clubs and meet so many fun, bright and interesting people.  And the offer still stands: If your book club is reading one of my novels, I’d be glad to call or Skype in to join your meeting.  Details are at