At a book club meeting a couple months back, our tireless leader asked for volunteers. Our club has something like 350 members on the books, but probably only 80 show up regularly to meetings. Just like church! Apparently, people decide whether or not to read the book and attend the meeting on a month to month basis by reading the book blurbs. This is completely different from how I go about it. True, there are some books on our list that I would have skipped and some others that I thought were a bore, but part of the fun of book club to me is reading things that I never would have picked out on my own. I end up liking some of them, and even when I don't, I get to go talk to other people about why they liked or disliked it. But whatever other people want out of book club is their business. It's just discouraging to see five people at one meeting and then twenty at the next, just because we read The Hunger Games.
Anyway, in the couple of years since the group started, one woman has basically been doing all the work. Just going to three meetings in one week every month would be enough, but there are a lot of behind-the-scenes administrative work to it, too. So she finally asked for help and scheduled an open meeting for anyone who was interested in getting more involved.
I got that strange sorta feeling in my stomach, like I wanted to take a step outside my shell into the sunlight of involvementhoodness. I hate to use a word that seems like it should be reserved for much nobler activities, but I felt "called." So I showed up at the meeting, and almost immediately regretted it when I realized that everyone else there was really outgoing and organized. But I stuck it out, spoke up when I again felt called, and found myself at the end with a title: Wednesday Moderator.
Each month, we have three meetings, spread out over a week so people can pick the night that is most convenient for them. I'm a Wednesday. Tuesday and Thursday were equally convenient, really, but Wednesday was a newly introduced night, so there were the fewest regular attendees. I said that having only five people show up was discouraging, but it was actually great. The smaller group led to a better and more inclusive discussion.
My co-moderator is Mandy, who I've discovered that I like a lot. We brought book-related snacks to our first meeting, and they went over like a lead balloon. I mean, I ate some, and Mandy ate some, and a couple others took a bit to spare our feelings. But they were not spared enough. My feelings were soothed slightly by the fact that I got to take so much of the snacks home.
"Well, it is right after dinner time. Maybe some of them eat supper right before they come," I suggested optimistically.
"Or they're scared to eat in front of other people," replied Mandy. See? I like Mandy.
Snacks are not part of our duty. We just did it to make Wednesday the coolest. Our actual jobs are just to run the meetings - lead the discussion if no one is willing to do so, keep everyone on topic, pass around the collection plate. The plate in our case is a vintage kitchen canister that I dug out from my stash. We also wear name tags, also vintage and from my stash. See? I knew I would need these things one day! Wednesday is the coolest - they have snacks and vintage stuff and also sassy moderators.
We give out books as incentive for regular members to lead dicussions. If they do not want the book, we give them a tote bag with the book club name on it (Triangle Ladies' Book Club). At the last meeting, I took charge of the giveaway books and tote bags. I walked out of a coffee shop with a book club tote bag on my arm and felt very stereotypically suburban.
In the past month or so, I've found two copies of one of our upcoming books at thrift stores. That's happened before, but I always felt too shy to buy the extra copy to pass along. Now, I am a moderator, which gives me some kind of authority to give out extra books. It's goofy, I know, that I needed any sort of reason besides human generosity to pass along a fifty cent book. But now I'm excited about the prospect of giving out free books, both for the extra appeal it will give to Wednesday nights (snacks AND free books!) and for the chance to spread the secondhand gospel. Maybe we'll even play a little game to decide who gets the books. Doesn't that sound like just so much literary fun?
Plus, I can carry the books to the meeting in my tote bag!