By Josi S. Kilpack
I joined my first book group when I was about 23 years old. I lived in a ‘starter’ neighborhood in Draper where there were a lot of young moms like me who wanted things to do, were making some of our first adult friendships, and had energy I stand in awe of now that I’m pushing forty and try to be in bed by 9:30. There were twelve of us in the group and we met once a month, taking turns choosing the book we would read and discuss. There were always refreshments.
I had been a voracious reader for many years before I joined this group, but I tended to read rather narrowly; when I read Regency Romance I ONLY read Regency Romance. When I read biographies, I spent months just reading biographies. I didn’t follow Oprah’s book club or read reviews, instead I would read everything by a particular author, or other books in that specific genre. I had never been involved in book discussions until being a part of this group, and it was fascinating to hear what other people saw that I’d missed, or share a point I noted that no one else had seen. I read my first (and to date, only) Jane Austin novel because of that group. Most of the books we read were outside of my ‘sphere’ and it helped me realize just how much is out there.
A year or so into our meetings, I had to take a break from the group when I was put on bed rest for a pregnancy. It was a difficult time and, honestly, missing book group was the least of my worries. I read a lot of books during this time and eventually started writing what would become my first published novel, Earning Eternity. I didn’t set out to write a novel; I though I had an idea for an interesting short story, but it grew and grew and grew and by the time my son was six weeks old, I had written a 300 page novel I had no idea what to do with. I told one friend about this book I’d written; she told someone else, who told someone else and at the March 1999 book group meeting someone asked me about it. Once I admitted what I had done (like it’s a bad thing, right?) they asked to read it for the next month’s book club. My sister helped me print up 12 copies of the book that I then handed out to these women. They became the first people to ever give me feedback. They also encouraged me to get this book published. They changed my life.
Fifteen years later, I get to be a part of a project that writes about members a book group. Funny how full those circles can be sometimes.