So last weekend, I finally did it: I moderated the book club's face-to-face (F2F) discussion of Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel, The Historian. The outpouring of congratulations from my book club friends have overwhelmed me all weekend, and I am, admittedly, still on a high until now. To be honest, I didn't know how the event would actually turn out, and so hearing all those praises and greetings of a job well done make my heart so full, it's actually bursting. :)
But the journey to get there wasn't all fun and roses.
The challenge lies in the fact that I was tasked to moderate the discussion for a book that everyone was excited to read initially, but would later on prove to be daunting for most because of its sheer length. It made me wonder, not for a few times, if people knew this minuscule detail when they voted for it - and it won twice, yes - during the F2F7 and the subsequent online polls. I'm not sure if it was my responsibility as moderator to inform them that this book is actually a doorstopper, but if it is, then I'm ashamed to say that I was remiss in that duty. :(
Another challenge was the fact that, during the four weeks that I moderated the online discussion and made a reading plan for everyone to follow (which very few did), I noticed that not a lot of people were warming up to the book. A couple of friends who finished reading it way ahead of the others didn't give stellar ratings, and another friend even asked for my permission - with an additional warning - to rant on the discussion thread. Halfway through the month, I saw a trend, and it didn't look promising. I could barely keep the discussion thread alive! So, I just knew then that I had to do something in order to (1) make sure people finished reading the book; (2) convince them to attend the discussion, and; (3) entice them to participate in it. Otherwise, my F2F would totally bomb.
After November 17, I am happy to report that it didn't. These happy faces are proof, yes? :)
Here are the ten things I learned from the experience. :)
(1) You can never force people to finish reading a book if they don't want to, especially if they're not used to the genre or if they simply don't dig the story. Or if they just don't have the time to. (In my case, it's more on the former.) Well, unless everyone loves you, just like this guy and this gal love me. :D The best you can do is pray that at least one other person will have finished it - then, you'll have someone to ask all those well-thought out questions you prepared.
(2) Even if people have confirmed their attendance, there will always be last-minute cancellations. I nearly had a heart attack for every time that I received a message beginning with "I'm sorry but..." Seriously. In those instances, there is nothing you can do but understand, and then just fervently hope that there will be more attendees than absentees on the day of the discussion. Conversely, people who have initially said no would turn out to be there, after all. :)
(3) You only need to prompt people when it seems like they're drawing blanks. For example, when asked, "What are the other themes in the novel?" and no one appears to have anything to say, prod them with "Do you think that religion is also a theme in the novel?" and then let them just agree or disagree. Sort of like leading questions, in trial and litigation. You'll be surprised at the number of hands that will be raised after that. :D
(4) People love to eat. And they will be happy if you feed them. Even if they appear to be minding the food more than the moderator. Haha. :)
(5) The success or failure of an online discussion is no preview to the outcome of the face-to-face discussion. Rants or raves online are, though.
(6) You want people to be on time? Add one hour to the schedule to offset the traveling time and traffic. So, if you want the discussion to begin punctually at 2pm, tell them that it will start at 1pm.
(7) Aside from food, people also love giveaways and goodies! They will even voluntarily answer your questions if you promise to give them a limited-edition customized mug and eco-bag. With their choice of light or dark blue color, too.
|customized mug, bookmarks and eco-bag|
|Yes, everyone wanted one. Hehe. :D|
(8) If you want to go thematic in choosing a venue, then do the scouting reaaallly early. As in, weeks and weeks ahead of schedule. You just can't have enough time to look for venues if you have a day job, and it would be a shame to miss out on a perfectly-themed venue simply because you ran out of time.
(9) Just like Ms. Honey said during one of the rare occasions I got to talk to her: it doesn't really matter if you cook up gimmicks to make your discussion unique or interesting. For as long as you gather 'round and talk about the book, that's what matters.
(10) When your book club friends think you did a good job, they will definitely let you know it. And that's the most rewarding thing - when people remember you for a moderating job well done.
This is my first time to moderate a book club discussion, and the experience was wonderful. I appreciate that everyone who attended took part in it, and that every single one willingly shared a part of their own history to everyone else.
Yes, I would do it again. Gladly. :)
Maybe for a novella next time? :D
Pictures c/o Ella, Louize and Angus.