Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tales From The Book Club...So Many Questions, So Few Answers

I will be back this week with some randoms…But I just needed to put this out into the universe or something.

As long time readers of this blog know, I started a book club in 1999 and we are still going after 13 years. Starting the book club was a labor of love and it was my way of giving back to others. I wanted to spread the love of reading. Before I started my book club I did a lot of research and put out feelers and basically worked hard on creating, establishing and building the brand. None of this was easy and I can tell you all I was on the verge of disbanding in 2010, because the book club had strayed too far from its initial goal of spreading and supporting African-American authors and books. We were a book club on the pinnacle of true disaster. I had to put on my big girl panties and make some hard decisions, which included asking two members not to return to the group and asking another member to apologize to the group. In the end, they all left and the book club continued on. We continued on because I as the leader had to accept some things about myself. I knew there was a problem about 2 or 3 years prior to 2010, but I didn’t want to and then I just didn’t have the energy to deal with the issues because of my aunt’s illness. My excuse was we were all adults and we needed to act accordingly, I wasn’t going to allow negativity to permeate the meetings, but not dealing with the problems did just what I was trying to avoid. Failure to address the problems caused me to lose several members because they couldn’t take it anymore. I was lacking in my leadership skills.

In 2010, I explained to the members we were getting back to basics. All the fish fry’s and fundraisers were taking away from reading and discussing the books. We aren’t and will never be a social and savings club, we are a book club. There would be no more parties and raffles; we would use our dues for our social service events and our own money for events we wanted to participate in, which meant we would cut back tremendously on events outside of the book club. We had done much for the community, but now our help in the community would be scaled back. This meant no more author events and all-you-can-eat-and-drink parties. And we all agreed to our new normal. We also changed our way of bringing in new members.

We decided, well they decided to allow potential new members to meet with our group for three meetings. This would give them an opportunity to see how we worked and whether they would fit in with us and whether we thought they were a good fit. We still had our application process, but now there was more personal interaction. After the three meetings, the current members reviewed the applications and acknowledge anything they saw as benefits and as hindrances in bringing in said new member. Members voted and actually all 3 folks who were potential members were accepted into the book club. I also gave the new potential members an outlet to acknowledge things we as a book club could improve upon. I loved the feedback and it was quite helpful.

Now the reason why I wrote this long ass blog post. I get inquiries about the book club all the time from folks new to the area and want to join a book club to meet new people. I have been getting inquires for as long as the book club has had a website presence. I dread these inquires because there is a damn if you do and damn if you don’t whether you respond or not. In recent years, I may or may not respond to such inquires. I used to keep a waiting list, I don’t anymore. Last week I got an email from a young lady who was new to the area and had perused the website and wanted to join us for our next meeting. She had even gone so far as to purchase the November reading assignment. Wow! Red flag number one. Every book club is set up differently, I know of book clubs that are more transient where anyone can attend and that is cool. However, that isn’t how our group is organized. We would not have the bond we share now, if we just let folks float in and out at their convenience. The dynamic of the group would change and bonds wouldn’t happen and folks tend to clam up when around folks they don’t know. I didn’t respond to this young lady because although we have 12 members currently, I don’t want the group to get any larger than 14 people because when there are more people there seems to be too much chaos and we all agree we love the intimate gatherings we share nowadays. And in order to consider new members we need to discuss this at the next meeting, the very meeting she wanted to attend. Red flag two came when she sent me another email inquiring about the last email she sent and her desire to join our group and how excited she was for the prospect and she left a number for me to contact her. Too eager always scares me. Why you may ask? I have been cussed out one too many times about not openly bringing in new members immediately, from potential new inquires. Needless to say, I blocked those people and they of course weren’t ever invited to join our group. When they are that eager to join a well established group, something tolls within me that something might be off with them. Since the young lady was so eager, I figured I needed to send her a short and quick email. Please understand I don’t call folks ever regarding membership, not my style, because it isn’t part of my personality. I do not talk on the phone to strangers call me shy, anti-social or whatever. I don’t want anyone I do not know to have my number to harass me or hell just call me for unknown reasons. I am too busy for all that.

Thank you for inquiring about the book club. I was hoping to bring up the topic of new members at the next meeting. We are currently trying to keep the number down to no more than 14 members; however, we do have a process for potential new members. Because our fiscal year is almost over, this is a decision we must all agree on and the earliest we will be able to discuss the possibility will be November's meeting and we would not bring in potential members until the first of next year. If you are still interested after we discuss at the next meeting, I will be glad to send you the information regarding the application and the process.

We have been together for a long time so we want to insure that new members will be a good fit and we are a good fit for potential new members.

Continued success and blessings,

Now I thought it was a proper response, granted I wrote it off the top of my head and in about 5 minutes because I didn’t have time to really respond. I actually started not to respond, but because she sent a second email I thought the above response would suffice. Well…it didn’t. She sent a response to my email stating she was thankful I responded to her emails and she understood how important it was for a new member to fit into our group. Then shit went left and red flag 3 emerged. The rest of her response was as follows: “Based on the information you provided about your book club, I will not be a good fit. I was really looking for a book club a little different. I'm a very outgoing and happy spirited person. I think God is beautiful in everyone and everything.” You read my email and I was so confused about these particular statements, birds started chirping around my head because I was totally lost in her response. I took from her statement she thought she could join the group by being happy and outgoing without there being a process and how dare we keep out a person of God. Okay, maybe I read too much into the response, but this solidified my reasoning for not responding to new member request inquiries based on our website. I forwarded the entire email to my sister for review and basically she said ignore that shit, something isn’t quite right with her. But I was still asking where did her response come from and why did it have such an undercurrent of negativity within it. Basically, I said I have so many questions but few answers. My sister responded, “U thinkin too hard. When I got confused I stopped reading. LOL” She didn’t help.

So many questions but so few answers. Anybody know where I went wrong in my email? Seriously, I am done responded to these emails. I hate being cussed out because I won’t let just anybody into the group and I hate being left confused when folks go into realms unknown!

FYI – A lot of folks want to join a book club, but don’t want to put in the work it requires to be in a book club, which is mainly reading. They like saying they are in a book club, but don’t care about reading one little bit and just want to participate in the social aspects of the group and that my dears is where book clubs start failing themselves. I have had past members who never read a book and then they would get mad at the meetings because those who read the book were responding and interacting and they felt left out. It is a book club, read the book. If you can’t finish it because of life, that is fine but hell make an attempt.

The stories I could tell you about being a book club president and being in the literary world would make for some great blog posts. Like the time a book club asked me to add them to our book club list and they sent me their motto and it was word for word my book club’s motto and purpose. Which is why you don’t see too much like that on our site right now.

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Disclosure: Just so we are all clear any opinions or thoughts made on this blog or site are my own. Comments and statements from third parties may or may not be the opinion of Cashana Musings. I do not get paid to write book reviews or reviews of products or services. All reviews are based solely off my opinion as Cashana of Cashana's Musings. While I may receive review copies of books and even products or services they in no way influence my writing. All items that were received by me for review are disclosed as such. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. Currently, we do not do advertisements.