Wonderland Book ClubThat’s the thing–there’s no secret to joining the Wonderland Book Club in Raleigh, North Carolina. All you have to do is show up  (and we’re free)!

Thanks to the News & Observer posting the Wonderland Book Club in their “Triangle Reads” section, our Meetup group’s numbers have swelled from a hundred members to over 150. I can easily see why. Since its inception, Wonderland has been about getting members to read books they wouldn’t normally read. And more recently, Wonderland features the actual authors of the books we’re reading each month. We’re a very warm, accepting group—you don’t need to be a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network to join (although that would be nice!), nor do you need to be working on your next novel. But I think the number one reason we’re growing is because we’re easy to join and easy to find on the internet. Through a web connection and a physical event, Meetup brings folks together who share a common interest. In fact, if I hadn’t made Wonderland a Meetup group six years ago, we’d be dead by now. Most book clubs that aren’t library or bookstore-related form from friendships, neighborhoods or clubs—there’s no county-wide book club directory and you need to be “in the know” to be invited. That’s what’s so neat about Wonderland Book Club: newcomers to the Triangle love it, it’s free and there’s no special code or association to join the fun!

Now going on six years, the Wonderland Book Club (founded in 2008)  is your backstage pass to noted authors from North Carolina and all over the east coast. This year we’re hosting four returning Wonderland authors: Anne Barnhill, Elisa Lorello, Justin Kramon and Nancy Peacock as well as three authors from outside the state. Jason Mott, one of the NCWN Board of Trustees, will join us on Halloween to discuss his debut novel The Returned, which was picked up as an ABC series. But most of all, our original mission stays the same: we give readers and writers opportunities to read genres they may have overlooked such as poetry, historical fiction, literary fiction, mystery, memoir and nonfiction. We give writers the chance to improve their craft through our reading accountability group that usually brings in 10-12 at each gathering. And we schedule our books out a year in advance so you can pick and choose which books you want to read and which authors you want to meet. Our guest authors say that the Wonderland Book Club readers ask hard-hitting questions and love delving into characters, setting, plot and theme. Many of our members are writers, but many are not—but they are all very well-read readers (much better than me!) who place stickies on the book’s pages and underline their favorite passages. That’s why I initially started this club, so I’d be made to read a new book every month.

So what do our guest authors discuss for two hours from 10 a.m. to noon? Usually the first hour is taken up with the book discussion, the author reads a few passages and then in the last hour the floor is opened for the story behind the book. How was this book published and marketed? How long did the author take to write the book? Did the plot or characters come first? And the questions continue when we take the author to lunch.

 

Want to join? It’s easy! Sign up as a free member at http://meetup.com/wonderlandbookclub so you know the details of our next meeting. We typically meet the last Friday of every month from 10 am to noon at the Center for Excellence, 3803‐B Computer Dr. Ste. 106 Raleigh, NC 27609. And if you don’t sign up beforehand, we want you to come anyway. I promise you our veteran members don’t bite and we love seeing new folks.

Do you get why it’s call Wonderland? Write your answer in the comments!

Anna Jean (A.J.) MayhewAnd here are the details for our next book club gathering–please join us!

Wonderland Book Club, Co-sponsored by the NC Writers’ Network

Presents Author A.J. (Anna Jean) Mayhew, The Dry Grass of August

Location: Center for Excellence, 3803-B Computer Dr. Suite 106, Raleigh, NC       

Friday, July 25, 2014    Time:  10:00 a.m.–noon            

Join us for July’s Wonderland Book Club as Charlotte-born author A.J. (Anna Jean) Mayhew joins us for our discussion of her debut novel, The Dry Grass of August. On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. More information about ordering the book and book club discussion questions are at http://www.annajeanmayhew.com.