Wanda’s Readers

Wanda’s Readers is a book club in Riverside, California. A close friend belongs to the club and, having read and liked Zendoscopy, she decided to recommend it as the book of choice for the club’s June project. Then, she contacted me to ask whether I’d be willing to attend their June meeting for a “meet and greet” with the author.

Zendoscopy is, as has been noted in its Kirkus review, a “memoirlike” (sic) novel consisting of a series of loosely linked episodes in the life of a young boy and his coming of age as a young man. The book’s primary target audience is male, and although I accepted my friend’s invitation to attend the meeting, it was with some apprehension, Wanda’s Readers being a women’s book club.

On the appointed day, with my wife accompanying me, I presented at the knitting store where the group meets. There were about a dozen women in attendance, along with my friend’s fiancé (and longtime friend of ours). He was the only other male in the room.

The evening began with a nice dinner, during which conversation was casual and friendly. Eventually, however, it came time to discuss my book. I was invited to make a few opening remarks, and I described in some detail my concept for the book, trying to place its themes at a level above the specifics of the plot. This turned out, I think, to be a useful way of approaching the discussion, since it opened up the book to a discussion going beyond viewing the book as simply a collection of perhaps entertaining stories and, instead, provided an overarching view of what I, as the author, was trying to accomplish.

In response to my opening remarks, I got back some predictable questions: How much of the book relates real events? Am I Sherman, the book’s narrator? How long did it take me to write the book? And so on. But what also came out was something much more interesting, namely, the feeling by some of the readers that the book gave them a glimpse into the male psyche not often offered or shared with them. Several of the readers implied that they’d not before been exposed to such frank expression of male concerns, anxieties, desires, and, dare one say it, feelings. It occurred to me that, in fact, Zendoscopy was to them in some ways a male version of “chick lit”, a book dealing with male motivations, emotions, and trials. If, for these women, it was a sort of revelation, it was for me totally unexpected and even enlightening, something I never would have guessed.

Two of the women told me that their husbands had read the book. One of these men apparently made little comment after reading it, but the other identified closely with the stories and themes, reacting as I would hope a primary targeted reader would.

In the end, it appears that both the readers and I learned something from the evening. From my perspective, it was a wonderful experience. I received insightful feedback – not all positive, I would add – from a group of thoughtful, intelligent readers who expressed their reactions articulately, constructively, and with humor and respect.

As a self-published writer, I know first hand how difficult it can be to secure honest feedback from independent sources. Opening myself to such input at the book club was therefore a valuable experience, and the perspective I gained will, I hope, make me aware as I undertake future writing projects of the ways in which my work may be perceived by other than those who I might assume to be my primary audience. So, my thanks to Wanda’s Readers, and my strong recommendation that if you’re a self-published writer, you should seek out and actively engage with any group that might wish to do a “meet and greet” with you. Oh, and bring a few copies of your book and a good pen with you when you go. I did, and I sold and signed a few books, especially for those who had bought the Kindle edition of Zendoscopy.

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