Part memoir, part cookbook, and part informational guide, Bookworms Anonymous by Jan Stafford Kellis describes the author’s experiences with her unique book club in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Kellis reveals a nontraditional club in 8 sample meetings, where readers buy only the books they want and take the time they need to read them. Their “read, eat, meet, repeat” structure bonds the members, creating a community extending well beyond the literary world. Kellis offers Book Handling Commandments (do not dog-ear pages) and lively instructions on how to establish your own book club. Filled with personal anecdotes, book reviews, menus, and over twenty recipes, Bookworms Anonymous is designed for anyone who loves to read and wants to enhance the experience.
Part memoir, part cookbook, and part informational guide, Bookworms Anonymous is a true story and laudatory examination of reading as a hobby, diversion, obsession, even sport. The book features a Bookworm’s eye view of eight meetings as well as menu plans, recipes, and instructions for establishing your own chapter of the fresh, frugal, fun book club known as Bookworms Anonymous.
The book includes lists of the club’s favorite reads, Book Handling Commandments, book shuffling and other literary athletic pursuits, strategies for finding reading time every day, anecdotes about life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and many book reviews (mostly positive).
A light, fun read, it makes a great gift for any reader in your life.
What inspired you to write Bookworms Anonymous?
I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember—probably since I saw the first book and realized what it contained inside. For years, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t conceive of one viable book idea.
Our reading group, Bookworms Anonymous, was formed in November 2000. Around 2007 or 2008, I started taking notes about the meetings as my way of capturing the witty comments and hilarious conversations we had at the meetings. Whenever I ran into friends who weren’t part of BA, they asked me what the group was reading, what I was reading, and what was the best book I’d recently read. They also asked about the menu selections. As I told and retold some of the funnier stories about our meetings, I realized there are probably a lot of people out there who love to read, who would enjoy reading about our particular group.
We live in a very unique corner of America, too—Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—and I incorporated quite a few anecdotes from our culture up here. Living here presents economic challenges, and we’re so geographically isolated it’s virtually impossible to commute to a town with any sizable population. Most of us Yoopers (those who live in the UP) hold down more than one full-time job just to make ends meet. I always enjoy learning about obscure cultures, and I wanted to share my own obscure culture in this book.
How was Bookworms Anonymous received by the women in your reading group?
They loved it the first time they read it! We are a group of seven women, with ages spanning 35 years, so we naturally have differing interests and opinions, but we all love reading. Each Bookworm was pleasantly surprised to learn I’d been surreptitiously recording their comments and logging the books we were reading, and the positive reviews and support I received from each Bookworm as well as their spouses, friends and relatives was overwhelming. Many people who know the Bookworms said I captured each of their personalities within my pages, and that was my main goal. Hearing this was inspiring and reassuring.
How long did it take you to write Bookworms Anonymous?
I always say, if I ever win any kind of prize for my writing, I’ll have to thank ESPN. My husband is an avid hockey fan, which is lucky for me, because I’m able to tune out the game and write.
It took one hockey season to write the first draft. I outlined each chapter from the notes I’d taken during meetings, and writing the chapters came easier than I’d dreamed. My husband helped by pouring wine and being quiet while I escaped into my own world every night the Red Wings played. After I had the first draft down, I approached my sister Jen and fellow Bookworm Angie (also my high school English teacher) to read through it and give me some feedback, and they both loved it. We edited it a bit, then passed it around to the remaining Worms so each one had a chance to correct anything I may have presented in a different way than they remembered.
Within eight months, I had a finished manuscript.
What’s your fuel? Coffee or tea?
Coffee. And wine. 😉