When I was asked about my most memorable book club experience, one sprang immediately to mind. But since brevity isn’t my strong suit, I’ll start at the very beginning.

Not long before my first novel Bloodroot was released in the winter of 2010, my editor at Alfred A. Knopf introduced me to my publicist and said, “This is where you go from being a writer to being an “Author.” I soon discovered exactly what she meant. There’s more to having a writing career than the writing itself. There comes a time when the business of publishing enters the equation. Some aspects of the publishing world have been easier to adjust to than others. I found myself speaking for the first time to audiences of hundreds, being interviewed live on both radio and television, traveling for weeks at a time. As jarring as the transition was from being a writer, spending most of my time at home in Tennessee hunched over a notebook with pen in hand, to being an“Author,” expected to emerge from my cave once in a while and promote my book, I grew used to and even came to enjoy the events I was once intimidated by.

But there was one unexpected pleasure of “Authoring” that I embraced right away, no adjustment period necessary. From the start, I loved talking with book clubs. I was first approached by local groups, often with colorful names like The Book Divas and Wine, Women and Wisdom. Soon after, requests began to come through my publicist for conference calls with groups all over the country. In contrast to the nerve-wracking live interviews and the speaking engagements before large audiences, sharing an informal discussion of Bloodroot over the phone or over a meal in a reader’s home felt like taking my shoes off after a long walk. At first I accepted every invitation I received. I couldn’t resist, even though I should have been working on my second novel. I was fed so well in those first months after Bloodroot was released that I must have gained at least five pounds.

When I began editing my second novel under a deadline, though, I had to take a break from visiting book clubs and from other events whenever possible. It was time to return to my cave and put my nose to the grindstone. For a couple of months last winter, I rarely left the house, working up to twelve hours a day. There were still events on my calendar and I must admit that I dragged myself to some of them, reluctant to abandon my edit (which was turning out to be more like a rewrite) with a deadline looming.

Then one day I came up for air and checked my schedule to realize I had a book club meeting on the horizon, an invitation I had accepted back in the fall. I’d been looking particularly forward to this one, hosted by a woman named Edie from my hometown. When we met at a local fall festival we clicked right away. She was warm and funny and smart, and we had a lot in common. She told me about her blog, Life in Grace–“an eclectic mix of posts on cooking, homeschooling, faith, decorating and crafting”–and when I checked it out, I discovered that she’s a great writer as well as a delightful person. As much as I needed a break from the editing process, and a meal with Edie and her book group would provide one, I wasn’t in a good emotional place.
The writing wasn’t going particularly well at that moment, and when the writing isn’t going well, I’m not happy. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to visit a book club and talk about my work in such a tired and frustrated state of mind.

Amy with her friend Edie

Reminded of Edie and the upcoming meeting, I went to her blog for the first time in weeks. I was shocked to find there an outpouring of love and sympathy from her hundreds of followers and friends. Over the holidays, Edie’s lovely home on the lake had burned to the ground. I couldn’t stop thinking about the countless photos she had posted of the gorgeous art she’d made and of her remodeled kitchen, all the work she had put into making her home comfortable and beautiful. My writing woes seemed small in comparison to Edie’s loss. I was heartbroken for her, and sent my own note of sympathy. I doubted she would be ready to host a book club within weeks of the fire but, to my surprise, I received an e-mail from Edie saying that her neighbor had offered her home to use for the meeting and she’d like to keep our date. I was so touched, so impressed by her strength. On the way to the meeting, I passed the burned shell of Edie’s house. There was little left standing. I later learned Edie had passed by those ruins herself that morning for the first time since the night of the fire. I didn’t know what to expect, what her mood might be given what she’d been through.

When she greeted me at the door with shining eyes and a smile on her face, a weight lifted off my shoulders. I forgot about the work I had left behind on my desk, forgot my worries and fears that I would never finish my second novel. For the two hours that I spent with Edie and her friends, a group of women every bit as kind, brilliant, warm and funny as she is, I didn’t have a care in the world. We delved into some deep topics of conversation, but there was lots of laughter, too. I left there feeling like I’d been to church. The next day Edie wrote to say that our meeting had been a healing experience for her, and I feel the same way. Looking back on that unforgettable day, I can see how, more than a writer or an Author, I’m a human being. As much as I need time to write, I need fellowship. In the year and a half since Bloodroot was published, book clubs have provided a sweet source of that. So, to all those who have called to chat about Bloodroot or invited me into your homes, I hope you’ll accept my sincerest thanks in return.

Posted July 22, 2011 at 7:08 am · 1 comment · Leave a Comment


  1. Beth Hermes`, July 22nd, 2011, 7:19 am

    Amy-You are such a talent and a pleasure to visit with. Thanks for sharing this story. Hope Edie is doing well and that her plans for home - whether rebuilding or moving on - are coming along as well. When you have time, please come back to Woodstock, GA. We love you here, too! -Beth

Leave a Comment

Susan Gregg Gilmore