A BRIEF HISTORY OF SHORT STORIES BOOK CLUB: CELEBRATING 10 YEARS
- August 10th 2005 was the first ever meeting of the Short Stories Book Club (SSBC) held at Broad Vocabulary: Milwaukee’s Feminist Bookstore which just opened that year. The owners of Broad Vocabulary were ladies who had been the driving force behind the College Feminists when I first started at UWM in 2000 and I wanted to be a part of this new and exciting business. My friend, Megan, started the group with me, but I am unsure if she attended any other meetings after this first one.
- The first book was Trash by Dorothy Allison and the founding members were: Ashley, Lonna, and Jackie. Ashley was my new girlfriend at the time and is in second place for attending the most meeting of SSBC and has been my longest supporter. Fun fact, I have only missed one meeting and that was due to my car breaking down on the freeway about hour before we were to meet.
- Whenever I think of those early meetings and how we went around and gave our reviews of the book we read that month, Jackie and Lonna always reminded me of 1990’s sketch comedy series In Living Color and the particular segment “Men on Film” where Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier portrayed two gay men reviewing films and whenever the film in the sketch was focused on women their response was always in unison “Hated It”! Whenever Jackie and Lonna were asked for their thoughts on the books they were not usually fans, only liking maybe 5% of what we read. “Trash” was our first book we read and one of the few books I know they both liked.
- There was one particular meeting at Broad Vocabulary that first year where I showed up and no one else did. I am so glad that I had not been discouraged and given up at that moment.
- Katy would be the first member to join us, who did not have connection with anyone else previously in the book club. She would soon become a part of the crew and attending dinners with us at Lulu’s after meetings. About a year after joining she would bring our youngest member to book club, baby Connor. Connor was the first baby to join us at book club, but he wouldn’t be the last.
|TINA & ASHLEY AT EARLY SSBC PARTY!|
- Jackie and Lonna then introduced us to their friend, Tina, who would become another long-time member and was more open to fantasy and bizarre fictional stories than her buddies. It was Tina who recommended that we read Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, which is actually a novel and not short stories. We sometimes break the rules. The book was made up of 23 stories of a group of writers whom have locked themselves in abandoned theater as writer’s retreat for 3 months and then slowly start killing and eating each other, I remember enjoying it. Lonna and Jackie response: “Hated it”, but this grim and dark humor is one of the books that gained us our only male book club member.
- Charles is the mysterious one in book club, no one knew what he did for living for long time and he continues to surprises us. We can never predict if he is coming to this upcoming meeting or working on his plays, but we are always happy when he makes it on his orange scooter.
- Shortly after him, another stranger would wander off the streets and join us at Broad Vocabulary, the lovely Lilly. With Lilly, Ashley and I had found another lover of bad horror movies and she introduced me to the wonders of wine, which I am drinking as I write this piece.
|AIDS WALK WISCONSIN: TEAM SSBC|
- A year after starting the book club, I began graduate school and most of my social life disappeared for the next two and half years. However, the SSBC stayed strong and was my only constant social event each month.
- Over the years I have often met friends and acquaintances that say they would love to be a part of a book club when I tell them about SSBC. I will send these folks an email with the information and the majority never attend even one meeting. Most people claim they are too busy and are afraid they won’t complete the book. For the record, only about half the members read all the stories in the book on a good month, and those who have read them will summarize for the others during our meetings. Sometime in 2007, Laura, my new friend whom survived graduate school with me, would do the impossible and show up to a book club and then continue to attend meeting to the present day.
|MOVED TO ANODYNE|
- When Broad Vocabulary closed down, we moved our monthly meeting to Anodyne in Bay View. We enjoyed eating cookies and drinking coffee at Anodyne for many years and fighting with the local knitting group for the big table. After Anodyne started serving pizza last year finding a table became a challenge, we decided to move once again and are now rotating between member’s homes.
- We have lost members over the years with people moving to Oakland and Madison, but I am a firm believer that if you were once a SSBC member, you are always a member. We have gotten some new members too, most recently at Lonna’s baby shower a few years back we were introduced to her friend, Erin. Lonna is now living in Madison, but Erin has started coming and has become a faithful member and we are lucky to have her.
|SSBC PHOTO BOOTH 8/5/11|
- On average we read about 11 books a year, since we skip the month of December due to the holidays. I estimate that we have read about 110 books total since starting in 2005. I had to laugh when Lonna told me a few weeks back that she never really liked short stories. I have come to respect short stories that are well written and can capture your imagination in brief amount of pages. Also, doing the short stories thing has allowed people to keep coming to meeting without reading much of the book and not feel like a complete ass for not finishing it. Maybe when we are in our seventies we can start reading novels.
- When I first started this book club I just finished my undergraduate degree and was hanging out at bars with my friends on most nights and working at Walgreens. My job was not my dream, but I had a great social circle of friends and I have always yearned to be a part of group. Growing up in eighties I loved the movie The Goonies and I always wanted a group of friends I could count on and go on adventures with.
- My college days are long gone and many of those friends I still see on occasion and continue to have much love for, but we are all busy with our own lives; however, I know that I will see my SSBC peeps every month. I have found a group of friends to go on crazy adventures with from camping at Devils Lake, winery tours, harvest parties, pizza parties, being back up dancers to ‘Nsync songs, extras in Tool Shed commercials, creating zines together, being the slowest team at AIDS Walk every year, and hotel parties in Madison. I can count on these ladies and dude to be there for me when I am need and I feel so fortunate that this little book club has brought such amazing people into my life. To be honest the Short Stories Book Club is one of my proudest accomplishments and I hope that it continues for another decade.
|CELEBRATING 10 YEARS IN MADISON!|