I’ve been following Susan Weidner of the Women’s Writing Circle for some time now and I always learn something knew – a fresh angle about publishing, a cool way to test the market and now…a post about book discussion guides. I’m super ecstatic to feature her on my blog today as part of her book tour for her new novel, which you can learn more about below!
I’m sure every author will find this information invaluable. I know I will as I think about book discussion questions for my memoir Accidental Soldier which is currently being launched as a crowdfunding campaign.
Book Discussion Guides Help Readers– and Writers!
How to engage readers is every author’s question. Writing a great book is obviously the best way. But what about book discussion guides? Can you write a guide that offers readers the opportunity to talk about your book’s themes, characters and structure and even apply it to their own lives?
As an editor, I often hear a beginning writer’s – sometimes even an experienced writer’s – greatest lament. “What is my story really about? I’m not sure . . . let me think.”
Interestingly, what emerged from the process of crafting discussion questions for A Portrait of Love and Honor offered me a useful pathway to the heart of my story.
It also worked as a marketing tool – my “elevator speech,” if you will. Why should readers buy my book?
TIP: Look at your editor’s notes and feedback. Many of my questions emerged after reading her editing notes, and answering her questions.
As I go out in the community and talk about my novel, I wanted to emphasize that this is a story of confronting iconic systems and “authorities” . . . which leads to realizations and turning points.
Examples: Quote the book and then ask a personal question:
Jay realizes that the war in Vietnam is fraught with ethical and moral dilemmas. “My job,” he writes in his memoir – “learn to be a soldier. That did not include questioning my superiors – yet.” Talk about a time when you faced a choice – to question “authority” or remain silent.
Jay writes in his memoir: “Maybe I learned to live with adversity because of West Point. One thing I now know is that adversity taught me true lessons in life.” What does adversity mean to you? What adversity have you faced in your own life and what has it taught you?
I’ve read many wonderful books without discussion guides. And some publishers don’t ask for them. Questions to ponder:
- Are book clubs more likely to read your book with discussion questions? (If I were a discussion leader, I feel they would help my job.)
- Do they act as the modern day version of Cliff Notes, serving as an overview of the story and plot line?
- Do they open the door to meaningful discussion?
I don’t have answers. I do know that I love the thought of my readers applying some of these questions to their own lives. I have crafted a dozen questions which I placed in a guide at the back of my novel. If you’ve already published, you might consider placing your book’s discussion guide on your website.
Newly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events.
Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.
Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher. She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based. Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA. Her website is: www.susanweidener.com.