Bookclub-in-a-Box: Facilitating Book Talk at Home and Abroad

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Bookclub-in-a-Box: Facilitating Book Talk at Home and Abroad

Bookclub-in-a-Box offers a wide array of arts programs in their creative activity and community centre. The company also publishes discussion guides for both classic and contemporary literary fiction, which are available in physical form or as downloadable PDF files from their website. These guides make great tools for facilitating bookclub discussions, planning school presentations and more. Open Book spoke with Marilyn Herbert, founder and owner of Bookclub-in-a-Box, about her company's programming, guides and what they have in the works for 2011.

Open Book:

When did Bookclub-in-a-Box start? How did it develop?

Marilyn Herbert:

Around 1998, I began leading discussions in a number of book club settings. I enjoyed the research and the writing of the presentations so much that it led to the idea of providing book club facilitators with the background and analysis of an individual book of fiction. This led to the creation of the Bookclub-in-a-Box Discussion Guide.

Bookclub-in-a-Box was registered in 2002 as a business that produced, published and distributed literary discussion guides for fiction books. The main idea was to make it really easy for book club members and facilitators to lead their meetings. We did the leg-work, they only had to choose what to use. Happily, the concept was also embraced by teachers, students and librarians.

The centre opened in February, 2010 as a venue for all kinds of literary-related presentations. I am only one of approximately a dozen different presenters.

OB:

Tell us about your programming.

MH:

We offer a wide array of wonderful programs in our creative activity and community centre located at Bathurst and Eglinton in Toronto. The programming includes writing classes, book talks and film presentations for adults. For children, we have wonderful art and drama programs, which take place both after school, on PD days and during school breaks. We like to include a number of free events and so we have author visits. We have recently enjoyed talking with Michael Redhill (author of Martin Sloane and Consolation). We have invited specialty people — for example, Rachel Mendelson, a journalist with Canadian Business and the documentary maker, Rob Cohen (Souvenir of Canada, a film about Douglas Coupland). Rob Cohen will be speaking at the centre on November 29. In addition, we have housed an art show by Ruth Frankel (this is ongoing till the end of November).

OB:

How do you select the authors for the series?

MH:

The guides that we produce come out of the discussion presentations that I do for my many book clubs. I read reviews, have certain favorite authors, follow the literary awards and simply listen to the recommendations that come from everywhere. We try to balance our guide list with current best-selling literary fiction, Canadian authors and books that we have loved reading and talking about.

OB:

Tell us about the structure of a Bookclub-in-a-Box event. What can participants expect?

MH:

All our events are listed ahead of time on our website so you can chose which events suit your schedule. There is no need to sign up for weekly or monthly programs. Participants have the flexibility to choose only the programs that interest them.

Participants can expect having a fun and stimulating event!

OB:

What's in store for Bookclub-in-a-Box in the 2011?

MH:

In the new year, we are going to concentrate on writing and publishing many more guides and promoting our entire list to our world-wide customers. We are now connected to Twitter and Facebook and would love to see our links grow. There is a real need and desire for good literary analysis and criticism which is what we provide. And so, we would like to have more Bookclub-in-a-Box users.

One of the things we would like to do is increase our stable of writers, so if anyone is interested in participating, I would ask them to contact us for more information.

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