A Book Club Jamboree in Red Deer, Alberta with Jock Mackenzie

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Red Deer’s first ever Book Club Jamboree was a novel idea that turned into a bestseller. Suzanne Hermary, the new coordinator of the Red Deer Arts Council, has initiated a number of new ideas and this was just one of them.

Representatives of over a dozen Central Alberta book clubs met in the Snell Gallery of the Red Deer Public Library for a three-hour Saturday afternoon session. The audience was reminded of the various literary events going on this Fall and were asked to specially note Alberta Culture Days and the readings of local authors at the October First Friday event.

The Jamboree was divided into three main sections. In Part One, half of the book club representatives were asked to come forward and explain the genesis and history of their club as well as a favourite book. Having fulfilled this duty, each club was presented with a basket of books made up of donations from the library, local authors and publishers.

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The second and major portion of the afternoon was a panel of six book club representatives. Local author, Miji Campbell, was the moderator who asked each panel member to answer these questions:

1.     Story of your Book Club: how it all began

2.     Book Club routines: how books are chosen, frequency of meetings, a “typical” meeting

3.     Tips for initiating discussions; troubleshooting

4.     Most Memorable Meeting and/or Best Book(s)

5.     Authors’ Footnotes (since our panel includes authors, too)

 I had the pleasure of sitting on this panel and representing the book club I facilitate for inmates at Bowden Institution. I was pleased to see such a large audience and particularly enjoyed the names of over a dozen book clubs represented. My favourites were Read Between the Wines, The Happy Bookers, Any Book Book Club, Readers & Company, An Hour to Kill. Although our Book Club for Inmates at the Annex (Bowden Minimum Security Penitentiary) doesn't capture attention with our name, we did capture audience interest with the concept and explanation of our group. 

The audience had a chance to ask questions – and they did – followed by a break for wine and snacks and more mingling and idea sharing. I gave away copies of some of our past readings like “Fire and Fury”, “Song of Batoche”, “Free Days with George”, “Desperadoes”, and “Devil in the White City” in a draw for those attending. I also explained how donations are a necessary part of continuing this excellent program and shared our website information and how to support BCFI. 

Will there be a “Return of the Book Club Jamboree”? Absolutely. It was free, it was fun, and it filled with caring and sharing. 

Jock Mackenzie is a volunteer for the Annex book club at Bowden Institution in Bowden, Alberta. He has been volunteering with BCFI for over a year and his favorite book discussed at book club was “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah.