Welcome to Book Club!
Thank you for using the Saving Our Lives books with your group! I hope that exploring these essays will generate ideas, inspire laughs and encourage camaraderie in your group. I hope, mostly, that my stories remind you of your own life stories, reassure you of their importance and motivate you to share them. Book Club is the perfect place for this to happen.
So let’s go!
Here’s a trick I used in my classes to get discussions going. Make sure that everyone has a writing utensil and a pad or notebook of some sort. Tablets are OK, too. Pose a general question to the group and ask them to jot down some thoughts. This gives everyone a chance to collect their ideas before the discussion begins.
This simple activity accomplishes several things. It focuses everyone and helps to keep the discussion on topic (no small feat!). It evens the playing field, helping the less spontaneous and/or less outgoing members of the group feel more confident about jumping in. And it creates a record of the proceedings that members can reflect on later—and maybe use to do a little writing of their own.
To that end, here are some general questions you can use to get a discussion going on any of the three volumes. Questions and activities designed to allow for a more focused discussion of specific essays follow in the next post.
(Excuse me while I slip into the third person.)
1. In memoir, personal stories are important for what they reveal about the personality, life and times of the author. Having read through Hoffman’s essays in the volume currently under consideration in your group, what conclusions can you draw about her? Make a list of personality traits that seem clear to you based on your reading. Do you like her? Do you think you’d get along with her?
2. What personality traits do you and Hoffman share?
3. What kinds of life experiences do you and Hoffman share?
4. Where do you and Hoffman part ways?
5. An important aspect of memoir writing is an author’s voice—the words chosen, the style developed, the overall tone of the writing. How would you describe Hoffman’s literary voice? Is it revealing? Is it consistent? Is it likeable?
6. Do you now feel compelled to isolate and save (in writing) at least one life story of your own? Can you tell us about it?
7. What essay was your favorite? Tell us why.
8. What essay was your least favorite? Tell us why.
9. Talk about the structure of the book. Did you find it logical and smooth or random and distracting? What worked for you structure-wise? What suggestions would you make for changes?
10. Make a list of people you know who would not like this book. What about it would not appeal to them?
11. Make a list of people you know who would like this book. What about it would appeal to them?
12. What kind of person would be the ideal reader for this book? Do you think it would speak best to a certain gender, age, personality type? Do you fit this category? Why or why not?
13. If you had to describe this book for another reader in a sentence or two, what would you say?
14. Did you see any central themes emerging?
15. With what other books or writers would you compare this book?
16. An author should have a purpose for writing. What do you think Hoffman’s purpose was for writing the Saving Our Lives books?