The 12th show of the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club is over, and I marvel at how the panel for Sandra’s novel Letters Never Sent kept the discussion moving right along. We covered many aspects of her book without giving spoilers away and didn’t run out of topics or linger too long on any one, which is not always easy in an hourlong show.
In hosting a dozen book clubs on air, I have learned that the book choice is essential, but so is the makeup of the panel. Almost every month I’ve introduced strangers to each other in the green room right before we go into the studio as new friends.
Here are three lessons (three because, well, you know) I’ve learned from the panelists:
1) People who are nervous beforehand often elicit the biggest “aha” moments (Mercedes Lewis and Cheryl Pletcher and Jeff Vincent, I’m thinking of you). I’ve seen a guest looking thoughtful but unsure, asked his or her opinion, and been blown away by a character analysis, or plot point, or thematic explication that I never thought of.
2) The trust in one another as we talk openly about our feelings and thoughts on the radio is complete. We have a sense that we’re all in this together. Even though we occasionally disagree, the respect for one another’s opinion is evident. It’s been a lesson in how books and reading can bring people together. Today, Salem West and Rebecca Maury were on the show by telephone and not only never stepped on anyone else’s lines, but segued beautifully from another panelist’s remark into a new point.
3) I’ve invited people I have never met or messaged or texted with onto the show, and I have been happily surprised every single time. Today’s Mystery Guest was Matt Hamblin, a young man who drove in from Manhattan, Kan. I invited him this past May because it had been evident from what he wrote a year ago that he knew Sandra and loved her teaching, her writing, and her.
As Sandra herself said when she handed me the show, “you’ll meet people!” She loved meeting new friends, and I’m discovering through her show how wonderful it is to talk about our LGBT literature with different, diverse panelists each month. She would have been enthralled, and now I know why.
Each time, we all leave the studio feeling that we’ve participated in a real, honest-to-goodness book club. And apparently that is true for listeners. I’ve had straight allies tell me that they listen every month, and that means our community’s literature is finding new readers.