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Monday, September 26, 2011
More Than a Book Club
Authors understand that book clubs are our lifeline. Support from book clubs can make or break a book. But is it just getting together and reading books? SistahFriend Book Club founder Tasha Martin has the answer.
Q. Tasha, SistahFriend is so much more than a book club. When and why did the idea for the club begin?
Thanks, Donna. The group was founded in 2004 as a response to my desire to reconnect with and meet women who shared a passion for reading and needed a little self-care retreat.
Q. Do you remember the first book club book choice?
Oh, yes! It was Brown Sugar 2, a collection of short-stories edited by Carol Taylor. It’s still one of my favorite anthologies and I still follow many of the authors who wrote for it.
Q. How does the club decide on which book to read?
Each branch has a host for the month that chooses the book of the month. We push diversity, so each member gets a chance to choose a book. However, we gossip about good books so you may see more than one branch reading the same book.
Q. When did you know that you had to expand and what steps did you take?
I knew we had to expand once we created our website and started receiving inquiries to join from a broad range of places, like Japan. Our first step was to incorporate until we attained non-profit status, since we’re big on community service and empowerment. We are currently a 501(c)4 with a board of directors and national officers.
Q. How many chapters do you have now? How many active members?
We have 7 chapters and close to 50 members.
Q. What are some of the initiatives that SistahFriend has undertaken and why?
We are big on community service, so each branch participates in service according to the need in their community. A current one is the Extreme Couponing Faceoff in Columbia, SC, our founding branch. The entire branch sold personal items at a local flea market to raise money. Two members then split that money into 2-$30 gift cards and decided to do a friendly competition and see who could stretch the money the farthest. All items will be donated to Sistercare, a local charity for women and children survivors of domestic abuse.
Another initiative was the African-American Literary Festival, held in Columbia, SC in 2010. It was a free event to the public that promoted literacy in the family. We had featured author sessions, vendors, and a children’s corner. We even had a Pink Diamond Award Ceremony where we honored a few of our favorite authors, including our honorary Sistah Donna Hill, for their work in the world of literature.
A big initiative is our national anniversary celebration hosted in January. We provide a literary and empowerment retreat for our members. It is the SFBC kickoff event for the year that we hope empowers our women for the following twelve months. Next year we’re planning a cozy retreat in the mountains with the theme: Mystery in Pink, where we’re reading a suspense and doing activities under the sub-theme: Unraveling the mystery in me.
Q. How do you keep your members involved and interested?
We have many avenues for them to be involved: monthly book retreats, online communication, phone links, social gatherings (branch-wide) and national retreats. We try to offer new and exciting member-only promotions and perks every once in a while to keep the excitement peaked.
Q. How does the club support authors?
One big way is that each of our branches chooses its own book of the month, and each member has an opportunity to host a meeting. We do this for reading diversity. Also, we encourage author visits to branches, including online chats. We also invite authors to our biggest meeting of the year, our anniversary celebration in January. The same tradition will continue when we host our 2nd African-American Literary Festival.
Q. Do you have a criteria for membership? Can anyone start a SistahFriend chapter?
The main criteria for membership are an appreciation of literacy and dedication to service. We encourage any woman or group of women to open a chapter, provided they meet the earlier stated membership requirement and have a spirit of entrepreneurship.
Q. What suggestions could you offer to someone wanting to start a book club?
I encourage them to research what’s out there first, then figure out what you do and do not want to happen in your club. Next, develop guidelines and a marketing plan. Finally, know that it is work. Plus, for it to work, you have to believe in what you’re doing—another crucial marketing principle.
Q. One of your current projects is a Cookbook. Tell us about that.
We released the SistahFriend Book Club Perfect Parties! Cookbook this summer. It has nearly a hundred recipes from members across the U.S., from drinks to signature dishes. A few include: Bahamian Macaroni & Cheese, Cajun crawfish dishes from the southwest, and the SFBC’s signature drink, P.D.’s (Those who’ve had it, know what it is ;-)
Q. How will you use the proceeds from the sales of the cookbook?
Proceeds will support our network as well as community outreach.
Q. What is the club reading now?
To name a few, the virtual branch is reading My Soul to Take by Tananarive Due. A few of our sites are reading Exposed by Naomi Chase, and Dancing in the Street by Susan E. Smith, Fourth Sunday: A Journey of a Book Club.
Q. What's next for SistahFriend?
That is a very good question. My hope is that we continue to expand and provide quality literary and empowerment retreats for women. We also plan to expand further west in the U.S. and in neighboring territories.
Q. How can readers find out more about SistahFriend?
They can find more information about us at www.SistahFriend.com , facebook: /SistahFriend, and twitter: /SistahFriend
Thanks so much Tasha! Here’s how you can purchase the book.