Creating and Managing a Masterpiece Book & Film Club

Attract members to your club. Start with word-of-mouth. If you don't know enough people to begin a group, you may want to put flyers up at the library, workplace, bookstore, coffee house, church or synagogue, YMCA or health club, and so on. You may also want to check out www.readerscircle.org. This website provides local listings for book clubs and author events in the United States.

Decide how big the group should be. Most successful discussion groups have approximately 8-12 members. Limiting the number of participants ensures that everyone will have an opportunity to participate.

Choose a format. You can focus your discussion on one title or choose to focus on a number of titles by the same author or in the same genre.

Pick a book and film. Some book clubs select titles that are available in a paperback binding, which can often be found in both bookstores and libraries. Most Masterpiece books and DVDs are available at the library, so ask the librarian to put copies on hold a week or so before you'll need them.

Determine how often the group will meet. Once a month is usually a manageable commitment for people. It's best to set the dates for several months ahead. You may need more time between meetings if you're reading a very long book.

Choose a place to meet. Meet at a library, restaurant, coffee shop, or other public place for convenience or meet at member's homes.

Choose a time to meet. Pick a time that is convenient for members or meet soon after Masterpiece airs (check local listings) so the film is fresh in your mind when you discuss it.

Decide how long the meetings will last. Many discussion groups find that meeting for an hour and a half is a comfortable amount of time.

Choose a leader. Usually one person needs to facilitate the meeting so the flow of ideas is focused and smooth, every group member has a chance to speak, and the logistics of the group are well organized. Some groups have one person who performs the function of group leader. Other groups rotate this responsibility among the members.

Gather contact information. Find out how people prefer to be contacted (phone or email), and make sure everyone in the group has a list of all members. If possible, designate someone to remind members a week before each meeting.

Establish ground rules. At the first meeting, discuss the group's expectations regarding starting and finishing on time and respecting one another's opinions. Agreeing to a common set of rules, however informal, promotes a positive and respectful discussion.

Bring snacks! Talking about books and films usually goes better with food. Take turns providing food, have a potluck each time, or have members chip in for snacks and drinks that the leader brings.

A little research goes a long way. Impress the other members with your knowledge! You may want to do additional research online and at the library. Find out as much as you can about the author's life, the times in which she or he lived and wrote, what other people had to say about the work. You can find information on specific Masterpiece titles at www.pbs.org/masterpiece under Learning Resources.

Contact your local public television station. They may be able to provide resources or give you information about an existing Masterpiece Book & Film Club.

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