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'The Opportunities Just Opened Up'

A book club at the Library was the beginning of Susan Calder's Library Story

'The Opportunities Just Opened Up'


When Susan Calder’s husband was transferred to Calgary for work in 1996, she was happy to make the move with her young family. But, unfamiliar with her new city, she struggled to find reasons to get out of the house.

“I wasn’t working when we first moved here — I was just writing, and spending time with the kids. So I really needed something to keep me active, keep me social,” she says.

Her solution came during a trip to Fish Creek Library, when she picked up a copy of the Library’s program guide and noticed a listing for a book club. “I’d never been in a book club before, but I’d always been interested in the concept. It seemed the logical thing to do as a book lover,” she says.

Susan fell in love with the club immediately. Not only did it give her a way to make new friends in Calgary, but she discovered that the group was full of people who shared her interest in and love of stories. They offered her a different way of looking at the written word, which helped her to improve her craft as an aspiring author.

“It’s been incredibly useful to me as a writer,” she says, “because it’s a look at writing from the reader’s perspective. I can see how almost no book is loved by everybody — no matter how well written. You start to understand that it's really all a matter of taste, and you feel a lot better when people don’t like your work.”

At 23 years, Susan is one of the longest-attending members of the book club. While her book club has since become too popular to accept new members, the Library offers other book discussion groups. “What’s really nice about the group is that we often disagree heartily, but there’s never any ill-will about it,” she says of her tight-knit reading community. “We respect each other, and the divergence of opinions is quite lovely. People come away with a bit more of an appreciation for the book, and each other's point of view. You feel like you’ve stretched a bit, and grown, for having read outside of your comfort zone."

A New Book Club Member

Little did Susan realize that her passion for the club wasn’t going unnoticed. Although her husband was an avid reader, she never would have imagined him wanting to join a book club. It came as a total shock when, shortly after he retired in 2007, he asked her if he could tag along to a meeting.

“I’d go out on book club day, come home and tell him about some of the discussions — the people, what they had to say. I didn’t really realize that all these years I had basically been selling the book club to him.”

Unsure if her husband, who mostly read murder-mystery novels, would be on the same page as her literary-loving friends, Susan was hesitant to allow him to join her, but eventually, she gave in. Luckily for both Susan and her husband, her fears never materialized. Her husband has been a member of the club for over a decade now, even volunteering to lead discussions on the occasion that the group pursues a murder-mystery.

“We don’t often talk about the books before the club meets, because we don’t want to influence each other’s opinions,” she says, “We’re able to approach it as individuals. But we do sometimes like to talk about them after, and it’s a social event as well, so it gives us something extra in common that we can do together.”

More Possibilities

The Library is about much more than books for Susan and her family. “When we moved to Calgary, the opportunities just opened up. There were more possibilities for me to engage with the Library. There was more offered to me,” she says.

Aside from attending her monthly book club, she also sharpens her writing skills with workshops and writing programs, attending several each month. She and her husband frequently borrow DVDs and CDs to watch movies and listen to music, and once attended Tech Mentors for three weeks in a row to get help fixing their computer.

“Right now, we’re planning a trip to Italy,” she says, “so I’ve just taken out a series of audiobooks and things to try to learn a few essential words of Italian before we go.”

Susan also likes to give back to the Library, and frequently shares her talents through panel discussions and readings of her work. Now an accomplished local author, Susan discussed her latest book, To Catch a Fox, in May at the Writing as Medicine program, and will discuss her contributions to the literary art exhibit Print(ed) Word: The Salon Series, which is displayed in the Central Library's TD Great Reading Room, in August.

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