A number of Maine-started Facebook groups went viral with the COVID-19 virus pandemic in 2020, and now there’s one more to get a read on.
First there was Quarantine Karaoke, then Wine Fairies of Maine. Now, another group has shot like a rocket thanks to Windham resident, Courtney Edwards. The group is called Maine Book Club/Discussion (What Are You Reading?)
Edwards, a mother and wife, had a job as a receptionist at a dental office until last March, when the pandemic forced the facility to close. Until then, she’d been working nearly 50-60 hours a week, cleaning, caring for her children, cooking, and performing other daily household tasks, which left her precious few hours of personal time.
“My whole life, I have just worked, worked, worked,” she said. “I’ve always had two jobs and when the dental office closed, I had all of this extra time where I needed to find something creative to do.”
Edwards admitted she had never been a bibliophile until the pandemic hit.
“I was watching Outlander, the TV series, and really liked it. I discovered that the series had been based on books, so I bought the books. I just started reading and I loved the feeling it gave me, so I became obsessed with reading more books.”
That got Edwards into exploring other Facebook book groups, until one day she had the idea to simply start her own in Maine in October.
“I thought people would really enjoy reading, especially those who’d never picked up a book before,” she said. “I’ve never been a fast reader, but since the group started, I’ve read 32 books.”
Edwards is a fan of historical fiction, historical fantasy, and time travel.
The group, which started off as a book club for Maine women with 150 followers, began to take twists and turns of its own, worthy of its own short story.
“I started off with just women, but then I started to get male readers asking if they could be part of the group and it sort of hit a controversy,” said Edwards. “I lost a lot of members and felt awful, so we decided to open the group to male readers and authors, as well. I’d never done anything like this before, so I didn’t know how to approach it. But Gregg Olson was one of the first authors to hit the request button and I almost keeled over.”
From that point on, more and more people began joining the group, not just readers and authors from Maine, but from all over the United States and even overseas. More than 100 authors from the United States have joined, and Edwards has set up a special tab for them titled Authors/Maine Authors [accessible on smartphones and iPads].
Authors in Maine in particular, are getting a boost of free publicity thanks to Edwards’ efforts. She and a team of moderators have personally responded to every author’s request to join the group. Each author has received a personal introduction from the group on a welcome post.
“I’ve gotten a lot of thanks from authors for giving them a spot in our group,” she said. “The most famous Maine author obviously is Stephen King, but I still haven’t heard from him yet,” she added with a laugh. “I’m sure he is very busy.”
She has also offered her Facebook platform as a place for anyone to schedule free events, from author readings to book discussions.
Edwards said the size of the group as it continues to grow is slightly overwhelming, but she feels like she has started a mission she can’t abandon. “I have friends who haven’t touched a book in years who are starting to read again,” she said. Everybody while quarantining seems to binge on media, whether it’s on your TV or phone, but there’s something about connecting with a book and getting lost in another person’s world for 300 pages.”
“I’ve never really traveled, so when I get into a book, I really feel like I’m traveling there,” she said.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org