INTERVIEW: Jessica Smith Hodder, co-moderator/group creator DIOGENES BOOK CLUB (on Facebook)

11760194_10207217835829546_2980538155056824807_nWhat is the highlight of any Sherlock Holmes story?

It’s the little bit where Holmes shows off how smart he is. He points out the odd little fact that everyone overlooked. He proves just how clever he is!

Where can fans of Sherlock Holmes do that? How about in a book group?

One of my favorite Holmes destinations on Facebook is the Diogenes Book Club, named for the Men’s club that Holmes’s brother, Mycroft, has joined.

I asked co-moderator/group creator, Jessica Smith Hodder, a question or two about the book club!

SHERLOCK CONVERSATIONS: You have set up the only, at least to my mind, Sherlock book discussion group. What inspired this? How long have you been doing this?

JESSICA SMITH HODDER: It actually started out when my friend (and fellow Sherlock Holmes aficionado) [as well as the group’s Tiny Tim aficionado] Jessica Lewis and I got talking one day about how it had been a while since we had read the Sherlock Holmes canon from beginning to end, and we thought it would be fun to read them again together.

We then thought it would be even better if we invited a few friends to read along with us. Jess Lewis was actually the one who came up with the idea of setting up a FB page, so we could chat and post our thoughts and ideas about the stories, and everything would be all in one place where we all could easily see it.

The idea originally was that the page would be closed and private, just for our tiny group of about 10 friends, but next thing we knew, we had over 100 people asking to join and read along with us. At first, I almost panicked and abandoned the project, because I’m a shy person as it is, and running a book club with that many members was REALLY daunting to me. I decided to stick with it to see how it went, and it actually turned out to be a lot of fun.

We began reading the canon on January 14, 2014, and with a reading schedule of one week per short story, and two weeks per novel, it took a little over a year for us to read through the canon completely. It’s meant to be a slow and relaxing read-through; we understand that people have jobs and families, and we don’t want people to ever feel rushed or pressured. We recently began again from the beginning, and are early into the second read-through of the canon.

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SHERLOCK CONVERSATIONS: Do you feel a sense of community working on a project like this?

JESSICA SMITH HODDER: Yes, definitely. I have met so many wonderful, clever, and funny people through the book club, and some of them have become good friends.

We have people from all over the world, and our members include people with varying level of expertise on the Holmes canon. Some of them are experts, and some are reading the stories for the first time. There’s no sense of snobbery with our group; everyone is wonderful and loves to help each other out where and when needed.

We all just want to share our love and excitement for these amazing stories.

SHERLOCK CONVERSATIONS: How and when does the discussion meet?

JESSICA SMITH HODDER: The page is an ongoing thing…there are new posts popping up almost every day. We hold a LIVE chat, though, where we discuss the story we had just finished that week, every Sunday at 8:00pm GMT, (which is 3:00pm EST.) Nobody is obligated to attend the live chat, because we don’t want anyone to ever feel pressured, but it is actually a lot of fun to participate in.

I really look forward to them every week.

If members are unable to attend the live chat on Sundays, they can still go in and add their own thoughts and comments about the story at any time that’s convenient for them.

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SHERLOCK CONVERSATIONS: How did you yourself get into Holmes? What does he mean to you?

JESSICA SMITH HODDER: I actually got into Sherlock Holmes when I was about twelve years old. My father really liked Sherlock Holmes, and he’s the one who introduced me to the stories.

Sherlock Holmes has been like an old friend, and he’s definitely an inspiration. He’s forever interesting, and the stories don’t insult your intelligence.

I don’t think I’ll EVER get tired of reading them over and over again.

SHERLOCK CONVERSATIONS: Thank you, Jessica!

JESSICA SMITH HODDER: Thank you!

Images courtesy of Jessica Smith Hodder.

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