LitClub:  Lit Wits
Johnstown, Pennsylvania

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NESTLED IN the beautiful Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania, this club had its beginnings from a church library.

You're in Johnstown, Pa, right?
Yes, the site of the 1889 Great Flood which killed more than 2,000 people. We're also not far from the crash of Flight 93 on 9/11. A lot of history has happened in our corner of the world.

It has, indeed. So tell us about your history—how did your club get started?
Sherree and her husband are in charge of our church library. Several years ago, they noticed that women wanted to share ideas about the latest book they'd read. So our club was formed—that was in 2009.

From the first meeting, it was obvious we were all on the right track. We number 13 now, and it's been rewarding to watch the group grow and friendships form. Our meetings have also become a much needed "girl's night out."

So what have you read over the past year?
We like to alternate between fiction and nonfiction; these are our most recent reads:
The Red Scorpion (Kivisalo)
Jordan's Crossing (Arthur)
Sin, Salvation and
   Shadowmancer (Taylor)
Delivered with Love (Kyle)
Choosing to See (Chapman)
The Falcon and the Sparrow
Kisses from Katie (Davis)

Any all-time favorites?
Our nonfiction favorites are stories that touch us and teach us something. The following are amazing:
Bridge Called Hope (Meeder)
Choosing To See (Chapman)
Lulu (Auger)
Voice in the Night (Surprise)
I Dared to Call Him Father

Our favorite fiction includes wonderfully written books that make us laugh and cry:
Shiloh Autumn (Thoene)  ♦  Passing By Samaria (Foster)  ♦  Splitting Harriet (Leigh)  ♦  The Trial (Whitlow)  ♦  Christmas at Harrington's (Carlson)  ♦  At the Scent of Water (Nichols).

Which books led to really great discussions?
Some of our best discussions have been about books that we didn't really enjoy. It's always interesting to hear why and often more challenging to discuss these particular books. [Ah, yes! See our LitBlog post. —Ed.]

Where do you hold your meetings?
Our meetings are usually held at Sherree's home or Perkins Restaurant—they have a great room for groups. We've also had a couple of special meetings at other members' homes.

You've had some neat meetings themed to your books. Tell us about them.
Voice in the Night (Sheikh) took place in Africa, so we had an African stew and Lime Cake (also African) for dessert. A couple of us wore tribal headdresses.
Through the Fire (Grady) inspired us to visit our local firehouse. We took some baked goods for the firefighters and were treated to a tour (see photo). Then we headed off to a local restaurant for "firehouse" chili!
We met at one member's home to watch the 2010 movie based on The Trial by Robert Whitlow.
Bridge Called Hope (Meeder) deals with adoption of neglected horses and pairing them with hurting children. We met at the home of one of our members who owns horses. She demonstrated the process of lunging, and we all got to meet her horses up close and personal. It was a real treat. (See photo.)
Choosing to See (Chapman) turned out to be one of our most powerful meetings. The author talks about the death of one of her children and includes information on adoptions in China. One of our members did a PowerPoint presentation for us: she had traveled to China for a week to help teach orphanage staff members who work with autistic children—she was in one of the very places that Mary Beth helped start up. We also had a speaker who had suffered the loss of a child and had adopted. It was a very powerful and touching meeting.
You also play games during your meetings, right?
Yes. Sometimes we ask trivia questions about a particular book or area where the book took place. Other times we play word games or take a multiple choice quiz matching authors to titles. We've even played one of LitLovers games—Literary Grab Bag. We're always looking for new ideas.

What about community volunteer work?
This Christmas we plan on meeting at the mall to take angels from the Angel Tree. We'll pair off and buy a needed item and a book for each name we take off the tree.

You handed out journals one year. Tell us about that.
Yes, one year at Christmas everyone received a journal to record special thoughts about books or impressions from meetings. At the beginning of each year, anyone can share from her journal.

And for members who miss meetings...?
Sherree emails a "Lit Wit Greeting" via email with pictures and information to keep them up-to-date.

Generally, how would you describe your club and its members?
Our members are inspiring—we always (well, almost always) read our books for the meetings, and we're always excited to get together to discuss our opinions.

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