A group of women sits at a table along the water on Granville Island, sipping wine and laughing together. Not far from here, large crowds are gathering to watch the Celebration of Light, but the women are undeterred by the hubbub in the city, taking their time together to enjoy good food, good wine, good books and good company.
Gathering with friends to discuss books and drink wine sounds lovely, but it isn't always easy to find the time or the people to do it.
That's why, three years ago in March, Pauline Probyn started a group on Meetup.com to find other book and wine lovers in the area.
"I was looking for a book club myself," she says, adding all the ones she contacted were either full or had shut down. "I'd never been on Meetup before."
The group has been a great success and recently expanded from one to two chapters to accommodate more members, as it was becoming very popular.
The first meeting three years ago, the group had 17 people show up, she says.
"We had a good turnout," she says, adding, "What I found over time was that we had core members who can't always make it."
However, there are about four people left from the first meeting who are still members, she says.
Probyn used her experience from Toastmasters to plan how to run the group and get it started, she says.
They have covered a wide range of books, from Book of Negroes, written by Lawrence Hill, to SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.
At the meeting in July, each member had to bring a book to pitch to the group or speak about themselves. They then voted on a book for the month and also had a small wine tasting, which was also voted on.
For June, the group selected Sweet Girl by New Westminster author Annabel Lyon, and the meeting included a special guest - Lyon herself.
It isn't often that you find an award-winning author sitting in your living room, willing to answer questions about a new book, and the members thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
"It's a really fun group," says Véronique Boulanger, who hosted the June meeting in her home. "It's nice that it's women. There's bonding that goes on."
Boulanger has been a member since the first year, she adds, after looking for a local book club and running into the same problems as Probyn.
She found the members to be great people, she says.
"Then I decided to stay," she adds. "I really do like the people. There's new people every time, pretty much."
Karin Schweitzer, who lives in Vancouver, joined the group when it had just begun, she says.
She stumbled upon it while looking for mom and baby Meetups, she says.
"I kept reading the same types of books all the time and thought this would be a great way to learn about other books and authors," she wrote in an email to The Record. "I had been reading historical fiction books but have branched out now."
She says the people - and the wine - are the best part of the experience, as well as getting the chance to meet Canadian authors such as Lyon.
The biggest challenge for her has been finding a babysitter so she can make it to meetings, she says.
Jill Doctoroff, who also lives in Vancouver, joined the group two years ago, she says.
"I had been involved in a great book club when I was living out East, and it was something I really enjoyed," she wrote in an email to The Record. "I read a lot but it's nice to be exposed to books and authors through other people."
She says one of the benefits is the diversity of the group - women of different ages, backgrounds, professions and stages of life.
"Some are more interested in the wine and learning about it while others are avid readers," she wrote to The Record. "We often surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, but with an open Meetup group there is a lot more diversity."
However, she says the size of the group can sometimes make it difficult for everyone to be engaged.
Those interested in learning more about the group can do so at www.meetup.com - the group is called the Burnaby - New West Women's Wine and Book Club.
There is a $5 annual fee to join, and a $5 event fee when the meeting is at a member's home, to cover costs. The meetings are held in members' homes or at restaurants. The chapters meet at 7 p.m., one on the last Wednesday of the month and the other on the Tuesday prior to that. Members are free to attend either meeting but cannot sign up for both at the same time.
Each meeting has a maximum of 12 attendees and a waitlist is available. Members can bring one guest per meeting.
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