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Group stitches together good book discussions
The library is a place of quiet and research for some. For others, it is just a building filled with books.
But for Janice M. Miller, the Silverdale Branch Library served as a sort of refuge, a place where she found herself. Miller, who retired in 2008 due to a disability, frequented the library regularly. As a single woman with two dogs, she was lonely being cooped up in a house all day. The library served as an escape from her otherwise regular routine.
“I had to stay home a lot,” said Miller, who also goes by Jan for short. She frequently used the online catalog to find new books as a way to keep herself busy. Then she found “cozy mysteries” which are a sub genre of crime fiction.
Miller immediately fell in love with the genre.
One day while checking out another stack of books, Miller offhandedly told the librarian that more book clubs would do the library good. A mystery book club in particular, she thought, would add some variety to the library branch. After all, there was only one book club available. Not everyone fit in with the already-established club.
At the time, the voracious reader didn’t realize that she was talking to Silverdale Branch Manager Melody Sky Eisler. She also didn’t realize that when Eisler hears about an idea that she loves, she’s gung-ho to get it going. Miller volunteered herself without realizing she was on the horizon of starting something new.
“I really like to support and nurture new ideas,” said Eisler, who remembers encouraging Miller to start a new club. Miller didn’t think she could do it, but after brainstorming ideas with Eisler, she came up with a name: Stitch a Cozy. Readers of cozy mysteries would gather together and do a little handwork.
It wasn’t to be a knitting club. It wouldn’t be just a book club. It had to be a book discussion for a crafty group willing to stimulate conversation surrounded by a fondness of cozies.
At first, it was just Miller sitting by herself doing stitch work in the library. Eisler would stop in and offer words of encouragement, telling Miller that it takes time for things to take off. Miller knew exactly what she wanted when she formed the club idea. When the marketing materials came, Miller remembers crying with excitement when she saw the graphic designs.
“I wanted it to be a cozy group,” she said. “I did not want it to be a knitting group.”
Knitting groups, she said, are too exclusive. Then, her first guest showed up. Lo and behold, she just so happened to be a knitter, ironically enough. It took about six months to gather momentum, but, now, almost two years later, Miller can’t imagine it any other way.
“It just kinda has evolved since then,” she said. “They’re all stitchin’ and talking and knitting.”
Once a month, the small group gathers in the Hess Room of the library. By the time the monthly meeting comes around, everyone in the group has read the book. Miller starts easy conversation and then discussions get going about protagonists and plots. Before they know it, the readers are wrapping up the meeting with some tea and snacks. The group is made up of women who have discovered connections beyond a love of cozies and handwork.
“The visiting and the connecting with the other ladies in the group is the most fun,” said member Amy Steed. “It’s a really nice camaraderie.”
Steed enjoys quilting, but also loves to knit. Her love for books started at a young age, and she “comes from a long line of librarians” which is another reason she finds the book club so enjoyable. Since joining the group early this year, Steed has found a way to connect with other locals in a relaxing setting. So far, “Naughty in Nice” has been Steed’s favorite read.
“The nicest thing is that you’ve got people there that have a double commonality. This is the first time I’ve been able to pair up the two interests,” she said. “I am really grateful that Janice and the librarian at Silverdale started the group, and I hope that the group grows bigger and that the library grows.”
Not only has the group grown, but Miller believes she has grown as well. Her confidence has blossomed, she said, as a result of being a volunteer leader for the group. She had joined other interest groups in the past, but it never worked for her. This, for her, was the first time she told herself that she could do something.
“I was so lonely when I started this. This book club has stretched me to develop my own likes and my own passions,” the library volunteer said. “I may be 64 years old, but I’m doing it, finally. That (group) has changed my life. It kinda woke me up.”
When Eisler thinks about the club and the volunteer who started it, she is reminded of someone who helped the library in a creative way. Monthly, Eisler sees what Miller created from the ground up. When the laugher carries above the bookshelves, Eisler knows the library has got a good thing going on.
“She’s just fantastic. Jan told me that the Stitch a Cozy program changed her life,” Eisler said.
Although Eisler has been told by Miller how much the library means to her, the branch manager hopes Miller knows what she means to the library, too.
“To me, she’s a volunteer who has gone above and beyond the call of duty,” she said.
Good Deeds is a feature of the Central Kitsap Reporter and the Bremerton Patriot honoring those in our communities who are doing good things for others. Do you know someone who makes a difference in our community? Email “Good Deeds” at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to join in on the next meeting?
• What: Stitch a Cozy
• When & Where: Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 1-3 p.m. in the Hess Room at the library in Silverdale
The discussion will be about “Murder of a Creped Suzette.”