Local book club invited to sit in Oprah’s audienceMembers of the Bookworms, a Jamestown book club, met Sunday to decide their itinerary and places to eat while in Chicago next weekend. This is no ordinary outing for the book club members. In fact, it’s so out of the ordinary, the women can hardly contain their excitement. On Friday, 10 of them are going to be in the audience of the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” The consensus is “we are so lucky.”
Members of the Bookworms, a Jamestown book club, met Sunday to decide their itinerary and places to eat while in Chicago next weekend.
This is no ordinary outing for the book club members. In fact, it’s so out of the ordinary, the women can hardly contain their excitement. On Friday, 10 of them are going to be in the audience of the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” The consensus is “we are so lucky.”
It all started in October when Bookworm Shelly Jystad was browsing the Winfrey website checking out the list of upcoming guests. She noticed Jonathan Franzen, author of “Freedom,” was going to be on the show. Jystad typed what is called a plug in the Oprah Book Club section of the site. She wrote that the Bookworms were reading it and were very familiar with Minneapolis-St. Paul, the novel’s setting.
“And that we’d love to be in the audience,” Jystad said. “I thought that was the end of it because this is Oprah’s last season and tickets are in demand.”
Instead, she got an e-mail asking for names of the club members. Then she got another asking Jystad to confirm the names and that the group was reading the book. She did, and the phone rang with a request for details.
“I asked if we were now going to be entered into a drawing for tickets,” Jystad said. “She (the woman on the phone) said ‘no, I have 10 tickets for your group.’”
When she got over the shock, Jystad told each of the club’s members and the planning began. In the end, only Bookworm Theresa McMillan couldn’t make the trip, so non-member Sue Anderson, who has read the book, is taking her place.
“Sue is going as the No. 1 Oprah fan,” Jystad said.
Although the club members see getting tickets as lucky, Angela DePaul, spokesperson for the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” had a more prosaic view.
“Actually, the website is the way we book tickets for the show,” DePaul said in a telephone interview Friday. “Responding to online plugs is a great opportunity for viewers who have an interest in a certain topic to have a chance to be in the audience.”
It may be old hat to the show’s staff, but to the Bookworms it’s a big deal.
“I’ve heard from all kinds of people who would have loved the opportunity to go,” said Diane Hanson. “This is Oprah’s last year and we’re very lucky to be in the audience.”
“Other people in town know more about all this than I do,” said member Lisa Motacek. “We’re quite fortunate to be able to do this.”
Each of the 10 women going received a list of rules for audience members. Security is very tight — no food, cell phones, cameras, gifts or cards for Winfrey. About the only thing a ticket holder can take in is a photo ID to match the name on the ticket, Bookworm Trish Gehlhar said. And Jystad must be at the head the group. Book club members joked that no matter what, Jystad would be leading them.
Audience members also can not wear beige or white. Gehlhar said the group voted against dressing like North Dakota “hicks” to stand out in the audience.
“We decided it’s enough to be from North Dakota and be in the audience,” said club member Leslee Larson.
The Bookworms have been meeting for seven years now. Marilyn Smyth organized the club and is considered the bookkeeper, which means she keeps a journal on the books read and the group’s responses to them. At this point, the books number 77 and members say they can’t remember sometimes if they’ve read a particular one.
“Marilyn also makes sure we all read the entire book,” Larson said.
“It’s a fatal flaw in a book club when some don’t,” Hanson added.
The group has read a variety of fiction and nonfiction, even some self-help books. They’ve read classics such as “Frankenstein” and “Pride and Prejudice.” And they don’t necessarily agree on some.
“We just beg to differ on the books,” Smyth said. “The controversial books make the discussion more interesting.”
All agreed they joined the book club to broaden their horizons by reading books they might not otherwise try. Or get out of a rut.
“I had to get past Dr. Seuss,” Jystad said.
The Bookworms meet over the noon hour once a month at the Meeting Grounds. And because most of them have other obligations or jobs, the discussion lasts an hour. Gehlhar takes an hour’s vacation to be at the meetings. Larson can’t make the meetings during the school year but reads the books and waits for summer.
“It’s been enriching to get to know each other and learn about each other as well as broadening our horizons,” Jystad said.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com