Richie Zaborowske, a reference librarian at the Neenah Public Library, yearned for the cerebral rigor of a traditional book club, without all the blasted reading.
“I’m in my 30s, and it’s really hard to find something that’s intellectually stimulating, but that I also have time for,” he laments. “Who has time for a book club?”
Believing there were others like him, Zaborowske developed Short Story Night – a micro book club, of sorts. Gatherings take place the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. and last about an hour. Beforehand, participants read one or two assigned short stories posted to the Neenah Public Library’s website.
“It speaks to people who have kids or don’t have a lot of time,” he says. “It seems to me that there’s this burgeoning arts scene in the Fox Valley and people are looking for this kind of thing.”
The numbers support Zaborowske’s theory. The group launched last May with 13 participants. Today, Short Story Night draws more than 40 regular attendees each month.
The stories assigned are digestible (usually a handful of printed pages) and can be read in a single sitting. Styles and topics range widely, from contemporary science fiction to literary classics by Sarah Orne Jewett and Anton Chekhov. Meet-ups are held at Lion’s Tail Brewing Co. in Neenah which has played a key role in the success of the events.
“It’s a neat opportunity to mix scenes,” Zaborowske says. “It gives it a more relaxed atmosphere and makes people more comfortable.”
The evenings may include trivia, singing and humor related to the stories, and always feature a robust discussion of the material.
“It’s sort of a mashup of The Tonight Show and American Lit 101,” Zaborowske says. “The first time people come, I can see in their eyes that they are taken aback, like what did I get myself into.”
Short Story Nights draw a diverse crowd. Zaborowske says ages range from 20-somethings to their eldest member in his 90s.
“What seems to happen, the older and younger people like to hear each others opinion,” Zaborowske says. “Now we have poets and people from the Fox Valley who are into the writing scene and we have people who wouldn’t normally read stories. Anyone can do this.”
The next Short Story Night is March 12. The month’s stories can be found at neenahlibrary.org.