“The idea behind our group was gay men discussing books either by gay authors or about subjects that gay men are writing about,” says Steve Honley. “We’ve been around for 20 years since our first meeting on May 11, 1999.”
Honley, the facilitator of Bookmen DC, a group that has had many monikers over the years. “First, it was called the Potomac Gay Men’s Book Group. The founder, Bill Malone, worked at Whitman-Walker Clinic and started the group using donations of remainder books from a wholesaler in New York. Soon after that, people decided to get their own books, and we’d buy them through Lambda Rising, which gave us a regular discount until they closed. We changed our name to BoysnBooks. And then Bookmen in 2007.”
Bookmen DC currently meets twice a month, on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Meetings on the first Wednesday, held at the lavishly renovated Cleveland Park Library, are dedicated to regular-length novels, while third Wednesdays, at The DC Center, deal with shorter stories and excerpts from anthologies. The group has about 100 members, with 15 to 20 that attend regularly, and the rest showing up a few times a year. “We’re very informal about membership,” says Honley. “It’s basically, ‘Come when you’re interested in the book.'”
Honley says people shouldn’t be shy or intimidated about sharing their thoughts. “Our meetings are really informal. It’s not like it’s a university course or anything like that. We’re just guys who like books and have interesting discussions. Generally, we’ll just ask people to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down and explain why.”
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the group will hold a party at The DC Center, with short remarks by four facilitators who preceded Honley. Finger foods will be provided, but attendees are encouraged to bring a potluck dish to share if possible. Honley also expects the party to serve as a reunion, with past members who have since moved away stopping by.
“We’re a pretty social group,” he says. “We normally go out to eat or drink at a neighborhood place after each meeting. So the party will be a very casual atmosphere, and people are more than welcome to stop by.”
Bookmen DC’s 20th Anniversary Party is Wednesday, May 15 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at The DC Center, 2000 14th St. NW, Suite 105. The event is free of charge and open to all. For more information, visit www.bookmendc.blogspot.com.