Shelf Life: From Fan To Leader - Jacksonville resident runs regional 'Outlander' group

Published on Saturday, 5 July 2014 22:37 - Written by Vanessa Pearson

Like just a few (million) other women (and men), Tiffany Wilbourn is a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling “Outlander” series.

But it might not have happened without some friendly intervention.

In 2009, her friend Erica brought the book along on a trip to Ireland and tried to convince her to read it.

When she saw how big it was, she said, “I’m not reading that on vacation.”

So Erica lugged it around Ireland. But before the pair headed back across the pond, Tiffany was bored. Before long, she “could not stop reading.”

Now, she’s the founder of the largest regional fan group for the series on Facebook.

Last fall, while recovering from back surgery, while chatting in another Facebook fan group, the Jacksonville resident discovered the Lone Star State had a lot of fellow fans. So she started a group of her own called “Outlandish Texans.”

At first, new members trickled in, but now boasts 652 members, due in part to a recent surge after press coverage and meeting other fans at a book signing and group events.

It “grew faster than I anticipated,” she said.

Members post thoughts about the books, links to news about the upcoming Starz show of the same name and other related topics.

It’s a group “where you feel like you are friends with everybody,” Tiffany said.

Members span all generations and all parts of the state, and the group is building friendships with a “common thread brings us together,” she said.

“The group has really transcended what I thought it would be,” she said.

Tiffany said it’s become a support group for some.

Several members have told her it helped them get through miscarriages and deaths in their families.

“I needed this group, too,” she said. She was “feeling locked in” because of her recovery, and it was a way to reach out and make a connection.

Tiffany organizes events for members to meet each other — when the author was in Dallas in June, the group had a couple of get-togethers over meals and a seated tea at the Dallas Arboretum. Later this week, members will eat dinner together in Austin.

Next year, 22 members will go on a nine-day tour of Scotland, and Tiffany and another group member lead a discussion about the psychological profiles of the series’ villains at an international Outlandish Clan Gathering in Quebec, Canada.

It’s a “labor of love,” she said. She stays sane by delegating tasks and talking about issues with a group of administrators from across the state.

During Diana Gabaldon’s book tour stop in Dallas on June 25, Tiffany and the other administrators of the group had the opportunity to meet the author and present her with a shawl of bluebonnet tartan.

It was the first time she met the author, and kept thinking, “Don’t act like a bumbling idiot.”

When she’s not organizing an Outlandish get-together, Tiffany is finishing her doctorate at Stephen F. Austin State University, working as an associate psychologist at Rusk State Hospital, and helping raise her niece, Vanessa.