Saturday, March 10, 2012

Up in the digital tree house: Forming Online Writing Groups

I'll be honest: I've never been a big fan of writing groups. I'm sure they're great for some people, but I've brushed up against too many that are snake pits of negativity and unnecessary competitiveness.
Illustrated by Joel Reid, copyright 2012

The trouble, as they say, is people.  It seems a kind of magic, pulling together a group of people who are of like mind who are willing to set aside ego and meet in civil and constructive conversation about their work. It's even more difficult when you take into account the geography. Finding all those people within driving distance of a central meeting place that serves coffee and/or wine.

I found it once, briefly, and then it slipped my grasp and I haven't been able to pull it off again.  Maybe that makes me a miserable misanthrope, but I think it's just the nature of the beast.

Enter the world of social media and the advent of the online book group...

It's been said that being a successful writer in the modern sense is about 1% talent and 99% being able to ignore the internet (which is a talent of its own). There's certainly some truth to that, but the internet has its uses too, and one of the primary uses seems to be drawing together people of like mind who might otherwise never meet and lending a megaphone to the voiceless.

It's no secret that social media has played a hand to some degree in every popular uprising from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wallstreet. What it is doing to authors is no less revolutionary.  And while it's not all good, and I'm normally not the biggest fan of Facebook as a company, the idea of the thing is wondrous.

Our online group was formed around the time I was writing Howard Carter Saves the World. We supported one another through that stint of NaNoWriMoing and had so much fun that we stuck together. If Facebook has become the virtual neighborhood, we built a tree house in the vacant lot down the block and hung up a sign: Dreamers Only.

It's where I go when I'm having trouble with something I'm writing, but it's also where I go when the real world rises up and wallops me with a mallet. Real friends, digital tree house. In the zany, text-based world of the internet, across thousands of miles, we sit down and share, and kvetch, and dream together.

I hope you find a place, either online or in what we laughingly refer to as 'real life'. Build a tree house, hang up a sign, choose a secret handshake. We'll wave to you from our tree and tip our paper hats across the neighbor's fence.

Just don't touch our Otter Pops... because we've got Howard Carter in our tree house and he's been filling water balloons and cackling maniacally for about a week now. Best not to tempt him.

1 comment:

  1. So glad to know you, Scott. The Treehouse is fantastic. People in the tree house, fantastic. Otter pops - well, what can be said about the fantastic otter pop that is fit for the page/blog? People - listen to this man. He is wise.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).