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Writing Communities
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First and slightly parenthetically, I must live in a cave of unmitigated proportions.  I missed--on the front of this site--the announcement of the red room panel, so I was surprised to get the announcement yesterday afternoon via email to attend.  Lord knows I would have hopped on BART to get there, but it was a friend's birthday and we were headed out for margaritas and delicious Mexican food.  To have a cache of social riches is irritating, so could someone please consult ME next time there is such a panel?  I mean, really.  I wanted to meet Belle Yang!

But the email and a couple of the blogs here in recent days have made me think about writing communities and the writing world, and when I woke up at 2 am last night, I thought some more. 

I always wanted a writing community, a mentor, a guide into the writing world.  The problem for me was that in college, my major was English literature, and my advisors and mentors were consulting with me about literary interpretation, something that helps with writing.  However, I was not taught about anything useful for my fiction and poetry.  The truth is, with a baby and then with another baby (one with my BA and one with my MA--do you see why I don't have a Ph.D?) I didn't have time to write anything creative anyway.  I think my output was about a poem or two a year untilI settled in my full-time teaching job at Diablo Valley College.

The good news for me there was that I met a colleague who then became a friend, and we read each other's work and ended up going to classes and lectures and workshops and readings together.  Then I met another colleague and ended up in her writing group, which was a group I was in from 1994-2005.  These women read just about everything I wrote, poems, stories, novels.  What became hard for me was submitting my novels to the group, so as I focused more and more on longer work, I ended up having to leave the group.  That and I was too busy being insane during my separation.  A couple of these women still read my novels, though, and they are steadfast and stalwart readers, true blue and honest.

Now, I have excellent readers via online, and there is my mother, too, who reads every novel, and she is clamoring for the one I'm just finishing.  So I feel supported and assisted and held by my small community.

I have had community envy, though, the feeling that out there, there are writers who have a pack of writer friends.  I read about The Grotto in a blog or Dave Eggers and his lively cohort, and I think, man, that must be nice.  It seems that there is help and word of mouth assistance that I could never be privy to.  That and the genre I dabble in does not seem to be much respected by a number of writers.  There are romance writers groups, but I like the idea of a mixed group of writers, writers writing all kinds of things in one place.  Just what you can find here at redroom.com.

What redroom has done for me is remind me that writers--in slightly different ways--think about the same things.  We have idea issues, editing issues, reading issues.  We all must face the market out there, those who buy our work.  No matter if we write children's books or non-fiction journalism, we have to find our way to the public.  We have to all sit down one morning and start.  This is what we do.  Here I've read about writers I've known and didn't know--I've "met" people through conversations and blogs that I would not have the chance to meet otherwise.  For me, with my life as a teacher and a writer--where I must go out and expend a lot of energy and not go out and expend a lot of energy--this type of community is wonderful and engaging and so very useful to me.  I am grateful for the opportunity to blog, to meet people through my ideas.

In my little fantasy, we all meet periodically in a cute little cottage.  There, representatives from the government come and give us huge grants.  Editors and agents come with offers.  We sit and drink tea and coffee (we like to buck the stereotype of the drunken writer).  If we smoke, we smoke outside in our convenient smoking area.  We talk, we share ideas and work, and then we go home to do what we do--write.  Since that cottage would cost 1.5 million here in the Bay Area, redroom is what we have and just as wonderful.

Jessica

Comments
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Hello, fellow cave

Hello, fellow cave dweller:

       Alas, the BART system doesn't run to Alaska, or I would have liked to have  been there too.   But Belle went there, presumably along with all her bones.  I'm waiting to hear her report. :)  ( I do make a passing reference to BART in Plasma Dreams, incidentally).

         By the way, if in the next few weeks...or months....or years....or decade..., I'm somewhat more conspicuous by my absence on Red Room, it's only because I'm actually doing some writing.  Actually a LOT of writing.  I want to get Vengeance is Mine done before summer is out....I'm actually taking some vacation time to get this done.  I also hope to have my "Opus of Amateur Radio Knowledge and Lore" done by then, too.

         Just in case anyone asks. 

         I won't be gone...just quietly lurking behind that slightly ajar Red Room door....meting out my sagacity in small doses only when absolutely necessary.

Cheers!

 Eric the lurker

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We can't even get BART

We can't even get BART funding to Livermore, so I don't think it will happen for Alaska!

Lurk away, and good luck with the writing.  Chime in when the need strikes.

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Jessica,

My former beau was hired by a group of writers, some very well-known, to give unstinting critique at their biweekly gatherings. I guess he did such a good job of being honest about their work, some writers got very upset and fired him :) I imagine they initially hired him beause their own members' critiques didn't get them anywhere.

Well, this beau was my best editor until I fired him from my life.

I know exactly what you are talking about and I've thought about finding a writing group, but I've wondered, too, if we'd end up upset with one another. Writers are deeply sensitive people. And what about the competition of who got paid a bigger advance? The Grotto folks are probably a rare bunch, immune to competition? Or perhaps competition makes them better, more productive writers? Redroom.com maybe the best tool for me because we can be as faraway as Livermore and Greece and "talk." I'm glad Eric is tucked far, far away in Alaska. He's a bit crazy,, have you noticed? Kidding, Eric, we will miss your active presence. I may have to become a lurker soon.

Last night, the panel at the Commonwealth Club was asked whether we like to write as the Grotto writers do or entirely alone. Bill Hayes and I essentially said we were lone wolves. I protect my solitude.

But redroom.com does make the writing life better by augmenting our solitude with friendship and some very good ideas.

It's taken me this many years to find you and you don't live close by. The chances of finding a handful of smart, companionable writers in my town would be daunting.

I talked about Jessica Barksdale Inclan several times last night at the Commonwealth Club in light of the fact that I get your thoughts, struck off at white heat--I said I'd fallen in love with you through your words in Redroom.com. I did say the so in those exact words, blush, blush.

Hey, you can ask Ivory Madison to buy us a 2 million dollar cottage. She's brilliant, smart and GENEROUS-lol.

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I am sitting in class

And I read your response.  So now I am blushing!  Thank you for your comments and wonderful words, Belle, as always.  I feel like there's this little amazing piece of luck that fell my way one day when reading about redroom.  You are right--how else would we have found each other.  We are GU (geographically undesirable--see what I've learned from online dating experiences?).  But we connect here and learn from each other.

We are lone wolves, but wolves need a pack periodically, too.  So here we are--in the pack.

Glad you were there to represent us all!

:):):)

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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It's true, Belle said it

Jessica, it is true-- I heard it myself. Belle declared her love and admiration for you in such a way that I had to visit your site at redroom today. (All signs point to the fact that she is right, by the way.)

Like you, I missed the news about the Commonwealth Club panel until the email went out in the afternoon. But I simply decided to make it happen and made the journey from south San Jose. (It helps that I only needed to figure out how to get my girls to volleyball practice and avoid micromanaging their study habits for the day. The opportunity for margaritas and Mexican food with friends would have proven to be more of a dilemma. :)

Belle was warm, intelligent and generous in her comments. In fact, all of the panelists had something unique and/or inspiring to contribute. I am especially awed be Peter Coyote. He was a Wow with the capital W!

I am so glad I traveled 2 1/2 hours for that one hour of thoughtful discussion. I look forward to getting more involved with this wonderful redroom community, both online and whenever a face-to-face meeting presents itself.

Thank you, Belle, for such welcoming words. I look forward to reading and discussing writing with both of you.

Cheers!

Shana Moore

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Hi, Shana--

I think it took everyone on the panel and the redroom staff by surprise that there were so many redroom.com members in attendence.

So, it is already in the process of becoming a literary force.

Great to meet you, Shana, in Redroom.com.

Phew, Shana has come forth to back up my story.

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I Love the Validation!

Man, my web site must be reeling with the hits you produced.  So next time either of us venture into the others' said county, we are having a meeting.

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Ooooooh, gosh. . .

I don't know. I'm actually dying to meet you but this is so very special in redroom. Sometimes real, in-the-flesh friendships can devolve and I get the best of you--even when you complain (and you don't complain, really, just working out things in a welcoming way). 

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We Really Need to Do Some Therapy

Already!  Crap! 

I think when it happens, the universe will provide, as it always does, the right thing.  So we will just wait and see what happens.

Today, I am in a very low complaining mode.  I'm actually quite optimistic.  I managed to get my new microphone to work.  My classes went well.  I am home and ready to read some of the John Adams book I bought because I have a secret and weird girl crush on Paul Giametti.  So, I think that when we have our meeting, the stars will align!

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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You Look Pretty Damn Awesome, Shana!

Belle is amazing.  Truly.  I think she's imaginary though, even though you insist she's real.  I think of her as my imaginary friend, but I am hopeful that one day I will see her in the flesh.

I could not pass up the meal.  An old friend, lots of time and tribulations between us.  But next time, I swear!  I am SO there.

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Looks can be deceiving... seriously

It is quite fine and good to receive a compliment about a photo when the person has never seen you in person. The problem, I find, is that when people know you and rave about a picture they see: "WOW! That's an AMAZING picture of you!" This only leads me to believe that I disappoint them when I become 3D. Sigh. Who would ever have thought that being photogenic can be a bad thing? At 40, honey, I'm happy to take what I can get.

Your relationship with Belle is intriguing to me because I met one of my best friends online. We actually co-wrote the book Femail together because of our cyber-friendship and finally met face-to-face while we promoted it. I'll tell you, it was so strange for me to see her move because I was so accustomed to seeing her as the headshot on her website.

The good news is that, despite a few awkward moments at the airport (when I told her things she already knew about me because I felt like I was meeting someone for the first time),we hit it off and are still great pals separated by two states.

I can't wait to read the description of your first meeting with Belle... whenever it actually happens.

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Thanks for that info

I think it is great that you and your friend hit it off even after a face-to-face.  So there is hope!

After 40, I think we have to take what we can get.  But seriously, the phot is good!

Glad to have met you during this discussion, Shana!

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I might be a figment of your imagination, too!

That's the main problem with the Internet. For all you know, despite my razor wit and scintillating repartee, I may be nothing but an arrangement of electrical logic states. There isn't a shred of tangible evidence that I'm really here, or that I'm really me! Of course, a mere collection of logic states would be hard pressed to be categorized as a "me" or any other entity, for that matter.

Or maybe I'm just a sentient equation. Now isn't that a luscious thought!

 

 

Eric

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HI

Hi Jessica

I miss hearing from you. Thanks for connecting me with Red Room. It seems like a great community -- but somehow it has not done anything for me yet .... perhaps I'm not a savvy navigator. Any tips/

I trust any recommendations you might have!

BTW, I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

Cheers,
Diana

Comment Bubble Tip

HI

Hi Jessica

I miss hearing from you. Thanks for connecting me with Red Room. It seems like a great community -- but somehow it has not done anything for me yet .... perhaps I'm not a savvy navigator. Any tips/

I trust any recommendations you might have!

BTW, I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

Cheers,
Diana