ROW80 Update and Farewell to the Forum: Final Houseparty

Round of Words in 80 Days update!

We have 35 days to go in this round.

These were my initial ROW80 goals (shared the same day as my cover reveal!):

Learning: Keep up with graduate school work!
Performance: catch up on the September X on the Forum and finish entering all edits for The Charm of Time

Learning: Keep up with graduate school work!
Performance: send The Charm of Time to betas, work on two short stories with a view to submitting them places, (re)learn how to crochet!

Learning: Essays for school
Performance: NaNo! Time to work on the sequel to The Charm of Time, which I've been calling A Handful of Time (which is the title of one of my favourite YA books, by Kit Pearson)

Learning: Keep up with graduate school work!
Performance: Take a break! Time for a reading holiday. Probably with some crocheting, too. I'll also be busy compiling my year-end books read posts and statistics.

As is the nature of ROW80, these have gotten tweaked. I accomplished the September and October goals (except for crocheting), and November is on track, but December will require a major overhaul!

Writing at the Auberge Guillaume Tell

No time for reading if I'm going to enter all the beta notes to The Charm of Time, and work on my query letter and synopsis, before school starts again in January. I'll have my commutes free to read, though, at least!

The other major change is that my characters will be attending a houseparty in December! This is an unexpected treat, yet it comes as a result of terrible news: AOL, Verizon, whoever the parent company is, is shutting down the last of the Compuserve forums for good, including the Books and Writers Community.

I don't even know how to begin describing what this place has meant. I first discovered it through Diana Gabaldon, who refers to it in the Acknowledgements to Outlander (or maybe it was Dragonfly in Amber) as follows:
"... stumbled into a group called the Literary Forum—basically, a 24-hour cocktail party of people discussing books ... I signed up with Compuserve and have basically regarded the Forum (in its various iterations) as my electronic hangout ever since. For quite a long time, Compuserve was a members-only place; you had to subscribe to get in (it didn’t cost anything, but you did need to be a real person with a real name—not an avatar, a handle or anything of that sort). This meant that it was also a pretty private place, with a relatively small population.
Well, the Internet evolved, and so did Compuserve. It’s open to the web now, like everything else, and has grown somewhat in size. At the same time, the forum (now called the Books and Writers Community) has kept its character as a place where well-organized discussions and conversations take place. We actually have rules of civil discourse, and while discussions are honest and occasionally heated, we rarely have trolls and when they appear, they don’t last long." (this version is taken from her Facebook post on 4 June 2016).

I joined the Forum in 2006, about a year before I started this blog. From the start I loved the in-depth book and craft discussions, the hilarious thread drifts, the wit, the humour, and the personal level of the place. It wasn't a fly-by-night set-up with random people coming and going -- by the time I joined, some of the members had been around for nearly 20 years. There was history, institutional memory, and a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere for newbies.

I also got very lucky -- right around the time that I joined, about 20 other new members came on board, and we grew closer and closer as the years went by. Some of us have met in person (though I haven't met half as many of these friends in person yet as I'd like to!), but that hasn't been necessary to growing together.

To quote Tolkien, "in that time I changed my house, my chair, and my college" -- I've moved twice (once to a new country!), changed jobs once, and started this year at The University of Edinburgh. I have a daughter. I've lived with and said farewell to two cats. I've written about 10 novels, and have my first publication coming out next month.

And I have learned so much!

Looking back on old blog posts, I see that the Forum was such a part of my life that I didn't even bother explaining what it was, but simply threw in references to it from about my third post (which has an egregious typo in it!). I was such a newbie that I didn't include links in my posts, even when directly referring to Writers Exercises on the Forum, snips from Diana, the wonderful camaraderie and marathons that predated NaNoWriMo for me and got me writing more regularly, and even in a reference to one of the earliest houseparties, without any explanation of it whatsoever.

Later, I got a bit better at explaining houseparties.

But what I'll miss most is the wit. Here's a very brief sample, from a blogpost in which I cited the master, Jo Bourne, on "write what you know":
"One of the more spurious bits of advice given to writers is "write what you know" - as if to be a writer you can elaborate only on your morning commute to the office and the dimwitted things your colleagues say, not to mention your evenings spent doing chores and preparing supper/eating supper/clearing up after supper. Of course not! If Tolkien had followed this kind of lame advice... well, here's what Jo Bourne has to say (quoted verbatim from the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum):
#11 of 15 Posted Oct-8 10:01 PM
From jo bourne Posts 1312 Last 7:43 PM
To Diana Gabaldon [Msg # 57558.11 57558.10 ]

Hi Diana --

Whenever I see the 'write what you know' advice, I have this picture of nice Professor Tolkien interviewing an ork.

"So tell me, Urlurk Orklag ... did you always want to grow up to be a souless servant of evil?"


And now, the houseparty!

"In honour of all the fun we've had before... we're going to be retracing our steps back through several of the previous house party settings ... We'd love to see everyone going all out, bringing characters and complications and memories from past parties, present stories, and future creative efforts, as a final farewell to this place."

I keep picturing a sort of ballroom, with all my couples slowly rotating. The trick is to decide what age they'll be, because some of them are parents and children! It'd be funny to meet your child before they'd even been born.

And if that sounds strange, you don't know the half of what can happen at these houseparties!

Please join us, if only to read. This may be the last one for a long time to come.

Where are your favourite online hangouts?


Hi Deniz - are you still in Switzerland ... and doing the study via 'on-line' at Edinburgh - wonderful if so. Wonderful about Emily - great little soul ... looks it from here anyway!!

Sorry about the Forum - I could 'read and see' why you enjoyed it so much ... good luck with all the projects ...

Enjoy the December houseparty ... I'll be around - but from a slightly different part of the world - the east of which you know well ... leaving Saturday ... more on the blog anon - cheers Hilary
I'm sorry they are closing down the forum. That stinks.
You're right that you don't have to stick to writing what you know (although I must admit I typically do). I read somewhere about how Stephen King does a lot of research for his novels, including talking to people who work in different professions to get a better sense of what their jobs and daily lives are like.
Kim Switzer said…
You have done a lot of things since 2006! I hope the next part of things as your group moves on to something new is filled with lots of good stuff.
Anonymous said…
These parties sound wonderful! I may or may not be able to read; life has gotten complicated of late.

May you enjoy!
While I wasn't on any of the Compuserve forums, I know several members of the community who were and loved the space wholeheartedly. Sadly.... also had to close its doors this year. It doesn't sound any less heartbreaking just because Compuserve is the minion of an internet goliath as opposed to a small business.


At least you've had this time to make these lovely connections. Have the members suggested a place where they might pursue their passion somewhat?
Crystal Collier said…
What fun! That sounds like the kind of place I could totally get sucked into...which is why I'm mostly not online lately. Well, that or the baby. Either one. =) I have several Facebook groups with people I love, a few Twitter chat places, and WAY too many blogs. =)
Beth Camp said…
Yes, we seem to find a place on the internet where the writing community flourishes -- and nurtures our writing as well. Sorry about the Forum. What a tribute!
Deniz Bevan said…
Two weeks left until the Forum shuts down! We're still looking for a new home...

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