I’m trying to remember what year it was … back in 1991 or ’92, I think – there was this new thing called the Internet and a friend gave me a Prodigy disk and showed me how to install it on my desktop, which was little more than a word processor and a ginormous calculator (attached to a printer with feed lines that I’d have to tear off gently before handing in for my college coursework).
Anyway. After being screeched at by the little men in the machine (I wish there was a word for the sound the phone lines made when connecting to the Internet back then; there’s a whole new generation now who never heard it, but it was impressive) the Prodigy software would welcome me, and I’d patiently click and wait, and click and wait, and finally the pages, the communities, I was interested in, would load. There were two. A tennis forum, where I met a girl named Regina who adored Andre Agassi, and I got to gush over Boris Becker and Steffi Graf. There was also a very active Books & Writers forum, though it was called something else at the time, with a good handful of fantastic published authors, the best known of whom was Diana Gabaldon.
Obviously, this writer’s forum had a huge influence on me. It was a part of my daily life before the Internet was a part of daily lives. I met Joanna Bourne and Darlene Marshall there, both of whom writes historical romances, Barbara Rogan, writer of literary mysteries, and Diana herself. I exchanged messages with Linda Grimes and Susan Adrian, who slaved away daily with me at the page, hoping someday to be published. (And now we all are.) We had guest authors come in sometimes, too. One such author was a newbie you might know. She wrote Dead Witch Walking and chatted with us about that. (*waves* Hi, Kim!)
The point is, a greater average number of working writers came out of that forum, I think, because it was expected there. It was what you do. It was what came next if you did the work. We all hoped to be published, but I think we all expected it a bit as well. Diana was already a legend back then, and would freely regale us with lengthy stories of her own editor (and editor, OMG!) who reportedly said things like, “It’s so not hard to be published in New York. All you have to do is write something one of us loves.”
We all drank that cool aid.
It’s where I learned the protocol of the Internet. Where I learned how to behave. It’s where I learned how to critique and take critique in return, that ad hom was never acceptable, that you call readers what they are – readers, not minions or fans or something else that knocks the author/writer partnership out of balance – and you write. Every day. You write.
That forum, and my own hard work, turned me from a dreamer into a writer and, from there, an author. It was the first place I joyously announced the sale of The Scent of Shadows and they all celebrated with me. (I still have those messages.)
But I totally digress, because the first actual friend I ever made on the Internet was Regina, from the tennis forum. We spoke to each other openly about everything, we spoke like sisters, and when I tried to explain this to Sarit, a good Real Life friend, she scoffed and said, “You cannot become a real friend with someone you met on the Internet.”*
Fast forward to 2013 and we all know differently. And your response to yesterday’s post is proof of that. I actually panicked after posting it and came back online to delete it, but messages had already begun trickling in … the first of which was a simple Thank you.
No, thank you. I plan to take time and respond to each individual message this weekend but for now please know how much your messages meant.
And be kind to yourself today, too.
*BTW, Sarit is back in her home country of Israel now and we’ve been able to reconnect … you guessed it, via the Internet. (So there, Sarit!)