26 May 2010

A Meetup Group of My Very Own!

Yes, you heard me right! A Meetup Group of my very own to meet and encourage local writers like myself to hone their craft and hopefully become published or produced someday. Well, not that I have much power to produce my own material, never give advice on publishing, but it's my group, and I've got some awesome members and I'm quite content.

So now I have my very own writer's meetup group after over a over a year of searching and nothing left to write. Where as a year ago, I had proudly completed my third script, for Episode 4a, despite adversity and minor imperfections, today I have nothing left to say for my own writing, at least with respect the Project: Kronosphere, has for the time being dried up. But do not fear, my friends, for this is not the end, it is only the beginning, and the moment is being prepared for...

The story of how I got this meetup group is itself an interesting one. As you can see from my previous posts, there's a gap of over a year between my last post in 2009 and my first in 2010. And although I have another draft post for April 2009 that I've yet to complete, there's still quite a bit I've yet to tell y'all.

You see, in January 2010, while scanning the occasional meetup.com spam new group announcements, I read of a new writer's group just around the corner in the town of Reston, Virginia. And what's more, it wasn't restricted to only Women or at an inconvenient time. Don't get me wrong, though, I happen to think Ruth Ghobadi is doing a wonderful job with her group and I would encourage any women who finds the time convenient to join her group of writers A.S.A.P. But, since I'm not a women, and that time's not for me, I could never be bothered.

But then Verge Writers was created, inspiring a whole new set of writers! It all began on Thursday, 11 February 2010. We all gathered at La Madeline, in Reston to meet the inspirational creator of this all new, writer-oriented meetup group. I was nervous. I ate and ate, stuffing my face in nervous anxiety, I even lost the organizer's name card when I was fumbling to get back into my car. It was both exciting and scary. Would they like my piece? Would they enjoy Project: Kronosphere? It was time to find out. Finally, a group that allowed men and was held at a descent hour: Sundays at 16:30.

So I came; I shared; I enjoyed; I engaged; I befriended. Week after week, I gave more of myself, my story, to my new colleagues. And they gave me their opinions. Some of them were positive; some were negative, and some got worse over time. But you've already read about that. I even made new friends with them on a few of the Social Networking sites: Facebook1 and Twitter. And it's through these contacts that I discovered Susan Diranian's Loudoun County Writers Group, but that's a story for another post.

So I diligently attended each meeting at the group organizer's apartment each week through the month of March. Then came April, and calamity after tragedy canceled meeting after meeting after meeting. Not having the full story from our esteemed organizer, I was not the only writer more than a little frustrated with the inconsistency of our meetup schedule.

If that wasn't bad enough, the organizer for a group I like to call Digital Animation for Fun and Profit was going to have a demonstration of audio recording tricks and techniques she'd picked up in her work with video voice-over production. I was very excited — audio recording is just the skill I need to learn, seeing as Project: Kronosphere is almost certainly going to be a radio series, even if it's never broadcast. Sound is my bread and butter. So I read the meeting description; it says the meetup will take place Tuesday, 13 April 2010 at the Panera Bread in Reston Town Center at 7pm. So I make my way over to the Panera only to find there's no meeting. I check my iPhone and it turns out it's been canceled and moved forward a week.

So a week later, on 20 April 2010, I head on over to the Panera bread again. The meetup was changed to a webinar, to be sure, but the meetup location still said Panera bread. So I arrived at Panera, met another group member and we both scratched our heads: the meetup leader could not be found! Needless to say this made me rather cross. It seemed like very meetup was canceled in April 2010.

As May 2010 rolled on to the scene, the missed Verge Writer's meetups got to be overwhelming and I'd had enough. I decided to counter-program an alternate meetup for the Verge Writers to correspond with ever meeting that was canceled. Every time the organizer scheduled a meetup, I scheduled one around the same time at the Panera Bread — at least one good thing came out of the Digital Animation for Fun and Profit: discovering this great meeting location! This went on for one more week until finally, we were able to attend a meetup that wasn't canceled on Sunday, 16 May 2010, when our esteemed leader announced that she was stepping down as leader and was looking for someone to take over.

So I volunteered.

The next day, I got a letter from meetup.com that was an invitation to take over the Verge Writers group. I clicked the included button and was immediately presented with a bill for $72 for 6 months continued service for the Verge Writers group. I was none too pleased by this. I personally think there's nothing really value-added that Meetup.com is providing over services like Google Groups and Yahoo! and informed my members that once the 6 months continuation expired, I may be moving us to one of these services.

I figure what happened is the original organizer bought the less expensive 3-month service for the Verge Writers group and in April that expired so rather than keep paying for a group she was having trouble attending herself, why not had it off to a more dedicated member. So I don't have any animosity toward this action, just that I think meetup.com is itself quite overpriced. In fact, I'm very proud of our former leader since she's told us she's going to India in August to council victims of the slave trade in that country. I of course wish he well in this and every future endeavor!

The first thing I did when I took over Verge Writer's is to change its name. Verge Writers never settled well with me, because, being fluent in French, I always read this as "Penis Writers". So I felt the name had to change, but to what?

I'm quite fond of alliterations — just like the leader of the Washington Singers and Songwriters Circle. So although it's a bit more Texas that I'd generally like, I chose the name the Reston Writers' Roundup! I even gave it its own sub-domain in the timehorse.com hierarchy. But apart from that, and a few other cosmetic changes, and moving the regular meetings to Tuesdays at 6pm, the group is still pretty much the same, with the same mandate and goals for its members. I've even opened the group up to new members since the the unfortunate purge of 29 March 2010 (29 March has never been a good day for me, but that's a story for another blog).

On Tuesday, 25 May 2010, we had our first meeting at the Panera bread. Most of our regulars were there and it was great seeing everyone once more. Next week, we may even be getting back one of our long lost and greatly missed friends, a victim of the purge.

Of course, nothing's perfect, and there are still some minor problems with the group. There are members who come to a meeting and then disappear or who join the group but never even come out to attend a gathering.

And there's one member who has some beautiful poetry she wrote on Microsoft Works. The thing is, no-one I know has a copy of MS Works, and this means her wonderful piece is pretty much visible by no-one. Fortunately, I found NeoOffice, which can, to some extent, read MS Works files with the .wps extension. So I opened the file in this and exported it to PDF so that I could share this member's work with my fellow enthusiastic writers. When I did this, the author unceremoniously removed the file, claiming it wasn't the right format. I searched quite a bit for find NeoOffice so I could read her file and was quite miffed when she just took the PDF file down. I've continuously tried to extend my hand to this member to work with her to convert the piece to PDF while still preserving the integrity and presentation of her work, only to be rebuffed and ignored. This really bugs me, but there really isn't much I can do. I've thought about kicking this member out of the group, but for now I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

In any case, that's the story of how I came to own my very own Meetup group! Woo!

1My Facebook profile is restricted; only my Facebook friends can see it. To become my Facebook friend, you'll have to request me via e-mail, but I don't want spam so I'm not including that here. Instead, if you really want to friend me, feel free to leave a comment in this blog with a link to your Facebook and I'll be happy to friend you, my dear, sweet reader.

17 May 2010

Where's my other X?

Sometimes, I have to admit, I envy women. Oh sure, both genders have their advantages, to be clear. But I think a women has a better time channeling the male in her than a man has in picking out his inner female. I think a lot of this has to do with the latitude we give for the female personality as opposed to the stricter rules we place on males.

Take, for instance, Professor Rebecca Priestley, designer, inventor and creator of the Kronosphere. She's a woman working in a man's world, the world of academic Physics. She is a woman, she likes to dress nicely and has a lovely house in a quaint part of Notre Damme de Grace, or N.D.G. as the Montréal locals call it. She's more or less secure in her job, though constantly in danger of loosing her funding and her recent focus of research has gained her much ridicule among her peers. This makes her driven, and so sometimes she spends the night on her couch after a late night's research and experimentation. Sometimes, she may look disheveled, but she's keen to get cleaned up when the opportunity arises. But she's most assuredly left-brained. She's mathematically methodical, almost Aspergerian. She's quick to anger but soon lets her more passive, feminine nature calm her back into reason. She's not a girly-girl or a fashion Deva or a sex-crazed Cougar. What the Professor is, is extremely intelligent. She's a woman with 2 PhDs with very diverse academic and professional experience. Does this make her any less a woman?

Sure, I've not told you everything about our Professor in Episode 1. I haven't even revealed it all here. There's so much more to the Professor; it will take time to tease out the threads of this woman's life. We must wait until she's good and ready before she's reveal her past pain. Until then, we must accept that the Professor holds her past close to her chest and doesn't trust easily. Does that make her any less a woman?

Or is it just me? Is this Y I can't write her? Because my X lays along on the chromosomal roller-coaster? Does this prevent me from channeling this woman into my stories?


In fact, I disagree with this postulate. In fact I posit there be more inside a gender than there be betwixt. A nerdy male may better know a nerdy female's mind than he may that of a sports-crazed arm-chair quarterback. An atheist female can channel an atheist male better than he can the blind faith and ecstasy of religion. That's not to say an atheist nerd can't write a devout Christian and Sports Fanatic. Just that that type of person is less likely to navigate in her circle of friends. We tent to surround ourselves with people like us, male and female. And this leads to our experiences being highly colored by similar personalities.

So can I write for a woman? Well, I was told I cannot by a genuine, to the best of my knowledge, XX woman. Does this mean she's right? Perhaps she is, perhaps she isn't. Certainly being told this makes me question whether I should even bother continuing. Especially when positive feedback's been so few and far between. So perhaps she's correct right now, in this one small case, but not over my full abilities or the total future of all of my writings. In the end, when I present this show to you, my dear reader, in it's final, recorded form I will leave it to you to judge if I've correctly described the Professor and all the other characters that appear within and surround the existence of the Kronosphere.

05 May 2010

The Reviews are in! Episode 1 is a MISS!

First of all, I just want to say I'm sorry I've been so remiss in posting here! Believe me, I will, at some point, retroactively add those posts I indented to submit earlier. They should eventually appear here once they've been properly edited. I have a huge post that I may make into it's very own blog given its length. It recalls my adventures in the hectic month of April 2009. But that's for later – or sooner, as the case may be…

Anyway, I've been getting a steady stream of input on the script to the first, maiden voyage of the initial Project KronoSphere crew and I think in summary you could say this: I don't know how to write my characters. I've had numerous suggestions that my characters should have an affectation or some other delineating personality trait. More recently, I've been simply told they are flat, wooden and uninteresting by a number of people. I wonder if this is what Harlan Ellison told J. Michael Straczynski when the later first contact the former? I really wish I knew, because if that was it, then I can't help but feel I'm in excellent company. But it doesn't belittle the fact that my story, at least the initial, and in some way most important, episode, is really quite flawed.

If that were not enough, the woman who runs one my primary meetup groups, the Verge Writers of Reston, has been ill and quite busy and unable to schedule any meetings since March, 2010. Well, technically a lot of meetings have been scheduled since then, they've just always been canceled at the last minute, meaning that I get all excited about giving and getting feedback from my fellow writers only to have my hopes continuously dashed just before the appointed hour.

But in the end, another group, the Loudoun County Writers Group run by a wonderful woman named Susan, has been very welcoming and helpful for me to hone my writing skill. But at the same time, both groups have repeated again and again how my characters are uninteresting each time they get a new piece of my script and I don't know quite what to do. I have some very good suggestions that would change the story around a bit that I will try to implement at some point before I release the Tag to the writing groups – So far, at least the Loudoun group has read the Teaser and all 5 Acts and are just waiting for the Tag. Of course, with all the missed meetings in the Verge group, they're still on Act 4, but it's good to have feedback for most of the script from the Loudoun group.

In the end, I will probably move the climax at the end of Act 5 to be the new Teaser and make the current Teaser, as of script revision 856, the beginning of Act 1. As it is, that would mean the Teaser takes place about a week before Act 1 and, assuming this becomes a Radio play, this is is very hard to do without some narration indicating that Acts 1 - 5 now occur in the past relative to the Teaser and Tag. I don't want to use the crutch of narration because it breaks the suspension of disbelief and although that practice was common in the 1940s, it's relatively frowned upon today. There's also the problem of the ever-growing Acts. Acts that I'd like ideal to be 5 - 10 minutes at most are now bursting at the seems with 20 or so minutes of action! I really don't know what to do. I don't think Episode 1 should be a 2-parter – Episodes 2 - 3 already are and not enough happens in Episode 1 to sustain it through 2 full episodes! That means a lot of dialog is going to need to be cut. That, too, breaks my heart, but at least I have the version control software to recover the lost content should I ever so desire.

As for the bland characters, I will probably put more of the Professor and Yuseph's back story in the Auditorium speech and may do more exploring in Act 4's environment to make it seem less mundane and explain why the characters are so restricted in their actions. But overall, it's as I feared long ago: there's too much technobabble. Of course, I don't want to give away too much in this public forum, but needless to say, there is work I can do to improve the script but even then I think Episode 1 is a total failure and as Episode 1 fails, so fails the entire Project KronoSphere concept. Alas and alack, I knew the Professor well!

But even if I do edit the script 1 more time, as I've said in my Twitter Feed @TimeHorse, "Editing my own work a third time would get me fired if I worked in Television." And yet, that's what this is: a third draft. To be making such major edits so late in the script just demonstrates how poorly a writer I truly am. And as for my pipe dream of seeing Project KronoSphere Television, that dream is utterly hopeless. Ironically, when I was googling to find a link to the Verge Writers of Reston, I actually came upon this link: NBC Universal Careers. Oh, would that I were young, unencumbered and able to just hop on a plane and spend more than 5 months in Los Angeles even if it would be a stepping stone into a much less lucrative dream career, one in which, in 10 - 15 years, I may be able to build up enough of a reputation and enough experience to pitch and sell the Project KronoSphere idea, write it the way it should be written and finally garner the $50,000,000 per series that a proper dramatic television series needs to survive. Then, promptly get canceled 13 episode in because I didn't have and Daleks and go on to try produce the rest of the story as a cheap radio program.

So be it!