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.

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