Seriously, the thought of a professional editor looking at my writing makes my mouth go as dry as the Atacama Desert in South America, and then you could squeeze a whole tube of Burt’s Bees Pink Blossom lip balm into the cracks in my parched lips, but when I was invited to write a post on Ashedit, I rose to the challenge. Okay, so that isn’t entirely true. I turned her down. Then I tried to foist off other writer friends on her in an effort to remain comfortably anonymous.
My assignment was to write an article on our Vancouver Writers Mixer. I should point out we are not talking about the exotic city located in an allied country, but the little town located in a corner of Washington State. The Vancouver Writers Mixer was started by author, Carolyn J. Rose, after she taught a “Novel Writing Boot-Camp” class through the community education program. When the six week class was over, we whined, sniveled, clung to her ankles as she dragged us across the dark parking lot, and told her we couldn’t live without her weekly critiques of our work. “Start your own critique group,” she said.
Ms. Rose enlisted the aid of Cover-to-Cover Books, a local bookstore in the heart of Vancouver, and secured the first Saturday of the month, inviting writers to get together and talk, form critique groups, and eat cookies. Ms. Rose gave a little talk on writing and the evening was so successful, it became a monthly event, with anywhere from 10 to 50 attending.
Writers arrive early to order a latte or mocha, drape a jacket over a chair in the back, to see the projector image on the wall above the bookcases, and have time to browse through the store. Mel Sanders, the owner of Cover-to-Cover, knows many writers personally and will sometimes have a book or two set aside which may aid research for a current work-in-progress.
Saturday, our guest speaker was Carol Doane. For the past year, she has been the general manager of a start-up community website, COUV.COM. “It is a bumpy ride,” Carol said. “News media is changing and we don’t know where it is going. For one hundred years, Vancouver’s newspaper, The Columbian, was our only steady source of local news.” Portland papers and television stations may touch on Vancouver, but are not dedicated to us. But now we have multiple online news sources, including online newspapers, online business journals, local entertainment websites and thousands of area bloggers for colorful commentary.
Carol went on to say that to write for a start-up community website, it needs to be edgy, quick, include photos, audio, video, and great writing. Not “milquetoast” writing if you want to win page views.
“You need to connect with your audience,” she said. “Sometimes the connection is good, and sometimes you get comments like the one I got on an article about the proposal for new electrical transmission towers. The commenter asked for my dismissal, and for me to apologize to the entire community.”
In Carol’s defense, I read that post and was not offended in the least, but my guess is whichever slant you give an article, the opposing side will take offense.
Today, COUV.COM is looking for local contributors. Tomorrow, who knows? A start-up in this arena is volatile. But if you are thinking of submitting stories for a start-up online news site, value your work. Ask for compensation, even if it is only a couple of tickets to the local theater, unless you merely want a byline to build your platform, that is.
“To write regularly for a start-up, you need discipline, and you need to meet deadlines. Most of all, you need to write, write, write. But,” she warns, “my fiction writing has suffered since I’ve been putting all my energy into writing news.”
I guess that would be like a person who works in an ice cream store, who no longer has any desire for a milkshake.