The Absolute Write forums have grown exponentially since you acquired them in 2006. How many members are there these days?
Just over 25,000 registered members, as of this morning. Since we purge inactive accounts yearly, that means over 25,000 members who’ve actively posted and/or registered within the last year or so. Our retention rate for members tends to be excellent, largely to our very active and engaged Newbie mod who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help people make friends and get oriented on the boards — which can be pretty overwhelming, even for me. I swear to dog I found a sub-forum the other day that I had NO idea we even had, and it’s pretty active in there, too…
Writers obviously hold a special place in your heart, and you are a writer yourself. Did that play into your decision to acquire AW?
I’d been working for a sportswear company, writing advertising and catalog copy among other things, and got interested in taking another shot at writing fiction. Since I had no idea how to go about finding a publisher or any of the other more practical details about writing and selling fiction, I started poking around on the internet. I followed a link to the Learn Writing With Uncle Jim (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6710) thread that novelist James Macdonald (http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/) had recently started in the Novels forum, and I was immediately hooked. It was better than a week before I even realized there was more to the forums than that single thread — and by the time I did realize it and started really exploring, I was completely in love with the community.
So some years later when the original owner decided she wanted to dedicate more time to her family and her own writing, and approached me about whether I’d be interested, I didn’t even hesitate. The AW writing community had been home for me for a number of years, by then. I jumped at the chance to make sure it continued to be the kind of amazing place that I’d found, with the enormous wealth of information available.
In addition to AW, you’ve also run an e-zine, Coyote Wild. What experiences did you gain from that to bring to AW and your own writing?
Running an online zine is its own masters-level class in short fiction, if you’re paying attention. Just the opportunity to read slush can teach anyone interested in fiction a lot about what not to do, as well as what works.
But I learned a great deal just reading people’s cover letters, too, in terms of what matters and what doesn’t, and in terms of how much information is simply way too much. Running an ezine isn’t for everyone, I know, but if you’re writing fiction, I cannot possibly emphasize how much you’ll learn if you’ll go volunteer to read slush for even a tiny little ezine for a few months.
Can you walk us through a typical day in the life of MacAllister Stone?
I’m not even sure there IS such a thing. Heh. Let’s see, my day usually starts around eight a.m. with hot tea and email triage. Whatever’s come into my email overnight that needs immediate attention usually gets that attention. I generally peek at the forums first thing every morning, too. Then I put in a few hours writing, but that can be highly dependent on whether I’ve got advertising work or freelance projects that I’ve committed to do. Then I answer more email. Then I check on the forums again, and work on any writing projects of my own that I’ve got time left for, whether that means blogging or fiction.
I like to manage a long walk at some point during the day, and I do a fair bit of job-hunting to keep work lined up, either freelance stuff or more regular gigs. I try to remember to eat something a couple of times during the day, and generally I knock off around eight or nine p.m., and watch a movie or read until bedtime–which means one or two a.m. for me, generally. I’m a night owl.
Some people think that AW is a place for writers to gripe about agents and their query times. What would you say to those people?
Of course it is. Frustrated people spend a lot of time doing griping, and frustrated would-be writers spend even more time doing that. But that’s really just a tiny fraction of what AW is about, and a miniscule portion of what actually happens on the boards.
AW is a place for writers to learn how things work, and find the support of their peers. AW is a place where writers can talk to other writers who are well ahead of them on that path to publication, and where writers can help the people coming along behind them on that same path. AW is a place where people can learn about some of the pitfalls, difficulties, and misfortunes inherent to trying to write at a salable level–but also where people can celebrate with one another, when they reach a milestone or have a break-through.
AW is a community, with all the good and the bad and the confusing bits that any community embodies.
You also tweet. What value do you think Twitter has for writers?
Oh, mostly Twitter is just fun, right? When it’s two in the morning and everyone I know is sleeping, I can count on there being two places where people are up and around: Twitter and the AW forums. Sometimes I think running a big website is the most natural job in the world for a habitual insomniac.
What I didn’t anticipate was how much texture and immediacy Twitter would lend to relationships between AW community members. Oddly, I’ve gotten to talk to people more on Twitter than I ever have on the boards, in part because people aren’t as shy or as worried about taking up my time.
Twitter has such an easy, short, and casual format that it’s not a huge commitment for people to visit back and forth. One of the things I’ve really noticed is how much writers talk to each other, to bestselling novelists, to agents, to editors, and to publishers on Twitter. I think there’s an entire publishing education to be had in 140 character bites, for anyone willing to spend the time reading and mulling over what’s there to be learned.
Absolute Write also has a listing of writing classes. Can you tell us about those?
Absolute Write lists classes I feel generally good about endorsing. There are some affiliate writing programs that we advertise, too, on occasion–but a listing with the online courses, workshops, and classes on the Absolute Classes page are programs can’t be purchased. Those are all classes that we specifically endorse without recompense because it’s so darned hard for writers to find reputable and worthwhile writing instruction on the Web, and it’s hard for qualified writer/instructors to find motivated and talented students, and I didn’t want to deal with the potential conflict of interest that being paid for a listing on that page would present.
I’m always on the lookout for more classes to list there, just to give people a heads-up about the kind of instruction that’s available. That’s one of those things that fills in the extra few moments here and there in my day, between reading and answering email, writing, and checking on the forums.
There are a lot of running jokes on AW. Do you have any favorites?
Heh. I’m not even sure I remember how all the running jokes started, honestly. I think my two favorites would be the hamster thing, which goes back to our supermod, Dawno. But you know, I honestly have no idea how or why that got started, originally? The other ongoing joke that’s a favorite with me is that thing that happens when someone gets themselves banned and have no idea who I am so they start calling me names. I usually get razzed about it for weeks–that’s how all the mods started calling me “Buster”…and it makes me laugh my fool head off, just about every time.
Thanks for agreeing to do the interview!
My pleasure! Thanks for inviting me!
To read more about Mac, see YA Highway’s April interview.