A big hairy evil thing

Posted Jul 12 2010, 3:21 am in

OK, I know the internet can be a big hairy evil thing what with pedophiles posing as teens, sexting, cyberbullying,  identity theft and all the other headlines.  My WIP, Send, is built on just that premise.  But after this week, I’m here to tell you it’s still the thing of wonder it was in 1995, when I was first introduced to it.

I was fortunate; in the early ’90’s, I was a stay-at-home mom to my two boys. When I left corporate America in ’93, admins were still called secretaries and typed memos on honest to God typewriters. In ’97, when I returned to the 9-5 grind, cubicles had taken over the landscape and a shiny new computer graced the corner of each and every one of them. I had a lot to learn! Memos were dead and buried; now, we had email.  I could open more than one program at a time with this thing called Windows 3.1. And research no longer required afternoons at the library because of this incredible technology called the internet.

Holy key strokes, it was impressive. Name a topic, any topic and you can find information about it without a single flip through a microfiche machine.  Almost two decades have elapsed and I’m still more impressed than I am frightened by the technological leaps and bounds the internet’s made. I make my living documenting software that ran first on single computers, then on networks and now, in the cloud (a loose metaphor for the internet) and it was because of my work that I ever heard about the latest internet trend, social networking.

My involvement in social sites like Facebook and Twitter began as a work-related assignment but quickly morphed into a personal pleasure.  On Twitter, I’ve connected with so many talented writers (of both the technical and fiction varieties), it’s been like attending a writer’s conference.  Some of those connections have deepened, become more than merely screen IDs.

We need a new term, something that accurately describes how vested we’ve become in each other’s successes and failures, triumphs and disappointments.  Are they friendships? I don’t know, maybe. Maybe, they’re something more. What I do know is I’m bouncing with glee when tweep Trishaleigh announced she landed an agent, laughing out loud whenever Bill Cameron mentions bacon (it’s his “thing”), and circling dates on my calendar when Sean Ferrell and Jeff Somers are doing public readings in my neck of the woods (can’t freakin’ wait!).  I celebrated when Brains (by Robin Becker) and Day One (by Bill Cameron) were released, and will do so again when Numb hits shelves next month (dances). I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to send Tawna Fenske a razor-clam-gram next year, to celebrate her first release.  I’m praying for the twitter pals going through rough patches now. I miss you (you know who you are) and wondering if Vordak will ever succeed in his quest for world domination.

This week, though, you all out-did yourselves. Sean Ferrell’s sweeter-than-sweet essay on how he protects his little son’s experience of Sean’s own childhood memories was so touching, I not only told my guys about it, I told every coworker in ear shot and a few dozen guests at a party I attended Saturday.  Tawna, who blogs damn near every day (?), published a fantastic piece about writer’s guilt.

Even without a perfect term to describe these relationships, I nevertheless consider them among the more significant ones in my life. From you, I’ve learned so much about this craft, this infection that compels my fingertips to fly over my keyboard. I’ve learned just how many words can be squeezed out of an hour (thanks, Patrick), what exactly ‘steampunk’ is (thank you, Matt) and indulged in more virtual chocolate (kudos, Kelly) than could ever be humanly consumed. Some have shared your WIPs with me and some of you have provided me with much-needed (and even more appreciated) help with mine. (Thanks, Matt, Cynthia and Melissa!)

Posts with links to blogs I haven’t yet read or contests to enter keep me always in learning mode, always stretching myself to new levels.  I’ve learned about characterization, the pros and cons of outlining versus writing from the seat of my pants (and that Jeff Somers often eschews his!).  I’ve learned to manage rejection (Yep, I may never master it), to understand ‘agent speak’, and to write killer openings and chum-worthy queries (thanks, Janet).

Perhaps the most significant lesson I’ve learned in these months since being introduced to Twitter is that every one of you is a teacher and I am your willing pupil.  I wonder, if Twitter had never been invented, would I ever have discovered your various talents and wits?


Probably not.

So, what word can we coin to describe these essential relationships, these internet-ships that guide, teach, and entertain us? I wanna know what you think.



12 responses to “A big hairy evil thing”

  1. This is a sweet post, Patty. Myra McEntire http://writingfinally.blogspot.com/ wrote a post recently calling them your (um, hold on, checking) Tribe. I don’t know. I think of people I know online as friends or acquaintances, depending on how well I know them. I’m old-fashioned.

    • Patty says:

      You know, there’s a lot of truth in this… Why should the medium matter? Friends are friends regardless of where, how and why we connect. Thanks for the post and the link. Heading over to Myra’s blog now.

  2. I think you have beautifully captured how people view social networking. Like you, I stumbled across it totally by accident for work related purposes but have since embraced it in an I-can’t-live-without-it-now kind of frenzy.

    Looking to perfect strangers who turn out to be not so perfect and a little less stange as time goes by. They prop you up and remind you not to give up. And you know, I will always have the virtual chocolate bar when you need it. Hey what are tweeps for?

    • Patty says:

      Knew I could count on you for virtual chocolate bars! I’m with you a hundred percent – can’t function without it now. Thanks for the RT, too!

  3. Linda G. says:

    I think this post will strike a chord with a lot of people. :)

    As for a new term, I think you said it: internet-ships. Or maybe “netships” or even “webships”?

    • Patty says:

      Sounds like we’re invading a planet, doesn’t it? United Webships…? Eh. Maybe not.

      Thanks for commenting, Linda.

  4. Tawna Fenske says:

    Great blog post! For people who haven’t been properly introduced to social media, it’s easy to sit back and sneer and think of friendships formed online as “not real” or “less than” traditional ones. But I agree with you — many of the connections I’ve forged are as strong or stronger than some of my in-person ones.

    Also, that razor-clam-gram thing? Possibly the funniest thing I’ve read in a month. I WANT ONE!


    • Patty says:

      snickers… (the laugh, not the chocolate. I know… how likely is THAT?) I figured you’d enjoy that. I LOVE knowing I made you laugh.

  5. The writer’s friendship is unique relationship, whether online or not. Brothers/sisters banded together with a common purpose, weathering the hard times and cheering on through the good times. We understand each other like no one else can. Thanks for commenting on my blog!

  6. Despite the bad apples, the good people on the internet far outweight the stinkers. I’ve met a ton of great people online (including my husband in the early days – 1996!) that I consider friends.

    Regardless of whether we’ve met face to face, anyone I interact with to a certain level is a friend to me. Just like the people I do meet face to face, some will be close buddies while others are occassional-interaction friends.

    Perhaps a new term is warrented, but for me I still use the term friend. When your book is published I will happily tell everyone to go buy my friend Patty’s book. ;)