What we're about
An update note: There are sure to be questions as to why I requested real names and emails from people (and am doing so going forward with new members). There are 2 reasons, one technical and one more pragmatic. While meetup.com has a large community, their interface has grown increasingly troublesome. Worse, their communication system has become quite unreliable. The best solution I believe is to handle the communication the old-fashioned way --- via email. This also offers a small additional measure of security, since these meetings are held in private homes (read my home). We will continue to manage the group itself via meetup, availing ourselves of the benefits it has to offer (and paying their fee), but will communicate new meetings via an email list. Because removal from the email list will not be automatic if you leave the group, please just email me if you wish to unsubscribe and I will take you off the list.
Now to the group:
This is a shameless copy of my favorite New York writing group. The idea is simple:
1. We quietly write for 1:15.
2. Anyone who wants to read, does so.
3. I get to ring a bell.
4. Maybe we hang out a bit or grab a bite nearby.
Why is 1:15 special? That time turns out to be one of the fundamental parameters of the Standard Model of particle physics. It's empirical and you should stop asking silly questions and get back to your thesis.
Why do I get to ring a bell? The sound of the Gion Shōja bells echoes the impermanence of all things. This one's much much smaller, so it just echoes the impermanence of our writing meetup. Also, gavels are very expensive.
Now to some practical matters:
0. Originally the group was meant to circulate between members' homes, but people in Boston seem more hesitant than New Yorkers to let a complete bunch of strangers into their home. So the group meets at my place in Cambridge. There are plenty of power outlets, but no wifi. There are no pets, and it is a 3 story walkup. Unfortunately, it is not handicapped-accessible.
1. As per the name, this is a friendly writing group. Everyone is welcome, and there is no charge. People write whatever they want, and many choose not to read. There are writers of all levels, and the cast often changes between meetings.
2. You don't need to distribute work ahead of time or do any homework. You can write anything you want; there is no preferred genre or style. You can come as frequently or infrequently as you wish. You can RSVP or not, show or not. We do not charge, we do not judge.
3. This is a writing group, not a critiquing group or a reading group (even if there is some of that). Please only come if you are comfortable writing quietly for 75 minutes in a room full (or 1/2-full or 17/89ths-full) of people.
4. We allow RSVPs, but they are optional. For some reason the Boston community seems to prefer the use of RSVPs. But I still want to remove any pressure. Therefore, I allow RSVPs but do not penalize members if they don't show. As the fellow in the Guy Fawkes mask said: do as you will. This said, if 100 people show up for a small space, we may find ourselves sitting on the floor and shelves.
5. If you suddenly feel like writing 3 minutes before the meeting (and are very very fast on your bicycle), just show up with pen and paper. If you RSVP'ed and find true love 3 minutes before the meeting, I suggest skipping the group and picking lifelong happiness. As has been proven, lifelong happiness is not better than a ham sandwich. But it IS better than sitting in a room for 75 minutes without a ham sandwich.
6. You may write anything on any topic in any language in any medium. Reading is a different issue. You have to be able to read what you wrote, so that requires a different set of skills.
7. The group meets on Ken time. Ken time is based on a maximally non-euclidean geometry induced by mass fluctuations. Put in lay terms, this translates to "whenever I feel like it." Historically, whenever I feel like it has averaged every week or two.
8. There are some rules surrounding reading, mostly pragmatic:
a. Reading is entirely voluntary, with no pressure in any way, shape, or form. Rumors that there is a reading death-match with only one survivor are unverifiable.
b. If something was written during the meeting, you may read for up to 15 minutes. With pre-existing material (ex. a novel), the limit is 5 minutes. These are intended as upper bounds, not targets to strive for. I will try to be gentle in signalling as the end nears, but will ring the bell if things go on for too long. As part of the EULA you automatically agreed to by landing on this page, you promise to (i) stop if I ring, and (ii) not be bitter/angry/sarcastic/sad or anything less than thrilled. Hearing the bell is a great great honor, and I heartily encourage everyone to avoid it.
c. This said, I tend to be one of the longer readers and I certainly won't cast stones (windows are expensive). As with everything else in the group, the limit isn't rigid. If you're reading from a large free-form piece and losing the audience, I'll gently stop you when you reach the limit. If you're reading a spell-binding story and are almost on the last line, we won't leave everyone hanging.
d. For large groups, I may break out a sign-up sheet for readings. If I do, then at any time during the meeting, feel free to sign-up for a slot.
e. Comments are welcome unless a reader signals they do not wish for them. Of course, comments should be constructive and relevant. From experience, we find it's generally best not to psychoanalyze the reader or digress into general discussions during the meeting. Otherwise, you may waken one of their 17 other personalities or trigger a secret code which turns them into a lethal killing machine.
f. I've been asked about the etiquette of leaving early. People have busy lives and may not be able to stay for the whole meeting, so it's quite understandable. There is no hard and fast rule, but my personal sense is that if you choose to read then it is courteous to remain until the end. I do ask that you not fuss with your laptop/bag/nuclear-warhead or prepare for leaving while others are reading. As for arriving late, this can be more disruptive. If it's absolutely unavoidable, then please enter and find a seat as quietly as possible.
These rules may sound formal, but we're actually really laid back. They mostly amount to using common sense and being cognizant of your audience.
Welcome to the group, and I hope to see you at a meeting soon!!!!!!!