Today is Guest Post Day in the 2nd annual WordCount Blogathon, so please welcome Michelle V. Rafter, a Portland, Ore., freelance reporter for national business and trade magazines and websites and keeper of the indispensable blog WordCount: Freelancing in the Digital Age. She’s filling in for me today. You’ll find me over on Michelle’s blog talking about writing for content aggregators.
Top 10 virtual hangouts for writers
By Michelle V. Rafter
If Dorothy Parker were alive today, she’d probably be tossing around those famous bon mots on The Red Room.
We writers are extroverts who spend too much time by ourselves. Or are we introverts who force ourselves to talk to people? Either way, we’re alone with our thoughts and computers for hours on end. When we’re not writing, we like to talk – about writing. Our preferred partners in conversation are other writers, people who can relate to miseries only we understand: endless waiting for editors to reply to pitches, and when we finally land an assignment, more waiting for the inevitable request for a rewrite.
Freelancers working in self-induced isolation have several options for filling our need to mingle and kvetch. We can join local writers groups, which is fine if you don’t mind kibitzing with poets and posers. We can go to fancy writing camps, inevitably somewhere far away and expensive and not at all satisfactory when you’re jonesing for daily gossip.
Or we can go online. Virtual writers groups have been around since the days of CompuServe forums. But thanks to the Internet, software that makes web-based message boards easy to build and the rise of the Gig Economy, there are more online writers’ circles than ever. Here are my top 10 virtual hangouts for writers:
1. Freelance Success (Paid subscription)
Welcome to my online home away from home. Run by ex-journo and long-time freelancer Jennie Phipps, FLX – as members call it – welcomes freelancers of all stripes, including a disproportionately large number of ex-magazine and newspaper types who’ve carved out successful careers writing about diaper rash, chemical engineering and everything in between. In addition to its main message board, FLX hosts boards for social media, corporate writing, queries and book authors, plus a water cooler section lovingly referred to as Jugglers for when you just have to talk to somebody about last night’s “Lost” episode.
2. UPOD (Free)
I almost hate to mention The Pod. Started and moderated by LA freelancer David Hochman and hosted on Yahoo Groups, this still cozy group includes some of the sassiest, smartest, most successful writers of any writers’ forum I know. At a time when meaningful freelance work is hard to find, Pod people often share leads on really good gigs – didn’t I say it was good? David, please don’t hate me for sharing.
3. LinkedIn (Free)
In the past year, a plethora of writers’ groups has sprung up on this business social network, some better than others. Many are a mix of established pros and newcomers. Others are a mix of newcomers, wannabes and those pesky LION open networkers. If you’re a newcomer you’ll probably like them. If you’ve been in the business any period of time you’ll probably find yourself giving more advice than you get. Groups to check out: LinkEds & Writers, Informed Ideas for Writers and my favorite, The Business/Tech Virtual Newsroom, which caters to tech writers like me.
4. Online News Association (Paid subscription)
To paraphrase Flip Wilson, this online reporters’ hangout is The Church of What’s Happening Now. Given everything going on in the media business, this is the place to discuss digital media trends, who’s landed what paid blogging gig and who’s left their newspaper investigative reporter assignment for ProPublica. If you like seeing the people you talk to F2F, sign up for the 2009 annual conference in San Francisco next September, it’s gonna be good.
5. #Editorchat (Free)
The newcomer of the group. Don’t let the name fool you, this group is for writers as well as editors. I didn’t include #editorchat just because Tim is the co-host – along with Lydia Dishman. I did because it’s worth it, and unlike other groups, meets only once a week, and only on Twitter. Tune in 8:30 p.m. Eastern and follow the hash tag. The #editorchat blog runs a transcript of each week’s session.
6. KnowledgeWebb (Paid subscription)
The other newcomer of the group. Amy Webb turned the digital media boot camps she’s been running for newly laid off journos into a full on writers’ community that’s all about getting ready for News 2.0. The site’s Smart Rooms section has discussions on things like building iPhone applications and starting with audio. The site also has classes, Webinars and opportunities to work one-on-one with a “personal trainer.”
7. Mediabistro.com (Some free areas, some paid subscription)
Nobody delivers industry dish like Mediabistro.com, the NYC-based virtual freelancer marketplace. Go for the freelance job listings, stay for the features like “How to Pitch” and “So What Do You Do?” The writer message boards are located in the site’s Community section, under Bulletin Board.
8. ASJA (Paid subscription)
I have yet to join the American Society of Journalists and Authors so I can’t personally vouch for the message boards, but writer friends who are members like them just fine. Unlike the other groups, ASJA requires that freelancers meet certain publishing requirements to be considered for membership. Once you’re in, you can make use of a ton of benefits, including access to health insurance and one-on-one meetings with editors at the organization’s annual meeting in New York City each spring.
9. Writers Digest (Free)
The online home of this venerable writer’s monthly includes a Forums section with extensive message boards for established authors and freelancers as well as newcomers. There’s even a Motivation Station section where you can read other writers’ success stories and post your own.
10. The Red Room (Free)
Classy enough for Dorothy Parker, this virtual community boasts of being the online home of many of the world’s greatest writers, with members such as Amy Tan, Salman Rushdie and Candice Bushnell. Conversations on books, freelancing, writing and reading happen in the site’s Clubs section, which has scores of writing-related categories.
Do you have another favorite online hang out? If so, please share.