Author Kathy Pooler invites her readers to gather “around her kitchen table” for weekly discussions on her blog post. Readers of Laurie Buchanan’s blog know she usually posts on “Tuesdays with Laurie.” Most bloggers publish posts on specific days of the week which their subscribers have come to anticipate. It is a call for intimacy among kindred spirits in the often impersonal environment of cyberspace.
Yes, there are helpful forums available online that attempt to add sight and sound to the interaction. For example, author/writing coach Sonia Marsh and writing organizations like NAMW (National Association of Memoir Writers) frequently schedule Google Hangouts and tele-seminars that combine live voice and Skype-inspired imagery, adding another layer of intimacy to enhance the exchange of ideas.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterist all allow postings of photos with text. Facebook often seems like a picnic with “likes” for yes’s, and sometimes offers back and forth conversation like a game of ping-pong. And I think of Twitter as a kind of hors d’oeuvre party with guests flitting like bees from one cluster of flowers to another, sipping nectar here and there.
Yet it’s true. Without the internet, I would never have even met writers whose friendships have been cultivated from countries all over this planet– Australia, Canada, Sweden, South Africa, or the Philippines. And unfortunately the chances of meeting these fine folks for coffee or tea any time soon seems pretty remote. When possible though, face to face encounters add a three-dimensional quality that is hard to duplicate online.
This past October, I was invited to share breakfast with Shirley Showalter, famous for her memoir BLUSH, in her home overlooking the Shenandoah Valley near Harrisonburg, VA during Homecoming at EMU.
This past Saturday in June I met blogger Traci Carver, teacher and writer extraordinaire, as she breezed through Jacksonville on her way further south, meeting for lunch at Cozy Tea in the Riverside area of Jacksonville. Though a generation apart, we found common ground discussing teaching English, Downton Abbey, European travels, our families, other shared interests. Her award-winning blog claims she is from the cotton pickin’ South, yet she has an international world view having lived in Southeast Asia for several years. A story-teller extraordinaire, she spin tales from the cotton of everyday life into pure gold.
In each case, the encounter was only an hour or two in length, but a level of intimacy develops in face to face encounters that online encounters are hard-pressed to duplicate. Obviously, non-verbal cues and nuances of personality and facial expression are often masked by the limitations of tiny pixels on posts.
Despite claims by science fiction writers, the phenomenon of transmogrification seems a long way off, probably a good thing! Thus, many writers find writing conferences in glamorous cities a great way to meet, greet, and even bond over coffee or lunch.
In the meantime, we can hope for serendipitous encounters along the way with our fans and fellow writers. I know I do!
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Have you had a face-to-face encounter with someone you have known only through the internet?
Someone whom you’ve known for a long time, but haven’t seen again until recently? Any other special encounter?