"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. " ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Because we might produce the next screenwriter

I'm waiting to hear from the HR department of my sister's company asking me for some employee details, and I find myself here again.

A few days ago, I decided to add two new forums to our existing standard (poetry, prose, abstract non-fiction) - scripts. There was a bit of on site discussion on how well it would do, or whether or not we even needed the addition. The points raised were valid, primarily copyright issues. But here, I should mention that the pieces considered for the e-zine can always be vetoed by the author if he/she doesn't want them put up and made public. The forums are currently members-only.

Because the community is Pakistan based, and copyright laws are practically non-existent here unless you have a plethora of contacts and the money to back you up, we could risk losing the creative material we so boldly put up. But since the e-zine's already out there, there's nothing we can really do. Besides, I've known former classmates rewriting O-level (high school) English assignments from young people's magazines like Jang Group's Us, so there goes the morality thing. However, thanks to a member's research, our work is now licensed under Creative Commons - it can be reused as long as the original author is credited, or the link is pointed back towards DesiWritersLounge.net, it's not put to commercial use and no derivative work from the original source is published. I am however, looking into creating a copyright for the site and all its contents in the US since that's where our server's based.

So once we've cleared the copyrights issue for the scripts, we've got another problem or so it seemed: because the jargon is entirely different from traditional prose, there will be added things to consider, so what if readers can't move past that or don't understand something or find it too distracting? My answer to that is: choice. They can choose to enter that forum, knowing that a screenwriter's job is different from an ordinary writer's and move past that or simply click on something else. Nobody's force feeding them anything, here.

Those issues are now effectively out of the way. The next thing that hounds me is quality. Will this arena suffer as well? Will we be plagued by younger writers? We need an older set of people writing on the community - what we've got now are two very clearly defined age groups. The 15-20ers who all write in a particular way and the 21-35ers who have an entirely different take on things. Members from both sets are active, although I'm sad to say some of the more talented younger members from the Orkut community don't seem to have made the transition with us. This can only be a failing on our part, so ideas and suggestions to improve would be very helpful.

Lastly, because I want the web version to be the first step to creating literary awareness in Pakistan (many of the South Asian countries are far ahead of us in this regard), I am very interested in taking this offline and into the real world as a print publication. However, knowing that that would take a lot of time, planning and smart marketing, I'm willing to let this be the beginning. To create the willingness to be published in our off-line magazine, whenever that comes to fruition, we need to have a serious literary online presence. People need to know that we take our work and what we publish very seriously, and in that respect I feel the polls are a hindrance, something that will inevitably bog us down rather than push us forward. They almost seem painfully amateurish.

To explain the polling system, let me expound: there are two separate forums at this point. One catering for writers who want feedback but held back, who don't want the brutality the desi writers have become almost known for. The other forum holds nothing back - 'your balls for breakfast' to quote the forum description - also known as the e-zine forum, so anything posted in this automatically becomes a potential consideration for the quarter's e-zine. Polls are set up on every e-zine bound piece and select pieces from the regular forum, where members are encouraged to vote on their favorites. Deadlocked pieces - ie an equal number of votes for and against the piece - are set aside and judged by an independent jury of moderators. Since last quarter, I allowed pieces sent in by a few votes in, we now have a required minimum of votes before the piece can be voted in. Less than that, and it doesn't qualify which I think, is only fair.

So yeah, the process was definitely more defined and organized this time around which I want to perfect when we bring out our next issue in December.

What I'm really looking for of course, are serious writers who share our goals and are willing to take the criticism we give and give theirs in return on other pieces. We thrive on community participation. Think of it as a daily writer's workshop, 24/7, 365 days a year and a very thankless job.

That we're now on 153 members has been solely on word of mouth although out of that number, less than 10% post which is the heartbreaking reality. So when I say "serious writers", I'm referring to writers who actually post, who make our hard work mean something.

God! This is an impossible responsibility, but we're still rallying forth, can't give up yet can we?

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