In a nutshell, our origins began after the Gather.com/Simon & Schuster First Chapters contest way back in Jan 2007. The contest was touted as an American-Idol-like search for the next best work of fiction and written about in the New York Times.
From what I recall (and, at the time, had had no interest in entering since I’d just gone through the media-blitzkrieg of American Title), they’d hoped for 500 entries. They got 2, 676.
There were some issues on the execution of the contest. People weren’t happy they didn’t final. Others weren’t happy with those who did. It wasn’t pretty. And since mine was the only Romance in the Top 20, well, let’s just say that I learned how to have a thick skin and deal with critics pretty darn quick. :)
BUT, one of the BEST things to come out of that bloodbath (as we Wombats so affectionately call it) was The Writin’ Wombats:
“A convivial group of writers, readers and critics in support of each others' work. A communal bulletin board to post links to your writing, share news, gossip, rants and triumphs.”
From our inception in May, 2007, we’ve continued with, as of yesterday, 247 chat threads of at least 300 comments each, with various offshoots for SOLD! notices, contests, cover art displays, articles on writing, writing exercises, masquerade balls, murder mystery weekends, and whatever else we can come up with to amuse ourselves.
We’ve had Wombats meeting up in Ireland, a huge laugh-a-minute shindig in Sausalito last year before the RWA National Conference, in Seattle for breakfast and book-signings, in Philly for lunch, in Ohio for first-time attendance at a writing workshop, in California and New York for drinks. We’ve emailed privately, we’ve created other chat groups, we’ve talked on the phone. We link up at all times of the day and night, from our iPhones and Treos, our laptops and desktops. We help each other out with last-minute reads at deadlines.
We come from all walks of life, published, pre-pubbed, non-fiction, fiction, aspiring, POD, and self-proclaimed non-writers who have, in the past two years, put pen to paper and turned out some amazing stuff (one of whom submitted to Deb’s pitch post.), each with our own strengths and weaknesses to bring to the collective writing and critiquing table.
A few of my non-Wombat friends wonder why the heck I invest so much time in these cyber-marsupials. Wouldn’t my time be better spent writing? Promoting? Sleeping? Interacting with my family?
Well, sure. But where’s the laughter in that?
The thing with being a part of this group is that we challenge each other and ourselves. To be better writers, better promoters, to come out of our shell and try something we haven’t before. We encourage, we critique. We don’t belittle.
And most of all, we write.
To that end, Ken Coffman, Almighty Contest Administrator, has put forth our latest writing challenge – The Writin' Wombats Second Quasi-Semi-Annual Valentine's Day Tribute to Love Short Story Competition.
It’s the chance to stretch our mental muscles, even for those of us who write Romance—there’s a 1500 word limit. There are prizes. There are bragging rights. There's usually some death, body parts, tears and "awwwww!" moments. There's always the genuine joy of creating a piece that others will enjoy reading.
So, yes, I might spend time there that could be used for, say, cleaning the house, but, really… why?