Monday, October 28, 2013

Projects, The Sophia Ballou Collaboration

It was one of those warm autumn days back in October 2009. The crisp air was far more crisp in the shade of trees that dropped still leaves in a slight breeze. Somehow in the sun, there was a remembrance of summer who had not been forgotten and a dread of winter which was knocking at the gates of the mountains some miles to the west and considerably higher in elevation. It was an October day in 2009.

The day was a stew pot. I didn't exactly know it yet. Rather in October of 2009, Umbrella Factory Magazine was still several weeks before conception. I was teaching, much to dismay, at an “early college.” The very concept of the early college really turned me on in August, but by October, the reality of it was something less than disappointing. Perhaps that's life.

I'd wandered into Marlowe's for an afternoon refreshment. I ran into my old roommate Holly Miller. She was sitting at the bar with two friends. She introduced me to Corrie Vela. Although I had met Corrie a few times before, this was the day that the two of us really met, spoke and became acquainted.

On the TV the newscasters were busy upping ratings and selling more ad-space. For some reason, a child climbed into a high atmosphere, experimental balloon and had flown away from home. Disturbing as it was, why would anyone have such a balloon, and why would anyone put their child into it?

Corrie and I talked about life. We talked about mutual friends. We talked about the school where I was teaching. We talked about writing. She mentioned a blog project she'd been working on, but it was still new, still volatile, and private. I mentioned my mode of work for the first ten months of 2009: I was collecting manuscripts.

If October 2009 was six to eight weeks before Umbrella Factory Magazine, it was several months before Sophia Ballou, and even that was months before I joined up with the collaboration.

Corrie's blog, Sophia Ballou, began to take shape sometime in the fall of 2009. As you look at the first post, Observations (one of my personal favorites) note the date. May, 2010. In short, six months from conception to the opening piece. Six months, especially to a prolific writer and thinker like Corrie is a long-long time.

I joined Sophia Ballou in January 2011 with the opening chapter of Sand and Asbestos, novel written in serial for this project. Corrie gave me a beautiful introduction on January 6. Oddly enough, this is a large amount of time between October 2009, and January 2011. This amount of time had to happen, after all, Corrie had a concept to refine, I had a magazine to build and the two of us needed to figure out how to work together.

Three years later, we're still at it. Three years later, we have well over 400 posts. We have more writers, Tor Elher, namely. Three years later, we have a fluid, growing and evolving project. Three years later, we really know one another and one another's work. Three years later, we can move to the next step. But what of it?

I feel like collaboration between like minded writers only leads to good things. It leads to confidence, both individually and as a collective. It leads to more readership. It leads to bigger ideas. It leads to a sense of accomplishment that comes down to this: in three years we have over 400 posts, or a post every 2 ½ days. That's a lot of work. Admittedly, Corrie has contributed the most. It's not necessarily Corrie's show, but it is Corrie's project, and we are Corrie's team. I am proud of this project and I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of it.

What does this mean for other writers?

Writer's circles are good. Writer's workshops are helpful too. But these are not necessarily projects. A project is something different entirely. A project is specific concept of its own with a process evolving with a beginning, a middle and an end. A collaboration on a project leads to a new set of concepts, processes and this is perhaps the difference.

At the three year mark of Sophia Ballou I consider this project to be a success. I also consider this project to be in its infancy. We have so much more work to do, so many more things to refine, so much more to think. It's great to be with such great writers.

Some highlights for me:

My novel, Sand and Asbestos (2011)
Several chapbooks, namely: The Befuddled Seahorse, In Search of Basho and 13 Miles. (2012)
The Coppertown series (2013)

I don't know what's coming in 2014, but I expect it to be great. For all you readers out there, please support us. For you writers out there, check us out too, perhaps we can be an inspiration for you and a project of your own.

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