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Those of you who don't do NaNoWriMo, or don't know what it is, or don't approve of it, might not understand.

I've done NaNoWriMo for 10 years.  For 7 of those years, I created a thread there called the Smoking Pen, for writers over age 50.

A couple of years ago, a forum was created for each of the most popular age groups, and included the Over 50 forum, and the Smoking Pen found a thread there that was stickied each year so people could find it easily.

The Smoking Pen is a weird sort of thread.  It's a virual bar sort of place, originally stocked with a bar keeper that people could tell their troubles to if they were shy about talking to one another.  He was the perfect barkeeper - always knew exactly what you wanted to drink and had it ready for you with no visible effort. He spoke in hte voice of whoever was talking to him, a very flexible sort of fellow.  A chameleon of a character.  Aslong as he made the perfect drink for each person, he could be molded into whatever people needed him to be.

Over time, the bar evolved, adding a beach, and a forest, and gardens, and indoor pools and outdoor pools and a basement with several levels and an attic and a tower and flashing neon sign and new characters for people to manipulate, a cook and some bar help and a busser and the pool boys that seemed to fade off into nothing. Some of these characters became permanent, and some faded away, not even lasting the entire 2 months of NaNoWriMo (the preparation month and the actual month).

The main focus, though, was on the people, the NaNoWriMos over 50 who were working through their fears and frustrations about writing, cheering one another on and, through storytelling, sharing tidbits of their lives.  We were an odd sort of support group.  Being elderly, we had people who were in power assist chairs and who lost children and spouses and the only way they could share that was through storytelling.  And we took care of one another in writing, shared jokes and the "remember when" stories, and such. We developed a few traditions, like killing Cliff Brooks (a cable installer who left one of the Pen people in tears and prevented her from getting internet connection at her home for weeks - we cheered her up by killing Cliff Brooks over and over again and installing a statue of Cliff in the Pen with a plaque detailing all his many deaths), and the decorations (the Pen starts out in NaNo Blue and ends in NaNo purple).  There's a bouncy couch, and a fireplace, and booths, and back rooms, and all sorts of intrigue going on to help people talk.

The Pen has been an inspiration and a solace for 7 years.

The Forum moderator decided that we didn't belong in the Age Group 50+ anymore and is moving our thread to the RPG forum.

That's a death knell for the Pen.  Most of the people who use it never go to the RPG forum.  Placing it in the RPG forum also opens it to younger writers - which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just that the people for whom the Pen was created won't find it, and the whole flavor of it will change.  We've had younger people wander in and they've been welcomed and become a part of the Pen.  It's not the younger people coming in that will be the problem.  The problem is that the older people won't find it when it's no longer a part of the Age Group 50+.

And honestly, the whole flavor of the Pen comes from the older people writing in it.

When it's populated by predominantly younger people, the whole atmosphere will change.  It may become an actual RPG with people pretending to be something they aren't.

That thought saddens me.  Will we know, in that future Pen, that this person had major surgery and that one's son was killed in Afghanistan, that this one got a new medical treatment that allows him to walk for the first time in 20 years, or that this one is struggling with a family that isn't supporting their desire to write?  How will we know who will need extra support and care and who needs cheering up? All that is real about the Smoking Pen might not be, anymore.

I've got the archives of all the past years of the Pen.  I'm thinking, as a commemoration of what we had, I'll compile it into a book and place it on Lulu.com and Smashwords, then email the codes to the people who contributed to the Pen so they can get copies of it for themselves.  Maybe, when things get gloomy for them, they will be able to read it and remember that once, there was a place we could go and be ourselves, only better.

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Comment Preferences

  •  what a wonderful concept, but too bad it's been (6+ / 0-)

    compromised.

    onward, into the fog!

    Don't tell me what to think and i won't tell you where to go.

    by Sweetcream on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:18:42 PM PST

  •  Don't Haz a sad :( (14+ / 0-)

    Here! Have some Kit Fox Kits:

    Don't look at change as a bad thing. look at it as a new realm to express yourself.

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:18:56 PM PST

  •  Hi Noddy, I completely agree with your sad. (12+ / 0-)

    (argh! just lost this, let's see if I can re-construct... well, sorta')

    Do you have any idea where the administrator got this bright idea? maybe your extensive development of your virtual locale confuses him/her?

    have you tried to talk them out of it? either individually, or as a group? presented a case for the support group aspect that will be short-circuited if new 50+ers can't find you...

    if he still insists, can you take the thread with you (or re-establish it?), maybe form an RPG-type affinity group, a guild or something?

    can you take the virtual bar with you or does it just go poof!

    is there any way you can create a link from where you used to be in 50+, to wherever you end up in RPG? like, leaving a sign on the door of the closed Smoking Pen in 50+?

    best wishes, however it works out.

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:45:12 PM PST

    •  it is tough to lose a community where (6+ / 0-)

      one has worked to create a home.
      Is there a way you can extend an invitation or offer a map to the 50+ folks to find your new location?
      Or is there someone to whom you can appeal this moderator's clearly poorly considered decision?

      LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 11:43:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We can try to see (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JMoore

        how it goes next year.  But the usual frequenters of the thread don't go to the RPG forums, and to be honest, the Pen isn't a terribly active thread.  That means it will get buried deep in the RPG forum, making it harder for the 50+ people to find it because they don't generally click on links or do a lot of exploring on NaNo.  Most of them rarely leave the 50+ forum.

        And being placed in the general RPG thread will attract a lot of people who don't understand what the Pen is about and will turn it into an actual RPG thread.  The character and integrity of the Pen will morph.  The Pen will still be there, it just won't be the Pen anymore.

        All knowledge is worth having.

        by Noddy on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:41:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've thought about it (6+ / 0-)

      all the different things I can do.  NaNo forums are run by moderators and once the moderator makes a decision, there is no appeal.

      I suppose it just goes Poof! I suppose someone will try to re-establish it, but if it's in the RPG forum, then it will have to abide by the RPG rules, which means people won't be able to go into the thread as themselves, but will have to create a character and play that.  That will totally change the Pen.

      There isn't a way to link to it in the forums.  People could be directed to it, but truth be told, the people who gather in the Age Group 50+ aren't very adventurous and don't explore a lot of the forums at NaNo.  Moving the Pen out of the 50+ forum will prevent most of them from ever finding it.

      My daughter suggested making a FB group for it, but how will new 50+ people find it?  And again, it wouldn't be the same.

      Every year, the Pen has been a bit different, but the underlying support has always been there, the shared life experiences and expectations of people over 50, and the way we goofed off and played around, the "bar games" if you will.  There's been some aspects of RPG in the Pen, but that was always a subplot to the whole Pen.

      Some of the younger people, new to the 50+ forum and to the Pen in particular, tried to make it an RPG, and I think that they got confused because they weren't really playing by RPG rules and they weren't playing by open thread rules and instead of emailing to ask about things, they just assumed the worst about everyone else instead of playing nice with one another the way we did the previous 6 years.

      I think, maybe, it's just time to let the Pen go.

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 11:50:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think I know the NaNo board (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kaliope, emmasnacker, Noddy, JMoore

      you're talking about -- I haven't tried NaNo in a few years because whenever I did, there was bound to be a family or other crisis that halted my efforts. Can you add sigs to your profile that show up on your posts (like we have here)? Perhaps a link to the new site -- "The Pen is dead, long live the Pen!" with the URL would clue folks in where to find you, and post in the old 50+ forum on a variety of topics (as well as in some of the General topics).

      Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes (modified)

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 12:13:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If I posted (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JMoore

        more often on NaNo, a sig line link might work.  Then again, since most people on the 50+ forum generally stay there and hardly click anywhere else, I'm not sure how it would work.  Or if it would work.  

        Or, most importantly, if they'd feel as comfortable there in a Pen where younger people would come in and talk about RPG stuff stuff, being in character, and ignoring or not understanding the years of history we have there.

        All knowledge is worth having.

        by Noddy on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:47:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  That sux! (7+ / 0-)

    It's hard enough to write. No one needs the added stress of such unwarranted negativity. I started with nano many years ago. It was small then. It's a pretty overwhelming place now. I wish you all much success in your writing and finding one another.

    Your idea sounds - well - for lack of a better word - creative.

    btw, I just went over and looked at your fine group. Very lovely.

    Get some extra luv luv's from your babies. And good luck on reaching 50 thou this year (if that's your goal)!

    •  Thank you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      klompendanser, shantysue

      A lot of people have already said that if the Pen goes, they won't be back at NaNo.  Personally, I think that's a shocked reaction and they don't really mean it.

      On the other hand, a lot of older people don't deal well with change, and moving the Pen may very well drive some of them away from NaNo altogether.  The 50+ group is already an outcast sort of group, not comfortable among the eager younger writers because we don't share a lot of the same angsts and anxieties - we aren't as concerned with living in our parents' back room - we are the parents with older children moving back in on us and the perspective and issues are totally different.  I've seen the younger people get resentful when the older ones try to talk about the hardships and special issues of having to give up their home and their life all over again for their children - they do it gladly but it hurts on levels that the younger people can't even begin to comprehend.  

      Moving the Pen is like telling us that we don't deserve to have a place of our own and we have to let the younger people in and let them take it over and remake it according to their needs and our needs - they don't matter.  We're old.  We'll get over it.  

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:56:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  WOW just Wow (8+ / 0-)

    I went over to have a look that thread is fantastic I can see  why the moderator would want to move it and why you would be so against it.

    Offer to host a thread in RPG along the same lines if you can keep your Smoking Pen where it is.

    I hope you can keep the character of it, even if it is moved.

    •  Thank you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, JMoore, shantysue

      I don't know that it will survive a move.  The only reason it exists is because it's easy for the 50+ group to find.  Creating links to it, moving it to another area of NaNo, or even moving it to another network (like FB, as has been suggested by our local ML) may help some of the more acclimated people find it.  I hope.  But I know the people on the 50+ group forum, they are already intimidated by technology, and are intimidated by the younger people who talk about all this anime stuff they don't quite understand (it's just cartoons, right?) and don't really understand what an RPG is.  The Pen is a compromise, not really RPG, but more like storytelling, where we step "out of character" all the time because we never really had a character, just us, interacting with one another and creating situations where we talk to one another.

      I can tell you the back stories of all the people there, the oens who are worried because a child or grandchild is deployed to Afghanistan, or the ones who have a sick spouse, the ones who are themselves suffering from chronic ailments or who have disabilities.  I know who lost their spouse and who isnb't getting support at home, and who has grown children who moved back in - with baby in tow, and who's worried that what they're writing isn't important to anyone but themselves.  I know who's juggling a full time job, and taking care of an elderly parent as well as unemployed grown children.  The Pen is where they come to destress and write.  Sometimes, just the thought of the Pen is enough, in hte rest of the year, to get them through.

      No matter how we try, that knowledge of one another will be lost when the Pen is pushed to become a real RPG and not a virtual lounge.

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:06:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I often wonder what (6+ / 0-)

    motivates people to take something that's working perfectly well and change it.  More than just about anywhere else, I find this is true with technology things.  

    Gmail will be getting a "new look" soon.  Well, I don't really give a rat's a$$ what my email looks like as long as it works, but evidently someone must.  It's more likely, though, that this is change for its own sake.  Nothing can be allowed to stay/look the same in the tech world or someone will think things aren't moving forward.  Things need to look innovative, even if they really aren't.  It's perverse....

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 05:41:23 AM PST

  •  Can't you just start a new bar? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy, JMoore, shantysue

    Create a new forum where the old one was and call it The Smoking Bar II or something?

    Sometimes there is so much writing, you need a bigger wall.

    by pucklady on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:22:22 AM PST

    •  We might (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, JMoore, shantysue

      takeover the Geezer Clubhouse.  A lot of people had issues with the name "geezer" so they don't go there, not now in the 50+ forum and not back when it was just a thread among many other threads before we got the age group forums.  

      The Smoking Pen was both a neutral name and an inspiration (writing so fast our pens left trails of smoke).

      We could try to make a new thread, but the moderator will be watching it closely.  People will be minding their Ps and Qs and I don't know if we'll get the ambiance back.  We won't be able to have the lovely bar, and the neutral, adaptable barkeeper that made the Pen the safe place it was.

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:11:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I took a look at the new location of the Pen (0+ / 0-)

        in the RPG area... most comments seemed to be folks commenting on how they'd all though it was an interesting place but had been scared to enter, or had gone in but given up because they didn't have the background to follow the chat (or, apparently, the patience to observe until they DID pick up the background) ... I wonder if some of that attitude made its way to the mod.s and they just listened to whoever was making noise? not a great way to make decisions! and the "no appeal" sounds stinkin' too.

        that sounds funny/odd ...

        We could try to make a new thread, but the moderator will be watching it closely.  People will be minding their Ps and Qs
        ... like, if you don't do whatever it is the MOD thinks you SHOULD be doing, they might smuck the new thread too? that sounds like intimidation and bullying, but throwing you "across the room" with no communication or appeal process, sounds pretty much, IMHO, like bullying, too!

        "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

        by chimene on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 02:22:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wouldn't mind the move (0+ / 0-)

          if I didn't think that the people who would like it best and benefit most would find it.  I know I would never have gone to the RPG forum to find like minded people to test plot ideas out on - which is really what the Pen is much more than an RPG - it's sort of a writer's workshop for (mostly) older people learning how to write a novel.

          It always takes a week or two for the people to setle in and figure out the ropes, even when they are told what they are.  And some can't/won't learn how to be both themselves and manage their MCs and sub characters that are giving them problems.

          The Smoking Pen is an interactive writing workshop and networking thread that only resembles an RPG superficially.

          All knowledge is worth having.

          by Noddy on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 03:35:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  How come this says there are (0+ / 0-)

    33 comments, but I'm only seeing 21 of them?

    All knowledge is worth having.

    by Noddy on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 03:37:06 PM PST

    •  That's because some of them (0+ / 0-)

      have been hidden by other users. You can change your settings to see them by going to your page, then profile, then edit profile. Under "Comment Preferences", change "Display hidden comments" to "yes."

      By evening’s end, they had melted into an indistinguishable mass of privatizing, tax-cutting opponents of Shariah law. --NYT on 2nd Republican debate

      by wide eyed lib on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 08:29:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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