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.