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Whats The Deal With Discussion Lists for Writers? (Part Two)

What Are the Advantages and/or Drawbacks of Subscribing to Discussion Lists?

"I learn a lot about publishing houses, editors, etc., and we're like one big happy family," says Dotti Enderle, who belongs to several lists - the biggest being the Children's Writers List.

"Unfortunately, because we do spend a lot of time with banter, it takes away from my writing time. But I couldn't live without this list. If anyone has any type of publishing question, someone there can answer it. The members are quick to share notes from conferences. We cheer when someone gets published, and we console when someone gets that really tough rejection. If I could only be on one email list, there's no doubt which one I'd choose."

"Anyway, I'm no longer a debut author but I refuse to give up my list," Coen says. "It's been the best thing to happen to me fiction career-wise besides being published. And to top it all off, these women are the most supportive people I have ever been around, and that's not easy to say among fellow writers. Other lists that I have belonged to you had a lot of back-stabbing, jealousy-type issues, but not here. On some of my lowest days, my Tobeez buddies have really picked me up. I've made some of the best friends through this group of remarkable women."

"What I've found to be rather curious in reality is that there is a surprisng number of list subscribers who deeply resent promotional posts by other subscribers, some to the point of calling them spam," Tibbetts says. "As a result lots of posts are generated arguing and complaining about the propriety of promotional posts. In the end, what's more aggravating, deleting one promo post that doesn't interest you or eight to ten posts bickering over it? Seems like a no brainer to me. I don't understand why someone would subscribe to a list and then complain about promo content related to the subject matter. In my mind, part of the purpose of subscribing is to learn what's new and what others are doing online--a means of sharing. If that involves promo posts, then so be it. Perhaps it's incumbent on the list moderators to clarify for their subscribers whether promo posts are acceptable. Obviously everyone agrees that a promo post about a new weight loss program on a publish list is inappropriate. But as for promo posts related to the list topic, there's currently a good deal of ambiguity, even controversy."

"I primarily write nonfiction and historical fiction for young adults and only occasionally write mysteries, but I've been a member of The Short Mystery Fiction Society email list for nearly two years," says Tabatha Yeatts, who is a published author. "Not only do I enjoy hearing about great new mysteries, I feel the tips I receive from the list help my writing, as well as giving me ideas. I particularly like this list because it has a warm, supportive feel and is generally able to stay on-topic without seeming like it's "all business." My experience with other writing lists has shown me that I have trouble with a large amount of messages, that ones that are continually off-topic -- although they may be interesting -- are not what I'm looking for, and that jealousy can ruin a list. The Wordweave Creative Writing Workshops are also very supportive and helpful."

"I have had varied experiences on lists. Some are great, vibrant communities with committed people who do lots of great work and have tons of good advice," says Gwendolynn Gawlick, who provides Publicity Services. "When I join a list I look for people who will be able to contribute to my knowledge as well as look for help that I can provide. I've been on one or two lists that I unsubscribed because the other list members would continually ask inane questions without doing any of the work or research themselves. Then, they would flame each other and spend a week complaining about some imagined slight. That's a waste of time for EVERYONE. I've been able to connect with some great people on lists, and, as an aside, HIGHLY recommend getting the digest version wherever possible! :)"

"I have joined a few lists to exchange experience and learn from others," says Teresa Cottam, a writer from the UK. "One of the problems for me is people taking umbrage at what you write without understanding what you mean (I'm from the UK so maybe this is a cultural thing). But I think it can be offputting when someone starts accusing you of all sorts of things you didn't say in a very hectic tone. I can hold my own in arguments, but some of my female friends have avoided Internet discussions because they don't like e-mail aggression."

"Another problem is that you often get hundreds of e-mails about subjects that you don't have any interest in," Cottam says. "But I still have to sift and delete and then I worry I'm missing something so I end up reading a bit... it's a real waste of time. I also have to adapt myself to the lists, because a lot of them are US-based and circumstances etc are very different in the UK/Europe. Sometimes you feel a little isolated, because although you are on the Internet and it is supposed to be a worldwide experience, we are expected to adapt ourselves to the US experience. This makes a lot of non-US participants believe that the US and US writers are fairly parochial. US lists don't talk much about life etc outside the US and sometimes I don't really understand everything that is said because it is something that depends on an understanding of US things."

"On the positive side though I have learnt a lot from US lists simply because people do things differently and the writing/editing experience is somewhat different," Cottam added. "For example, in the UK a lot of the publishing industry looks down their noses at you when they find out you work in technical publishing - it's been really great to find people who are making money out of it and are proud! I feel as though I'm part of a wider community of technical editors/writers. I'm now trying to persuade my boss to send me on one of these conferences in the US that all the lists talk about. Well, I can but dream."

© Danielle Hollister (2004) is the Publisher of the Free Ezine for Writers featuring news, reviews, and continuously updated links to the best resources for writers online like - freelancing & jobs, markets & publishers, literary agents, classes & contests, and more... Read it online at -

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