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Saturday, July 18, 2009


Networking Fun for the Introverted with Wendy Kovitz

One of the first things I did when I became active on Twitter was to seek out other creative writers. I was quickly intrigued with Pan Historia --a haven, think-tank and playground for collaborative writers and role-playing fans and got to know one of the founders who calls himself "Wyatt Earp." Over the course of my interview process, I found out that his real name is Dan Rice and he writes in the fantasy, horror and, as his pseudonym implies, western genres. I love the way information trickles down in Twitter, it's more about who the person is rather than what's on a business card.

"Wyatt Earp"

...depicting two of the central elements in my Pan fiction at the time I painted it: Wyatt Earp and Ancient Egypt. I used oil and encaustic on gessoed watercolor paper.

- by Dan Rice

Interview with Wyatt (aka Dan Rice)

Tell us a little about the founders of Pan Historia and their desire to
build an online community for collaborative writing and role-playing.

My sister dragged me to a site called Ancient Sites years ago and I was bitten by the collaborative writing version of role-play to the point that I forgot all about D&D and other versions of the genre. The site had been built as forums for some online game based on Ancient Rome but had jumped off into an entirely different direction based on the whims and creativity of the users. It was that creativity that inspired me, as well as the odd fact that the investors in Ancient Sites seemed antagonistic to the fiction writers when it seemed to me that they were the sole financial supporters of the site. There was an attempt to monetize the site that failed miserably around about the crash and all that creativity disappeared into the emptiness of cyberspace limbo. Fortunately for many of the writers other options were on the horizon even before the site went belly up.

I had started working on a community for writers that would embrace the role-play aspects that had kept me excited and writing consistently almost every day. I started out with a programmer friend, my sister, and a good friend that I met on Ancient Sites. Between us we worked out a design, the software, and the site was launched in time to welcome a flood of refugees from the Ancient Sites community.

Is there a code of conduct that collaborators follow, and if so, who (and I hate to use the term) enforces it?

We have some basic guidelines about courtesy to other writers and their characters - like no killing them off without permission. In the case of our site there is definitely a unique culture in how we go about collaborating and role playing our characters in a fiction setting. It's a good idea when just getting started, for example, to talk everything through with your new writing partners and not just throw stuff at people and expect them to hit the ball back. There is, on the other hand, as many ways to go about the thing as there are collaborative novels and writers at Pan Historia.

What happens to a work once it's finished? How do you know when it's finished?

Very few collaborative novels get finished at Pan. That's going to be a new evolution for me and my fellow writers. When it comes to story telling our 'novels' are much more like TV shows with a new episode every week and when one story arch ends another is starting up. Characters come and go, but the story remains. Eventually many stories just dry up, but I'm looking forward to creating 'season finales' to some of mine to give both readers and writers that satisfying sense of completion - as well as enable print versions of some of the stories.

What are the demographics for Pan Historia?

It's about two-thirds women to men with many people being college educated, interested in arts and everyone loves to read. Most people tend to either have no kids or the chicks have flown the nest - because let's face it, you need some private time to write. I used to believe that a lot of D&D and gamer types would be drawn to Pan, but it's really a very different crowd and most of our members do not readily flock to other kinds of social media. We also have a large number of college students, and I would say most of the members come from the US but we do have some people from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

How about the sister site Pan Erotica (adults only)?

It's much smaller - more like a nightclub for the kind of people that want to let their hair down, but it's not as risqué as its title implies. It's just intimate.

Tell us about the free membership and activities...

There is no need to subscribe to Pan Historia to enjoy almost all of the activities. Boards are viewable by all once you register, and you can join in and start reading and writing right away. Everyone gets their home and instant messaging for free (just make Pan a safe site when it comes to popups). We don't allow any outside advertising either, though I have been an Amazon affiliate forever, but that's worth about $25 a year.

The site is entirely member supported, however, by the people that do subscribe. Those subscriptions pay for my time as administrator and programmer, as well as all the server costs. Of course it doesn't pay well enough for me to stay home and work full time on Pan. It's really most a labor of love for me at this point considering the amount of time I put in.

Tell us about Pandemoney?...

Pandemoney is more like a game then anything. It's our form of site currency. When a member subscribes they receive a certain amount of panickels that they can use to purchase site features such as more characters per username, their own novel to run, attractive new icons, reserved names for added uniqueness, and character banners that show up on the main pages of the community.

What are the goals for Pan Historia? Who are the people you need to connect with to make them happen?

I really would like Pan Historia to be more successful as a community in terms of membership. I have no aspirations to be the new Facebook or MySpace, but it would be nice to see the community grow and embrace writers and readers of all varieties who are willing to get into a social activity instead of lonely writing. I think if we were maybe four times the size we are now it would be more self-sustaining too. Too big though and we would lose what makes us great.

I'm still searching for how to make that happen. It's been an ongoing project to try and get such a small backwater of the internet into a more prominent locale for people. So far I have focused on getting people to the front door and then hoping the site will sell itself.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Pan Historia is not a 3-D driven Second Life experience. There is plenty of room for imagination and creativity which technology will never be able to fully master--good news for writers and artists alike. After meandering through the current issue of The Pan Historian and the archives I got a further glimpse into the writers, characters and the fun they have in the within the "walls" of the community. I've connected with many of the writers on Twitter and enjoy the camaraderie and subliminal reminders to write everyday, ponder what it means to be human and, yes, clean the house.

While the solitude of writing may seem the ideal refuge for an introvert, I can assure you that utter dread of networking and abhorrence of shameless self-promotion will, in no small way, hamper your success. (Trust me on that one.) Therefore, I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to thank my Twitter pals (who ever they may be in real life) for taking time to visit my "fictional blog epic," especially for feedback like "it made my head hurt." While I've assured DiamondSharp that it was not my intent to cause emotional or bodily harm through my writing, I am constantly looking for ways to be more reader-friendly -- or possibly a connection to someone in psychological warfare in the Pentagon.

Writing can be a very lonely hobby or profession, but thanks to Wyatt and Pan Historia it's easy to see the beauty, necessity and practicality of networking and collaboration.


Next month: "Millennial Kingdom and Generation Y"

- Wendy Kovitz
The Great National Kiss-In for Equality-Philadelphia!


For more information, please visit Wendy's TNNW Bio.


In memory of my father-in-law Joel H. Kovitz

Pragmatic yet warm and approachable,
He remains an inspiration to all who knew him

and left big shoes to fill.

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