Jennifer Crusie, Jerry Jenkins, Writing Communities and Tamagatchis

Online writing communities: In some ways, I used to liken them to those digital pets kids used to tote around, Tamagatchis. Roughly the size of an egg, you nurtured your puppy on a petite screen, while your real puppy sat by his empty dish, bored, with heart-breaking puppy eyes beaming skyward. Similar to a neglected manuscript, it made me wonder: Why waste time talking about writing and fostering a presence online when you could make a few clicks and actually write?

Eventually, though, I poked around a few sites, chatted with some people involved, and dove in—which revealed that the communities can be more than a mere scoop of digital food in a digital bowl. The networking can be great, the camaraderie a wellspring of support (even in the face of soul-destroying rejections), the inspiration inspiring, and overall the right site can be a great complement to your actual writing—if you spend your time properly, as bestseller Jennifer Crusie points out in the latest from the Top 20 Tips From WD in 2009 series.

No. 9: Smart, Savvy Support
Don’t get caught up in the politics and don’t take anything personally. Think globally, act locally and ignore the wingnuts, and you can gain a lot from becoming active in a writing community. The bottom line is that if you’re going to survive in publishing, you need a smart, savvy support group that understands your needs and problems.
—Author Jennifer Crusie, from our October 2009 issue (click here to check it out).

Also from that issue (tip No. 8.5?), here’s a simple yet practical tip from Jerry B. Jenkins on the topic.
Google ‘[your city or genre] writers groups’ and you’ll be amazed at what you find. You’re anything but alone in this loneliest of professions.

Have a great weekend. (A post involving mid-90s toy metaphors? It can only be Friday.)


Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings.

It’s been days.
You’re dehydrated and wild-eyed.
And now this.
You traveled all this way for this?

Speaking of writing communities, befriend Zac on the new (Tamagatchi-free) Writer’s Digest community, or befriend Promptly on Facebook!

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5 thoughts on “Jennifer Crusie, Jerry Jenkins, Writing Communities and Tamagatchis

  1. Angela Bees

    A stuffed bear with googly eyes grinned at me from its perch on a plastic pony. I swallowed hard, the sides of my dry throat sticking together. I blinked even harder, but the googly eyes still googled.
    The fair whirred around where I stood battered, bruised, and deranged. Fire breathers scorched behind me. The Bearded Lady dropped me a wink from her shabby booth. Children with cotton-candied fingers and twitchy limbs squealed in delight at the flashing lights of game booths. But my attention was focused on the balding, plush bear before me.
    This was it? My arduous journey ended here? Mr. Hendricks’ directions led to this spot – there was no mistake. And yet there must be. It wasn’t here. I was being stared down by a mangy bear, and it was winning.
    I swiped a super-sized Coke from a tween slurping by me.
    Fixing the kid with a withering glare, I took a long drag on the straw.
    “Yeah, ok, whatever man,” he muttered, backing away.
    My seared throat sighed with content as I guzzled the drink. Refreshed, I surveyed the bear’s surroundings. Its stall was of termite-infested wood. Straw was strewn on the ground, tickling the pony’s hooves. The hideously pink and toothy pony had seen better days, probably fifty years ago. The bear looked like a multi-flavored snow cone. A small, archaic slot machine stood in the corner. Otherwise, the stall was empty.
    I pulled a worn, grubby parchment from my pocket and studied the scribbles there. The last few lines, nearly illegible with the dying Hendricks’ haste, were etched in my memory: The fair. Stall 13. End of your quest. Play the game, keep the change.
    Puzzling. No amount of study made sense of the words.
    I gazed at the stall, waiting for inspiration to strike. A triumphant shout erupted from a nearby game booth. Play the game… My eyes darted to the slot machine in the corner. I palmed a dime and knelt in front of the machine. Keep the change… Grabbing a piece of straw, I tied the dime into a leash. Carefully I lowered the coin into the slot, driving it home. I yanked it back on its leash as the screens rolled. The slot machine stopped—three cherries—and the stall began to tremble.
    The pony and bear twirled in a downward spiral, disappearing through the floor. I leapt to the spot and slid into the gaping hole.
    A small door was carved into the side of the hole’s wall. A coin slot stood sentinel next to it. I inserted my dime.
    The hatch swung open on creaking hinges. There it was. I stumbled towards it, took it gingerly in my hands: the recipe for the world’s most sought-after hamburger. This morsel of heaven would catch a fortune unimaginable.
    I sidled around the pony and climbed up the wall with my prize. I just reached the top when a fuzzy voice asked,
    “Would you like fries with that?”

  2. Mandy Hartley

    The sign said Rock Slide Area – Proceed with Caution. You thought that was your biggest concern. Pieces of mountain rearranging themselves as you made your way through the dark night. Invisible in their loud progress towards you. Crashing in as you rounded a curve. You could see it in your mind over and over. Repeat play during those long days and worse at night. Always worse at night.

    Now you know that you had it all wrong. Standing on this porch in the middle of an August afternoon, staring into the empty faces on the other side of the door; a rock slide feels like a blessing. You wish for it. The open space of this place makes you long for that car. The winding roads. The possibility of natural disaster.

    You found them on the internet. The damned internet. An Arizona boy with a family in the hills of Tennessee. Who would have ever guessed that? He had imagined California, maybe Florida. Someplace warm and sunny and filled with light. All his life he had pictured them. Imagined them perfect but for loss of him. Happy and attractive and eager for news of him. For reunion.

    What he found on the other side of that door were people that he didn’t know. No spark of kinship, no sense of home. The woman invited him in, in a voice that was pleasant enough. She was reaching for his coat, offering him a glass of water. Thank you. Water would be nice.

  3. Mark James

    From the journal of archeologist, Dr. Ronald Freemantle

    I’ve come hundreds of miles through the sands of a desert world, millions of miles from the planet of my birth.

    I’ve suffered deprivations no man should have to endure.

    We began as an expedition of three. Sadly, I’m the last remaining soul. This pathetic collection of rude parchment is all that shall mark our brave trek across these green sands.

    At night, the moons are so bright. Harrison and Thurman both loved to watch them rise – may God rest their souls; or whatever Gods roam this forsaken wasteland.

    My thoughts are wandering. I’d better stop for a bit.


    I talked them into it. My only happiness lies in knowing I won’t have to live with their deaths on my conscience.

    The two moons are full. I’ve seen many things in this desert. We all did.

    Fool’s gold. That’s what we saw. The company promised a fortune to any man who brought back even the smallest alien bone.

    From time to time I wonder if their ghosts walk the sands, or if they’re waiting for me in some alien Hell, waiting to torment me for dragging them into this inferno.

    It’s happening again. So soon; my God, not so soon.


    It’s a few hours later, I think; time’s very uncertain for me. I’d better hurry.

    We came over the last green dune, wild eyed, dehydrated, no doubt looking like three mad men. Harrison saw it first.

    I scrambled up behind him. Even then, in the early moments of our discovery, his laughter frightened me. Thurman reached the top of the dune before me. The sound of his low dispirited crying was worse than Harrison’s mad laughter.

    I climbed up beside them, lifted my eyes and saw – nothing – only our ship. People buzzed all around.

    The ship canted severely to the left, sunken into the sand. It would have taken years – decades – for that to happen.

    “How can that be?” I said.

    “Don’t you see?” Thurman said.

    Harrison said nothing, only went on laughing.

    Then it struck me. All those people. We’d come in a small ship, a scientific exploration. Where had all those people come from?


    I have strange dreams of a great beast rising up before us, green, with thousands of tentacles as thin as silk threads, rushing up out of the sand, wrapping around us, cocooning us, pulling us under.

    By now you’ve guessed the truth. I don’t know how long we’ve been ghosts, but here on this strange world, death is different.

    We’d walked full circle round the desert planet.

    After we saw the ship, Harrison and Thurman wandered off across the sands. I don’t know what’s become of them.

    I still have the power to push ink across parchment, but not for much longer. My thoughts grow fainter with each passing day, or perhaps they’re years that are passing.

    I see others across the sands sometimes, wandering aimlessly. I call to them, but they don’t answer.

    My tale’s been told. Take heed. There’s danger in the green sands; beneath this rolling green desert lies a ravenous beast.

  4. Martha W

    I agree with Jennifer Crusie one-hundred percent. You have to have a fabulous group to bounce ideas off of and ask questions of if you are to ever survive the rejections and long hours of writing. Great post, Zac.

    And as for the prompt… (which I added a smidge to…)

    It’s been days. Hasn’t it?

    You’re dehydrated and wild-eyed.

    And now this.

    You traveled all this way for this?

    What. The. Hell.

    For what seemed like forever he had been walking on stilted legs, just trying to keep one foot moving in front of the other. His lips were cracked, skin burnt, and he desperately needed water.

    He saw a sign back the road aways that said "Two Guns – 9 miles". And then a half mile later he’d been forced to walk. Refusing to go backward, he had hiked east, hoping for a savior. Or a gas station. Whichever came first.

    He had only wanted to travel the Great Highway of America. The Mother Road. The granddaddy of all roads. Route 66.

    Well, he’d traveled it all right. On foot.

    He’d figured somewhere along the way there’d be a gas station for him to stop off at. He didn’t want to pay the outrageous prices they charged tourists back in Twin Arrows. Even now, he saw stars at the additional three cents a gallon they wanted back there. Fleecers, that’s what they were.

    But as he stood here now, in what could only be called the middle of hell, the sweat poured down his back causing his clothes to stick to every inch of skin under them. Sand ground into the places exposed to the elements and rubbed him raw. It was a lose-lose situation as far as he could see.

    And he could see quite a bit. Well, quite a bit of nothing.

    Where once an apparent amusement park had stood, now were just ruins. His eyes continued to get wider the more he looked around. A silo tower with some yoko painted on it holding a gun and a crumbling wall with Mountain Lions printed on it were all that was left of this place.

    What the hell was he going to do? He sank to his knees and let his head flop forward in resignation. He couldn’t force himself to even take one more step, let alone enough steps to get himself out of this mess. Silent tears slid down his face as his fate sunk in. What would his friends think of him? His family?

    The crunching of tires on gravel alerted him to another’s presence. His shoulders tensed and his wore-out muscles prepared to fight… or flight.

    A car door slammed and angry footsteps echoed loudly in the new silence.

    He tilted his face back to the sun, drying the tears, tightening his skin. The footfalls stopped directly behind him, a shadow falling over his body. The most beautiful angel with flaming hair and green eyes glared down at him.

    "Damn it, Jim. Will you stop being an ass and just get back in the car?"