For years, I was aware of the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA) although the eligibility for membership looked pretty far out of reach. But this spring, they changed the rules and I became eligible to join, which I did as soon as possible.

When I joined SFWA, one of the things I discovered was the SFWA Writing Date. Each week, late Sunday afternoon, folks could get together via Zoom to socialize for a few minutes, then write for 45 minutes, socialize again, and then write again. It was nice to have an excuse to meet some writer friends and get some work done.

In August, there was a call looking for people to “host” the writing date. Each week, there were a couple of SFWA people to handle the tech stuff, but then there would an author that was the formal host: they would smile, run a little icebreaker, and generally try to make people feel good that they’d attended. So I put my name forward. And I got picked! There were only a couple of dates that I thought could work for me, but I got the Sunday before the Thanksgiving week.

I got an email the week before that included directions for how I could have a “porthole”. I had seen that the staff running the writing date had little “windows” that looked out into a moving starfield or nebula or something. When I tried to do it on my computer, I discovered that the Zoom client for linux doesn’t offer the capability to have a video background. But I was planning to use OBS Studio anyway and it *does* have the capability so it wasn’t hard to set it up. I cut out a couple of pieces of florescent orange card stock and taped them up over the window in the cover of For the Favor of a Lady. It worked great.

For the icebreaker, I decided to riff on the classic by Barbara Walters. She would always open with the question, “What kind of tree would you like to be and where would you grow?” I’ve used this for years with my writing class. But for this audience, I mixed it up a little by asking, “What kind of FICTIONAL tree would you like to be, preferably from speculative fiction?”

People really got into it! I was really pleased at the response. I was a bit surprised at the ones nobody guessed, but also at some of the ones that I hadn’t been aware of.

After that, the writing was almost anti-climactic. I wrote about 1400 words in the two blocks of time. I’m starting a new story that I will, hopefully, be able to wrap up before the end of the Thanksgiving break.

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