State of the INK: End of the First Elected Term

Six months ago, the INKubator had its first elections. The interim term, which was to last three months and give our community a running start, had run its course. It was time for the members to choose their community representatives for the next six months. As always, time flies when you’re having fun. As this first term draws to a close, we’d like to continue our tradition and reflect on the progress we’ve made as a group.

A Thriving Community

Any group is only as strong as its members. And we’re happy to conclude that more and more people find their way to us, through recommendations, Reddit, Habitica, Twitter, or simply through a Google search.
There is never a dull moment in the general chat channel on our Discord server. As our community grows, we’re happy to welcome writers from any background and at any stage in their journey as a writer.
We consider our diversity to be a strength every one of our members can benefit from, and strive to create a safe haven for each writer that joins our ranks.
The latest initiative to further promote inclusivity is the implementation of pronoun roles. This allows every member to display their preferred pronouns in a way that is visible for everyone. We encourage all members to opt into a pronoun role to normalise the practice. Members can opt into the pronouns and adapt them as desired and nothing makes us happier than to see our members taking advantage of the possibility, because it means they feel safe enough to do so.
But don’t let the jokes and general mayhem and banter fool you. Our special brand of insanity often gives way before discussions on creativity, writing, and life in general. Our ongoing series of INKubator writing exercises now also include poetry challenges that have managed to tempt even those who insist they are most definitely not poets.
Our peer review channel continues to see lots of traffic, including poetry, and fiction from flash pieces to novels rolling through chapter by chapter. Our members regularly exceed the two critiques needed for each one they ask for themselves and the quality of critique offered has been excellent. Shorter pieces continue to be edited and reviewed live in the textedit channel, generating some interesting discussions and awe inspiring results.
Recently, we’ve made some changes to how we all collaborate on the Renga, enabling participants to brainstorm about the direction we take with the piece, and providing some more guidance on the content of the verses. We’re about to rejuvenate the Freethink in a slightly more structured form, which will be similar to the Renga in method, but will result in stories rather than poems.
All in all, it’s quite wonderful to see how our members take care of each other, providing support and encouragement where needed.
Because our community members are so accepting of the rules, it’s rare that our mods and leaders need to offer reminders. People step up for each other and gently redirect the conversation if someone goes a little too far.

Progress Towards Writing Goals

The main goal of the INKubator is and always has been to help each other push closer to our goals in writing and publishing. We strive to help each other in building our writing skills, and push each other onwards and upwards.
We commiserate over rejections and share our knowledge of the arcane art of rejectomancy. But most importantly, we rejoice over each other’s triumphs. And those are becoming more and more frequent as we all grow as writers.
INKlings have access to extra channels where we showcase our publications, as well as share submission calls and contests.
Our peer review channels–three types open already at the Associate Member levels–reflect respect for different styles and levels of comfort with writing craft. Suggestions for improvement are founded on more than personal opinion. Commenters make an effort to understand differences in personal style, difference in genre conventions, and cultural and regional differences in word choice, etc. Those who critique learn as much as those who receive the feedback.

A View Beyond Ourselves

Our members aren’t just submitting more than they used to. We’re seeing a broad range of acceptances from folks who haven’t achieved them before, including sales to professional markets. And the personal rejections–a sign that you’re writing quality things–just keep rolling in.
We’ve also encouraged our members to go out and interact more with writers they admire, be it by commenting on publications or interacting on Twitter. Someone often jumps into general to share their excitement that so-and-so has responded to or liked something they said.
Our channels for recommended links and recommended reading see lots of traffic, as we point each other at things we find useful or interesting. Growing as writers means we read both about writing and the writing of others. And looking at the market is so important for those of us aiming for mainstream publication.

Building Bonds and Networks

Our bonds within the INK family keep getting stronger. Whether we come with an up or a down, we’re there for each other. Sometimes we can offer concrete advice (like “sub this to X. They just opened and your piece is the style they look for”) and other times we just listen and offer comfort or cheers.
But we’re connecting more and more beyond that with industry professionals through a variety of platforms. For example, Alban Lake, a small press where several of us have had work accepted, have recently opened their own Discord server and a number of INKlings have joined to chat with the editors and other writers and artists there. Bill Otto and H. David Blalock have gone out of their way to offer support and encouragement and we’re looking forward to strengthening our relationship with them over time.There is something to be said for a publisher who–though not the highest paying market–treats its writers with respect and is as excited when we get acceptances elsewhere as they are to see our work in their slush piles.

Board Statements

The following are personal statements from each member of the Board talking about what this term has meant to them:

Anike Kirsten (@anikekirsten)

INKubator is my other home, the place I go to for ideas, support, refuge, and rejectomancy (when the mood hits). It is also a place of celebration for each of the many acceptances our members have received along with the publishing of said acceptances, and a place for condolence when rejections hits, as they do. And sometimes, even celebrations for good rejections because they make the motivation to keep trying stronger. It’s such a good atmosphere on the server with members co-operating in the spirit of why INKubator was created, aiming for various destinations but with the same goal: to get writing and get writing better. The publishing is the cherry on top. INKubator members are like my second family, there when I need them, open and warm. Truly, a pleasure and an honour to be a part of this community.

Steven Max (@aksounder)

With the conclusion of INKubator’s first official full-term I can’t help but be impressed at how far we’ve come. During the interim term the goal of establishing a productive and safe writing community was well achieved. After that, all that was left was writing, and so many goals were reached among our members in the last six months. Several have achieved mainstream publication in fiction and poetry—the amount of exposure with publishers over this short time is remarkable and a testament to the talent within our community. But the high levels of success don’t result in a high pressure, pompous feel. Much to the contrary, INKubator is a community of supportive and understanding people more than happy to help each individual reach their goals or offer a word of encouragement to tackle whatever challenge might be holding you back. From its inception, INKubator has been a personal treasure for me and it continues to become so for others.

Peter Philleo (@negativer)

INKubator has changed the way I approach writing, market submissions, and interactions with other writers. We’re not just a bunch of individual writers struggling along in the dark privacy of solitude; we’re a bunch of writers struggling together as a group. And learning as a group. And succeeding as a group. Knowledge and experience spreads within the INKubator hallways like ink from a spilled bottle, and the rising tide of that ink lifts all our boats together.

As a group, we’ve been embracing new members as well as supporting our existing core of writer members, and anyone that has an interest in improving their craft is always welcomed with open arms.

The INKubator folks have become a large part of my life, both as fellow writers and friends, prompting me to write more and succeed more than I ever had alone.

Damian Jay Clay (@damianjayclay)

Time again for The State of the INK and it’s amazing to think about how far we’ve come in the 9 months we’ve been around. We started out with the intention of creating a helpful and friendly community of writers where ability wasn’t the key factor, but, instead, willingness to work with others and develop all aspects of our craft. That’s exactly as it has turned out and we’ll work hard to keep it that way. I am proud to be a member of this community.

Jasmine Arch (@jasminearch)

Nine months is far too short a time to spend among such admirable Hobbits–I mean, writers. I may joke, and reference literary works left and right, but it’s true. Never have I ever been prouder of something I helped to build, than now, when I look back on what we’ve accomplished with the INKubator.
I consider the INKlings to be my family. And unlike the family I was born to, I am a part of this one by choice. I don’t know if I could do all this without them. The rejections and disappointments that are inseparable from the life and career of a writer would probably have gotten the best of me long ago if not for the hands that push me forwards and hold me up when I stumble. The hands of my fellow INKlings.
My friends, this is only the beginning for us. I can’t wait to discover what the future brings.

Andrew J. Savage (@thinknzombie)

Sometimes it takes distance to get a little perspective. We created INK in a frenzy of creativity with the specter of having personally witnessed the harm that can be caused by abuse of power when a community is run more as a cult of personality than a community designed for longevity, hanging above us like a toxic cloud. The fear that INK might befall the same fate has been there from the start, with some early heated debate around how best to set up our community to avoid the tyranny of the few, and ongoing fears in my own mind that perhaps this risk is baked into human social structures and may be unavoidable. It is no coincidence that my thoughts have been shaped by seeing the ongoing political issues recently faced by many countries around the world where weak leaders masquerade as being strong and fuel the fears of their citizens, taking advantage of the imbalance of wealth and power to further cement their rule.
INK is not a country but it is a community and it’s been our goal and fervent wish that it will remain true to the charter we established in those fever-driven first days and not become the personal playground of its founders (of which I am proud to say I am one).
I am pleased to say that with the added perspective of time passed and the successful completion of our first elected Board term we have come through another election and proved once again that INK is greater than the admins of the server (who I see as custodians) and I am pleased that we are not a dictatorship or a fascist cult of personality, we are indeed a true community and one I am very very proud to say I am a member of. There’s only one way to go from here. Ad astra.

R. Jean Bell (@bex-dk)

I struggle to find the words to express how much INK has meant to me in the past six months. No surprise there–all words are elusive lately, slipping off into fog on little furry feet. But INK (and my husband and animals) are why I haven’t crawled off into a cave and hermitted for the last six months while I struggle with a lot of personal stuff and health issues. INK is what helped me get my first professional sale and now also smaller poetry and fiction acceptances. My INK family often has my husband asking why I’m smiling or laughing and usually I can’t explain in a way that makes sense to him. I am so proud of everyone here–for their progress, for how they encourage and support each other, for the way we all try to learn to be better writers and better people. While things were rough for a while right before we made INKubator, what we’ve become has been worth every bit of pain and anxiety getting us here. I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.

 

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