I’ve made no secret about my gratitude for certain literary communities — among them, Absolute Write . Its forums are a sprawling network where one can as easily receive critique on erotica as greeting cards; speak to industry people, such as agents or small press publishers; or joke around with other, writerly loons. (Guess where you’ll find me.)
In the midst of it all, a single figure roams, dispensing accolades and bannings as required. She assumed ownership of AW in 2006 and has taken it from 5,000 members to over 25,000 in that brief time. Known as “Mac” to her acquaintances, “El Jefe” to the boards, MacAllister Stone has always been an enigma to me. She was therefore a natural choice for my inaugural interview for WU.
Jan for Writer Unboxed: Welcome, Mac, and thank you for being here. As you know, I have a rep for asking hard-hitting questions – like the time on Tartitude when I forced Laura Kinsale to explain her fascination with hats. But we’re at a new venue now, and to establish my street cred here, let’s set the scene for our audience: Look around AW Central and tell me what you observe. How luxurious are the furnishings? Do your minions wear uniforms?
MacAllister Stone: Hi, and thanks for having me! Writer Unboxed is a great destination for writers, and a fun read besides. It’s an honor to be here.
Hmm. What do I see when I look around AW Central? I envision it sort of like a busy and vibrant multi-cultural downtown, full of distinctive little shops and bakeries and pubs and galleries. As for my minions wearing uniforms? Not so much, no. :) The mods are all a pretty individualistic bunch of folks, too. They’re more like municipal volunteers who paint signs, sweep streets, give directions, and act as designated drivers.
How does a double major in English and Arts end up running a board that serves writers?
Mostly by accident, actually. Much of my professional life has been spent working with horses. But I’ve always written, too. I found AW while I was researching publishers and novel-writing. I just lurked and read for a long time before finally signing up. After I’d been a member for a few years and a moderator for a couple of those years, when the former owner asked if I’d be interested in taking over the site.
Some people here won’t be familiar with AW. Can you give them a sense of its scope?
Hoo boy. It’s a pretty big place. On the forums alone, we have around 25,000 members — and since I purge inactive and spammer accounts, that’s actually a real number of people logging in and reading, even if they aren’t all actively posting. There’s something like 125,000 threads, and nearly five million posts. I occasionally stumble over a sub-forum that I don’t remember building, and had no idea was there.
And if that’s not enough, there’s also a blog and an archive with hundreds of pages of articles and interviews.
When I look over the threads that provide an introduction to newbies, two things struck me: first, that you have set down only one rule to guide members’ behavior, and second, that you value an inclusive culture. Why do you feel it’s important to set a writing community up in this manner?