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    Posted October 9, 2011 by
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    Stories from Second Life

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    Has Second Life Become the New Literary Salon?



    And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.


    Sylvia Plath

                As a struggling writer making my way in Second Life (SL), I’m always looking to share my work with others inworld.  One resident whom I encountered, katfancy Kiergarten, was kind enough to give me in exchange the name of a SL sim where writers reside and have developed a community.  The name of this place is Book Islandand since it answers two of my primary SL interests, writing and exploring, I decide to visit. 

                I start my journey by meeting Selina Greene, the founder and owner of Book Island. She is another one of those interesting people that SL seems to attract.  Here’s a little about her. 

    Selina initially came to SL to promote her Real Life (RL) independent publishing company and started on the mainland.  Her sim was called Publishing Village then and quickly went from a 512 sim to a quarter sim in a matter of months.  She hosted the first SL Book Fair in April 2007.  There were nearly thirty stalls and fifteen events underway. 

                However, in May 2007, Selina decided to purchase a SL island to make a permanent showcase for all exhibitors because the impetus was so great.  Thus, Book Island was born and is now the home to poets, micro fiction writers, and novelists.  And, somewhere along the way. Selina met another SL resident, married him in RL and now has a small child.  (One of these days, I’ll write about this SL phenomena which I’m encountering more frequently.)  I did say this was an interesting woman. 

                I meet Selina in the café at the main square on Book Island, Pulitzer Square for our interview.  She is accompanied by Arton Tripsa(who is the published Australian writer, Jane Watson, in RL.)  and Singh Albatros.  Arton is the manager of Book Island and Singh is a new resident here. 

                While we exchange pleasantries prior to starting, I notice someone sitting at another table reading a newspaper with the caption “Blocked Writer” floating over his head.  I have to ask what this guy is all about. Arton replies he’s the mascot representing angst, despair, and what happens if you spend too much time in SL.  (I have to keep this in mind.)

                We begin as Selina says that, to the best of their knowledge, Book Island is the oldest sim on the grid that is devoted to writing, publishing, and all things literary. People are now coming to see Book Island.  The last writer’s residence has just been rented by Singh and Selina expects to have a waiting list for the next available one. 

                Selina explains how the writers on Book Island have a showcase on an established sim that is marketed through classified ads and by being in the SL Destination Guide.  She likes to tell potential renters that a space on Book Island costs less than a latte a week which really does amount to inexpensive marketing.  She has a good point.  Arton affirms that they do have many visitors coming to the island.  There is also an event group of 2,000 members which also contributes traffic. 

                I ask my inevitable query about paying for what is obviously a well maintained and expensive looking sim.  Selina says they are very fortunate because rentals and donations always cover their costs. 

                Arton says they have a great group of residents who bond.  Selina quickly agrees with this point.  Saying that they do have an incredible community of people who have bonded.  Arton had just told her that yesterday, twelve residents were hanging out in the café where we’re now sitting.  Not because there was a scheduled event but because they wanted to.  Outside of clubs and the like, this is not a common event in SL in my experience. 

                Sandor Zabelin(Alexander M. Zoltai, RL) also a writer in RL, who had his first book, Notes from an Alien, launched not so long ago in a huge celebration on the island, is the events manager and is responsible for the scheduled activities that have drawn these people together.

                The conversation turns to SL when Arton says what a creative place it is.  I remark that it’s not just about a bunch of geeks running around griefing in sandboxes.  She agrees wishing the RL press would reflect that. Arton adds Australia thinks SL is all about sex and marriage break-up’s.  Selina feels that after the press hysteria about SL through early 2007, when many new users signed up, was unsustainable.  She also notes the RL businesses who came in expecting instant results without building the necessary networks and were disappointed. 

                We return to talking about Book Island events which Arton describes as interesting.  She feels that writers are kinder to each other on Book Island.  She’s uncertain as to why but it may have to do with everyone being from all over the world and not competing for grants and the like. Arton believes that it is a true creative and nurturing environment. 

                I add that so far I’ve met people from every continent except Antarctica in SL.  Selina replies that it sounds like a mission, to find someone in SL from down there. Arton adds there are writers’ grants in Australia to go to Antarctica and to write.  (Sounds like I’ll be looking for a SL resident from Antarctica.  If anyone knows of someone there on the grid, please send their name along to me.) 

                I ask about the future of Book Island and Arton replies that she hopes they will continue to work together as a community.  Selina adds they do have a very exciting project on the horizon and asks Arton to tell me about it.  Arton then begins to describe the library and writers’ community center being built near the beach.  The library will contain all the residents’ books and Project Gutenberg materials among others. 

                We turn to talking about RL authors who reside at Book Island.  Arton mentions Jennifer Dunne, a writer of romance novels.  She also speaks of Noble Charron(Michael A. Stackpole, RL), Elan Neruda (Steve Miller, RL, of the Liaden fantasy series), and Diana Allandale(Diane Hunter, RL, known for her erotica).

                After a depressing discussion about the impact of the Internet on publishers, bookstores, and second hand book dealers, I try to liven things up by asking if virtual communities like Book Island could become the literary salonsof the twenty-first century.  Selina likes the idea and agrees that in many ways they are like a salon.  Arton also agrees that many of their functions have become like the traditional salons. 

                At this point, we leave the café and head over to the new library for a brief tour and to meet some of the resident writers.  The library is a three story construction with impressive views of the surrounding island.  The top floor is for administration.  The site will be a good resource for the writer community on Book Island.

                By now, other writers are beginning to arrive.  Cassy, Farwolf, katfancy Kiergarten, Singh Alabatros (back with us after leaving before), and Relishultimately join us in the library’s meeting area.  I’m impressed at how quickly Selina is able to pull together a small, impromptu gathering of writers.  I can’t help but think if this isn’t what literary salons are about after all. 

                After introductions and reintroductions, we begin to talk about being writers in SL and the impact of Book Island for them.  Relish makes a good point when he says that Book Island is a throwback to when we lived in a world where the spoken word drew crowds on every corner - where readers and writers are as exciting as television or movie star in the modern world.  I can’t help but think of the tours across America by writers like Charles Dickens in the nineteenth century when he says this.

                Cassy adds that Book Island was one of the first places she found when she came to SL.  She began attending some of the events, which she feels are wonderful, and made fast friends.  She has seen Book Island grow to become a thriving community and then evolve into a sort of family.  Arton adds that they had one of those meetings today. 

                Cassy continues saying that this has had the biggest impact on her writing.  She feels that, many times, artistic circles can be competitive but that just isn’t the case here. 

                kat (katfancy) says that Book Island is not just a place where she comes to talk about reading and writing.  She loves to hang out with friends here, to get support and inspiration. 

                Singh joins and says that virtual worlds are the next step up from the old writing forums.  He clarifies by adding virtual world writing communities. 

                Relish adds that these are inspirational people and that this is an inspirational place.

                Selina says one of the important functions of Book Island and places like it is that they improve SL retention.

                Cassy feels that there always seems to be an audience, a collaborator, or an editor available. 

                When we speak of the difficulties of writing in SL, kat says that a writer can have writer’s block in SL just like they can in RL.  Also, the distractions of SL, hanging out with friends or shopping, are as real as they are in RL. 

                We continue for a while talking about life on Book Island and the joys and challenges of writing.  What I see unfold before me is another community in SL where strangers have become friends and maybe even closer in some cases.  Places like Book Island and SL couldn’t exist if their residents didn’t find value. Didn’t find something that maybe isn’t too readily available in their RL’s. 

                I take my leave of Selina and her friends to continue on my journey across SL.  In case you’re wondering why I haven’t joined Book Island, it wasn’t because I wasn’t asked.  I do appreciate the invitation but I have many places to go and people to meet in SL before I put down roots.  I will return to visit and join their events.  But, until then, I’ll have a few more lattes!

    I would like to thank Selina Greene and Arton Tripsa for spending time with me and inviting me into Book Island to meet them and their fellow writers. I’m very grateful to katfancy Kiergarten for referring me to Book Island in the first place, and to Cassy, Relish, Farwolf, Singh Albatros for joining the rest of us for an impromptu salon.  As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.

    I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on CNN iReports or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com. 

         If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
    please click here.

    Photo No. 1: Selina Greene (with permission of Selina Greene)

    Photo No. 2: Arton Tripsa

    Photo No. 3: Book Island Arrival Area

    Photo No. 4: Book Island Sea View

    Photo No. 5: Book Island Newsletter

    Photo No. 6: Book Island – Pulitzer Square

    Photo No. 7: Book Island – Blocked Writer Mascot

    Photo No. 8: Book Island - Map

    Photo No. 9: Book Island - Arton’s Studio

    Photo No. 10: Book Island – The Beach

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