If you’ve found my website then you’ll be at least partially internet savvy and, before you hurtle off on your travels around the worldwide web, I’d like to thank you for stopping for a moment and, while you’re here, I’d like to tell you about some of my adventures in cyber space.
I’m lucky enough to spend most of my working day writing – either poetry or fiction – so a lot of my life unfurls in front of my trusty computer up here in a small room at the top of my house a small market town in the UK. Anyone who has ever written anything of any length on an old-fashioned typewriter will know that computer word-processing has replaced typing hell with a walk in the park. Computers are an essential in my life, no matter how many luddites bemoan the effects of computers on the modern world.
It’s not just the word-processing that has revolutionised my life. The world-wide web, the internet, has opened up so many opportunities for writers, like me, who mostly live solitary lives alone with their obsessions. It’s not just the access to information that has helped me in my struggles, it is the access to an international community of writers whom I can meet on-line without having to leave my cosy nest. I’m not just talking about social media even though sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide marvellous opportunities for those ‘water-cooler’ moments when you don’t work in an office or a factory and you fancy a break from writing. Over the years, I’ve made many good friends over the internet many of whom, I’ve gone on to meet face to face. I love the way I can mix my writerly need for solitude with the extrovert joy I get from conversation – so easily achieved with a click on a keyboard.
The biggest online difference to my life as a writer has come from my experience in those often misunderstood sites known as virtual worlds. Some years ago, I found the most famous of those sites, Second Life, and experimented with it as an amusing game. The idea was to imagine what it would be like if you really could have a second life. You had to create an avatar, at first a clumsily comical animated cartoon, and then there you were – it was all up to you. That was when I ‘created’ my avatar Wolfgang Glinka who was really just another manifestation of Wolfie Wolfgang my cyber name but, of course, agelessly youthful and shamelessly trendy.
It was inevitable, I suppose, that the more I experimented in this alternative life, I merely found more of myself. Wolfgang Glinka, Wolfie Wolfgang, Colin Bell, three-in-one and one-in-three – actually, technology apart, they are, of course, the same person. If Colin Bell is a poet and a novelist in the ‘real world’ then so is Wolfgang Glinka in Second Life.
It didn’t take long to enter the various writing communities in Second Life and, for a number of years now, I’ve been hosting my own weekly poetry event called Wolfie’s Poetry Surf with an open-to-all open mic hour mixed with readings of my own poetry. It is now an established event with poets attending, in the wonderful way of the internet, from all over the world. We’ve had Brits, Americans, Australians, Dutch, Chinese, Singaporeans, French, Georgians, Germans, Italians, Jamaicans, Spaniards and Portuguese among our regulars and many more nationalities besides. The worldwide web makes us truly international just as you, my blog readers, come from every nation in the world.
I particularly value the opportunity to test out new work at these meetings with such a great community of writers. Last night, I tried out recent re-writings that I’ve been making to some of the poems I wrote when I first dared to try my hand at poetry. What looked OK on the page, didn’t always work when read out-loud and I found myself making alterations as I read. It is a wonderful opportunity for any poet wannabe so I’m forever grateful to Second Life.
If you fancy turning up for one of our sessions, it’s not as difficult as you’d think. We meet every Thursday at 1pm American East Coast time (9pm Greenwich Mean Time) and all you have to do is follow this link into Second Life (which is free) and spend a short time making a simple avatar – all is explained and, believe me, it is very easy.
It would be great to see you there.
Here are some of my other Second Life poetry events: