Monday, September 8, 2008

Conversation with an Author -- Michelle Richmond --- in Second Life

Earlier on this year I wrote about a book I had read called The Year of Fog, written by Michelle Richmond, which I had enjoyed immensely, despite the topic being about a missing child who is found by the end of the book, otherwise I don't think I could have read it.

Imagine my surprise to find out that Michelle would be present at the Story Mountain Center for Writers in Second Life to chat about her new book No One You Know and her writing experience in general. To my mind, this is what Second Life is great at accomplishing, getting together, in real time, people from different parts of the world so they can converse with each other and exchange ideas.

This event I definitely had to attend. I had no idea what to expect since I had never been to the centre before. I found on my arrival that there were but five of us, including Michelle, who goes by the name of Michelle Mefusula in Second Life and as you see we all sat around a table together.

She asked if we were all writers and rather embarrassed I had to admit that I was only a blogger, but an inveterate reader and a fan of her earlier work. She asked the name of my blog and I was very surprised when she said she remembered my post, but I suppose she checks all the links made to her site.

Michelle in typing mode at the roundtable session

To give you some background information about Michelle, let me tell you that she holds an MFA from the University of Miami, where she was a James Michener Fellow, and teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at California College of the Arts. She has also taught in the MFA programs of the University of San Francisco, St. Mary's College of Moraga, and Bowling Green State University. In addition she has published a collection of short stories and three novels and her essays and stories have appeared widely in various periodicals.

The roundtable discussion was a combination of Michelle talking and answering various questions about her work. It was interesting to hear that she published her first two books without having an agent, which is quite remarkable in this day and age. Her first book, the short story collection, won a contest which guaranteed automatic publication, the second was picked up when she sent it to a small literary publishing house.

Michelle in the pink dress, me in the red dress with the red hair
Click to enlarge

She found her agent at a writers' festival, another very rare occurrence, but she did have two published books under her belt by that time so perhaps it is not so surprising. Michelle talked about her own writing and revision process and gave some excellent ideas for writers starting out to get their work disseminated and published. I found the whole hour very interesting but just as we were nearing the end with me waiting to ask her a question I crashed out of Second Life and I was not able to sign back in for love nor money. If you are interested, a full transcript of the meeting is here with more photos, written by the coordinater Alas Zerbino.

Undaunted I sent her a message of apology about "leaving" the discussion so precipitously and asked her my question which arose from my own post about her book of Year of Fog. I found some commenters recounting stories of their own children's brief disappearances and wondered if she found people sharing such stories with her. I don't think Michelle would mind me sharing her reply:

Hi there. Oh, no worries! I totally understand. When I first installed SL yesterday, my computer crashed. I went back and reread your wonderful post about THE YEAR OF FOG. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and lengthy comments. I also appreciated your link to the website of the writer (Ellee Seymour) who has been keeping track of missing persons. I've been very interested in the Madeleine McCann case, and have been saddened by recent reports that confirm it is likely she was taken by a pedophile ring. I have in the past couple of months received emails from two families whose children have gone missing--one 18 years ago. Neither have been found. It was very humbling to hear from these families. I remember reading the story about losing your daughter for half an hour--how absolutely terrifying! Thanks so much for attending the event in SL!

I know many people think that Second Life is a very strange concept but I really appreciate this wonderful aspect of it. How else could I meet and speak with Michelle Richmond, an author whom I like very much but normally would never encounter in real life? Of course I had to immediately order No One you Know and it is next on my TBR pile. I know that I will enjoy it all the more now that I have "met" Michelle in person.


Ellee Seymour said...

Well done to you JMB and how wonderful of Michelle to join in the spirit of Second Life with you.

Janice Thomson said...

What an interesting read JMB. I wonder if many other authors are involved in SL - it's certainly one way of meeting an author whose work is really admired.

Dragonstar said...

Second Life is a fascinating concept, a complete virtual life. I can see why you like it so much.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Interesting post JMB,

Janice, Yes there are other authors who address meetings, Someone I know went to one where David Brin spoke to a large group.. Apparently this group, Extropia, regularly have events like this and I bet there are many other groups out there that do likewise..

Liz said...

You are amazing, jmb! You've really got the hang of Second Life, haven't you?

She sounds like an interesting person to have met. As you say, her experiences of being published are very unusual.

Carver said...

I am intrigued by the idea of a conversation with an author in second life. Amazing to me the many facets of Second Life that would have never occurred to me.

James Higham said...

You're really getting into this Second Life thing now, aren't you, JMB? :)

Dr.John said...

That is a good reason to belong to Second Life. But I will still pass.

CherryPie said...

That is quite a compliment that she remembered your post, don't put yourself down!

jmb said...

I thought it was great too Ellee, as she joined SL especially to come to the talk.

This is a weekly series Janice so yes there are other authors who do this.

SL definitely has some good possibilities Dragonstar.

Indeed Moggs, lots of opportunities for this, like the poetry group I go to sometimes.

It has been a steep learning curve Liz, but lots of fun.

The educational aspects of SL are huge Carver, quite intriguing.

It seems so James, I've really settled in there.

Well Dr John you are already a pretty busy man.

I was quite amazed Cherie when she said she had read it, let alone remembered it.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

This is an aspect of SL that I had never thought of! I don't think I could cope with it right now but I do admire the way you are into it, jmb. I can see that the discussion must have been fascinating.