What a difference a year makes!
About this time each year I take stock of how the previous year went, and take the opportunity to articulate goals for the coming year. On December 14th 1997 I wrote a lengthy post to our writers, summarizing how I felt 1997 had gone. Although it was a spectacular year and we printed 26 stories in eight issues, my biggest criticism was that despite printing all those stories, we only printed one new writer. That’s a particularly aggregious shortcoming, because, as I alluded to in the Editorial for DargonZine 11-5, our mission is to reach out to aspiring new writers and help them improve their writing.
As a response, in that same posting I articulated that our number one goal for 1998 should be publishing stories from six to eight new writers. Now, at the end of the year, I can take great pleasure in saying that with the publication of this issue, we will have introduced you to seven new writers this year. And perhaps you can appreciate the pride I feel when I announce that this particular issue contains *only* new writers — the first time this has happened since we began printing Dargon stories back in 1986!
Contrary to what you might assume, we didn’t recruit more writers in order to make this happen. The biggest reason for this amazing turnaround has been the mentoring program which we established this spring. When new writers join our writing group, they not only have to learn how the group works, but also have to come to terms with a massive body of previously-printed material which constrains what they can portray in their stories. Having a partner to turn to who knows the group, how it works, and what will fly takes much of the frustration out of getting up to speed, and helps new writers produce viable stories faster.
Before our mentoring program went into effect, a new writer might be with the group for a frustrating year or more before their first story would appear in our pages. A testament to how well the mentoring program has worked is that of the three new writers to appear in this issue, one has been with us five months, one four, and one just three months!
So now that you understand why this is a big deal, let me introduce our newest faces! First up is Rena Deutsch, who begins a compelling series of stories about an abandoned young girl. Next is Jon Ballinger, who also prints the first chapter in a planned series dealing with his characters. And we close with Cheryl Spooner, who introduces us to some interesting new characters she will be following in future stories. However, Cheryl has already completed her next work, which is an unrelated standalone piece that should follow closely on the heels of this one.
So join me in welcoming these three new writers who have recently joined us, and in celebrating all of the aspiring writers who have contributed the works that made this such a banner year for the Dargon Project.