What can I say: we’re late. Not “late” as in “expired”, although you might have begun to think so, since we’ve only put out one new issue in the past eight months. That’s not a very encouraging record for a magazine that says it comes out every six to eight *weeks*. Neither I nor our writers are very happy about it.
On the other hand, it’s been ten years since we’ve had an interruption like that. Since 1993 we’ve produced 85 issues — 236 stories — with an average time between issues of six weeks. That’s an impressive run for any fiction magazine. Yes, it’s been a long time since we last appeared in your inbox, but I can assure you that this kind of lapse is very atypical. If it happens once per decade, that’s still a very good record.
DargonZine has had a very impressive run, printing almost four hundred original stories by fifty new writers in its twenty-year history. However, any magazine that relies completely on unpaid volunteers for contributions is going to have occasional interruptions. DargonZine can only print new issues when our authors find time to sit down and write new stories, and sometimes other things take precedence in their lives. Because of this, there will always be variances in how frequently we can put issues out, and sometimes that means you won’t see us for a couple months.
The proverbial silver lining is that after realizing how desperately DargonZine needed new stories, our writers threw themselves wholeheartedly into their writing. One of the ways they motivated one another was to make “pledges”, with each person promising a certain number of stories before the end of this year. As a result, our contributors have promised to have a prodigious forty new stories written within the next four months. That’s more stories than we’ve ever printed in a single year: enough to fill fifteen issues of DargonZine! If they fulfill their promises, we won’t have another long lapse between issues for a long, long time.
There’s another reason why I’m confident that we’ll have plenty to print in coming months. But in order to tell you about that, I need to begin by telling you about this year’s Summit…
The Dargon Writers’ Summit is an annual gathering intended to strengthen our community of writers. This year’s event took place in Austin, Texas in late April. Hosted by Rhonda Gomez and P. Atchley, the 2003 edition had a record dozen writers in attendance, including three first-time attendees.
Half our time was spent in working sessions, where we focused on DargonZine and writing. The highlight of this year’s working sessions was the presentation of three “white papers”, where three of our writers gave brief talks on specific writing topics they had done research on. Editorial
After the working sessions were done, we had the rest of our days to socialize and do more touristy things. If you want to know more about this year’s Writers’ Summit, a much lengthier write-up and several photographs are available on our Web site at <http://www.dargonzine.org/summit.shtml>.
However, the real revolutionary part of this year’s Summit, and the reason why it pertains to the topic of our lack of submissions, was the “writing retreat” we held.
It might not seem very innovative for a bunch of writers to actually spend time writing, but it’s something we’d rarely done at previous Summits. We’d had a few short exercises before, but writing takes a large amount of time, and time at our gatherings is a very precious commodity. In addition, only a few amateur writers are comfortable sitting down and writing on demand; it’s much easier to write in one’s own environment, at one’s own schedule, and without anyone looking over one’s shoulder.
However, in planning this year’s Summit we tacked on an additional two days that would be devoted exclusively to writing. Furthermore, we polled the writers to determine what they wanted to work on, and it soon became clear that people wanted to create one large story arc and divide it up between them, with each person writing one section of it.
Of course, agreement in principle is very different from agreement in action, and it took several hours of wrangling at the start before we had a premise and basic storyline that everyone was willing to work on, and then assigned ownership of individual sections. However, we eventually got there, and everyone found a quiet spot where they were comfortable and started banging away at their keyboards.
By the end of the second day, we had a detailed plot and over 38 thousand words written. We’d begun twelve new Dargon stories, and embarked upon the largest collaboration and the single most ambitious work this project has undertaken in its nineteen-year history. If all goes as planned, this one story arc may also provide enough material to fill more than a dozen DargonZine issues.
The writers, knowing that DargonZine needed material, volunteered the time and energy necessary to double the duration of the Summit so that they could launch this massive story arc. Four months later, the work still continues. At last count, there are ten writers developing 25 chapters, one-third of which have already been circulated internally as first drafts.
As I stated above, our writers have pledged to have forty new stories done by the end of the year, plus at the Summit they undertook an immense collaborative effort that will provide more than two dozen closely-integrated stories. Our writers have realized that it’s up to them to keep the magazine going, and they have responded to the challenge. While I won’t (and can’t) tell you that there won’t be another lengthy gap between issues, I can definitely tell you that there are loads of stories in the works, and the writers are more committed to the project than ever. So long as that’s the case, we’ll keep putting out issues as frequently as we can.
I hope that you enjoy them, because our writers, all of whom struggle to fit writing into their busy lives, work very hard on every single story. And on behalf of all the writers I want to offer our apologies for how little you’ve seen of us so far this year. But our next two issues are already taking shape, so we are looking forward to spending a lot more time with you this fall.