Monday, August 21, 2006

Writer Unboxed: Defined

I'm turning into a computer hack. That's right: this morning I outsmarted Blogger. First by uploading an old template when our old one "failed" (not showing anything of our site but the first three posts), then figuring out how to link to a picture outside of Blogger without actually using Blogger's wildly temperamental upload software (which wasn't working again). I have to say, I'm feeling pretty smug right now.

But that's not what this post is about. This post stems from an e-versation I had this past weekend with a respected blogger-in-the-biz after lamenting that we had less than a dozen entries in our WU AlphaSmart 3000 contest, even though about a gazillion people visited to read all about it. He said he thought he was unboxed but would be hard-put to explain how in order to enter. Besides, he mused:

"How do you claim to be something that's clearly a superior kind of human being without sounding bragadocious?...especially on the Internet, where what you say lasts forever and goes around the world."

Two other writers I know said something different:

"Great contest. I'd love an alphasmart!"

But when I encouraged them to enter the contest they said:

"I don't think I'm unboxed enough. Maybe I'll buy an AlphaSmart."

The blood on my keyboard is not from overtaxed fingers today; it's from banging my head against it. Still, all of this clarified something for me: maybe Kath and I needed to explain what unboxed means to US and why every writer is at least a little unboxed, whether they know it or not.

Which is exactly what we did...

Kath, what does "unboxed" mean to you?

(slipping her the keyboard...)

K: An unboxed author, to me, is fearless--a writer not afraid to break the boundaries of her genre. The unboxed author is also a wordsmith and a risk taker as far as plotting, characterization and motivations go. I get a kick out of reading genre fiction when the author has the reader thinking one way then slips in a surprise. That, to me, is unboxed. I also consider unboxed authors the ones who write for themselves as much as their readers. Writers always second-guess themselves, worrying about making a sale or offending their mothers. I really appreciate it when a writer sets that aside and breaks boundaries for the rest of us. How about you?

T: I agree with everything you said. I'd also like to add that in my mind, unboxed doesn't = superior; it means producing unique ideas, which may in the end give a writer an edge in the industry if they also possess good grammar, strong voice, etc... I should probably also clarify that we won't post entries (honestly, I hadn't considered it!), in case anyone is shy that their words could somehow bite them. What about the winning entry?

K: I think we should post the winning entry. People will want to know what it took to win. I would. About the boasting aspect: There's bragging and then there's BRAGGING. Someone who says "My work's the best there is" is clearly stuck in a box of vanity. But someone who says "I'm writing the best that I can right now" isn't bragging, I don't think. And if they want to brag, that's ok too!

T: People who are working to improve their craft aren't bragadocious; they're smart.

K: Winning an AlphaSmart in a contest against other writers? I'd brag about that! Or maybe the AlphaSmart isn't that tempting?

T: Hey, I'd have drooled over it a few months ago...before I bought one for myself!

K: Fact is, the very act of writing is unboxed when you think about it. Putting your hands to the keyboard or pen to paper and writing creatively takes you out of the box that is yourself.

T: Building characters, crafting conversations, plot... Being able to go outside your world for a while to create something fresh is part of what makes writing so addicting. And if a writer truly feels they're not unboxed but would like to be, the act of pondering "unboxed" might help define unique territory. I hope that didn't sound snooty! Or...bragadocious!?

Okay, bottom-line time. Kath?

K: What have people got to lose?

T: You know what you've got to win...

Write a short blurb about what makes you an unboxed writer and then send it to us at

Forget about being bragadocious.

Forget about thinking you're not unboxed enough (which sounds a little too much like "I'm not worthy!" What hard-working writer isn't worthy of some pampering, a new writerly tool and delicious chocolate? Did you forget about the chocolate?!?).

I shall cry if more don't try.

So what are you waiting for? A blood- AND tear-streaked keyboard? Save me from the mess and enter the contest already. ;)

Write on!


Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

I love your definitions of what it means to be a "writer unboxed."

I hope you get TONS more entries!!!

12:22 PM  
Blogger Therese Walsh said...

Thanks, Melissa! We've had four new entrants already today, which is a great start.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I can't imagine an alphasmart not being incentive enough. Unless you already own one. I've been drooling over them for a couple of years now.

9:05 AM  
Blogger redchurch said...

So you guys have lurkers too, eh?

Tis a tough subject to broach. I know I have lurkers on my blog as well. I welcome all readers but I wish every reader would comment at least once. Some people are self-conscious about posting or don't have much to say, which is OK too I guess.

Not everybody is a chatty dork like me. ;)

10:51 AM  
Blogger Therese Walsh said...

We thought it would be a good incentive! Thanks, Kelly.

Chatty dorks? Bring 'em on!!! ;) I'm hoping WordPress will be more welcoming to people who might be blog-shy. We'll see! Hopefully we'll make the cut within a few weeks...

10:34 PM  

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