Five years ago Beyond The Margins began—our way to explore the craft, business and emotions of writing. It’s been a fantastic journey building this site. We began running Beyond the Margins by consensus and are ending it the same way: today we sign off with great sadness, measuring the work of keeping up a daily website against saying goodbye to the community it brought. Our essays ran the spectrum from comics to satire, to reflections on tragedy. What knit them together was sincerity.
Writing is joy and power, despair and flaws. We hope we’ve met our mission to provide a site that shared it all. Perhaps our group will transform into some future creation. Until then, we say our farewells . . .
Robin Black: I have loved being a member of the Beyond the Margins blog. In the past few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about what I might say in this goodbye, offering insight, or nuance. But I don’t feel insightful or capable of nuance. I find myself only wanting to share this already nostalgic feeling of love. I admired Beyond the Margins from afar, before being asked (what an honor!) to join. I have learned a tremendous amount both from my colleagues’ posts and also from watching the intelligence with which my co-bloggers have organized and run this “place.” I have made friends who are now among my closest – lucky me. I have been read by amazing people –lucky me, once again. And, through writing something like three dozen posts myself, I have come to understand far more about my own relationship to this profession and this craft.
It is rare (very rare) to have an experience with no downside. It is perhaps all the rarer in this profession in which we all learn that we are inevitably on a long roller coaster ride, happy one day, excited by our own work, distraught the next, convinced that we’ll never write again. Beloved by readers in the morning, showered by single starred reviews at dusk. But this has been no roller coaster ride for me. This has been a pure delight, a unique experience I will forever cherish. With apologies for all this sentiment — I don’t mean to be so mushy. But it’s mushiness I feel. And I hate goodbyes. So. . .maybe we’ll regroup one day. Who knows? The internet is a strange and a sometimes spectacular place. It surely has been the latter with Beyond the Margins for me.
Kathy Crowley: Orson Welles: “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
The time has come for our happy ending. To my fellow BTM members past and present, to all our terrific guest posters and to readership I just want to say thank you. I will miss this community of readers and writers.
Juliette Fay: “Sitting alone in a room all day writing—that would be hell for me.” I’ve heard variations on that sentiment for as long as I’ve been a writer. I get it—I feel the same way about, say, being a chemist or a sommelier or a mixed martial arts fighter. Just not my bag. And no amount of explaining the excitement of being with my “people,” imaginary friends and foes to whom I listen as much as control, can adequately capture it for non-writers. It does sound a little crazy, doesn’t it?
I’ll admit that the writing life can get … well, if not lonely, then quiet sometimes. Perhaps that’s why writing communities, like Beyond the Margins, are so necessary. The voices of those who get it, to whom we don’t have to explain, are singularly comforting and fascinating. “Oh, that’s how she handles it,” I nod as I read. “Oh, that’s what works for him.” I’m sad for the ending of this particular community, but new ones await, I feel certain. You’re out there, my Beyond the Margins writer pals. No explanation required.
Chuck Garabedian: As a relatively new member at Beyond the Margins, I am privileged and honored to have worked with such a talented group of writers. Through my participation, I made acquaintances with total strangers who took the time to comment on my posts, and I learned quickly how powerful BTM was in connecting me to people from all over the world. Being a member of Beyond the Margins was an incredible experience for me, humbling me as a writer and taking me on a ride I will never forget.
Randy Susan Meyers: Beyond the Margins amazed me in a million ways . . . generating stunning posts through laissez faire accord and casual leadership, building friendships which warmed us against publishing chills, and forming world-wide webs of writing connections. I’ve treasured having deadlines to examine my process and beliefs, colleagues who provided safety throughout, and readers who’ve responded with a generosity of spirit that helped shaped my work. Sadness and gratitude suffuse the end of our wonderful endeavor.
“I really don’t want to say goodbye to any of you people.” Christa McAuliffe
Dell Smith: I can’t believe it’s been five years. And now BTM is ending. I’m just now realizing the implications. It started as a support group of Boston-area writers taking our esthetic into the wilds of the blogosphere. BTM was essentially an extension of the fiction workshops and writing groups where I had met this collective of like-minded writers. Over dinner we made the decision to start a blog, and it felt like a garage band getting serious enough to put out a record. We all had our reasons to jump in. I for one was excited to explore new writing territory.
For five years BTM was a presence, a writing friend. It was that place I went every morning to see what fellow BTMers and guest bloggers had written about. It was a platform where I learned to write short pieces, solved problems I faced in my novels and stories, and took the opportunity to give non-fiction a try. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. Thanks for all your comments, conversations, and support. We’ll miss you!
Kim Triedman: I think I’m the newest member of the BTM family, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to write alongside this wonderful cast of literary lights. One of the best things about being a writer is that when you’re not actually writing, you tend to think a lot about just what the creative process is – what makes a writer a writer, what allows for that exquisite interplay of moment and memory and image and language and generates something entirely new, something sprung from the bottom up; something not so much imposed as invited onto the page. That is what I love most about writing, and that is what I have loved about writing for this column. It has given me an opportunity to indulge these impulses, to meditate on such things as why I write and how I write and for whom I write. It’s hopefully allowed me touch a few people along the way, but in the process it has given me every bit as much as I have given it. Happy trails!
Becky Tuch: What has Beyond the Margins meant to me over the past five years? Everything. By which I mean, I have experienced the full range of emotions one can feel with a project, and that is a lot. When we first started, I found the process of writing and awaiting comments from readers so nerve-racking that I often couldn’t sleep. My left eyelid twitched for weeks. As the BTM team traded hundreds of emails back and forth on how to run, shape and promote this thing, I tried to follow along, though panicked and utterly overwhelmed by what awaited us in this world wild web. Over time, with the support of this incredible, indefatigable writing crew, and the encouragement of our loyal and uber-generous readers, I like to think I found my groove. The panic has subsided. Pleasure and pride have taken its place. To date, I consider some of the pieces I wrote for this blog to be among the most important writing I have ever done. (Here is where I get teary-eyed. I told you: full range of emotions here, people!) I could not have written these pieces, or found any sort of groove at all, without everyone out there working to keep this blog running and helping it succeed. I am so grateful to have found you, readers, and so honored to have been included in this project from its inception. We all found our groove, every one of us, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results of our collective efforts.
Nichole Bernier: When we began Beyond the Margins five years ago, many of us looking for agents or editors, we reasoned a blog about the craft and business of publishing would be a good vehicle. It would offer an opportunity to pick the brains of publishing pros, and interview authors we admired. It also became a kind of continuing education — a chance to pursue research, and ask questions about things we ourselves wanted to learn. Do book trailers really sell books? Why, and when, should paperbacks have different art than their hardcover selves? How much should you spend on marketing and publicists? How do authors overcome fear of public speaking? writer’s block? insomnia? I’ve learned so much from the community of bloggers and guest writers and commenters who’ve posted here.
To be honest, I’ve been having trouble letting go. Many of us (and by many I mean me) tend to cling to the comfortable, responsibilities in our comfort zone that make us feel competent. Even if it means we have no sense of the opportunity cost — the things we might have learned, challenges we might have accomplished.
But on some level we know we’re doing it, and there comes a time when we call ourselves on our wily ways. For some of us here at Beyond the Margins, the blog has become the comfortable place, the side gig we do easily and happily while we slowly pursue our bigger stuff. Or not. That’s the funny thing about side gigs. They have a way of taking the place of the other things you thought you’d do. Like the cliche goes, life is what happens while you wait for Life to happen.
Last week I went on a trip with my mother and sisters to celebrate our mom’s 70th birthday. We chose a place with outdoor adventure activities, including a high, pendulum-like swing tethered to a cable. Our guide suggested that before we let go of the security rope, we think of it as a transition. Envision something to let go, he said; it could be something difficult in your past, or just something that had outlived its usefulness, and was holding you back from tackling new challenges. Then imagine yourself flying headlong to embrace whatever comes next.
The view from the top of the cable swing was spectacular, a desert vista, and beyond it, the Santa Catalina mountains. I thought about how risky it had felt to embrace fiction nine years ago. I thought of the new writing on the horizon, if I only had the time. Then I let go of the black security rope, and swung into the beyond.
Founding members of Beyond the Margins: Chris Abouzeid, Christiane Alsop, Nichole Bernier, Kathy Crowley, Stephanie Ebbert, Leslie Greffenius, Javed Jahangir, Randy Susan Meyers, Henriette Lazaridis, E.B. Moore, Necee Regis, Dell Smith and Becky Tuch.
Over the years members left and new ones joined, such as Ann Bauer, Robin Black, Juliette Fay, Charles Garabedian, Laura Harrington, Bethanne Patrick, Kim Triedman, Anna Solomon, Julie Wu, and Laura Zigman.