Tuesday, 23 March 2010

I heard it on my radio...


I was all set to post tonight about how Muse, the new Litopia e-zine, is with the designer and maybe talk about the process involved in pulling the first issue together.

Then I logged into Litopia for a quick browse to see what was occurring, and discovered all hell had broken loose. The reason? Let's come to that in a moment...

I first stumbled across Litopia in January 2008 while researching literary agents and their submission guidelines. On Redhammer's site, run by London-based Peter Cox, it suggested I try this writer's colony, through which Peter would - after I'd shown a bit of dedication - accept submissions. I logged in, and discovered Litopia.

I've spoken of the merits of Litopia several times here in the past, but I don't think I've ever explained just what makes it so bloody good. There are two levels of membership - those who sign up begin as grade members, who have access to several forums, including Cafe Grande, where everything and anything about writing is discussed. After a period of time, you submit a piece of writing for full member status, and if it's up to scratch, you're upgraded to full member... and suddenly the whole colony opens up to you.

Another cafe for full members to shoot the breeze; Ask the Agent forum; Ask the Editor forum; monthly competitions; critique 'houses', separated into genre (the major benefit for writers); and, last but not least, the Pitch Room, where you submit your work direct to Peter (after having taken it through the relevant 'house'. And in return, Peter gives you a 25-minute or so video of feedback. Direct from an agent's mouth. Seriously, this is invaluable stuff for an unpublished writer. Gold dust, in fact.

I joined at a fortuitous moment; the Colony was going through an overhaul, I put my name forward to get involved behind the scenes and was asked to be one of the moderators looking after membership submissions. Next thing I knew, I was an occasional panelist on Litopia After Dark podcast, and writing the home page news stories for the Colony, based largely on members' achievements.

I've continued to stay involved behind the scenes, and it's fair to say that I wish I'd stumbled upon Litopia fifteen years ago, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears halfwit who thought he knew about books and publishing. As it turned out, I still knew next to nothing two years ago. That's no longer the case, and that is all down to Litopia.

It's not just the masses of advice and information that is available; it's the camaraderie between members, the understanding that, while you might be banging away at your keyboard hammering out your manuscript in the dead of night with not a soul around... you are not alone.
You're surrounded by writers, and publishers, and editors, and agents, and agents' readers, and successful, published authors. I really can't recommend it enough, but with one proviso - only join if you're serious about your writing. It's not a playground, even though there is plenty of fun to be had.

So, where am I going with this?

Today, Peter officially announced Radio Litopia. Using Peter's own words: 'Radio Litopia is a radio station devoted to writing, reading and everything inbetween, a logical extension of the highly successful podcasts we've been producing for the last two years. Our station, like thousands of others, is an online radio station. We broadcast over the internet rather than air waves. All our shows will be available as podcasts, too - making the audience even bigger.'

Potentially, this is huge. An entire radio station devoted to the written word? Any writer's number one fantasy, and yes, that's including what you think I'm thinking about.

As has been routinely discussed on the Daily and After Dark podcasts, publishing is undergoing something of a radical transformation, and Peter is positioning Litopia at the forefront of this changing climate, and Radio Litopia is just the next step.

There are two other factors which make Radio Litopia such a mouthwatering proposition. First, it's the fact that Peter has opened the entire programming up to members of Litopia to become involved with, be it as programme producers, panelists, reviewers, interviewers, technical support - or all of these. In the few hours since the announcement was made, the response in the 'Backstage' forum has been incredible.

The second factor, which goes for Litopia as a whole and not just what is happening with the radio station, is Peter's damn infectious enthusiasm. This man is seriously crazy about writing, authors, publishing - in fact, anything to do with books. Some might say he's just plain crazy. Yet it's an enthusiasm which is very difficult to escape, and certainly brushes off on my involvement, and I know I'm not alone in that.

So, Radio Litopia. It's here, it's groovy, and it will kick ass. Queen might even sing a song about it.
For now, you can download the existing podcast shows as normal. But over the course of the coming weeks, you'll start to see a heavier programming schedule appear. Make sure you check it out; if you're serious about writing, you'd be a fool not to.

2 comments:

Down the Rabbit Hole... said...

How exciting! I imagine it will take the form of craft discussions but will there be opportunities for short story writers and playwrights to strut their stuff too?

John Quirk said...

Yes, Pippa - lots of different things being developed, including crafty-type discussions, review shows, author interviews, quiz show (based around books, obviously...) and the like - and, as you say, short stories read out, and serials, for novellas/novels.

Plenty to get involved with :-)