Or, "How Trying To Simplify Things Can Make Them More Complex."
This was the first time that more than two of us actually spoke together about what we're doing and how to go about it. I didn't take extensive notes, but wanted to highlight some of the discussion and particularly the points of agreement.
What does being in the zine project organic group mean? General agreement that it's a working group, and only people who are actually, actively involved in putting the project together need to be in the group at this time. We need to make decisions and get things done and can't always be waiting for peripheral people to chime in or not. Doing a collaborative, consensus-based project over the internet is hard enough as it is!
Who's actively involved? Based on activity level (not including writers and artists who contributed work) I would say this is me, Sandpiper, Catmind, Reese, Antisocialite, Inel, and Will (as Icarus media/publications coordinator). But I think it could make sense to keep Stephen Smiles in the group as the zine/newsletter was his brainchild and he may become actively involved again at some point. I would also be interested in getting feedback from Ashley, who's helped produce a number of Icarus publications.
What does editing mean? Distinction between typographical (text) editing and choosing what goes in the publication. Distinction between traditional role of an editor (i.e., both editing text and choosing) and how we will or may do things. Distinction between "light" and "heavy" editing (cleaning up typos vs. extensive reworking/condensing of a piece) and the meaning of "style editing" and "usage editing." Discussion of all these things.
General agreements on editing: We would prefer to edit lightly. Given the intimate nature of the subject matter, we place high importance on preserving stylistic autonomy and people's own words. We also place importance on this publication being good, readable, engaging, informative, and to reflect well on Icarus and be something we are proud of putting work into. Therefore, we agree that not everything that's submitted will necessarily be printed and we reserve the right to excerpt longer pieces. We did not reach agreement on whether it's ever acceptable to rework/condense/tighten up a long or repetitive piece, but did discuss the possibility of collaborating with an author in this process. We also agreed to limit the number of long pieces per issue.
Who chooses what goes in, and how? General feeling that everyone putting work into this project should have a say. However, it's not clear how decisions will be arrived at. There also seems to be different levels of strength of feeling about having a say. I proposed that people just start speaking up about what they want to put in and why. We need to start somewhere.
But who's "the editor"? Honestly, I just don't know. Maybe we won't have one as such. There was a general feeling that if changes are made to a piece, this should be made clear somehow to others in the group, but we're not sure how to do that. Two proposals were to put edited text in bold, or to list proposed changes like: paragraph 1, sentence 3, change "their" to "they're." I personally feel that with minor stuff this might just be making more work for ourselves than is necessary. I can catch a typo at a thousand paces and will be doing that while I layout the document, regardless. I think the transparency becomes more of an issue if we choose to substantially change any of these pieces.
Size and number of pages. Lots of discussion about this, no agreement reached yet. I think that for ease of distribution (people printing, copying and stapling it together themselves) it would be best to go with 8.5x5.5 (regular 8.5x11 office size paper folded in half) and around 16 pages (four sheets of paper folded) including front and back covers. It could be longer -- hell, we could make a book -- but to keep this project in a manageable scope and help it actually get made I think we need to pick a ballpark figure and aim for that. 16 works for me.
How would that look and feel in my hands? It can be hard to conceptualize this stuff. I proposed that I could layout a mockup and either send it to the other group members in the post, or put it online for others to print and look at. Of course, the problem with this idea is that if I put much work into it I probably wouldn't feel happy about scrapping it all.
What's a good word limit? The original word length proposed by Stephen was 750 words. Catmind suggested we could ask people to shoot for 500. With an 8.5x5.5 document and a 10 point font, 750 words fills about two pages with text and little room for images, white space, pull quotes or large titles. Of course, the amount of space filled depends on which font is used... at any rate, 750 is a workable length, but it would be ideal to have some shorter pieces too, to balance things out and keep the zine readable and visually engaging.
What's a "pull quote"? A quote that is given prominent display, usually in larger text and often appearing in a box. Traditionally these are pulled from the article they appear on a page with, but we discussed the possibility of pulling quotes from articles we decide not to print and scattering them throughout the zine. There was also enthusiasm for the idea of doing this with various quotes pulled from forum posts (with attributions). This way we can get as many voices into the zine as possible.
How will we communicate with each other? To keep everything transparent and clear and to have a record of what we've done (which is useful not just for us, but for people who may step up to be involved later), I think it's important for us to use this here organic group as much as possible. We also decided to have another, shorter conference call next Sunday (12.20.09) at 4:30 PST.
What's everyone's time/energy/commitment level, and level of access to the organic group? Some of us are dealing with illness or trauma, and not everyone has a personal computer. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of deadlines. My personal feeling is that since some of us have been trying to make this zine a reality for two years, a few more months doesn't make a big difference, but it's also frustrating for everything to be left so amorphous for so long. I am aiming (again, personally) for the first issue to be completed at the beginning of the new year.
What else did we talk about? I invite everyone else to speak up about anything I may have missed that seems important.