New update, June 18: I’ve started a new virtual Zoom-based MeetUp group for speculative fiction writers. If you write science fiction, fantasy or horror, check us out.
Update: Since this post was first published, several people have contacted me from all around the country wanting to drop into our meetings, and a couple have! We’re glad to see everyone, and it helps bring in new voices and ideas into our little group of locals out in the wilds of Western Massachusetts. 🙂 If you do want to stop by, just sign up for our MeetUp group: https://www.meetup.com/Belchertown-Writers-and-Futurists/ — to avoid random naked people signing up (I know, there are some weird people out there). You can also email me ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me you’re coming. I manually admit the people whose names I recognize from the MeetUp signup or who have emailed me. I like to keep the group at about six to eight people or so, so if it gets larger I will start a new group on a different day of the week, probably focused specifically on speculative fiction.
The first virtual meeting of my local drop-in writers’ group, Belchertown Writers, took place on Sunday, Mar. 22 on Zoom. It worked! Woo hoo!
Personally, I’ve been using Zoom for a long time for work, but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered features of Zoom that I never knew it had. For example, it lets you really easily pull up a whiteboard to scribble on that everyone can see — or share a document on your computer, or a browser window.
Just move your mouse to the bottom of the screen, or tap on your phone screen, and look for the green “share” button at the bottom.
My grandmother’s English school is also using Zoom for all of its classes. And my other writers’ group, a local SciFi group, has also moved to Zoom and its working out really well as well.
You feel really close to people – especially when you see their pets and where they live.
Zoom is completely free, though if you want to have really long meetings, they’ll want you to upgrade to their premium service. During the epidemic, they’re updating everyone for free. 🙂 Thanks, Zoom!
Here’s the URL for our meetings: https://zoom.us/j/152083261
(It’s going to be the same for all future meetings, so you can save it or bookmark it.)
I’ve been hearing warnings about Zoom bombing, so I’ve got a waiting room enabled and will screen out unwelcome visitors — and kick people out if they start misbehaving! So far, I haven’t had that problem because writers are nice, good people. But, as we all know, the Internet is full of trolls, so it’s good to have a plan, just in case.
And here’s a YouTube tutorial on how to use Zoom:
I suggest that if you’re using Zoom for the first time that you go to their website, Zoom.us, or look for Zoom in your app store, install it, and practice talking to a friend. Find where the mute button is (hint: bottom left) in case your dog starts barking in the middle of a meeting. And where the share button is (bottom middle) so that you can share pictures, writing, or Web windows.