Most of us have had access to the internet less than 20 years. Our engagement with it varies, of course. You can allow it to inundate your life and risk internet addiction (Yes, there are those who now consider this a disease). You can be comfortable with it—as most young people below 30 are—and use it only as much as you need to. Or, you might be intimidated by it; in which case, you might miss out on its benefits. This is where computer user clubs can come to your rescue.
Steve Costello knows this very well. He has been a part of one for as long as we have had the World Wide Web. You might even think of him as some kind of an evangelist for extracting all the benefits you possibly could out of a computer and the internet.
Not only is Steve president of a computer club, he is also its newsletter editor. You could think of these clubs as social networks. Members are there to share experiences, help with problems mastering this powerful tool. Steve can help you and me, too, through his website, Computers, Technology, and User Groups.
Steve, however, is not only a computer advocate. One day, he wants to write a novel. Until that day comes, he reviews books and participates in creative writing challenges. And, yes, he has a website for that, too: My Creative Writing and Book Reviews
Why is a user group important to both writers and readers? What does one get out of such a group?
BRCS (Boca Raton Computer Society) has the tag line Members helping Members, which is just what we do. Our Board of Directors, Special Interest Group (SIG) leaders, and any other position, are all volunteers. The more knowledgeable help those less knowledgeable.
Most computer user groups, now call themselves computer and technology user groups, as members now want to know about all kinds of technology such as: smart phones, the latest in televisions, etc.
Baby boomers, like myself, should be getting involved with computer/technology user groups, to learn how to enjoy themselves, rather than just using technology for working purposes. I know that over the years my involvement in such groups, has made things fun for me.
I think Tim O’Reilly sums it up the best:
“The pioneers of new technology get together for installfests, new user training and support, and just plain fun. Being part of a user group is the best way to get more out of your computer, and lets you make friends while you’re at it.”
How important do you think is it to be computer savvy if you’re a writer?
I think it is very important, unless you are just writing to please yourself, in which case just writing things out long hand is enough. For myself as the newsletter editor, sometime writer, and a blogger, I would not be able to function without a computer of some kind.
If you’re mainly a reader?
If you are a reader, it is not so important, unless you like to find out about the latest available books, or need to download e-books. Libraries have a lot of things available through digital means, and you cannot normally access those if you aren’t at least a little familiar with computers.
What are your two or three most preferred genres to read?
Mostly mystery/thriller, sci-fi/fantasy, and general fiction, once and a while technology non-fiction.
How do you select the books you read?
There are authors I have found that I like, so I usually at least check any of their new releases at the library. I find out about them from the weekly best seller listings in the newspaper, or a walk through Costco’s book section.
I pick up paperbacks or hardcovers at yard sales or flea markets for twenty-five cents to a dollar, if it is something I have not read, but looks like I might like it after a quick perusal.
For e-books, my primary sources are Goodreads.com and pixelofink.com, though I do check out a few other sites.
How do you select those you decide to review?
I usually don’t review established authors, unless I think it might help others decide upon reading their works.
There have been a few that I received through the Goodreads.com First Reads Giveaways, for which I always write a review.
If I find a work from an author I haven’t read before, and like it, I will usually write a review, and then find other books to add to my to read list, whether on Goodreads or just in my own personal list.
How many books do you read a week?
One to two. Sometimes three or more if I am on vacation, or just have a lot of time on my hands.
Most of the time I have more than one going at a time. One from the library, on my Kindle, on my smart phone, one on my Nexus 7, and maybe even a non-fiction technology book being read for review in the user group newsletter.
Last year I read 128, and my 2013 reading challenge is set 125.
I also read three technology related magazines monthly, over 200 RSS feed subscriptions (though not every day, and mostly skim to see if there is anything interesting), and articles distributed to me as editor of the newsletter.
I read a lot, in other words.
E-book or print book, any preference?
No real preference, except if reading on my Kindle, smart phone, or tablet, then of course e-book is the best.
Mostly fiction, with a smattering of non-fiction if there is something of interest to me.
What is a creative writing challenge?
I was wandering around on the internet, back in early 2010, ran across some writing prompts, and decided to give it a try. I found that I enjoyed writing and have participated ever since. Mainly, I take part in the creativecopychallenge.wordpress.com (CCC) prompts, but sometimes others.
Where do you intend to take it?
Eventually, when I am fully retired, I want to start writing longer stories, or maybe expand to a novel.
I am working on creating an e-book from my first set of CCC submissions, all of which have a moral, and then, once I know how to format an e-book properly, self-publish the rest on a semi-annual basis.
For now, the e-book will be under Creative Commons licensing.
In addition to the writing prompts I write:
- The President’s Message, Editor’s Notes, Interesting Internet Finds, and the occasional review, or article, for the Boca Bits monthly newsletter.
- Posts for my two blogs.
- Information for the computer user groups, and regional/national associations of computer user groups.