Requiem for a Website

In October of 2007, I entered a contest on gather.com — the Court TV Search for the Next Great Crime Writer contest. The winner of the contest would win a $5,000 advance and a publishing contract. My entry, More Deaths Than One, was not a detective story, and it certainly was not a cozy mystery, but it is the story of a crime: identity theft. This theft is an actual theft of a man’s identity, not a paper one.

I did very well in that contest, too. As of November 17, 2007, I was ranked number one, but I finished up about sixth or seventh. (I could tell you it was because my mother died and I had to go to California for her funeral and I broke my ankle while there and was off the internet for a week, but the truth is . . . come to think of it, I don’t know what the truth is.)

The contest started out being great fun but devolved into all sorts of infighting, faked votes, and terrible reviews that RIPwere posted for no other reason than meanness. Still, it turned out to be a pivotal point in my writing career.

I became friends with many of the contestants, and casual acquaintances with others. I met other writers that I am still connected with today.  Because of the contest, I eventually found a publisher. The link to the publisher’s website was posted as a comment on one of the writer’s articles, and since I was in querying mode, I immediately shot off a query letter. The publisher loved my book A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and sent me a contract. Turns out, I already knew him through the contest, and he asked if More Deaths Than One was still available. It was. Second Wind Publishing has now published five of my books — four novels and one non-fiction book, Grief: The Great Yearning.

Until the crime writer contest, my online presence had been confined to my blog, but after the contest I posted articles on gather, and I also migrated to other sites, such as Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. I mostly hang around Facebook now because of my discussion groups there, but I always return to Gather, especially on Thursday evening when I used to do a live chat with my No Whine, Just Champagne discussion group. I started out knowing only a few people online, now I know hundreds.

And all because of a contest.

Now, Gather is in its death throes. Because of the spam that clogged the site, Google stopped referencing its content in searches. The site has been sold a couple of times, and neither of the new owners seemed to have any interest in revitalizing this once active online writers community.

Most of my Gather posts have been posted elsewhere, usually here on this blog, but a lot of the discussion topics were too brief for a blog post, so I’ve been mining the site so my content doesn’t get lost. Considering that there were almost two hundred live chats alone in my discussion group, that’s a lot of content! I hope I get time to go through the discussions and look for pithy comments I might have made, but if I don’t, well, no problem. Maybe my comments should pass into oblivion along with the site. And who knows, maybe someday the site will be resuscitated.

Until then, rest in peace, Gather.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

9 Responses to “Requiem for a Website”

  1. SheilaDeeth Says:

    ‘Tis sad. Gather provided me with my first ever online experience. I joined for the First Chapters competition and got a “friend” request which I stared at in dismay for several days, wondering what an online friend might be. By the end of Gather I had hundreds of online friends, and several books and ebooks. I shall always be grateful for the contacts I made there, and especially for you, Pat.

  2. Tracy Findley Beltran Says:

    Wow. I hadn’t heard about it. Those Gather contests started a lot of things for a lot of people. Yet another chapter closes in our lives.

  3. jrafferty11 Says:

    Hi Pat. So much history. I originally joined to enter the First Chapters contest with my first novel and later also submitted into the First Chapters Romance contest. The enduring value was that Gather offered a chance to meet a sympatico community of writers and to exchange our best thoughts and ideas as we all learned together about craft and the world of publishing. The Thursday night chats you hosted were wonderful and gave us a chance to stretch our writerly muscles and hear what our fellow writers had to say. When I go back and see what we had, I miss it, since Facebook seems flat by comparison. I’m glad we all met and I’m sure that we’ll find ways to keep that social energy amongst writers going.

    James Rafferty

  4. Carol Says:

    I came to your ‘No Whine, Just Champagne’ community late in the game and didn’t participate often because I had another commitment on Thursday evenings, so I don’t really have any ties to it. It seemed like a place where you could trust people… everyone was welcomed and free to give honest opinions in the discussions, and nobody got snarky… not always the case on some other social media sites. Other than your one group I’ve had no other exposure to Gather. I’d never heard of it before or since then, which suggests whoever was in charge of marketing wasn’t doing it aggressively. Live Journal is another site that will likely disappear one day. It used to be a popular choice for blogs, but seems to be losing ground in favour of other more popular ones.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I worked hard to make that a good group. I enjoyed those chats, but it got to be too difficult to make the commitment. I’m glad you got to stop by a few times.

  5. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    I hear good things about the site, but I have a feeling that when it was going strong, I was still spending most of my time on MySpace. Too bad they’re letting the thing crumble away.

  6. Norm Brown Says:

    Sad to hear about the demise of Gather. As you know my book was in that same contest in 2007. I didn’t do enough to finish very high in the vote rankings, but ended up meeting the same future publisher and then through that connection met you. Great memories of that time.


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