Thursday, October 05, 2023

About the ABQwerty Type Writer Society

Vertical Script

For years, I watched with interest as the Type-In phenomenon spread throughout the Typosphere to various communities in the US, wishing and wondering if one would eventually come to my city. Around the 2017 time frame I'd finally decided that, if an ABQ Type-In were ever to happen, I'd have to take the bull by the proverbial horns and wrestle one into existence.

Wrestle it seemed I did, because the two biggest obstacles were finding a proper venue and spreading the word around town. I eventually found Nexus Brewery to be an acceptable location, provided I could guarantee their $300 food and drinks minimum revenue from the guests; as it turned out, we didn't have to cover the fee, since the guests ate and imbibed sufficiently.

More difficult was spreading the word. I had an instinct that many people who were typewriter-interested were also less than heavily involved in social media, so I instead placed an events notification in the local Albuquerque Journal newspaper. It's kind of interesting how this worked, because it seemed to involve a pay-to-play scheme. It didn't cost anything to place the event on their calendar, but I'd periodically get emails asking me to "upgrade" to a paid system where the paper would more fully promote the event. As it turned out, the event went off well, as we had lots of press coverage and attendees.

(Parenthetically, I've since wondered if that pay-to-play scheme isn't the basis behind most of contemporary newsmedia.)

Ever since then I've been conscious of how important it is to spread the word. Keeping people in touch has been a constant challenge in the intervening years, such as when we held several events per year on the outdoor breezeway adjacent to Pennysmith's Paper, before COVID.

One thing that's helped is being interviewed for the local paper, which happened prior to the March 2023 event at the Special Collections Library and resulted in a major turnout; contrast this with the event held this summer at the same venue that resulted in a very light turnout. Unfortunately, expecting a local reporter to cover your event in the paper every time is not a reliable way to guarantee good attendance.

We soon hit on the idea of a sign-up sheet for people wanting to be contacted about future events. As time passed, those sign-up sheets have matured into a large contacts list that have become a useful tool for notifying the typewriter-interested who may not be involved much with social media.

In ye olden days, a newspaper or even a bulletin board were all one needed to promote an event. But paper newspapers, like the Journal, are on decline, even though many older people in my community, who would otherwise be likely candidates for typewriter events, stick to reading the paper and yet are not heavily involved in social media.

Social media itself is changing, too. Where just a few years ago a Facebook event notification would touch a wide swath of the local online community, many people have left platforms like Facebook for others, or disengaged entirely. It is ironic that, often, Typospherians in the rest of the country know more about a local Type-In than the locals here, due to a lack of an effective local communications medium to replace the once dominant newspapers.

Sometime during the COVID era, Kevin Kittle and myself, sufficiently luburicated on his front veranda one evening, had decided that we should start a more formal typewriter group, and soon the name of the ABQwerty Type Writer Society was born -- more or less. In the intervening few years we've managed to contact many people on our list and hold a number of local Type-In events. But still, something was amiss, I felt.

One problem was our email contacts list didn't discern between those merely casually interested in future events from those who had a more serious interest in typewriters and the typing community. Also, though we had a core group of people who socialized at private meetings in members' homes, I didn't feel like the mission of being a creative outreach was being met.

Finally, we held some serious discussions to decide on our future course of action. One issue was the workload required to setup a Type-In. Up until now, most of the setup and teardown work fell on myself, Kevin and Bill Tefft. What we needed was a larger core group to help facilitate such events, which would be especially important if we were to expand our outreach to include workshops to groups of writers and other creatives.

Another problem was I felt I was rather inept in the social media and communications side of the house. I've struggled with managing email lists and replies bouncing to spam folders and creating effective and enticing emails that were more likely to be read. We also needed, I felt, a more serious web presence than a languishing Facebook page and an email list.

A key moment came this year when a new member to the group introduced herself as being skilled at websites and navigating social media. I realized that here was a solution to one of our problems. Woz Flint has become a key ingredient in the refurbishment of our outreach. She created a Substack website for us to use as an outreach platform, and has incorporated into it our contacts list as well. Woz provides the polish needed to help us communicate our vision and future plans, and has been of immense help to my by taking my rough-and-tumble attempts at blog postings and notifications and polishing them into web-ready articles.

As a group, we still need to formulate future plans, our intention being not just public Typewriter events but outreach to writers' groups and other creatives, to bring the message that typewriters can be that missing ingredient in one's creative process.

Along with the usual (and sporadic) content here on this blog, I will also be cross-posting future ABQwerty Type Writer Society articles and notices to you, my longtime faithful readers, to keep you up-to-date on the local ABQ typewriter scene.

Should you like to visit our site, click this link. You can also subscribe to the site and you'll be notified by email of future articles and typewriter events.

Finally, (which reminds me of a joke: how can you tell a politician or preacher is lying? He says "In conclusion...") I often see people lamenting that there are no Type-In events in their community. You need to know that I was that person! I too lamented all the fun people in other communities were having with their typewriters. While the film Field of Dreams didn't exactly come to mind at that time, the advice offered in that film does apply here: Build it and they will come! Short of making a starter kit, my advice is simple: find a venue, schedule a date & time, and publicize it! It also helps if you have a sizable collection of typewriters, even if you don't know very many other aficionados in your community. Bring your own machines, especially the ones not so delicate or rare, along with paper and other accoutrements, and have fun!


Blogger Richard P said...

Yes, when I publicize a type-in I often get comments such as, "I wish we had events like this in my town." My response is always: Make it happen! You've shown us how.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous BillG said...

You've shared lots of great insights here Joe. Ironically, I've personally reached a point where at times I'm feeling more or less "all talked out" when it comes to typewriters. I believe the reason for this is that as time moves on the appeal that these machines hold purely as objects is beginning to fade for me. With that said, once you and the other members of the ABQwerty Type Writer Society figure out how to best appeal to writers and other creatives I would be very interested to learn more. Ultimately I would like to learn more about how such people make use of typewriters as tools in their own processes.

3:59 AM  

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