It All Started in Gatlinburg

For weeks, Writers’ Block folk have been abuzz about Gatlinburg. Our first “official” meetup and presentation of the new toolkit on our horizon would happen there, and most of us who were planning to go were so excited we couldn’t sleep for days beforehand.

This was an extra-big-deal for @GMuxx, who bought tickets for an international flight to bring him from England to the States on his first trip outside of Europe. Anyone who knows Muxxy and me knows our collaboration has hit the year mark roughly coinciding with our Steemiversaries, and that our meeting face to face would be a tremendous milestone for The Writers’ Block. I’m happy to report that all these months of online chatting have indeed turned into an “IRL” friendship that expanded to include even my husband, @sk43. He’s as charmed by Brave Sir Muxxy as I am and I have to admit, watching them pal around together in Gatlinburg was one of the happier times in my life to date.

We had a tremendous amount of fun. From Wednesday to the following Monday, the very different worlds of more than a dozen Writers Block members all converged at one tiny dot on the map, a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, that seemed to have been custom made for our meetup. The sense of family was overwhelming. The sense of accomplishment, mindblowing.

Rick Miller, known on Steemit as @instructor2121, is a developer with a two-year history of working with the Steem blockchain. I met him in Nashville at another meetup back in May, and one conversation led to another until we discovered a commonality between the needs of The Writers’ Block and the functions of his new blockchain interface. Turns out, Rick had already built the very tool our Block leaders had decided we need, but could probably never develop. He showed his beta work to @anarcho-andrei and me in Nashville, and this past weekend, showed it to Writers’ Block leadership. The tools Rick can set us up with have the potential to take our community to the next level not only on the blockchain, but with real-world publishing. Expect an announcement post from @thewritersblock soon with more details.

In a nutshell, I can tell you that TWB will be launching our own front end for the blockchain, a site that is inexorably bound to the existing Steem universe but customizable for our specific needs. We’ve discussed solutions for the issue of visibility, hatched ideas about making quality content the first thing readers see when they connect with the blockchain through our site, and have come up with a blueprint that we believe has the potential to change not only the way cryptocurrency is utilized in the mainstream, but the face of independent publishing across the board.

Do we have a mountain of work ahead of us? You bet we do. Are there challenges? Better believe there are. But some of the brightest minds on the Steem blockchain are standing behind our project. We’re going to make this happen, and we’ll be sharing the process with you step by step as this dream comes to life.

As far as the trip itself went, our daily internet habits followed us into the wilderness of Tennessee. Above, left to right, you can see Muxxy, @jayna, and me all Steeming and Discording as usual on our little devices. See how happy we all look? We were in our natural habitat as long as we had technology close at hand.

We were definitely covered in the tech department when it came time for our official meeting with Rick. @jonknight did us proud with his ability to understand our next step, and it was nice seeing him in action when it came to discussing the nuts and bolts that will make our new front end work.

@sircork had his eye on potential problems we might have with the new front end. He also had his eye on this Orange County Choppers bike at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pigeon Forge. Nice one, that bike. Think we’ll ever see a day when OCC builds a custom bike for Steemhouse Publishing? Does OCC even still build bikes?

Jayna cooked wonderful meals for us. She kept us flush with eats and drinks and I desperately miss her morning scrambles. I felt guilty over how much time she spent in the kitchen compared to how much time I didn’t spend in the kitchen. She and I got to talk, though, at length, about the issues TWB is facing with the feedback queues, and how it’s affecting the editors. Her ideas for solutions very closely mirror some of the ideas we’ve bounced around in leadership meetings lately. Things have to change. And change they will. We’ve established a seven-day holding pattern for the status quo, which will give us time to sort the information that Rick needs. After that, TWB will start moving toward a new focus that utilizes the Writers Workout and Chicago-Style Workshops more heavily than peer to peer review.

@anarcho-andrei ran the stream that we hoped would give all Block members a chance to participate in the meeting Saturday morning. Sound quality was awful, though it was no fault of Andrei’s. We did the best we could. Huge thanks to Andrei for his work with the equipment. Also, he was kind enough to bring @ladymaharet with him. Just as Muxxy flew in from England and Jayna flew down from Minnesota, Chelsea (ladymaharet) flew from Canada to meet Andrei at the Atlanta airport. She is also a member of the Block and has art skills we hope to employ in the realm of book cover design. Her talent is extraordinary.

@enginewitty, pictured above with Abercrombie, is a member of the Block, a Steem witness, and founder of The Alliance. This was the second time I enjoyed a meetup with Witty and I happen to think he’s just awesome. He certainly brings a spark! He also brought Abi, a close family friend who spend some quality time with Corky’s dogs. Abi fit right in to our little group and if she isn’t careful, we’ll assimilate her right into The Writers’ Block. You’re welcome to join us any time, Abi!

Now, let me tell you about the photo of Muxxy that you see below. There he sits in the car we rented, with my dog Paige on his lap asleep. You have to know Paige to fully appreciate this, but she never sits on anyone’s lap the first day she meets them. In fact, she will barely sit on @catherine813 ‘s lap, and Catherine sees her almost every day. Yet Paige took right to Muxxy, not only sitting on his lap, but sleeping on his lap. I suspect she may have recognized his voice from hearing it broadcast all over the house when we’re on chat or he’s in a radio show. Whatever the case, this is my favorite photo of Muxxy from the entire trip. This picture says it all.

At the end of the day, this meetup was a fantastic experience.I have much more to post in the days to come, with plenty of pictures and video to