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Question of the Week: Collaboration

by Susan Henderson on January 15, 2007


Happy Martin Luther King Day!
A brave man with his heart turned outward.

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This week’s question: Have you ever tried an artistic collaboration of any sort? Tell me how it went for you. Or why you’d never ever try one.

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Wednesday, you’ll meet three top-notch men who – if you put their resumes together – have worked for Disney, Pixar, Blue Sky, DC Comics, and have all kinds of awards under their belts, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. They know all about artistic collaboration. Stop by Wednesday to hear more and join the conversation!

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon Haynes January 15, 2007 at 5:31 am

I don’t collaborate at the writing stage, and I don’t believe I could. I mean, I discuss the plot of my novels with my editor but that’s a tiny fraction of the time I spend thinking about it myself.

I’m willing to listen to feedback, but the final choice has to be mine.

Apart from writing fiction I’ve also designed and written various software applications (Sonar and yWriter are two of mine.) I’ve never collaborated on those, either.

Hmm. If I wasn’t so laid back I’d probably make a good Dictator.

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Lance Reynald January 15, 2007 at 5:57 am

does being a wondertwin count??

if so, Yeah I’d do it again, in a heartbeat!!

xo-LR

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amy January 15, 2007 at 1:43 pm

I left the 9-5 world because I couldn’t stand bosses, coworkers, or clients telling me how to do my job. So what are the odds I could put up with a collaborator?

Of course it would be lovely to have someone to read all my writing and give me their suggestions. But if I didn’t have the final say, the relationship would probably turn ugly fast.

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Bass Reeves January 15, 2007 at 2:24 pm

I have enjoyed many fruitful collaborations over the years,,,,it’s all in the attitude of the participants,,,,it can also be a useful tool for stimulating yourself out a funk…

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Aurelio January 15, 2007 at 3:04 pm

I’ve had many creative collaborations in the past and really enjoyed them a lot. In a collaboration, at it’s best, you are constantly bouyed by the talents of your collaborators, and if you get 100% of everyone’s best work, it can result in something far better than you could ever do alone.

That being said, working alone feels braver and more personal, and can therefore be more personally rewarding. They are different experiences. I like both.

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Robin Slick January 15, 2007 at 4:04 pm

I’ve always wanted to, but it’s got to be someone with a sick sense of humor and a down to earth writing style who enjoys writing about rock music and/or relationship issues of a sexual, comedic, but still cerebral nature. So I teamed up with an incredible writer named Petula Caesar and we were going to write a contemporary erotic novel about sexual situations between people over the age forty and I’m not sure what happened but next thing I knew, I found myself editor of the anthology and instead of writing with Tula, I’m in charge of the whole damn project, which will contain short stories and poems on the very subject we first visualized. Err..here’s the submission guidelines and I look forward to collaborating with some of you. We’re looking at a print release in December of this year and I’m in the process of going after a few big names as well as some unknowns but yeah, those lucky enough to be accepted (and I have sole and final say) will get to work with me and collaborating on a story of our own is not out of the question.

Oy.

By the way, you don’t have to be over forty or female to submit to this. It’s fiction.

By the way #2, I like Aurelio’s answer a lot.

By the way #3, if my links don’t work, will you fix them, Susan?

Hope to see a lot of you in NYC tomorrow night at KGB. If I can force myself to deal with Amtrak, that is.

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girlgrey January 15, 2007 at 4:05 pm

collaboration / artistic community is easily the one thing i miss most about college. our small liberal arts college held community almost above learning, but i didn’t realize that until i graduated. just having other creative, active people around to inspire me and discuss ideas is what i consider the goal of online communities. they are few and far between, but susan, you have created one right here, and i thank you for that.

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Aimee January 15, 2007 at 4:44 pm

I worked with my Brother on a memoir. He would write a chapter, send it to me, and then I’d write the next chapter. I think it turned out beautifully, though it still needs fine tuning. I would do it again. But it might be different if we were forcing our opinion about how it should be rather than writing our own individual sections.

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Jesse Lee January 15, 2007 at 4:45 pm

I have not yet collaberated but I know I will need to. I don’t think I can exist as an artist with out collaberating. We need each other for support and insight. We need readers too for us to actually make a living as writers. With out effecting our individuality or personal goals, we need to strive as a community.
First though, I actually need to finish my book! Then I’ll look into find some people to help me out.

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Brent Robison January 15, 2007 at 5:39 pm

I’ve eagerly said “sure” to collaborations in the past, only to find myself chafing inside and grumpy with my partner. I left the video production field partly because I was tired of its collaborative oppression, thinking I wanted to just write in glorious solitude. And real writing for me still seems to require that. But the last video I produced was truly collaborative, a joint documentary effort with my wife to honor our dear friend, an aging painter, a wise elder of the tribe, and I was able to push through the pain to find joy on the other side. And then she and I collaborated again to edit a collection of writings about the meanings of the Masks we all wear (www.blissplotpress.com), and that one was much less painful. I suspect that collaboration, like so many other things that I resist, is precisely what I should embrace as I move toward being my True Self….

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Carolyn Burns Bass January 15, 2007 at 7:21 pm

Years ago an editor and I collaborated on some record reviews and for political reasons published them under a pseudonym combining each of our middle names.

I have never collaborated in writing fiction. Don’t know if I could; it’s such a personal endeavor.

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patry January 15, 2007 at 8:10 pm

In a lot of ways, I feel like everything I write is a collaboration–involving first my agent and editor, and then readers who make a story their own as they interact with it the characters and bring their own experience and perceptions in.

I also think that at it’s best as it’s done HERE, blogging is a terrific collaboration. All kinds of cross-fertilization going on.

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Julie Ann Shapiro January 15, 2007 at 9:21 pm

I am working on a collaborative book project now that came about through a client. I can’t elaborate a huge amount because I have an NDA. I have worked with the co-author before in a review/critique capacity and knew that our writing would complement each other. I pulled her into the project. My co-author and I call the project creative by committee. It’s a lot of fun. We bounce ideas back and forth and expand on what each other has written. Plus, the studio gives us feedback on what they want changed. The content development meetings are fascinating.

It’s rewarding being part of the creative process and seeing how our ideas grow. A relationship like this has to have good synergy and a willingness by all parties to take ideas and run with it and to accept if the other doesn’t like an idea. There can’t be egos attached to this or even a greater sense of ownership like with one’s own creative projects.

I’ve written a couple articles on collaboration for clients, which also helps us keep things in perspective.

We each have our own novels and stories to tell and view this as a joint project, but not our own. I think that’s key. We can enjoy it creatively, but ulitmately walk away at the end of the day and do our own things. Yet, come back to the project in new and different ways.

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Jennifer McMahon January 15, 2007 at 10:58 pm

My partner, Drea, and I wrote about half of a mystery novel together. It was great fun! We would take turns sitting at the computer and when one of us got stuck, the other would jump in. Then, it fizzled out, and life got in the way. Every now and then I look at it and am surprised by how good it is. Maybe one of these days, we’ll finish.

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tao January 16, 2007 at 10:28 am

i collaborate with ellen kennedy on all these: http://blueberryhamster.com and this: http://fermented-soy-beans.blogspot.com

it is good

we write alternating chapters, it is good and fun

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Sarah R. Roundell January 16, 2007 at 10:45 am

I had loads of fun writing a screenplay with one of my closest friends. The words just fell into place and it was probably one of the quickest pieces I’ve ever finished. The result was amazing as the two of us melded so well that you can’t see who wrote what. I’d love to write something like that again, but it feels like a once in a lifetime thing.
So looking forward to Wednesday in the park!

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Bruce Hoppe January 16, 2007 at 1:22 pm

Following up on patry’s thought, “…and then readers who make a story their own as they interact with the characters and bring their own experiences and perceptions…” I’m intrigued by this notion of writing as contribution to the collaborative Jungian collective consciousness idea. A certain sense of anticipation for me, i.e., OK I’ve done what I can with this novel, now let’s see what “la gente” will do with it.

On another level. I work shopped my first novel as part of my MFA. “Oh no!” you say, “Doesn’t he know that a camel is a horse that was put together by a committee?” But here’s why it worked for me. I write about the contemporary rural heartland–not a topic that rates particularly high on the applause meter of the much of the readership which is mostly coastal/urban.(H.L. Mencken is supposed to have once said of Willa Cather, “Why would I want to know anything about Nebraska?”) By using the MFA workshop, composed as it was of mostly urban, fairly sophisticated readers, I was able to test how the thing would “play in Peoria.” I learned that what I was doing was connecting with this mini test group. Further, upon reflection on their comments I discovered why it was working. I had stumbled, unawares, upon an old Falkerian strategy–that one can reach a wide audience with content based in some obscure corner of the world by infusing it with modern language.

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Susan Henderson January 16, 2007 at 4:14 pm

Ah, I love these answers. And welcome to those of you who are brand new here. I’ll link everyone on Friday when I do the weekly wrap.

I’m fixing one last chapter on my book, for those of you who’ve tried to get in touch with me. I’ve been an absolute hermit.

Tonight, if you’re at KGB, I’ll see you there. Bringing this chapter with me on the train, determined to get it right. Thank God no one is as hard on me in real life as I am on myself.

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Jason Boog January 16, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Funny thing, I collaborated over the weekend…

Along with the help of a few friends last Sunday, we held a mad-cap storytelling reading in a cozy Manhattan bar. The place was packed with a mix of established writers, fledgling writers, musicians, friends and family of writers, hip East Villagers, and a couple crazies.

Nothing went the way we planned–lots and lots of readers showed up, the microphone almost broke, the reading lamp broke, and the reading stretched pretty long. But we pulled it off, and I think next week some people will come back.

After spending the last six months typing away for web publications, there is nothing more refreshing than a roomful of people who want to hear good stories. I love the Internet, but I love the real-life community feeling even more…

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LaurenBaratz-Logsted January 16, 2007 at 4:30 pm

My husband Greg Logsted and I collaborated on “Fred,” the lead short story in the just-published Johnny Cash theme anthology LITERARY CASH.

And right now I’m in the early stages of a collaboration with Greg and our almost-seven-year-old daughter that could be a nine-book series.

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Gail Siegel January 17, 2007 at 3:00 am

I’ve never collaborated, per se. But I’ve benefitted enormously from workshops, from editors, and from my writing group. On the other hand, I’m not someone who incorporates every suggestion, or even brings revisions back to my writing group. I know I’ll never please everyone, anymore than everyone would write the same story give the same topic. So I try to remember the comments that strike me most deeply, and revise accordingly.

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mikel k poet January 17, 2007 at 6:15 am

I ve collaborated with musicians…my words…their heart and soul…the most recent collaboration is one I have ongoing
with musician, writer and painter Clark Vreeland…our piece
called “Quit Ur Bitchin'” can be heard at

http://www.myspace.com/mrmrsdamagedgoods

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gayle brandeis January 17, 2007 at 7:40 am

Collaboration can be incredibly fruitful, but it can also be tricky. Several years ago, a good friend and I decided to choreograph a three-part dance together. It practically ended our friendship–we had very different ways of working (I was more let’s-improv-and-see-what-comes-of-it, and she was more let’s-plan-every-move) and this resulted in many tearful misunderstandings. Fortunately our friendship survived and we still love one another dearly–we’ve since collaborated on some short stories, which has proven to be a much better shared form for us. I also co-wrote a short story with my friend Sefi Atta, and that was a joy.

A different sort of collaboration–I’ve co-organized benefit concerts and other events, and love sharing the planning with other people, seeing where each person’s talents can fit and shine. I think there needs to be a good fit from the beginning, a shared vision, but also an openness to follow the other person in unexpected directions(and enough clarity to guide the person back to middle ground if necessary.)

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Jonathan Evison January 17, 2007 at 5:39 pm

…as much as i like the concept of “team,” i’ve watched a lot of good ideas die by committee over the years…even in film i’ve found, the smaller the crew, the better execution . . .

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Carmelo valone January 20, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Yes, I have collaborated with numerous writers. My first collaboration was quite awkward as me and the person had no balance, he was domineering and couldn’t take criticism.
I just helped a friend finish her book more of my giving her serious notes for three years, not exactly a partnership, but that went quite well, her book with be out in Septmber.
Currently I am collaborating with an ex-lawyer turned writer on a TV Pilot and it seems to be going well.
Writing is a lonely biz, so it’s best to try and work well with others. But some projects you just have to do on your own, ie ‘pet projects’ (My memoir is my pet project)

🙂
Carmelo

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Lee July 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

It’s all a collaboration one way or the other.
Kind of like sex after a paid for dinner isn’t much different than sex for cash.

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