How the Net has affected my life.
written for an interview in 1997

     I have a long background in computer programming. In 1995 I went through a lengthy depression in which I could do very little, certainly not computer programming. I became homeless; I also did get diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder -- what used to be called manic-depression. By early 1996, although I was still homeless, I was stabilized and very active in homeless self-help groups. One group, just getting started, was the Homeless Women's Network, a project to help homeless and low-income women make more use of computer technology -- including the Internet. As one of the women with the most technical background, I pretty much ended up volunteered to be in charge of the training part of the program.
    There was one problem. I had never myself used the Internet. I was quite simply scared of it. I really didn't want to tackle anything that was going to kick the ... stuffing out of my new-found sense of self-confidence. And there is such *hype* about the Internet. Every time someone advertises a new program to "make the Internet easier", it sounds that much harder.
    But I had to. So I went to a meeting of the Seattle Computer Network, got my free email account, started using it -- and found out that, like most computers, the Internet was dumber than a box of rocks and actually did everything I told it to. <insert grin here>
    I also found out that I could publicize everything that I and the groups I was involved with were doing much more easily on the Internet. I began by posting to newsgroups. Then I got an inexpensive account at the local cybercafe and set up my own webpage. I copied the code from any page that looked good to me and experimented until I found out what commands created what effects. Since I am more a text-oriented person than a visuals-oriented person, I didn't need to learn a lot of fancy effects.
    I spend most of my time on the Net doing email. For years I have joked that I don't have Writer's Block, I just have Writer's Marketing Block. On the Web, I found that I really have Writer's Post-Office Block. I have sent a number of poems, stories and essays in by email, and had quite a few published. I am a member of a number of lists, mostly writing workshop lists. I know that my writing has improved enormously through my Net experience.
    Recently I started two new workshop lists of my own -- including one for homeless and low-income writers.

Homeless Columns ed. by Anitra L. Freeman
StreetWrites Workshop
Kalliope Poetry Exercise Workshop
Other writing & workshops
More on low-income access to the Internet