I was reading a fellow poster's blog on We Make Zines, and something about its tone made me remember the now long defunct website Redpaper (redpaper.com). It's been a few years since the site closed its cyber-doors, but from time to time I still find myself lamenting its passing; I miss the site, and I miss the people I once interacted with there.
Surely someone else on WMZ also used Redpaper when it was around. For those who've never heard of it, Redpaper was an online community for writers, artists, photographers and musicians to sell access to their works for a nominal fee.
I'm talkin' chump change.
Redpaper was essentially an experiment in micropayment retail commerce and social networking. The idea was that you create an account with a minimum investment of about $3, money that you could immediately use to purchase the intellectual properties of other users. After setting up your account you could also begin to sell your own creations.
Prices on the site usually ranged from as little as 2¢ or 10¢, up to a few bucks. Properties sold for a quarter and under seemed to do best, though. And while you might not think it would be worth it to sell your work for the cost of coins with the profiles of Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt, it was always a thrill that someone was buying your work.
Much more than the retail aspects, though, it was the interactions you had with fellow readers and writers that made nearly every transaction on Redpaper priceless. Since someone had paid to read what you had written, they frequently felt obligated to leave remarks on the work -- unlike today's blogs which people (even myself) usually read with selfish anonymity.
My father is the one who told me about Redpaper. He had read a small article about its launch in the newspaper, and called to make sure that I knew about its existence. I hadn't heard about the site. Hell, at the time I don't even think I was doing any writing.
In fact, up to that point I had never done much with the written word at all, save for a spiral notebook full of poetic musings and a rant-filled journal from high school. I had always seen myself as an artist, and went to school to study graphic design. Though it was something I could do, I never thought much about my own writing.
My father obviously did.
Thanks to my father and to the community at Redpaper, I began taking writing more seriously. And when the site folded -- quite unexpectedly -- it actually drove me into getting more actively into zine making, perhaps with the newfound confidence that I could produce something even more substantial that people might buy.
Now so many years later, from time to time I still find myself hoping to run across some of the other writers I once connected with on Redpaper. And I hope to learn that they too are still doing something with their gifts, whether it be magazine articles, newspaper columns, poetry chapbooks, blogs or zines. Just something.
For me, Redpaper was a gateway drug to the power of the written word. I hope that it was the same for others who took part in that experiment too.