Okay, the New Age has begun. Sort of. Sitting here in San Miguel de Allende, at my office desk, I chatted face-to-face with the members of the East Grand Rapids book club in Michigan. They had their glasses of wine and I had my glass of water. (Next time I set up a video visit with a club, I’ll ask: “And what will we be drinking?”)

We chatted back and forth for about 45 minutes: they could see me, and I could see them (or at least those who were in the line-of-sight of their computer camera-eye). Amazing … but it was not without a few glitches.

Here’s how it went:

First, we both had membership in Skype.com (free), broadband computer access, and computers with a video capacity. This can be built-in, or you can buy a USB camera for very little.

We set up a time. This can be tricky because of time zones.

I fussed a bit before they called. My computer was on, Skype was open, I was “available”. All set. But I didn’t know how I would look to them, so I opened iChat and clicked the video camera icon. And there I was: in need of make-up, a better top, perhaps a scarf—and definitely better lighting.

It was rather like setting up a camera shoot. I tidied my office, propped the computer up on a book for better camera shot, closed my curtains, turned on a lamp. Reminded myself not to stare at the screen with my mouth hanging open. And to sit up straight (yes, mother).


And then the call, so like a phone ringing. I clicked answer, and we were connected. “Hello?” Only I could see myself, but not them. Humm. We decided to try again.

Hang up, quit Skype, reopen Skype, click the telephone icon. Aha: now I could see them, and they could see me—but their image was “frozen,” not moving. So, once again…

Hang up, quit Skype, reopen Skype, click the telephone icon. Ah! We could all see each other, and we were moving … and talking!

It was great—we had a real visit! It was very much like sitting and chatting with a book club, but different—both more remote (we were not face-to-face), but also more intimate, in a way. Because I was in my office, for example, I could show them the stack of papers I was working on: the outline of The Next Novel.

The technology was a bit balky—the video quality reminded me of shots of men walking on the moon. There was a bit of a lag, sometimes, both in sound and visually, and a few times there was a bit of a freeze. (This may differ depending on net speed and time of day.)

But all in all: fantastic! So thank you, East Grand Rapids Book Club, for helping me to figure this out. Brave New Worlds … here I come!

P.S. I love the way, when I open Skype, it says: Take a deep breath. I do, every time.