Those opportunities could be things that advance your career and bring in money (such as a new freelance gig), but more often than not, they simply enhance your life in some way. Many times they're ways of offering service with the skills you have.
An example there is with my doctor. He's known our family for over fifteen years, and he's literally followed my entire career. Whenever I went in for prenatal appointments or a child's shots, and he'd ask about my latest submission, and I'd tell him about my latest rejection or current work in progress. He knows the entire story and what I'm working on next.
He's also the head of the Friends of the Library, so when we moved closer to him, he asked if I'd be willing to judge the adult category of the library's annual Scary Story Contest they hold each Halloween. I've now judged it for seven years running, and I can't imagine that changing any time soon. I love being able to help out.
Several months ago I had the chance to embark on a very different kind of side project. It's the brain child of Matthew Buckley, author of of Whitney Award finalist Chickens Don't Have Armpits. He has this knack of taking technology and turning it on its head, and using it in unique ways.
One of his last projects got national and international attention. Matthew (also known as Marion Jensen) and his buddy Tom Caswell decided to use Twitter in a brand new way: take history and make it fun, palatable, and understandable. Best of all, they could make it feel like it's happening right now. They took journals of soldiers who had fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, broke down the events into the 140-characters that "tweets" require, and recreated the battle in real time.
People who followed the battle via Twitter watched it during the same days the battle actually occurred, read about what the soldiers ate for breakfast, how they were wounded (when they were wounded) and so forth. If a soldier suddenly stopped tweeting, it probably meant he really had died on that day in history.
Marion and Tom were invited to speak at UNESCO in Barcelona about their project. You can read a bit about that HERE and HERE and see their slides HERE. They call their concept of tweeting history in real time "TwHistory."
They're doing it again, this time preparing to tweet the original Mormon Pioneer Trek, which began on April 5 and went through July 24, 1847 ending with Brigham Young's famous statement, "This is the right place. Drive on."
And that's where I (and many others) come in. Matthew Buckley asked several writer friends if they'd be willing to help go through the journals of pioneers he'd already found who were in the original traveling party and write up the tweets ahead of time. He would take care of putting them all together and posting them in real time on the right days and hours.
So in my free (hahaha!) time, I'm Heber C. Kimball, condensing his journals down to 4 or so 140-character tweets per traveling day. All of us are trying to maintain the voice and even the words, as much as possible, of the original writers. And it's all for the upcoming TwHistory trek that will begin this April.
Again, I imagine that when it goes live, the project will get national (and, quite possibly, international) attention. They have plans to Tweet other major historical events as well.
TwHistory could potentially be a great tool for teaching history to students and an amazing experience for any twitterers willing to follow and watch history as if they're getting a peek in time as it unfolds.
If the concept of TwHistory is going to keep going, they needs funds. Right now, it's entirely a volunteer effort, and while that's great, there are costs that just aren't covered. If you're willing to donate even a little to help the cause and/or learn more, visit the TwHistory Kickstart page.