The third round started on February 1, 2021. It ended April 19, 2021.
What it was (and may again be): Readers receive two PDF’d chapters each Monday. (If a chapter is long, which is rare, only one is sent.)
The project lasts twelve weeks. When it ends, it ends. The only subsequent email that readers will receive, months later, is one request that they nominate, recommend, or cajole others to participate. Obviously, they are under no obligation to comply, although the writer would be rapturously happy if they do, as these recommendations have sent the project to exotic destinations.
Despite the writer’s tendency to brood, the work is positive, a salve during these difficult days.
The 2021 round began during a winter when we’re cold and quarantined, when we all need a regularly recurring bit of warmth and light from a humble performance art project in the Dickensian tradition.
The first round of serialization occurred in early 2019 and reached a modest audience stretching from the West Coast of the United States to England.
Thanks to readers from that round, the audience tripled for the second round, in early 2020. The serialization circumnavigated the world, landing in Taiwan, India, Democratic Republic of Congo, England again, Jamaica, and various locales in the United States.
The current round has added Canada, Colombia, Spain, and Switzerland.
The book has been particularly attractive to teachers, because of its school setting. But it’s not a campus novel. What a disappointment that would be. The school is the world away from the world where strange occurrences may unfold and flourish.
There has always been one rule: Feedback is not requested. Critiques are — how to say this politely — forbidden. This is an act of performance art, not a writers’ group project.
But . . .
Late in the second round of serialization an absolute prohibition against feedback was lifted at the request of a reader in India. That’s what happens to rules. They are always broken. This one has been broken in all rounds to date. Recipients wrote the following:
From India: “In Body in the Pond the prose style has a kind of crystalline quality that is polished and delicate. I remember seeing a classic movie a long time ago (perhaps ‘Zhivago?’) where the window is frosted over, and when the sun comes up, you see for a brief moment so many of these crystals. There are many perfect moments like that in Body in the Pond.”
From the United States: “I have been a teacher and administrator in boarding and day schools for nearly 40 years, and the characters, dialogue, and relationships rang true. You brought Benschloss to life in a very engaging and relatable way for me; Smitty, Malcolm, and Chitwood too. Thank you very much for a lovely diversion during the pandemic.”
From England: “How pleasant to return to find episodes 12 and 12.5 waiting for me in my inbox. I’ve commented already on how appropriate your performance art style of presentation is in the current situation. The content and style of the piece also seem to suit the times. There’s a welcome unhurriedness in the pace, a kindness in all the characters, and a gentleness in the unfurling of plot that provides an antidote to the far-from-mellow spirit of this age. I’m grateful for it.”
From the United States: “This work stems from deep roots in education, introduces characters a reader wants to know better, examines life as the mystery it ultimately is, and offers its sinuous plot with finely wrought style and a sly sense of humor.”
See you in the fourth round. Date TBD.