Thursday, July 12, 2012

Meet Michael Kato, the Brains Behind Our Bot

Many of you are already aware that we've got a fabulous guy behind-the-scenes here at Miss Snark's First Victim.  Back when I was doing all my contests by hand, Michael approached me and offered to create an automated submission system.  I was hesitant at first, since I was still relatively new to this anonymous thing and wasn't sure how to receive help from strangers while still remaining anonymous.  But his persistent, kind offers finally wooed me, and the rest is history.

So today I'd like to give you a chance to get to know Michael, and also to bless him by giving a little back (more on that in a bit!).

I give you An Interview With Michael Kato, Authoress's Hero:

This is Michael.  No, he's not dead.  But when I asked for a picture, this is what I got.  (I love this guy.)

Authoress: So, what do you do for a living?

Michael:  I go into a building at 8 a.m. They pay me money to sit in a chair until 4 p.m. Actually, I often forget I have a job. It's so boring I never even think about it. When I'm forced to think about it, I refer to it as The Building I Sit in All Day.

I was asked recently, What do you do out here? and I said, I'm a writer and I'm also coding an Awesome Project for Writers. Oh, that's great, how many books have you publish? Um, none, just a few shorts and prose. Oh, then you must make a lot of money off of your app. No, it hasn't gone to beta yet. Then how do you make money? What do you mean? How do you feed your family? Oh, right, I sit in a building in the afternoons and they pay me. I don't talk about that much.

Authoress: And what do you ALSO do for a living that makes you the most wonderful geek alive?

Michael: Since we're writers and our art is words, I feel it's an appropriate forum to be a word Nazi and point out that I don't really like the baggage attached to the word Geek. It implies a certain mindset about society and culture, a certain cast that I think any person would have a hard time fitting into. Also, I don't like the idea that people treat computer expertise (a field quickly becoming as important as reading, writing, and history) as if it's some sort of humorous nebula belonging only to the brainiacs.

Authoress: (stands corrected)

Michael: Secretly, I love being called a warrior poet, but it hardly feels humble to tinsel myself with honoraries.

I am very good at martial arts, as anyone who has studied for more than twenty years would inevitably become. I have a deep passion for the philosophy and tranquility the traditional styles infuse into the artist. Sadly, I can never be a grandmaster because I can't grow a wispy white beard. I'm also not a very good poet, so perhaps warrior wordsmith would be more accurate, if a bit alliterative.

Authoress: Okay, Warrior Wordsmith--why did you decide to offer your talent and time to MSFV in the first place?

Michael: I can't stand people doing a computer's work for it. We invented computers to perform repetitive computations; not to give ourselves more repetitive computations to do. When I heard that you (Authoress) were picking, copying, pasting, reformatting, decrypting symbols for, and then posting all those entries, well, it had to be fixed. Plus, like most of the world, I <3 Authoress--the ultimate cheerleader for writers everywhere--only slightly less than I <3 Miss Snark--the ultimate taskmaster for writers everywhere.

Authoress:  Wait -- slightly LESS?

Michael:  I guess you could consider Miss Snark a childhood influence; one to always be remembered in that nostalgic way reserved for childhoods. You know, the Good Ole Days, back before writing was hard work and made up of deadlines and self evaluations.

Authoress: That makes me feel slightly better. So, do you remember how you discovered MSFV, and what it was about the blog that kept you coming back?

Michael: I'll need the Way Back Machine for that one. I'm fairly certain that it was when I was trying to uncover Miss Snark's secret identity. I happened upon several blogs with links to MSFV. There was a contest in progress (Drop the Needle, I think) and there was this awesome cheerleader who made all the writers feel both important and safe while they bifurcated each others' writing. (Well, it was often cleaved into more than two parts, but I couldn't miss a chance to use an inopinate word)

Authoress: What do you WRITE?

Michael:  Since I was laid off from The Job I Intended to Retire At over a year ago, I've really only had time for one project, and that's been the upcoming Wordspot application, so my writing has suffered dearly. Hopefully we'll sign tons of writers and I can replace The Building I Sit in All Day with writing my opus and coding cool stuff for writers.

When I am warring the written word, I find that, like martial arts, the thing I love most about writing is the depth and breadth of the art. I've written six novels, including a mainstream, a mystery, a fantasy series, and a historical fiction (all of them are rubbish). For the last 2 years I have devoted myself entirely to short stories because I sucked at them. I've discovered in the process of perfecting my shorts just how little I understood about writing and just how much short stories have to teach us about crafting tension and effective plot arcs. I'm thinking about taking a year to work entirely on poetry as this is the area I am most deficient now. But given the choice, I would write stories that inspire people to pursue their dreams and be excellent in everything they do--the way books inspired me as a youth. I would pen them with the magic prose of Patricia A. McKillip, the suspense of Steven King, the gritty realism of George R. R. Martin, and the transforming metaphors of Milton Erickson.

Authoress: I love Patricia McKillip! No wonder I'm constantly telling you that you're my hero (except when you're saying you <3 me slightly less than Miss Snark). So what's your favorite thing to do when you're NOT doing any of the above? Besides sleeping, of course.

Michael: To be honest, I have my family--always at the front of the list--my writing, my Awesome Project for Writers, martial arts, and The Building I Sit in All Day to make money (until I find a way to make writing pay me money). Seriously, there just isn't room for any more excitement. I've never owned a television. The family camps once a year, every month we take the girls somewhere special, and the rest of the days are like clockwork: Wake up, write, Sit All Day, come home, do goals with girls, work on Awesome Project, kick people in the head, come home. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. I'm sure it sound much duller than it is. That's probably why I write fiction. So I have interesting things to talk about with others.

Authoress: As fine a reason for writing as ever there was. :-) Before we close, can you give us a wee idea of what your Awesome Project for Writers (Wordspot) is all about? (I mean, I already know all about its awesomeness. I just thought you might want to offer a teaser.)

Michael: The Awesome Project for Writers started when I moved and couldn't have physical access to my amazing, devoted, inspiring writer's group. I think of it more like a support group than a critique group, although we did wear both hats when appropriate. That is the spirit of Wordspot: Provide a place to meet writers, forge friendships, collaborate, get inspired, share goals and dreams, storyboard, get feedback and critiques, track query letters, and find publishing opportunities.

Also, we want to bring all this to writers without the tedium that normally comes with doing such things online. It sounds like a tall order, but Matt (my partner in crime) and I have between us nearly 30 years of user experience, coding, and writing know-how, plus an amazing group of professional and amateur writers to steer us straight, so I think we're the ones that can pull it off.

Authoress: And having worked with you both, I'm absolutely certain of that as well. Thanks so much for allowing us to get to know you a little better!

I'm so thankful for the (literally) hundreds of hours that Michael has devoted to this blog.  Because so many of you have benefited from his hard work (automated submissions and, most recently, our beautiful web form!), I'd like to give you an opportunity to say THANK YOU to Michael.

Starting today and running through the weekend, YOU CAN SEND A DONATION TO MICHAEL VIA MY DONATION BUTTON.  All donations, in any amount, sent in this time frame, will be given to Michael in full.  You can put "Michael Kato" in the note box of your donation, but even if you don't,  the money will still go to him.

The amount of time that Michael has volunteered here is unfathomable.  (Maybe that's because I find computer programming mind-bending and endlessly tedious, and I stand in awe of anyone who can do that sort of thing for hours--and do it REALLY WELL.)

Simply click on the DONATE BUTTON on my side bar, or GO HERE.  You may donate any time between now and Sunday at midnight.

And, of course, feel free to express your gratitude in the comment box as well.  Michael is a Godsend, and I often feel like I can't thank him enough.  So perhaps if you join me, we can all thank him together!


  1. I completely understand the 'job I sit at all day'. It's rather mind-numbing when someone asks me what I do for work. I always want to say, "Really, is that the question you're going with?" Can't they ask, what's your passion? What gets you excited?

    Anyway, Michael, thank you. ♥

  2. @Tyson so few of us are defined by our jobs.

    Just tell them you're a writer. It at least makes for an interesting observation to watch them derailed from the "weather conversation" tree and searching for follow-ups.

    Or, if you really want to derail them, just say "I work in a building." And refuse to comment further.

    That really stumps 'em good :)

  3. I would like to thank Michael. I would also echo what Tyson said above. I hate that question. In fact, I often avoid getting my hair cut because they always go with "so what do you do for a living?" I tried avoiding this for a long time by not going but then a significant other said I was looking 'Neanderthalish.' So I had to get my hair cut. Just once I want to have the (insert bouncy things reference here)to say "I am a proctologist and I stare at Aholes all day so haivng you vut my hair is just like being at work." Alas, I will never say that because I am a friendly mammal (mostly).
    Thank you again Michael for all you do to make this site work.
    I would like us all to sing Koombaya now.

  4. Happy to meet the word warrior, and to have my opinion confirmed that the world is full of Magnificent Michaels. All the best to him and his projects.

  5. Thank you, Michael, for your generosity and hard work!

  6. Thank you, Michael, for all you've done for the site. You are awesome. And also very funny. Hey, I'm pretty sure I figured out who Miss Snark is. But I won't say it here because I'm sure she doesn't want to be found out. I was so sad when she ended her blog!

  7. Thanks so much, Michael! Anything that helps Ms. Authoress is a help to us all. Good luck with all your Writing Warrior endeavors!

  8. @ReneeYancy she's still here, helping writers every day, plus she gave Authoress some first class training

  9. Michael, you are both talented and hilarious :) Thanks for all that you do.

    I'm very glad to finally be free of the Sit In a Building All Day job. I never thought I'd get out of it. Yes, finances are kind of hairy and every day there's always the question of, "So can I afford these bills?" but it's well worth it in the end.

  10. I thank Michael and Authoress so much!
    I feel really uncomfortable however with appeals for money. I feel the same every day when I get out of Wal Mart and I am asked for money to support the kids of thie high schoiol in their latest project......(they are not my kids..can't the parents support them?) would I have luck outside of Wal Mart saying I have no kinds but I ask you who do have kids to please help me pay my rent? I don't think so. So, I appreciate Michael and what he does but I have no money for him or you Authoress. I am kind of sorry you asked for it...iot puts you on a whole new plain. Why not seek out advert opportunities? We all need money - not may of us have a really well visited blog in order to try and make it. I am sure this is one step away from asking for a 20 dollar entry fee so an agent can "evaluate" your work".

  11. Anon (a screen name would be nice) --

    This was not an "appeal for money." I did not "ask" for anything. Michael has done this (vast amount of) work out of the goodness of his heart, and he has never asked for anything for it. All I pay him is a nominal monthly hosting fee.

    This was, instead, an opportunity for those who WANT to give to be able to do so, as a way to bless Michael for everything he has done and continues to do (I won't even get into the one-on-one support he has provided behind the scenes during contests when folks have had trouble). He did not know I was going to do this.

    There are all kinds of opportunities to give to others; none of us can give to everything, but only those things that stir our hearts. If you don't want to give, that's absolutely fine. Railing about why you cannot or do not want to is really not necessary.

  12. I would like to chime in on what I have gleaned from a contentious dispute.

    At my own peril.

    Your blog has provided connections for authors and agents.

    More importantly - your blog has provided a place for honest evaluation of people's work.

    The above is the most important! I love this blog because it welcomes real criticism and I get real criticism. Other blogs are all just cheerleading nonsense. THIS blog allows for serious reflection on a work. That's why I love it. And I think that's why an agent or two might love it also.

    You must never monetize your blog..I know whereof I speak. It will instantly and immediately diminsh you. While your heart may be in the right place, as Rocky said to his son - the world will not understand. It will see you as a revenue generating blog - like a vanity press for the 21st century. So, my advice to you, keep doing what you are doing, because we all love it, and refrain from asking for money. It never turns out well.

  13. Happy Dolphin -- You are one of the sparkly bits around here, and I appreciate you. :-)

    1. I'm not "asking for money." My donate button has been up for nearly 2 years now. It's always there, seldom used, and I decided to open it for a few days in case anyone felt like they wanted to send Michael a little "thank you."

    2. The only thing I charge an entry fee for is the Baker's Dozen, and I will continue to do so. It's just THAT much work.

    3. I will never monetize this blog. That's never what this blog has been about. (I mean, heck, this is my labor of love, right??) But I don't agree that blogs that generate revenue are necessarily diminished. As authors, we all aspire to sell our books, which is going to make us money. The author blogs we all (well, hopefully all) run now will suddenly be --gasp! -- revenue generating blogs, because we will have books to sell. That's just the way it is, and we need to be comfortable with it.

  14. Authoress - I will squeak my comments (because dolphins can rarely shut up) - itis why we make very bad accomplices in a heist. Something you said tweaked in me - you know how someone (insert name here) is always criticized for writing a book "because they wanted to make money"
    Well, heck, that's kind of why I write a book. It is also why I go to a soul-sucking job. I mean don't we all do what we do because we want to make money? Yes, yes I know (and I share it) everyone who is now going to say I write because I love it. Well, no, you don't - that is why you are on these blogs.....But I do take solace in something I read a long time ago.....a VERY famous writer was asked if he could not have been a successful wrtier then whast would he have been in his life???? and his answer unsucesful writer :)
    Love to all. Especially to you Authoress.

  15. Hey, everyone knows who Miss Snark was. It's just something we don't discuss in public.

  16. Hey, everyone knows who Miss Snark was. It's just something we don't discuss in public.

  17. Thanks Authoress and Michael, for giving us the opportunity to see other writers' work, enter our own for critique, get in front of lurking and secret agents, and be part of a supportive community.

    Reading the Anon comment made ME very uncomfortable. I think 99.9% of us know the good deed you were trying to do, Authoress, and all of us are thankful for the gargantuan amount of time and energy you both expend that is largely uncompensated.

  18. I've known Michael for over ten years now, however we have never actually met in person. He is one of the most generous and idealistic souls on the planet and pretty hilarious to boot - just don't get him started on the "what do you call a guy who....?" jokes ;-)