I can't tell you the name of more than two other residents on my cul-de-sac but I can tell you about writers who live in Canada, Florida, Great Britain, Australia, and Nebraska -- friends I've never met face-to-face.
Four years ago I was busy full time and loving my work. My husband insisted I wear a cell phone and keep it turned on, because even when we were on the same campus where he taught, he couldn't find me without it. Then a severe flare of fibromyalgia left me too weak to leave my house, and when I regained a little strength, I turned to the Internet.
I used the Internet to research our family tree in old and out-of-print books, and census pages, via a connection through the Multnomah County Library. Internet genealogy websites showed me researchers working on the same family genealogies, which is how I found the historian in Texas who wrote a book about my husband's great-grandfather. Through the Internet, I discovered the 1912 Port of Entry record for my Finnish grandmother at Ellis Island. The research I documented in the first two years was more than ten years working without the Internet.
The third year, still not recovered from my fibromyalgia flare, I found the NaNoWriMo website, and spent November 2005 working on my first novel. That led in turn to Forward Motion, a friendly website for writers where I learned to write haiku. In January 2006 I joined a free class at FM to work on my second novel.
(continued in my next posting)