2003 – 2009
My interest in building websites began at a young age, around the same time I started writing stories more seriously. That combination led to ‘Het Leesbeest’, a (Dutch) website where I and others like me could share our stories with the world. The name is hard to translate, but roughly means ‘reading animal’ in a way that resembles ‘party animal’. Het Leesbeest has existed in different versions for a total of 6 years. In the ultimate form, it looked like a bookcase where writers could log in to add their own stories.
It was my first big programming project in PHP and MySQL, after I read a thick instruction book from cover to cover. The bookcase design had existed for a while then, but manually adding the stories that people sent in was a lot of work. I modified the existing website with a login system, a form for adding stories, and of course an admin panel for my own use. The design required that I still created a ‘cover’ for each story, and I combined that with checking and approving the stories before they would appear on the website. Stories were automatically cut into pages, there was a search function, and users could add comments to stories and place ‘bookmarks’ to remember how far they got. In the end the website contained 90 stories by 26 writers.
The forums existed alongside the website, allowing members to discuss writing and give feedback on each other’s unfinished stories. Another feature were the roleplaying games, in which participants created a story together by each writing about their own character. The biggest of these was the ‘Poort naar Avontuur’ (‘Gate to Adventure’) with an average of 10-15 players. For this game I was the game master, weaving together many storylines into an epic fantasy story.
Another notable project was SchrijfIdool (‘Writing Idol’), a writing contest in multiple rounds. At the reward ceremony, the well-known author Tais Teng gave a writing workshop. The first prize was won by Joke Adam, who received thorough editing by me on her first novel.
The website and forums have been archived, and former members are very welcome to contact me if they want to dig up stories or other content or just reminisce about old times.
A brief history
Summer 2003 The very first version of Het Leesbeest was put online. I had written a story, was learning HTML, and combined the two into a website. It grew to contain six stories: three by me, two by friends, and one by a complete stranger who had sent it to me by e-mail.
Early 2004 It must have been around half a year later when I made a new website, in orange instead of blue and with poems I liked and book reviews alongside the stories.
May 2004 There had been a primitive sort of forums for some time, but in May the first serious Leesbeest forums were born. A popular feature were the ‘writealongs’, continuing stories that everyone could contribute to, and the writing contests, which were a major source of stories to fill the website.
February 2005 My ambitious roleplaying project, the Poort naar Avontuur, started on the forums.
December 2005 I finished the ‘bookcase version’ of the website, completely centred on the stories and writers. At this point, the website still had to be updated manually.
February 2006 The new website got matching new forums, now at my own hosting provider.
September 2006 The first round of SchrijfIdool began. Ten candidates started a drop out race, hoping to remain standing as the one real Writing Idol.
February 2007 The live conclusion of the SchrijfIdool contest took place in the town of Tiel.
November 2007 The PHP version of the website was launched, largely looking the same as before but with many new functions, like the login system writers could use to add their own stories.
April 2009 Together with some enthusiastic forum members, I started to make plans for another new version of the website, with a more professional layout, integrated forums, and more strict selection of stories. It wasn't long before I abandoned this plan, because I had other things on my mind, like studying.
June 2009 After a steady decline in activity, Het Leesbeest was at last shut down.
1-3-2018 - Old times: Het Leesbeest