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Tales of woe on the web

Derek M. Powazek’s ”The Fray” is a webzine for first-person stories of childhood abuse, alcoholism, and relationships gone awry

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The book world had dubbed the ’90s the age of the memoir. On the Web, it’s the era of angst — with the searing, sin-filled personal narratives of ordinary folk emerging as digital literature’s best stuff. One of the movement’s grassroots stars is 24-year-old Derek M. Powazek, a San Francisco Web designer and the creator of THE FRAY (http://www.fray.com), an immaculate website whose first-person stories on such subjects as childhood abuse, alcoholism, and relationships gone awry draw more than 30,000 hits a day. Powazek started the fray last year by requesting stories from his pals, who recruited other friends, and so on, until hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts began filling his E-mailbox every week. Besides favorable mentions in several newspapers and magazines, as well as a nomination for Infi.net’s Cool Site of the Year, the fray‘s success has landed Powazek one high-profile website-design job after another. A good thing, too, because the fray is a money-free webzine. ”What I always loved about the Web is that it said to the little guy, ‘Go ahead, here’s your soapbox, you’re important,”’ says Powazek. His newest soapbox: kvetch.com — post your complaints at the home page (http://www.kvetch.com).