Two ‘invisible’ women
One luxury hotel
A reunion full of strangers…
An average pitch for an average psychological thriller, you might think?But the true story is much more interesting.
For the last couple of years I’ve been a member of Writers Ink, an online writing group. It’s an absolute gem for support, information, diversity – and fun. Definitely the fun, which is all too often overlooked! It’s headed by the perfect duo: Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of writers.ie, and better known to readers as Sam Blake, bestselling author of crime, and Maria McHale, award-winning journalist and life coach.
Mid-March brought us to a whole new level, with the opportunity to break out of any remaining vestiges of lockdown and meet in-person. For real. Face-to-face. And in a fancy hotel in Killiney, a seaside suburb of Dublin.
It’s a uniquely nerve-wracking thing to do: meet an entire group of people that you think you know through social media and their writing but have never actually seen. Forty-five writers, one weekend, a common interest…Turns into a sort of weird online, mass, speed-dating experience.
Now there’s a true psychological thriller idea – except that it wasn’t. It was absolutely the opposite thing, well in the realms of ‘uplit’ and chockful of happy endings. You know how there’s always one person in a group you wish you could avoid? Well, not this time. Putting names to faces was a joy, and the excited noise level just rose and rose.
Am I gushing?
I’m left with three very important reminders from the weekend – and surprisingly, they’re not really writing-related (though there were lots of writing goodies too):
Community is everything. You can write alone, think alone, plan alone, but there’s nothing like having a group of likeminded people who ‘get’ you. That sense of connection, where it’s safe to laugh, cry, rant and ask questions, is priceless.
Retreat means many things. When I think of it, it’s usually quiet, peaceful, spa treatments or silent contemplation. Our weekend was talkative, buzzing, full of laughter; more a retreat from the wider world, into our own totally selfish – but shared – priorities of writing-related ‘stuff’, all cocooned by comfortable surroundings, good food (and drink) and lack of pressure.
Joy in Writing. Okay, is is writing-related, but too often we get caught up in the end results: the need to submit stories and novel, the word count, the pain of rejection, the self-doubt…Being reminded that writing for writing’s sake and because you enjoy it is not only valid but essential: if a writer doesn’t enjoy writing your words, why would a reader enjoy reading them?
Thanks to Vanessa and Maria and all the Inkers – including Liz Power, fellow writer and partner-in-crime, who has also reminded me how lovely it is to travel with a friend (and didn't mind my endless, 'When I lived here...' comments) – for a fantastic weekend.