The Far Reach of Conferences for Writers Abroad

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Year after year, there is a frustration that slips under my skin living abroad with no redeeming qualities—the distance between me and the English writing world. I nearly considered the internet as a redeeming quality, but in the case of English writers’ conferences, they are still far out of reach for most of us who live in a non-English country. Case in point, the awards galas for which I am a finalist in historical fiction are held at conferences not just in the United States, but on the other side of the US, about three times closer to Hawaii than to Sweden (where I live). I can understand anyone who chooses to shrug their shoulders at such a predicament. But for those of us who live abroad, it is no shrugging matter. Yes, it was our choice to live where we live and yes, all that could be changed with just one move. Rarely is it that simple, however, at least not when you have a family to consider. query

At what point do we put our writing first? The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley is my first book published and let me say, it hasn’t been an easy writing road with manuscripts dangling from cobwebs within the crevices of my laptop. They served a grand purpose by improving my writing to the point where agents and finally a publisher took notice. Polished and gleaming, it was released into the book world nearly one year ago, along with the thousands of other books out there. Never for a moment did I think it would get noticed and pulled from the crowd as a contender in any competition. I believe all writers hope for it, but when it actually happened, when I received notification from my publisher on all four competitions, as Gillian would say, “You could have tipped me over with a guinea pig’s whiskers.”

So my predicament lingers—my debut novel is being recognized in such an unexpected way and I likely cannot be there. Even though the outcome of any of these competitions isn’t what would drive me to go, the fact that my writing is being validated and recognized publicly, that someone has seen its value and appreciated my hard work, means more than I can possibly say. hns-oxford-2016-small-white-border

Most writers need to pick and choose which writers’ functions they can attend, so I am no exception in that regard. In fairness, there is a selection of conferences and writers’ retreats throughout Europe, eg. Iceland Writers Retreat coming up in mid April and the Historical Novel Society Conference in early September.

It’s simply that the frustration under my skin seems to have bubbled up this time, for the sole reason a novel I gave so much of myself to, a story I grew to love as each page was written, is being recognized and I may not be there to support it. On the bright side, the best side actually, is that it was shortlisted and made a finalist at all. So whether I attend or not, I will forever be grateful and honoured.

If you feel like you are the only English writer living in a non-English country, I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

 

Every Time, Times Twenty

1) Every time I sit down to write a blog post, I wonder what can I write that hasn’t already been written.

2) Every time I wake to a cold house, I feel like I’m living in Little House on the Prairie as I light a fire for warmth. (That’s a good thing.)

3) Every time my husband travels to the far corners of the world, I feel grateful that I miss him even more today than ever before. IMG_8392

4) Every time I doubt myself as a writer, I remind myself how fortunate I am to be published at all.

5) Every time the sun shines here in Sweden, I close my eyes and let it soak into my skin.

6) Every time my friend needs a shoulder, I realize how lucky I am to have my children safe at home and how I wish I could take her pain away for all time.

7) Every time I see my daughter dancing on stage, I cry.

8) Every time I start reading a new book, I rid myself of expectations.

9) Every time I fall in love with a book, I try with every fibre in me, to read it slowly and make it last. FullSizeRender.jpg kate morton

10) Every time I see a person sitting outside the shops with a cup and sign, I feel uncomfortable and angry and ashamed of myself all at once, when I walk right past.

11) Every time I look them in the eye and smile, it feels good.

12) Every time I step out of my comfort zone, I tell myself that if nothing else, this will be a great experience.

13) Every time my teenage children confide in me, I whisper to myself, “Don’t blow it, Susan, just keep quiet and listen.”

14) Every time I keep quiet and listen, I can feel their appreciation.

15) Every time my children tell me a grade from school, I try my hardest to react like my husband does—non-judgmental and proud.

16) Every time I have writer’s block, the frustration is so excruciating, I think I could go mad.

17) Every time I come across one of those melt in your mouth expressions or words, I feel like I’ve gone to writer’s heaven.

18) Every time I think of my sister, I wish she was close enough to drop by for a cup of tea.

19) Every time I see an overweight person jogging, I feel admiration and inspired.

20) Every time a moose visits our garden, nothing else matters. FullSizeRender.jpg moose

If you would like to share your twenty or even ten “times”, I’d enjoy hearing from you.