Virtual friends

drakis/Photoxpress

How many people write with a proper pen these days? I know at least one who does – Jo, who is the convenor of Writers Abroad, a small but perfectly formed group of expat writers.

I have the good fortune to belong to this group. We are all expat writers; not necessarily British but all writing in English (although several are capable of writing in other languages). What we share is the fact that we are expats.

I joined Writers Abroad a couple of months ago and it has already worked wonders for my writing. When you’re an expat it’s not easy to find kindred spirits – at least in a writing sense – close by. The nearest writers’ circle to me is probably about 500 miles away.

The Writers Abroad membership is currently 14 people; we’ve kept it small so that we can be an active group. We have members in Europe, the USA, Thailand and Australia and some other places I’ve probably forgotten. Members are awesomely gifted – I don’t quite know how I was let in – and regularly win writing competitions and get themselves published in magazines and short story anthologies.

I have never met any of these people. I have never even spoken to them on the phone. And yet I feel they are friends. The point of the site is that members can post work in progress and get it critiqued by other members. The ethos is to provide constructive, non-competitive comment so that we can all grow as writers.

We also share information about potential markets for work – fiction and non-fiction – and about current issues in the writing world. Monthly writing exercises, in which we take part on a voluntary basis, address specific aspects of writing, such as characterisation, dialogue, plot and language (avoiding clichés, showing not telling, etc). Getting the benefit of each other’s experience is invaluable.

I might never get to meet some, or any, of my Writers Abroad colleagues (although I very much hope I will). But the potential of the Internet to bring like-minded people together, even if only virtually, is boundless. I already have a number of followers of this blog who regularly comment and whom I regard as ‘virtual friends’.

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