I'm here! At the Anam Cara retreat in West Cork, Ireland, a writers' heaven. This is the view from my bedroom/workroom window, over the front of the house. Luckily, I am facing this way, because the view from the other side of the house, of rolling green hills down to the sea, is far too distracting. I arrived an hour ago, we had lunch, and I've just set myself up.
This is my third visit here and each has been momentous: on the first visit, in 1999, I wrote my first short story. At the beginning of my second visit, in the delightful company of James and Vanessa, I received the email from Salt, the one offering me a book deal for The White Road and Other Stories. Suffice it to say that I hardly got any writing done that week, just stared out of the window, this dazed grin on my face! I have no idea what this week might hold, but as you can see, it has a lot to live up to!
It is wonderful to keep returning to a place where you have been before and measure your progress. When I first came, I felt so young, I didn't call myself a writer, I had no idea what I was doing, how I might do it, if I wanted to. The second visit, in 2007, I had given up journalism to be a full time writer six months' before, but had no real idea of how things might proceed. Well, "things" seem to have gone rather well, since I am here, with several copies of my book, feeling very much a writer, an author, confident enough to feel that I can write whatever I want, the world is open to me. It's both exciting and daunting!!
Part of coming here is definitely about Sue, who runs the retreat and is far more than that, she is a great friend to writers and artists, and about the other people who are here, of whom I am sure I will write more later. On the subject of community, I read a great article in the Observer yesterday about four communities of artists and writers around the world, not official communities but friends who happen to all be in the same field. The section on the four female Hollywood screenwriters really touched me:
Deep in a canyon in the Hollywood Hills live four female screenwriters, each in their own home, with a dog. They meet up practically daily for a meal or a work session with their laptops. At night, they hit the town, turning heads as they party hop, sometimes on a red carpet. The glamorous posse even have a name. They call themselves the Fempire. It sounds like fun and games - the boozy, all-woman answer to those close-knit gangs of Hollywood boy-men captured on screen in television shows such as Entourage and in reality by Apatown, Judd Apatow's clique.
But these women are serious and usually quite sober. They can command up to seven figures to write a movie that makes it to the big screen, with big stars and box-office clout - even during the economic crisis.
Perhaps even more extraordinary, they actively support each other in a cut-throat, male-dominated industry without a shred of jealousy.
This is what I want, this is what I am searching for, this is an enormous part of the reason why we have decided to move from Israel to England. Yes, writers write alone, but without a community, it is a very lonely life indeed. As I said in an earlier blog post, I feel as though, after 15 years in Jerusalem striving to be as Israeli as I could, when I took the decision to write fiction full time I re-Britishized. Being in England, surrounded by English speakers, I feel English again. I look forward to finding my writing "buddies" - many of whom I have online already and am very grateful for - and building that community.
Alright, enough blogging. Time to write.