A little over 18 months ago, after what felt like years of searching, I was able to join an online writers’ group.
Writers Abroad gave me the community of fellow writers (some actually published novelists, all published in some degree). On the WA website we could share what we were working on, give critique and encouragement, and celebrate one another’s successes when they came. Within a year of joining, with the help and encouragement of my fellow members, even I’d managed to have some poems and a short story published. During 2020, the Writers Abroad group collaborated to produce an anthology of our writing, Far Flung, published in time for Christmas. It seemed to be a tight, active and productive network.
Consequently, I was disappointed to learn in the autumn that Writers Abroad was going to close down.
Nine of us, mostly from among the newer members we discovered, decided we wanted to continue. Since November we’ve been working together to set up an alternative group. At the very end of March we finalised our plans and moved into our new home. And now, here we are!
Pens Around the World
What to call ourselves took a good deal of time and discussion. We started out close to what we knew with “writers” and “abroad”. We also played around with “far-flung”. But we felt it was important to have a clean break from the old group, so there was a long list of alternatives. We whittled it down, going online to check which names were actually available to us. Many of the words and phrases we came up with were already taken.
Personally, I was rather keen to for us to call ourselves “The Scattered Pens” or even “Scatterpens”. I was persuaded that this sounded a bit too much like Scatterbrains. Not really the impression we want to give.
Eventually we settled on Pens – because pens are our tools, traditionally anyway – and Around the World, because we are indeed spread around the world. Okay, just at present most of us are scattered around Europe with one outlier, Kimberly, in the USA, but we intend soon to be recruiting new members, and hope to spread our net wider.
As we write, in our statement on the new website’s front page, we are a peer group for creative writers working in English and living in far-flung places. We offer our members critiques and encouragement, writing exercises and suggestions for publishing opportunities, and the social interaction that writers in isolation need. This also neatly summarises the sort of people we’d like to recruit as new members.
The last year, I think, has shown us all the value and the possibilities of the Internet to facilitate social interaction and creativity at a distance. One thing positive to come out of the pandemic has certainly been the improvement of the technology that allows real time association over great distances. In our group, we started to exploit that with monthly video conferences as we prepared to launch our website. The conferences will continue and may develop as a means of association beyond the site.
I’m sure we’re all going to breathe more easily when we can get out and about in the real world again. We will be able to meet, talk, laugh and share In Real Life. And we’ll be able to visit café’s, bars, concerts and public spaces, and travel again.
Looking to the future
But the isolation I felt before I found Writers Abroad won’t have vanished once we’re all vaccinated. It will still be there, for me as for others in the same situation. For those of us in this little niche, getting together with a group of like-minded individuals on line is going to be just as important, once the immediate post-vaccine euphoria passes.
Pens Around the World is starting off now in April with nine members and high hopes. I’m eager to see where we will be in 12 months time.
Picture credits: The collage is composed of three photographs. The ring of pens and pencils is my own. The other pictures come from the Pexel website. The little globe is by fotografierende (https://www.pexels.com/photo/mini-globe-figure-1925535/) and the starry sky is by Sam Willis (https://www.pexels.com/photo/scenic-view-of-night-sky-3934512/).