I am in Greece on a women’s writers’ retreat.
If you told me a year ago that I will be on a women’s only group activity, I would tell you “Are you bonkers? No way!”
Growing up in a communist country made me deeply suspicious of any group activity or ideology. I am sceptical, individualistic and I question absolutely everything. The words like “community” feel like swear words…
And a “retreat” sounded religious…I am a non-believer. There was also a slight eastern philosophy flavour- another thing I am sceptical about.
Plus, I am always slightly wary of groups of other women, will they criticise me, give me unsolicited advice, gossip about me, judge me…?
And yet, I am here. On a women’s writers’ retreat in Greece. It seems wrong, but it was the only right thing to do.
My mother died two weeks ago.
Suddenly, like a person who was not destined to die in her bed, at 89, she fell down steep steps and broke her skull.
After the funeral, I packed and boarded the plane.
The retreat, on a beautiful Greek island Alonissos is facilitated by Julie, a beautiful petite woman with short hair and graceful dancer’s movements.
We write in the morning on prompts she gives us. We read aloud what we wrote.
The prompts can be snippets of poems, postcard of a painting.
Yesterday we wrote from the perspective of one of our body parts. My damaged partially blind eye wrote that short story. My blind eye surprisingly has a sense of humour.
I am learning to write work which is less based on my life. but who of course, all writing is autobiographical. Just not literally. Julie keeps telling us:
Remember, it is all fiction
.I wish those journalists insisting on knowing about my personal life realised that the only important part of me they need to know is Lucie Novak, the writer, and them meet her in my books.
Did I say ” books”? Wow ! But yes, I will write more books.
We were all a bit scared.
Julie calls us writers, claiming we are.
Somehow, that made me believe that I really am a writer. The discussion, moderated by Julie is only about “what works”. She tells us to “chase the inner critic away”. How well we all know that little voice, whispering that we are wasting our time writing useless nonsense, instead of doing something useful.
Women are good at believing they are not good enough.
Julie makes us feel we are…
We write on a terrace above the sea. It is quiet, only cicadas making a noise.
We are all different, some confident, some not, black and white, various life stories, all middle aged. Middle age shifted for me once I got older. My children would probably call us “old women”.
The one talking about her long writing experience, convinced she is an author, is most likely the one with most insecurities.
The two women talking about their work being rubbish are probably the most talented.
Surprisingly, I feel safe and liked. I am the only non-native English speaker, and the only European.
Maybe American women are kinder, nicer, but no, it is Julie’s kindness and skill that makes the retreat a safe place.
I forget about my mother, the regrets of the possibility of a good relationship we never had. Here, I am somebody else. Lucie, the writer.
I make friends with several of the Americans. I learn a lot about America, much more than I learnt from all those novels I read and the movies I have seen. It is fascinating.
A former black Panther, a super smart woman and her partner are both becoming close friends…
A teacher, so brilliant and witty I wish my teachers were like that.
A quiet very talented Jewish woman form New York, who looks like Andie McDowall.
Another gentle quiet Canadian, who writes with the same grace she moves.
A slightly older woman writing with such humour about her evil little sister… many others.
I feel that they are all more talented than I am, but we probably all think that…
Thank you, Lily from Goodreads for recommending me the workshop.
Thank you “Women reading aloud.”
Thank you Julie. Thank you, new friends.
I am having an amazing experience, and we are only in the middle of the ten days’ retreat. You helped me to make the grief and regret of my mother’s death go away. You made me feel happy. I am glowing, and it is not just my tan.
Am I a writer? Who knows? But I will be back next year.