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November 1, 2016

Staying Connected to the Writing Community — Guest: Tamar Hela

Passport, map, and currency with text: Connecting to Writers during Life's Journey

Even though many writers are introverts, that doesn’t mean we want to stay isolated or holed up in our home all the time. *smile* I’ve talked about the importance of the writing community many times in fact.

We connect with other writers on social media like Twitter and Facebook. We help each other out by sharing links to blog articles full of advice and tips. And we cheer each other on or give virtual kicks in the pants when we need them.

Sometimes we might even leave the house for that writing community. We might go an in-person critique group, work on our writing at a Starbucks, revel in a writing retreat, attend a writing conference, etc. Occasionally, we might even get the chance to travel to the setting of our stories!

But if we’re traveling or moving to a new place, we might not know how to connect to that in-person community. So I’m excited to present Tamar Hela, who’s going to share her tips for how to stay connected to the writing community no matter where life takes us.

Please welcome, Tamar Hela! *smile*

(Note: For Tamar’s previous guest post on how to plan a book launch party (online or off), she shared her example pictures with a link to her Pinterest page, but for today’s post, we’ve included them here. However, if you’re reading this via the newsletter, you’ll have to click through to see these beautiful images.)

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How Writers Can Stay Connected to
the Writing Community while
Traveling, Relocating, or Living Abroad

“The world is a book,
and those who do not travel only read one page.”
~St. Augustine

Moving halfway across the world can be exciting and daunting all at once. There’s always a thrill involved with travel, but when it’s long-term or even permanent, there’s a feeling of overwhelm—especially for creatives. Most of us wonder: where can I find my “tribe” in a different country?

I’m currently living in Shanghai, China: the most populated city in the world. But even with nearly 26 million people, I found myself asking the same question when I arrived. How, indeed, would I find my tribe, especially with NaNoWriMo coming up?

Shanghai, China by Tamar Hela

Just over two years ago, I lived abroad for a short time in Spain. I’m so grateful for that experience because it was what really helped me prepare to move to China (even though I didn’t know I’d be living here until this past April!).

So, I’m going to share some tips for writers who are currently traveling/living abroad, or those who are thinking about it. But, my tips can definitely apply for domestic travel/moving and even vacationers. I have used some of these tips myself when traveling domestically. *smile*

Tip #1: Join a Meetup Group

A good friend of mine, who I actually happened to meet in Spain while studying abroad there eight years ago, had recommended I check out Meetup.com when I moved to Alicante, Spain in 2014. Though I was initially looking for writing groups, I ended up joining a language exchange group because it was the most active and populated group I could find. Turns out, it was one of the best decisions I could have made.

I met some amazing people who helped me learn lots of Spanish, and were also interested in my work as a writer. Some even wanted to start a writers’ group and we were in talks about it until I left. Though I wish I had been able to stay there longer, I am so grateful for those connections I made and plan to go back next year sometime so I can visit my friends.

Here in Shanghai, I was practically a seasoned pro at finding a Meetup group and found one for writers within the first three weeks of my arrival. The group I’ve found is amazing and actually does a critique time, along with a bi-monthly writing prompt. A creative writing teacher and a writer/editor lead the group (both are Americans), and rent us a room at a coworking space not too far from my apartment.

What I love about Shanghai is that there are folks from all around the world coming in and out of the city all the time. Our writing group is becoming quite diverse, and I am meeting people from different countries every time I attend. It’s great to be able to connect as writers and artists, but also learn about our own cultural differences, experiences, and opinions. This group definitely keeps me productive and feeling very writerly.

Tip #2: Check Out Local Cafés that are “Creatives-Friendly”

Depending on where you’re at, you may be able to find some cool local cafés where all the artsy-fartsy people hang out. Here in Shanghai, there are definitely places like this where creatives hang out.

In fact, we have a great app/website for expats called Smart Shanghai that gives the details about many local venues. There are even articles that give the “Top 17 Cool Cafés for Summer” or “Shanghai’s 5 Must-Visit Cafés” as titles (granted, I’m paraphrasing).

Cafe scene by Tamar Hela

I actually saved those articles and went to a different café each week when I was first settling in. To my absolute delight, I found a Harry-Potter-themed café called Café 9 ¾. It’s quaint and wonderful and detailed with HP paraphernalia.

The owner and I connected, and I went back with friends on my birthday in September. There are books all around and wonderful nooks and crannies where you can bring a journal or laptop and melt into a cushion while writing. The owner also hosts reading events and other educational occasions. Perfect place for a writer to hang out and meet like minds.

Harry Potter cafe by Tamar Hela

Tip#3: Ask the Locals (Or Local Expats)!

This is kind of a “no duh” tip, but may be harder than it sounds—especially for those writers who tend to be more introverted. But fear not! While traveling, I have found that most people (not all, mind you) are pretty friendly to travelers and want to welcome us.

And when they find out you’re a writer? It’s so cool to them!

I have met and connected with many locals here in Shanghai (as I did in Spain), but not too many knew about writing groups. In Spain, it seemed easier to ask locals who knew about groups.

But, I have also turned to other expats who know what’s what in this city. From open mic nights, to the best burgers, to a community of writers and artists . . . the expats know where it’s at.

Keep an open mind while traveling, because perhaps you’ve never been to a poetry slam at home but might go to one while globetrotting. And it could be the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. That’s what’s so amazing and life-changing about traveling: trying new things and meeting people you may have otherwise never met.

Tip #4: Go Online

This tip is another “no duh.” Most of us writers have some type of online presence or group (or groups!) and maintain a virtual community. This is especially important to keep up while traveling or living abroad. But it can be tricky if you are in a country where there are significant Internet firewalls.

Like here in China . . . 🙁

The solution? A VPN, a.k.a. a Virtual Private Network. I personally use ExpressVPN, which has the highest rating for China and is pretty reliable.

Some easy places to find writers’ groups are on Facebook and Twitter. But there are tons and tons of forums out there; you just have to do a little research and find what’s right for you.

Reddit is another place you can look. And, of course, it’s NaNoWriMo time, so what better way to connect with writers on a global level than writing 50,000 words in 30 days?

Overall, there are so many ways to stay connected to other writers and get the support and encouragement you need while living abroad or traveling for an extended period of time—or even moving somewhere else in your own country.

Don’t forget that it is important to have these connections with others. Isolation doesn’t work well all the time.

Yes, you need to be focused when writing that next bestseller, but you also need to have some accountability and honest feedback from those in the field. Behind every successful writer is a team of great people. So find your team—your cheerleaders—and enjoy life’s adventures!

Shanghai, China 2 by Tamar Hela

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Tamar HelaTamar Hela is an editor, writer, and English teacher from California. Currently, she is living and working in Shanghai, China as an EFL teacher. She has always had a knack for words, loving the art of storytelling to create new worlds for readers. When she’s not writing, drinking coffee, or traveling to someplace cool, she can be found curled up with a good book.

The Spirit Lake Series, Tamar’s debut Young Adult/Science-Fiction/Fantasy series, includes Spirit Lake and its follow-up, The Wrong Fairy Tale. She also released her first non-fiction book in 2015: The Teen Reader’s Journal, which hit #1 in Hot New Releases.

Tamar previously wrote for Examiner.com as the San Jose Healthy Living expert. As a freelance writer and editor, and writing/business coach, she has worked with several companies and individuals in the Silicon Valley, as well as Amazon best-selling authors like Mike Clemons and CF Waller. Since 2012, she has edited 40 books in her career. Check out her work or hire her!

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The Teen Reader's Journal front coverDesigned with teen readers in mind, this journal is perfect for average to voracious readers. Challenge yourself to read a book a week in one year, or go at your own pace, with plenty of space for fifty-two books.

Write your thoughts, questions, or revelations about the books you read. Be a literary artist and draw pictures in the doodle section. Be inspired by quotes from many great voices in literature, and keep track of all your favorites with the bonus pages in the back.

For the book lover who has everything, this is the perfect addition to any library, and makes the perfect gift for a friend—or yourself. Grab your copy of The Teen Reader’s Journal today!

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Thank you, Tamar! First of all, gorgeous pictures! *smile*

Secondly, as I haven’t moved since becoming a writer (which is a new record for me living in one place!), I hadn’t even thought about how I would find new local groups after a relocation. But Tamar makes a great point about how either travel or a move could leave us without that in-person support and community.

Before my recent “settling,” I used to move frequently—14 times in a nine-year period in fact. Now, I rely more on travel to add variety to my experiences, but as writers, the more experiences we can have, the better our writing will often be. So I greatly appreciate Tamar sharing her expertise with us today, allowing us to live the best of both worlds: more experiences and staying connected to the writing community. *smile*

Have you moved or traveled a lot? What was good about the experience for you? What did you struggle with? Does this post give you ideas for how to maintain our connections no matter where life takes us? Do you have any questions for Tamar?

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14 Comments on "Staying Connected to the Writing Community — Guest: Tamar Hela"

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Tamar Hela

Thanks SO MUCH for having me, Jami! Always a pleasure to share my experiences. 🙂 xoxo

Donovan Quesenberry
Donovan Quesenberry

Greetings,
Excellent posting, Ms Hela. I have moved between cities quite a bit over the last couple of years. These tips give great direction. Appreciate it.
Live long and prosper,
Donovan

Tamar Hela

Thanks so much, Donovan! Nice to hear. 🙂

Cheers!

Laurie Evans

We’ve moved a lot in the past, but have stayed in this house for a while, a new record for us. I’m *so* glad for the internet and finding writers online to talk to, since I live in the boonies.

Tamar Hela

Yes, staying connected on the Internet is great! I often rely on Internet colleagues as well. 🙂

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks, travel safely.

Tamar Hela

Thank you!

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