By Damien Larkin
Nearly every blog post about starting off on your writing journey agrees on one thing: writers need other writers to learn from, connect with and share experiences. Writing groups can be found in virtually every major city, but with the power of the internet, we can now connect with entire virtual communities from the comfort of our own homes. Those same blog posts all point out the Twitter Writing Community as one of the best places to engage and connect with other writers of all stages and levels. It was here, just over a year ago that the British and Irish Writing Community first came together.
When I started my own writing journey in 2017, I read those same blog posts and researched various writing groups in my home city of Dublin, Ireland. Unfortunately, any groups I found either met during my working hours or when I was looking after my two young children. I reached out to several authors for advice via email but received only one lukewarm response. I turned to Twitter but quickly ran into a major stumbling block – I’m terrible at social media.
In real life, I class myself as an easy going, friendly person who’s comfortable in most social situations. I can get up in front of crowds and talk for hours or I can work a room full of strangers and have them cracking jokes together within minutes. But online, I struggled. I tried to engage, I bought other writer’s books and reviewed them. I supported, liked and retweeted, but still couldn’t seem to connect in any meaningful way with any other writers.
Then, one day, a single tweet changed everything. A UK based author named Phil Parker tweeted about the lack of networking or support groups specifically for Irish and British speculative fiction writers. After Googling what ‘speculative’ meant (I’d genuinely never heard of that term in my life) and finding out that my debut novel Big Red fitted that category, I reached out to him.
In a series of email exchanges that lasted a few days, we chatted about all things writing related. The more we bounced different thoughts around, the more an idea seemed to take shape. We couldn’t find any group that focused on Irish and British speculative fiction, so why didn’t we just make one? We teamed up with British author Lee Conley and with that, the British and Irish Writing Community was born.
Each of us had our own reasons for wanting to build such a community, so we agreed on a few principles. This new group would be open to all residents and/or citizens of Ireland and the UK (although, we have snuck writers and bloggers from other countries in from time to time…) We agreed to focus only on writing and writing-related matters while supporting writers of all backgrounds, experience levels and stages. Last of all, we wanted to promote the fantastic works of speculative fiction from the talented authors spread across our two beautiful islands.
It’s been a lot of work for each of us, especially with our own family, work and writing commitments. The dividends have certainly paid off though. Last year, I had the pleasure of representing the British and Irish Writing Community at TitanCon in Belfast and Octocon in Dublin. We also had our first ever meet up at BristolCon in Bristol, UK. At a talk hosted by myself and Lee Conley, we met fellow members in person and outlined our long term plans for our ever expanding group.
The spirit of collaboration between so many different writers has also led to the launch of our very own speculative fiction e-magazine ‘Bard of the Isles’. Containing short stories, interviews and guest articles from emerging and established writers, we’ve managed to shine a light on what we’re capable of achieving by working together. Issue 3 is due out later this month and we’ve big plans to continue expanding on content while building our brand.
Writing can be a lonely business, but we don’t have to go it alone. I’ve certainly experienced moments of frustration at the thoughts of putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). It can be exhausting working on a project in between raising a family or working a day-job, but community is key.
I’ve had plenty of ups and downs since the launch of Big Red last year, but no matter what, the support of my fellow writers has helped me through even the worst moments. I’ve had the pleasure of making some lifelong friends, visited different cities and enjoyed beta-reading some fantastic up-and-coming works.
We’re all in this together, so let’s keep supporting and building each other up. I certainly can’t wait to see what the future holds for the British and Irish Writing Community!
Website / Twitter/ Facebook
BIWC links: Facebook / Twitter / Bard of the Isles online speculative fiction magazine