We are delighted to welcome Norwegian Unni Holtedahl to our team of Summertime book reviewers. As a writer, she took a risk and decided to start an online magazine for other expats in the place in which she currently lives – Luxembourg.
The famous second chance
We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance. – Harrison Ford.
Moving abroad could be one of those big changes offering a second chance. When you become an expat, you’ve already moved on in one sense of the term, and you could choose – because it is often a choice – to use this new existence to make another move. Expat life might just trigger something in you; to do something you’ve always wanted to do or never thought you’d do, to think in a different way or go in a brand new direction. I believe other things trigger this as well – having babies, reaching a certain age – and sometimes all these trigger factors coincide and become forceful.
My move was actually about going back in time, to when I was a 6-year-old girl writing poems, a proud 10-year-old getting one published in the local paper and an equally proud 12-year-old having her poems featured on national radio. I took out old school papers and diaries and wondered why the writing stopped. But then it didn’t, not really, and now I had the time to feel the need, and the opportunity to do something about it – a Norwegian in Luxembourg and an expat wife with school children.
After a course in creative writing, I somewhat surprisingly turned to journalism – and loved it! I found myself in feature and narrative journalism, combining journalistic writing with literary elements in real stories about real people. No stories are better.
After my studies though, I soon found out that life as a freelance journalist is challenging, especially writing either from afar or in a language that isn’t your own. Along came expat life again, offering yet another chance.
It occurred to me that I was neither the only expat wife around, nor the only one with a talent wanting to be let out. If I were to start up an online expat magazine… it might just work! Sure enough, talented people with knowledge, passion and time on their hands were easy to find in a tiny country of almost 50% expats. Soon there were enough writers covering enough topics, and CLEW Magazine, short for Calling Luxembourg Expat Women, was born. Word spread quickly – another advantage of a tiny country – and CLEW gained readers and a fair share of attention.
And me – I’m gaining experience as a journalist and an editor that will come in handy when the next change or chance comes along, and l keep in mind that the word career comes from Latin carriera via meaning carriage road. I’ll choose to see it as the road I follow rather than the ladder I climb.
Bio: Norwegian living in Luxembourg, mother of two, journalist with sociology and French , working part time with HR in a bank, part time writer and editor.
I’ve just returned from a week at Agama Yoga in Koh Phangan where I completed the second week of the four-week Level 1 Intensive instructor course. It reminded me that it’s so important to really ‘get away’ occasionally to totally focus on an area of your own personal or professional development to truly gather some momentum. Retreats can often fill this bill.
The idea to do this yoga course came about last year when I held a writers’ retreat in Phuket. I decided to begin each day with my own yoga practice and invited anyone who was so inclined to join me. Almost everyone did… and it was 7:30 in the morning! I’ve been doing yoga for years but I’m not an instructor. The response was so positive that I thought it would be nice to add that to my repertoire to make the addition of yoga in the morning a more formal affair. Yoga and writing just seem to have such a natural fit… one clears the mind in order for the creativity to flow. My plan is to have level 1 completed before the next retreat in the fall (yes, it has become an annual event).
As I prepare for the second annual Phuket Paradise Writers’ Retreat, I reflect on one of the many joys of a writing retreat that was so evident last year – the camaraderie that evolved starting on day one at the welcome buffet. The group immediately gelled as if they were old friends (a few actually were for me, which made it even more enjoyable).
The group was made up of storytellers, deep thinkers, comedians, healers and teachers. The ideas that flowed and writing that ensued made us laugh, cry and pause in reflection. It was another great joy to watch the process unfold as both beginners and veteran writers read their writing out loud and each member of the group followed up with thoughtful and meaningful critiques.
My philosophy on writing retreats is to keep them small so that even the most shy in the group can begin to feel comfortable and open their hearts and share. Creating a safe place to experiment and grow as a writer is the ultimate mission. Being in a peaceful, naturally beautiful environment surrounded by other like-minded, supportive, creative, passionate and compassionate writers makes you never want to leave. Yet, even when you do return to reality, there’s a warm memory to pull from when inspiration is lacking.
The other joy of going on a writing retreat is the opportunity for uninterrupted, solitary writing time to make significant head-way on that WIP, knowing that input and advice and possibly some creative collaboration is close-by… not to mention a sandy beach and a cold beer if you happen to be in Phuket!
This year’s retreat will be held from October 31 through November 7. I’m thrilled to be joined again by Jo Parfitt (thanks Jo for hosting my guest post here). Jo will be doing a full day workshop called ‘The Naked Writer’ that will help you get in touch with your emotions and write words that move and inspire other people.
If you’d like to learn more about the Phuket Paradise Writers’ retreat, email me at
or visit http://www.globalwritingsolutions.com/Writers_retreat.html.
For those of you who are wondering, it’s absolutely peaceful and safe here in Phuket (and airport transfers will be arranged from door to door so you won’t have to worry one little bit).
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