Some of you may remember that, in January of 2019, I started doing weekly online trainings on my Facebook author page. It was scary, and I felt awkward and uncomfortable, but people seemed to like them. And–much to my surprise–I enjoyed doing them. So I kept it up.
And Then… <Dramatic Music Plays>
Fast forward to January, 2020.
You remember how it was.
There were murmurs in the air about a new virus. It had started in China, and no one knew much about what it was or what it did. A dear friend died of a “cold that went into pneumonia.” He was in his 90s, but I wasn’t ready to lose him. Another friend died. Complications of a respiratory infection.
And then the world shut down.
I was lucky. My husband and I could both work from home, and we had a new, adorable puppy, and we get along really well. It helps that, like Mary Poppins, he’s practically perfect. And I felt fortunate to have an online network of beautiful readers and writers I could stay in contact with through social media and Zoom. Can you imagine going through a pandemic like this without all the online resources that helped get us through?
A Eureka Moment
A number of my writer friends and I were scheduled to attend a writer’s retreat in the Outer Banks that spring, and more than a few of us were feeling pretty despondent at having to miss it. The fellowship, the camaraderie, the boost of creative energy that comes from spending time with other writers. I know, it was a small pain in the scheme of things, but we were all pretty bummed.
A post from a Facebook writer friend popped up on my feed, and she was bemoaning the cancellation of the event, and suddenly, it came to me. Why not have a virtual retreat?
Sure, we’d miss the in-person contact and the big house on the beach, but it would be better than nothing, right?
So I sent out a few feelers, and people started to get excited. I made a group, and a name came to me out of the ether: Spirit of Ink.
It sounded uplifting and writerly, and it captured the essence of writing as a venture of the spirit, a tapping into the joyously creative magic of the universe, and tempered by the concrete reality of ink.
Okay, maybe I was overthinking things. But I fell in love with the name, and it stuck.
<Happy Calypso Music>
I’m not going to say our online retreat was better than the real thing. I mean…the beach…
But it was fun, and I think we all left it invigorated. Every day for a week, there was a morning meditation, a writing prompt, a snack or cocktail recipe, discussion questions, a few just-for-fun posts about writing, a time each day to share what we’d accomplished, and a video training on the writing craft or book promotion. It was intense–at least it was for me, since I was the one doing the posting, with the rest of the group participating in the comments.
At the end of the week, I hated to see it go.
So I posted a question: “Hey, guys, would you like me to keep this group open?”
The chorus of yeses told me all I needed to know.
A Change of Pace
Of course, there was no way to keep up the pace of the retreat. Instead of six or so posts a day, there would a post a day or at least several a week. We’d have a weekly Sharing Time on Fridays. I’d do a Facebook Live training weekly, prompts would come weekly, we’d all post useful articles, and so on.
The only self-promotion would be in the weekly Sharing Time comments. Posts would be reserved for articles, discussion questions, questions members have about craft or promotion, and so on.
In 2022, I started to invite a series of special speakers. These sessions were held on Zoom, with replays posted to the group. We had USA Today bestselling authors Donna Andrews and Jean Rabe, Kindlepreneur founder Dave Chesson, bestselling author and Killer Nashville founder Clay stafford, award-winning author Steven Womack, and more.
Spirit of Ink started to feel like the seed of something bigger.
A Mystery Box and a Magic 8-Ball
You know how J.J. Abrams’s style of directing is to introduce a series of Mystery Boxes to create tension in the viewers?
That’s not what I’m doing here. Not really.
Or maybe it is, because, like J.J. Abrams in LOST and the Star Wars sequels, I don’t know yet what’s in the box. I don’t know what Spirit of Ink wants to become.
I see part of it.
My Magic 8-Ball says the Facebook group continues. I add a free membership site, where I post the raw training videos, with transcripts and searchable content. Over time, they get edited.
There’s a free course about how to create a writing life you’ll love.
There’s a website with a helpful blog and a resource section. There’s swag. There’s a paid–but affordable–section for those who want more personal feedback or to take my courses. There’s a directory of members and their books and a place for members to connect and promote each other through newsletter swaps and contests. And there’s a literacy arm, but that’s for later down the road.
In the meantime, how do we build this thing?
Because it only works with “we.”
All This to Say…
If you love writing, if you care about the craft or writing, if you’d like to learn about ethical promotion, if you’d like to help me build this group into something big and beautiful and lasting, I’d love for you to be a part of the Spirit of Ink Community.
If you’d like to check us out, you can find us here: https://facebook.com/groups/spiritofink.
The website is still under construction, but you can find it here: https://spiritofink.com.
I hope to see you there.