After a long sojourn, I decided to return to Facebook this year, and I have to say it feels like a very different place compared to when I was last active on the site about 10 years ago. I’ve maintained some of my pages, but it’s been the odd post only, and most of them because Instagram allows you to cross-post to linked accounts. It hasn’t exactly helped me keep up with the times, so to speak.
It took me some time to figure out where things were, and what I had left behind but now I think I have an idea of what I can do with it all. A pleasant surprise was to find a group of mine where we used to talk about education and life in the UK. It was still there, and to my surprise, there were still some members who hadn’t left after so many years of inactivity. I suppose they’d forgotten it even existed, so I thought it was time to remind them. Only one problem. How do you address people you used to know, but haven’t spoken to in a decade?
After some deliberations, I opted for a message that was something very close to what I’m about to share with you. I didn’t write it for this blog, but it’s all true and part of my journey, so I want to add it to my records. Here’s a slightly amended version:
Long Time No Sea, My Friend
Many moons have passed since I last talked about education in [old name of group], and my life has changed a lot since then. Some of you may know that I have been struggling with ill health for most of my life, and that in the end, I had to stop working. It was really hard for me, because I loved my job and for the first few years after my retirement I went through what I can only describe as a grieving process. I felt like I had lost a part of myself and that without my job I had nothing to offer anyone. Nothing left to give. No, don’t worry, I promise we’re not going down saddo lane.
A few of you already know that I am full of ideas and that I love to see what happens if you jump off a cliff. For you, nothing of what I’m about to say will come as much of a surprise. To the rest of you, I apologise in advance. You may want to take a seat for this one, because it may get a little wild and crazy.
It was my love for storytelling and the written word that led me down the path of education, and that was part of the reason it hurt so much to walk (or roll) away. When I finally came to the end of my wallowing days, though, I realised that I could still teach. That part of me, that skill set, was still intact even if my brain capacity had taken a few knocks. And I could still write. Better yet, you don’t need to leave your bed to be able to write and tell stories. This got me thinking.
See, I could not accept a future where I wouldn’t have any kind of work, and the only thing I know for a fact I’m really good at is writing and talking to people. Showing them stuff and telling them about different things and how to do them. So, I decided to find a way to capitalise on my one remaining strength. Something that could at least earn me enough coin to make me feel like I had a purpose again.
My initial plan was to take all my teaching material – and there’s a lot of it after decades of writing – and turn it into online courses, ebooks and blog posts. I bought a few domains and created a fantasy ship where I was building my little blog empire. Well, if we’re going to be pedantic I had technically already built my first ship, so the Resilience was the new improved version.
Anyway, I put my old shipwright hat on and got started. After a few months, I could see I was making progress (if ever so slowly) and it made me feel pretty darn proud of myself. Then COVID arrived. We all got locked up, or down, and I lost my family in the process. That is to say, they had to move out and I lost the life I’d had for three lovely, long decades. And just like that, I fell into another bout of expresso depresso and self-pity. Nothing about the work I was doing sparked any joy. I’d try to write a blog post about Neuro-Linguistic Programming and my brain would spin out of control and come up with all sorts of crazy stories instead. So, I began to write them down.
The Real Magic of Storytelling
Since childhood, I’ve had an alter ego called Linnea. She is me, of course, but she’s crafty, very creative, and she likes to have fun. She’s also a lot braver than I am in many ways. All my life, I’ve signed my arts and crafts projects in her name, so when I sat here, locked up in my Rapunzel tower to keep the pesky virus out, I created a Twitter account for her.
Linnea, who’s still me, was quick to pick up on this new adventure and we started to tell people about our pirate ship, and how we had been stranded here, locked up in our pandemic panic room, since the bloody Rona hit. And this, my friend, is where the real magic of storytelling manifested itself.
I was tweeting regularly and posting about my creative writing journey on aswewrite.com, the blog domain I had bought as a future fun project. Now, as I was digging through my old creative writing archives, I realised I had quite a few old stories I could dust off and have some fun with. So, I created a Wattpad account and started to share my shockingly bad first drafts there. And somehow, people stumbled across my posts. I’m sure many of them thought it was all a load of hogwash, but there were also some who found the idea of an imaginary pirate ship intriguing. We were all going more or less loopy, back then, so a ship that could take you wherever you wanted to go in a universe where anything was possible appealed to more frazzled minds than my own.
So, there we were, on a great voyage where the Resilience and her crazy Captain Linnea offered some semblance of hope and a dose of escapism in the glum reality we were facing. It was fun and it helped me get through the darkest days of pandemic paralysis, but then one day our politicians decided that they’d had enough of lockdown and for many that was the end of the fantasy. But not for me. And to my great joy, my crew weren’t ready to jump ship either.
In early 2022, they moved in with me and we made space for them in a shared office on Quarterdeck. A place where we could support each other, and work together, on a daily basis. And guess what happens if you put a group of writers together in a shared space?
Exactly. They start to rub off on one another and before you know it, they’re coming up with all sorts of ideas. So, you can see where this is going, right? We wrote and wrote and wrote and it made me realise I could still be a writing coach. With the right support, tools and systems in place, I could still edit and help people write and publish their stories. And maybe, just maybe, I could even chalk up the courage to publish some of my own pieces.
The Resilience was built to help me get through the biggest challenge of my life, but she has become so much more than I ever dreamed was possible. Today, she is home to a group of writers, and this year we are also opening up our doors to readers who may want to sign on. But we’re not quite there yet, and sometimes it’s nice to hide away somewhere with a good book and let the ship take care of itself for a while. And that’s how I ended up back in this old Facebook group of mine.
Come Read With Me?
This year, as part of my New Year’s resolutions, I aim to read a book a week and review at least half of them. And now, I extend an invitation to you, Dear Reader, to embark on a new journey with me.
Picture this: We’re aboard the mighty Resilience. We have found our way to her cosy reading room, nestled in the heart of the ship, where tales of adventure, wisdom, and wonder are shared and cherished. Here, in this sacred space, we find our Head Libearian Barry Bombee and his assistant ghost, Hemingway, who look after our books. Sir Bear, our Quartermaster, makes sure we always have hot beverages and sweet’n’savoury nibbles at hand, and if Barry’s book recommendations get too tame and vanilla for your taste, you can always count on a Sea Bear to know where the spicy stuff is.
Can you feel it? I propose we form a vibrant book club together. Think of it as a place where we can come together and talk books and bookish things over a hot beverage and a good meal. If that sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, come join me on Facebook. The name of the group is Resilience: As We Read and I will be sitting there talking to the walls about the books I’m reading until someone comes along to keep me company. I would love for you to do the same, and if you’re writing something – anything at all – I’d love to hear about that too.
With warm regards and me quill at the ready,
//Evalena, aka Captain Linnea
ABOUT LINNEA LUCIFER
Linnea Lucifer is the Captain of the imaginary, yet very real, pirate ship Resilience and her merry crew of indie authors. But that is not all – amateur liar, weaver of stories, peddler of merch, lifelong spoonie, ancient dragon lady and Sir Bear’s irreverent pet are a few more words often used to describe the bearer of many names.
The Captain was named after a delicate little flower that grows in mossy, Swedish pine forests, and a certain fiery fallen angel. She spends most of her days daydreaming and writing fantasy, smut and painfully crappy poems. A diva of delight, she takes great pleasure in everything that tickles the senses and adds a sprinkle of magic and spice to our world.