Last month I went to the Maltese island of Gozo in the Med. It wasn't just a holiday, it was a writers' retreat organised by one of the members of The Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) of which I've been a member for years, probably even longer than being with the SAS.
I went with a writing friend but apart from my pal Maxine, I didn't know any of the other people they were just familiar names that appeared in our round-robin emails and the Society's quarterly journal The Woman Writer.
There was no need to feel nervous however, from the moment we all met up there was that lovely camaraderie and easy conversation that always seems in abundance when any group of writers get together. And this was a special get-together on the beautiful – and tiny island of Gozo which measures just 9 by 5 miles.
The retreat was organised by SWWJ member Jennifer Pulling and apart from Maxine and I there were three other ladies and another who came over just for the day from her home on Malta. A cosy little band of writers, keen to explore, take in the legends and folklore and bask under that hot Mediterranean sun.
Personally, I went with the hopes of finding inspiration to write another romantic novel. My two previous romances have been set (a) on a tropical island and (b) in France. I thought that Gozo would be the perfect location for a love story to blossom.
Gozo has certainly proved magical and inspirational for other writers, not least Victorian author and poet Edward Lear who was so impressed by the island that he had to make up his own words to describe its magnificence – pomzkizillious and gromphiberous, no less. Although legend and myth go much further back in time as Ramla Bay on Gozo is supposedly where the nymph Calypso kept Ulysses a prisoner for seven years.
I can certainly think of worse places to be held captive as the rugged coastline around the tiny island is so magnificent with its incredible caves and rock formations while the little towns and villages remain unspoilt by modernisation. As for the churches, their dramatic appearance especially at sunset can take your breath away. Explore more deeply and you'll uncover secrets and discover the stunning craftsmanship of the Gozitan people.
I found it amazing as to how such a tiny island could have so many ancient archaeological sites, perhaps the most incredible being the Ggantija Temples thought to be older than the Egyptian pyramids. Sadly I soon realised that this tiny golden speck in the Mediterranean has too many wonders to see in just a week. I'll have to go back some day.
But did I feel the inspiration for a romance novel as I'd hoped? Sadly no, I was too busy taking in the sights, enjoying the weather, swimming in that clear blue sea and partaking of the culinary fayre! But all the memories are stored in my head and captured on photos and probably just need time to readjust and muse and go through all the subconscious processes that we unknowingly do before a story can begin to form. Although I did come home with article ideas. One being the amazing Gozo salt harvested from the salt pans that were just along the coast from where we stayed.
stopped to talk to locals Alfred Attard and his wife Mary who are following
in generations of their family's footsteps in harvesting the salt from the salt
pans. Speaking in broken English they invited me into their cave
which had been chiselled from the cliff to form a storage shed for
the harvested salt and told me something of how the salt pans were
|Oblong pans chiselled from the rock to collect sea water|
|It may look like snow but it's actually salt.|
|Alfred and Mary Attard, Salt Pans, Gozo.|
I always think that if something stops me in my tracks because I find it interesting, it might also interest a magazine and its readers. I hope so anyway. It might not be the romantic novel I was hoping to be inspired to write, although... I wonder if Alfred and Mary found love among these surreal surroundings in their youth... perhaps there's another story beginning to germinate after all.