Friday 30th July....the last day of the Writers' Lab on Skyros island, Greece.
I am sitting at a table at Thomas's sea front taverna, with grass shades above and the sea just below. With me at the table is the writing group. We have met to round off the 10 day course with a few practicalities about publishing, and to read out our collective story - which will be a surprise to all of us - since none of us knows what it will be. Also for a long and lovely lunch.
I look at the faces around me. Ten days ago they were just a blur of strangers. Now each is etched with character and personality. Not only that, ten distinct voices have emerged, clear, funny, serious, poetic, idiosyncratic, resonant, unique. That's why groups are so good. We realise our own singularity by recognizing that of others. This group had it in spades. Some already accomplished writers, three psychotherapists, Ali from Saudi Arabia who spent 14 of his 28 years as a nomad and whose father was the poet of his tribe. They challenged me at every turn, but guided and inspired me.
In Skyros, people emerge from their chrysalis. Self doubt is dispelled. The women are like butterflies, spreading their bright colours, writing songs and stories, painting, singing, doing yoga. Here, we get to wear our fantasy wardrobe. We dress up every night. A great treat for the men - who respond with an almost troubadourian sense of chivalry (and goodness knows what else).
Sunday 1st August. I am sitting at my desk now at home, cool, rested, restored. I know that this will fortify me for weeks ahead - and that over the years Skyros - the place, the people, the permanent staff who take the everyday domestic hassle onto their own shoulders, the support of the other facilitators and directors, have helped me to become more truly myself. I trust that this is so for all of you, and that for a while at least, we can keep the humdrum at bay. Love and thanks. Sto kalo
Joyce was teaching at the Skyros Centre's Writers' Lab in Greece.
At the age of 21 Joyce Dunbar decided she was a writer, but she didn't know what sort. For the next 15 years she wrote poetry, fiction, journalism, and radio talks on a range of subjects, with limited success, while teaching literature to adults.
It wasn't until she was 35 that she wrote her first children's book, inspired by an illustration. Since then she has published 80 more. She also teaches creative writing, is a former writing fellow at UEA, and at present her 12 step guide to writing can be found on the BOOKTRUST website in BOOKBITE. She is also writing a memoir.
To find out more about the Skyros Writers' Lab, described by The Guardian as No. 1 of the World's 5 Best Writing Holidays, see www.skyros.com or call 01983 865566 for your Skyros brochure.