Summer 2020 has been a summer of change. After 10 years of living in Dubai, my husband, three daughters and I packed up our lives and moved to Madrid. Having lived away from the UK for 17 years (a few years in Bahrain and South Korea as well as Dubai), I thought I knew what to expect, but, because of Covid, this move has been different. Instead of returning to the UK to spend July and August with family and friends before starting our new life, it has just been the five of us in a new country. We don’t know anyone (yet!). We don’t speak Spanish (yet!). All our stuff is still being shipped, so we only have the possessions that fitted in our suitcases. And until school starts, it feels like we’re in limbo: one life has finished and the next has not yet begun. However, it turns out that being in limbo is an interesting place to be.
The experience reminds me of when you first start to plan a new book. You know who your main character will be and the overall theme for their journey – in this case, the MCs would be myself and my family finding our place in a changed world. So then you focus on the setting, exploring the world that your characters will inhabit. With the impact of Covid on tourism, Madrid has been so quiet that it’s been easy to get out and explore. Besides building familiarity with the streets, shops and cafes directly around our new home, we’ve been to parks, into the city, to the mountains and to an art gallery. And now that I know the setting, I can start to picture how it will shape our lives. So, the next step is to consider what action the main characters will take to set their journey in motion, and who the secondary characters will be. For my daughters and husband, this will be starting school/ work and meeting their classmates/ colleagues. But for me, as a freelance editor and writer, the workplace is my back garden and colleagues are based in the virtual world. I need a different plan of action to start my life here in Madrid and to find my ‘secondary characters’.
Luckily, no writer or editor ever needs to be alone. The writing and editing community is far-reaching, supportive and welcoming. If, as a writer or an editor, you need to find people to share your journey, take a look on Facebook or Google for writing groups in your area. It’s an easy way to reach out and connect. I’ve now joined the Madrid Writers Club through Facebook, and as soon as school starts, I’ll join their meet-ups. I’m also planning to put out an invitation for kidlit writers in the area to join me for monthly writing sessions, and, fingers crossed, my ‘secondary characters’ will be found and my journey to find my place in Madrid will begin.
As with any story, as soon as you breathe life into the characters, the world and the first step of their journey, you have to be prepared for the story to gain its own momentum as it develops and grows. Twists and turns will spring up unexpectedly. Obstacles will evolve that you didn’t plan for your characters to face. But this where the magic and the fun begins. And being in limbo, knowing that all this adventure is about to begin, is a truly exciting place to be.