Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Original Social Media

In this day of technology and endless social media, it seems like we are constantly connected to our friends. Between texting, tweeting, facebooking, e-mailing, and calls, rarely an hour goes by that something hasn’t buzzed, dinged, chirped, or vibrated, letting us know such vital details as what our friends had for lunch, what made them laugh, or what evoked a frowny-face emoticon. And yet, in the midst of all this connectivity, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect.

It was this weekend that I rediscovered that elusive thing that seems to been disappearing in our modern lives. The joy of the common get-together.

After weeks of anticipation and planning, five of my critique partners converged on my house for a weekend writer’s retreat. Interestingly enough, though we had been friends and crit partners for a year and a half, I had never even met two of them. In both cases, we hesitantly eyed each other, mentally matching the tiny profile pictures to the stranger before us. And in both cases, we were grinning and hugging within seconds—reunited despite the fact we had never met.

We arrived at my house close to dinner time, and as I flitted about my fantastically renovated kitchen (I swear I shall never take it for granted!), I couldn’t help but smile with joy at the lively conversation and frequent giggles emanating from the girls as they chatted on the couch. There was a vibrancy to the place unlike anything we could feel online, an energy that built as the evening progressed.

By late evening, we had relocated to the screened-in back porch, and the sound of laughter echoing up and down the lake masked even the most robust crickets and toads that normally serenade the night. We talked about any and every thing, frequently busting out in laughter until we were gasping for air. When the clock chimed midnight, we were all holding our aching sides but showing no signs of slowing down.

We talked about happy things, sad things, absurd things, and things that made us go hmm. We pondered the industry, life, love, and the future, while reminiscing about the past and how much we had grown as writers since finding each other. It was two in the morning before we finally headed to bed.

The next morning, we swore to one another that work would be done, and we buckled down to try to help each other tackle whatever was forefront on our minds. One by one we went through the group, listening, suggesting, plot hashing, and problem solving.

By the end of our retreat, I think it is safe to say that each and every one of us felt invigorated, our sense of excitement and optimism renewed. The well of our creativity had been filled to overflowing, and we were all eager to get back to our respective projects and apply all the wonderful ideas and suggestions that had been bandied about.

I’m so grateful for all of the technology that allows us to stay in touch with people no matter how far across the globe they live. Whether half an hour away, half a continent away, or literally half the world away, they are only as distant as a few strokes of the keyboard. But nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the beauty of visiting in person. To see the myriad of expressions flit across their faces, to hear their mirth or sympathy, to feel a conspiratorial hand on your shoulder, or to offer a full on bear hug. These are the things that enrich our relationships in a way no bit of technology ever could.

Be it a conference, a retreat, or just a lunch between friends, I just want to say thank goodness for the original social media: the incomparable, irreplaceable, unduplicatable art of the simple get-together.

Do you have friends online that you would love to meet in person? Do you feel reinvigorated when you attend conferences, or visit family and friends after a long absence?

And for the perfect make-ahead lunch for a group, try my favorite go-to recipe: Zesty Chicken Pasta Salad.


- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken

- 1 packet McCormick’s Zesty Herb season/marinade packet

-mix packet with 1/3 cup water, 3 Tbsp Olive Oil, 3 Tbsp vinegar

- 1 pound penne pasta

- 2 peppers (red and/or yellow) cut into small pieces and coated with olive oil

- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, cut into small pieces

- 1 cup grape tomatos

- small bottle ranch dressing

Mix up the marinade, then divide in half. Set one half aside, and use the other half to marinate the chicken in a ziplock bag with for about 15 minutes. Grill chicken (discard bag and used marinade). Either grill or sautee the peppers until lightly roasted. When chicken is done, let rest for five minutes then shred using two forks.

Cook the penne until al dente. Combine all ingredients in a large Tupperware container, and add ranch to desired taste (I usually add about a half a cup.). Pour the reserved marinade in, cover with lid and shake vigorously. Enjoy either warm or refrigerated :)


  1. Yummy recipe, Erin! I actually want to try it.

    So happy that you did the original social mediaing with your critique partners, lol. I hope that one day, all of y'all can get together in the same room. :))

  2. Oh, you should definitely try it Marquita - so yummy and not hard at all. For an even easier method, just buy one of those rotisserie chickens instead of grilling your own.
    And I consider myself very lucky indeed to be able to get together with you for our lunches now and then. It always makes my day! :)

  3. Nothing better than time with your peeps! So glad you guys had a great weekend!

  4. The salad was delicious! And, yes, this weekend was one of the best I've had in a LONG time. It was so great to see, and meet, everyone. I do feel like we worked out a lot of kinks in my projects, and I am so excited to dive back in. I think that women especially, need to have this face to face interaction. As wonderful as email and texting is, it cannot replace the intimacy created between friends when you are able to actually get together. I feel energized and creative, and I know it's due to you fabulous ladies, so thank you! :D

  5. Thanks Deb! And we also had a fabulous time at the workshop with you and all our HCRW peeps :) Lots of great info that I am already putting to good use!

  6. Here here to everything you said, Dana! Women are definitely social creatures, and nothing speaks to our soul such more as interacting with one another :)

  7. I had a blast ladies, and it was my first real brainstorming session in person. And I don't think anything will ever top it. I never realized just how lonely the writer's life can be until you meet someone in person and have a great time. It suddenly made me realize that I really need to take the time to get out and socialize more. I was missing out on something. And thanks to you wonderful ladies for a wonderful weekend. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much. Great blog, Erin as usual. I love your descriptions! They are so vivid. And thanks to everyone at the workshop. It was a huge help and I got the chance to meet with some fabulous writers!

  8. Thanks, Suzie! Yes, it was an amazing weekend, and I agree that it really highlighted our need to socialize. I love the brainstorming we did on your book - it is going to be an amazing story!! So glad I had the pleasure of finally meeting you in person :)

  9. I'm still jealous I couldn't be there! LOL! I'm so glad you guys had such a great time, though! I look forward to Nationals every year, because nothing beats seeing my girls in person :)

  10. I wish you could have made it, Jerrica! Thank goodness for conferences - I couldn't go without seeing you for too long!

  11. So jealous! What a wonderful thing to do...good for you guys taking time to really interact and get to know each other. It's very inspiring:) xo, Kara

  12. What a lovely weekend for you all! There is nothing like in person contact, but it's amazing how we can connect and learn so much online. Thanks for sharing your weekend :)

  13. This sounds wonderful! I'm glad you ladies had a good time. On a related note, I'm totally trying this salad. Yum....

  14. I totally agree Jenny - there are wonderful things about both being online and meeting in person. Technology really opens up our world, doesn't it? And being face to face makes it a little cozier :)

    I hope you do try the recipe, Marnee! Let me know what you think. I don't make it too often because Kirk will eat it all in one sitting if I don't stop him, lol!