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A love letter to the writers who will come after me

Saima Mir


You have to get to know someone slowly. Let them unfold before your eyes. Watch them smile over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Notice their tells, when they get up and leave the room, when they tire of conversation and just want to be, to breathe and listen.

To live in a house with other people, share space with them, is one of the greatest privileges of life. Every morning, you wake to the promise of a new day and head down to the kitchen with your notebook. 

Soft footsteps on the marble steps signify someone is coming to join you for coffee, bringing news and gossip from the day before. You get to be a small child again, excited at the prospect of your friend, laughing, giggling, drinking beautiful cups of tea, that will transform you into a teller of stories, a weaver of tales, a world-changer.

This writers’ retreat will change you.

You will get to find your childhood in the faces of people you didn’t know, back when you were little, but who hear the same music as you in their souls and on their devices.

They don’t know you as a mother, wife, or sister. They don’t know you as the exhausted, bringer of snacks, payer of bills, negotiator of the daily drudgery of life. They will meet you with fresh eyes, and through meeting them, you will find yourself again, like a familiar stranger you will greet yourself at the doorway. 

I hope that you will like what you see, all the ways in which you have grown into the man or woman you were destined to be, and how all the obstacles really were the way.

Inevitably, there will be a joker amongst you, someone who can spin a yarn from any thread, hold court, and punctuate your days with belly laughs. But, if you’re really lucky, one amongst you will be the quiet one, the contemplative one, who takes time to get to know you away from the crowd. 

You’ll step away from the jolly lunches of steaming hot bowls of Tuscan tomato soup, and silken ravioli drizzled in extra virgin olive oil, which has been purchased from the local vendor, and pine nuts that have been peeled lovingly for the event, full of the warmth of community. You’ll step away from the wine-soaked evenings that slowly become more and more intellectually raucous as the red, rose and grigio flow, the sounds of words, laughter, and stories will float through the villa, across the Apennines, stating: ‘we are here, alive, and we have much to say.’

When you leave this place, you’ll miss the fruit bowl that was magically replenished, and cut into juice-filled, yogurt topped salad every morning, the tall glass jar steeped in sweet and nutty granola, and the sound of the opening and closing of the fridge. 

Back home, when you wake with those who love you, you will think on those who also loved you, just a little differently, less tightly, putting no demands on you other than ‘don’t be a dick,’ a request that was announced on the day you arrived.

You’ll miss the cold greys of the geometric tiles that covered half the kitchen  – the part where the dinner table is, where the candles were always lit on an evening, and the conversation was always warm and welcoming – because you forgot your slippers, and packed too many clothes for hot weather, and it’s not as warm as you expected.

As you look out of your bedroom window onto the urban sprawl, you’ll miss the promise of the bright blue swimming pool. A pool that you managed to brave twice, but that others more courageous and hardy than you, dived into daily after the morning sessions of yoga.

You’ll miss the way the light streamed in through the many windows and French doors, as if pointing you in the direction of crisp, clear sentences, urging you to open notebooks, take pens, and type words onto half-charged laptops, that leave you running to your room for chargers.

At home, there won’t be writers grinding coffee, boiling kettles, or chopping ingredients for breakfast, as they casually help you undo the knotty problem, or character arc you’ve been wrestling with for hours, but that they’ve somehow managed to sweep away with a wave of their hand, and a gentle word.

The retreat will give you friends who will stand beside you, helping you wield the sword that vanquishes fears, imposter syndrome, and the self-loathing  that inevitably comes with one’s inability to finish the book one set out to write.

The writers’ retreat will change you. It will plant seeds in your soul that will grow and blossom.

And one day, whilst you sit at your desk, you will write a love letter to your writer family. ‘Take the flowers that we planted in Italy,’ you will say, ‘and place them in a vase on the windowsill by the kitchen. Smile and think of me, know that I am thinking of you too.’


Saima Mir’s latest novel, Vengeance: The Khan 2, is published this month