ireland writer tours

Back in July, I went on the Ireland Writer Tours, a week long tour slash writing conference held in (you guessed it) Ireland! This was a really special trip, one that I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to attend. I could probably go on for pages about the many cows I beheld, the soups that I ate, and the moments that left both my heart and my phone photo app 100% full. But for the sake of blog post brevity, I’ll keep it short(er) and share my top five highlights from the trip:

1) WRITING COMMUNITY

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Hands down the best part of the Ireland Writer Tours was the people that I met through it. I loved learning from our amazing instructors, literary agent Thao Le and YA fantasy author Julie C. Dao, and doing it with a group of kickass fellow writers from all different walks of life. Honestly, what a stellar group. So thankful for all the wisdom and laughter that we shared together!

2) CLIFFS OF MOHER

The Cliffs of Moher was my number one anticipated tour stop and it definitely did not disappoint. This was the place where Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was filmed! I could almost see Harry and Dumbledore in the shadows of the fog… -squints- or wait is that just another cow? Anyway, SURREAL! If you’re ever in Ireland, I would highly recommend checking this place out.

3) INISHMORE

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A series of captions for the photos above from our day trip to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands:

  • Ferry ride to the island.

  • Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric hill fort at the edge of a 100-meter-high cliff. As you can see, there is ZERO semblance of a fence or barrier along that cliff edge. You better believe I crab walked my way to the edge (and by edge, I mean a nice safe five feet away from it) so I could could get a quick photo before running back to safety. As terrifying as this was for my fear of heights, I would say it actually turned out to be my favourite tour spot, even more than the Cliffs of Moher. I loved the unexpected wonder of it.

  • One of many popular Aran sweater shops.

  • The yummiest scone with the BEST raspberry jam.

  • The Wormhole, a naturally made swimming pool. This was very cool! I’m pretty sure we all wanted to grab a floatie and a drink with a little umbrella in it and jump in that water.

4) A DAY IN DUBLIN

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After the tour ended, I spent an extra day in Dublin city. Some things I saw:

  • The famous Trinity College Library. Not pictured: the hundreds of tourists standing next to me, taking this exact same picture. However, even with all the people, it was still very awe inspiring to be surrounded by so many historic books.

  • A mural while wandering the streets of Dublin.

  • A pub! There were lots of these, but this one looked particularly nice at golden hour.

  • The view from Ha’penny Bridge.

  • This random Korean restaurant??? Susan and I ended up eating dinner here and it was actually not bad. I’m not sure if it’s because it was actually not bad or because I was going through such major Korean food withdrawals that anything would do, but either way, I’m glad we stumbled upon it!

5) ICE CREAM & GELATO ROUND UP

You bet ice cream & gelato gets a whole section to itself. Let’s discuss these flavours, shall we?

  • Here we have my favourite ice cream of the trip from Murphy’s, a cone with fresh strawberry and honeycomb caramel. Honeycomb was a big thing in Ireland which was a real delight.

  • My favourite flavour, mint chocolate chip! This was from an award winning ice cream shop but in my opinion, it was just ok. It still made me happy to eat it though.

  • Gelato at Gino’s with my new friend, Rachel Greenlaw. She got mint chocolate chip (because she knows what’s up) and I got Malteser. It was yummy, but you know what would have made it yummier? If there were actual crunchy pieces of Malteser inside. YES.

  • I don’t remember where this was and I didn’t even get a whole scoop because I was too full, but this was Bailey’s gelato! I wish I had been hungry enough to get a cup of it. (And yes, I was that person who walked in, asked for a sample, and walked out. Hey, I’m on vacation!).

  • There was a giant grocery store across from our inn and they had special ice creams that we don’t have in Canada. For example, this TOBLERONE ICE CREAM BAR! What! It tasted exactly like I thought it would. I’m sad we don’t have them here.

  • And finally, this mint chip ice cream bar because, as I said before, I love mint chip.

That’s it for the highlights! Thanks, Ireland, for the plethora of castles and monasteries and fairy forests, and for all the inspiration you gave me. And now, to write!!

retreat to lake tahoe (sort of)

Earlier this month, I went on a writing retreat to Lake Tahoe. Sort of. We were actually in Truckee which is more north of Tahoe, and the lake we visited was not, in fact, Lake Tahoe as I’d first believed. Truthfully, I spent the majority of the weekend not really knowing where I was. But that’s besides the point. The important thing is! I went on a retreat with some dear writing friends and this is a post to commemorate the wonderful time we had together. Cue photos.

I chose maybe the most inconvenient and convoluted way to get to my destination, but that too is besides the point. Let’s focus instead on the beautiful sunrise I caught from the airplane window on my first flight (ooo ahh). And look at the free biscuits and tea I got on my second flight (ooo ahh). And don’t forget the fancy Starbucks drink I got before my third flight, which I texted to my boyfriend to show him what a great time I’m having (oo- wait is that just water? …let’s move along).

All of the above was worth it when I reunited with with these ladies:

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Hooray! Let the fun begin! But first, quick introductions.

Susan Lee: Writer of YA contemporary that is laugh out loud hilarious and hits you right in the feels. Follow her on Twitter.

Grace Shim: Writer of YA contemporary featuring Korean teens that make me go ‘omg that was ME in high school!’ Follow her on Twitter.

Jess Kim: Writer of MG contemporary that will make your heart grow three sizes like the Grinch. Follow her on Twitter and find her book Stand Up, Yumi Chung! (Kokila/Penguin, 2020) on Goodreads.

Julie Abe: Writer of MG fantasy but also pretty much everything else (she talented). Also the feeder of my Japanese snack addiction. Follow her on Twitter and find her book Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (Little Brown, 2020) on Goodreads.

Three words to describe this weekend:

1) Inspiring. From story brainstorm sessions to talking about our personal writing journeys, dreams, pitfalls, and goals, I felt inspired to keep on keeping on and to write the stories of my heart. I’m grateful for friends who not only remind me to press on, but model it for me in the way they live their own lives.

2) Celebratory. This retreat was extra special because we got to celebrate Susan’s agent signing! Woohoo!! This calls for not one, but two cakes! Also, a big shoutout to Susan for being our amazing chef for the weekend. The photo on the right is of her cutting strawberries for us. Seriously, what did we do to deserve her?

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3) Refreshing. There’s something about soaking in nature and the presence of good friends that is so rejuvenating. I said it before, but I’ll say it again. I’m so so grateful for these ladies. I’m also grateful for snow capped mountains, belly aching laughs, and cup ramen.

On that note, I’ll end with these photos from the lake that was not Lake Tahoe. Til next time!

godmothers retreat

A couple weeks ago, I went on my first ever writing retreat with a few friends. We packed up the car, drove to the ferry, and crossed the water over to Mayne Island where we spent the weekend in a cabin full of blankets, writing, brainstorming, and filling our bellies with cheese, cheese, and more cheese.

We call ourselves the Godmothers, as in, the godmothers to each other’s book babies. Sarah H, Carly, Grace, and I met in a university Creative Writing class almost four years ago. We happened to be sitting on the same side of the classroom the day we formed critique groups and we’ve stayed that way ever since (a critique group, I mean. We didn’t become permanent fixtures of the classroom). From writing dates in donut shops to annual Secret Santa gift exchanges, I have many reasons to be thankful for these ladies. They were my Critique Partners before I even knew what Critique Partners were and I’m glad I got to experience my first writing retreat with them. It feels fitting.

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SCHEDULE OF THE WEEKEND:

Breakfast
Morning writing session
Lunch
Afternoon writing session
Dinner
Evening writing session, but more accurately, playing games, reading books, sleeping off sickness symptoms, and in my case, secretly watching figure skating videos on YouTube (specifically this video of Yuzuru Hanyu in Helsinki. Seriously, how amazing is he??)

We also went for walks around the island to stretch our legs. On one of our expeditions, Carly and I got lost trying to find the Japanese Garden and came across this view.

This is one of my favourite things about living in BC. That you can just stumble on a window of endless waters and mountains saying hello. You’re surrounded by it, and no matter how many times you admire it, it never stops being amazing.

For those of you wondering, we did end up finding the Japanese Garden. When I was a university student, I used to go to to the Japanese garden (called Nitobe Garden) on campus all the time. It was my favourite place at UBC and losing free admission there was one of the saddest parts of graduating. For that reason, I was very excited to visit Mayne Island’s Japanese Garden and it didn’t disappoint. Breathing this place in was the perfect break between writing sessions.

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On the final day of the retreat, we woke up early to catch the 7:45 AM ferry back to Vancouver. I’m not really a morning person (not an evening person either actually. Mid-afternoon is perfect, thanks), but seeing the sun rise like we did that day makes me think I should re-consider this early morning thing. Maybe they’re worth it after all.

If you’d like to follow my talented friends online, here is Sarah H’s Twitter and Carly’s Twitter. They are also roommates and co-hosts of Toffee and Fudge, an A+ writing website. If you’re a writer looking for writing tips and resources, definitely check them out! Grace is currently #NoTwitterGrace, but you can visit her on Instagram where she shares spreads from her gorgeous bullet journal. Also, a special shoutout to our friend Susan for sending us a giant box of snacks to power us through the weekend. Susan, you’re the best!

Until next time, Mayne Island!