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Writers' Conference Adventures

Feb. 26, 2023

by Luba Nikolayev, text and photos

A mixture of nervousness and excitement washes over me as I enter the opening reception of the San Miguel Writers' Conference. The sunny garden terrace of the Hotel Real de Minas is bustling with authors and writing enthusiasts. A three-piece band encourages us to dance and mingle under giant white canopies. The inviting tables full of delicate hors devours and an open bar help lift everyone's spirits and put us at ease. Still, as a new writer, I'm wondering too much about how I will fit in. With the liquid courage of a glass of wine in hand, I put on my best smile and approach a group of strangers, who seem far more comfortable than I am.

But as we chat, I discover that I'm not the only one feeling this mixture of nervousness and excitement, emotions that may seem opposite, but are actually sides of the same coin. There sipping wine on the lawn, just by naming our emotions, acknowledging them out loud, we all start to relax and feel more at ease.

I've discovered that naming emotions gives me permission to be exactly as I am, without judgment or fear. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and hiding away, which in the short run seems easier than processing the discomfort, I am able to be brave and stay put.

A half hour later I am listening to the keynote speaker Janelle Brown, confess to feeling nervous. Her admission is like therapy for me, confirming, as it does, that writing is medicine for both the reader and the writer.

Janelle discusses the unlikable characters in her fictional books. She reveals how she finds herself loving them even though they create terrible situations for themselves and others. She explains that creating these characters gives her a chance to express all the things that she can't in real life. She finds herself loving her unlikable characters for their imperfect humanity, rooting for them even during their ugliest times. Writing it out rather than living it out is "consequence-free", allowing her to get it out of her system without turning her life upside down. Janelle encourages us to go into the volcanoes that exist in each of us, find the issues that are most impactful, and even stick our faces into the lava. If it isn't a little scary, then it's probably not worthwhile.

As a new writer working on my first book, this is exactly what I need to hear. The reason I've come to the Writers' Conference is to meet other writers who have completed their books, going through the entire process from start to finish.

Typing away at home, sometimes it's a challenge for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Raising two little children, I don't have a lot of time to write. Then, sometimes I lack the motivation to write.

My book leaves me vulnerable, exposing parts of me that not many people know. It's about my preparation to birth my second child at home, by myself, with no medical assistance, in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. It was a courageous process, one that required a lot of inner work to get to the place where I felt comfortable. I had to face my deepest fears, my most uncomfortable feelings, all the questions I knew had no easy or even concrete answers. Birthing my son, with my intuition and my own two hands, was the greatest achievement of my life. It transformed me into a warrior mother, my own superhero.

Having the support and motivation to write this book means the world to me. I know that my life-changing experience will inspire others during their toughest times. I hope my writing will motivate others to stay true to themselves, to create a world where we trust ourselves and our bodies, particularly during the most difficult times.

My message is that in the end love will always be there. It's the same love I saw in the eyes of the writers and keynote speakers, even if it was mixed with nervousness and other emotions. The Writers' Conference had a big impact on me. Now I know that I will complete my book.


Luba Nikolayev is a mother, dancer and writer, who is reimagining herself in San Miguel after her recent arrival here from the jungle of Costa Rica. She has travelled to over 40 countries, learning about different cultures and what unites us all. Through her partnership with Lokkal she hopes to encourage readers to explore their brilliance with a playful and curious outlook.


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