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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

When do Virtual Friends become Real Friends?

In this electronic world we all have hundreds, if not thousands of friends. There are our Facebook friends, our Twitter followers, our Blog followers, and all the other virtual friends we meet and communicate with on the various groups we belong to.
So how do we turn these virtual friends into real friends? People who are flesh and blood, people we can hug, people we can talk to with our vocal chords rather than our fingers. Well, I recently found out when I attended A Summer Audience as part of the Love a Happy ending online group.

For those of you who don’t know, Love a Happy Ending was set up in 2011 as an online, interactive group of authors, editors and readers, and was a strictly invitation only group for the authors involved. There was only space for thirty authors and when my invitation to join came I was a bit bemused. ‘You do realise the kind of novels I write?’ was my first question, because I had never associated happy endings with my writing which is generally of the dark crime variety. Back came the answer, ‘Well, I’m sure your books are grittier than most but I presume all your books end in a good way even if they don’t start off like that.’ Apart from that, Love a Happy Ending was looking for a good mix of genres. So, still a little bemused, I joined.
Since then I’ve done my share of commenting, tweeting, sharing on Facebook, and all the other things you do when you belong to an online group. Oh, and I had a new set of virtual friends. Love a Happy Ending built its platform and became increasingly visible in the hectic world of the internet.
The idea of a readers/writers event took shape earlier this year, and gradually it became a reality. The venue was chosen, Sir William Romney’s school in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. The name was chosen, ‘Summer Audience’, and we all commenced battle to publicise it. We facebooked, blogged and tweeted like mad, in fact there was so much activity I did start to have a concern it was turning into spam.
The programme was also taking shape, speakers and workshops were arranged and it was looking good. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I was approached to be a speaker. My initial reaction was that Tetbury is an awfully long way from north-east Scotland, but as you’ve probably noticed I’ve been blogging a bit about writer events lately and one of my blogs was on using these events as a promotional tool. You can see it on the Do Authors Dream of Electric Books site so taking my own advice I accepted the invitation and when a plea was put out for workshops, I signed up to do one of them as well.
Love a Happy ending authors, editors and readers
Okay, so maybe I set out with promotion firmly at the front of my mind, there was another much more important benefit. I met many of my virtual friends, so many I can’t name them all, but I can still feel the hugs. They were very, very real, and wonderful.
Linn Halton, author and organiser extraordinary
First of all I have to mention Linn Halton who opened her heart and her home to us and who did so much to ensure the event was a success. I take my hat off to her.

Chris Longmuir and Janice Horton
Janice Horton was the first speaker of the day with her talk ‘From Zero to Hero’. She’s done a blog post ‘The Summer Audience Event’ if you want to have a look she’s included loads of photos which is nice.
Chris Longmuir and Stephanie Keyes
Stephanie Keyes put me to shame she travelled from the US to come to the event, and here was I moaning about the north-east of Scotland! She was a marvellous company, knowledgeable, communicative and with a great sense of humour.
Harvey Black and his friend Jeremy
Then there was Harvey Black who brought his friend Jeremy along. None of us will forget Jeremy in a hurry!
Mandy Baggot singing her heart out
Oh, and I can’t forget Mandy Baggot who sang to us during the lunchtime break. There were loads of others, apologies to all of you who haven’t been mentioned, but I’m sure any readers of this blog will be able to check you all out on
Lou Graham and Jess who did a lot of the work on the day

Oops, I forgot to mention one very important person, Lou Graham and her beautiful daughter, Jess. They were the foot soldiers, always there to do the necessary practical things, there to look after us all, and they did a superb job. This was all the more impressive because there was no payoff for them. Lou is one of Love a Happy Ending’s associate readers, so she had no books to sell, no author platform to build, no gains to be made from all the hard work she put in. I salute you, Lou, you did a great job.
So why don’t you pop over to there’s loads of feedback from the Summer Audience Event and loads of great photos. Oh, and if you want a cut down taster of my morning talk it’s at
Chris Longmuir in full flow
I’m off now to see what all my real friends are saying in the virtual world.


Jenny Harper said...

We're blessed with the facility to make friends virtually these days. Think what life must have been like for writers before email and social media! But it's so much nicer when you can meet them face to face. Glad you had such a great time, Chris.

Joan Fleming said...

It's great when the opportunity comes to make at least some of our virtual friends into real friends too. Glad the event went so well, Chris.

Sue Fortin said...

It was lovely to meet you at Tetbury, Chris and I can honestly say my virtual friends have become my real friends too.

Janice Horton said...

The Summer Audience was fabulous wasn't it! I loved every minute. (Well, maybe not the first few minutes of my talk when I was almost speechless with terror, having never done one before!)

I loved your summing up, Chris, - real friends in a virtual world - it fair brought a wee lump to my throat!

Janice xx

Sheryl said...

WhooOOT! I take my hat off to everyone, particularly lovely Lou and Jess (thank you, girls!) and fabulous Linn, who organised everything magnificently. There wasn’t a single hitch. A wonderful rewarding day. A wonderful group of amazingly supportive people. FAB! :) x

Linn B Halton said...

A lovely round-up Chris and as a group I think we all share the same ethos - we all make our own happy ending! People like yourself who work so hard, love what they do and live for their art,deserve a forum to celebrate that. Your speech was delivered effortlessly, grabbed us all and I would like to personally thank you for helping to make the day such fun! It was a long train journey ... but nothing puts off the amazing Chris Longmuir!

Miriam Wakerly said...

What a lovely write up of the day, and you're absolutely right, Chris, in that there is nothing quite like face-to-face meetings. It was so nice to see everyone - and I had two old schoolfriends there as well! I realy enjoyed your talk too.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Sounds a wonderful event, Chris - I've ejoyed reading about it all. I'm looking ofrward to the RNA conference for the same reason - to meet many online friends!

You can do the Be Inspired post anytime, by the way!

Kit Domino said...

You've summed up what was a brilliant day beautifully, Chris, and as one of your once virtual friends, am pleased and happy to say you are now a real friend. Loved your talk and love your bonny laugh. Here's to the next time!

Chris Longmuir said...

Thanks for all your lovely comments, it was a brilliant day which I would do again tomorrow if I could.

Melanie said...

Great post on what was truly a brilliant day! I wish I could have been there.

Virtual friends are great but it's great to finally meet your online friends face to face.

And we can say we've done that!

Talli Roland said...

What a fantastic opportunity for all of you to come together! Looks like such a fun group.