Diana Friedman

Costa Women Meet Diana Friedman

Girl meets boy, boy comes from the Basque country, girl discovers the wonders of the area and falls in love with both! Meet Diana Friedman, creator of writing retreats, who believes we should choose art over irritability. Read her story.

Why Spain?

It might be the oldest story in the world–a young people meet-cute!

My journey to the Basque country started many years ago, when with my best friend, I travelled to Spain for the first time. I was 23 years old.

On a rainy Friday night in San Sebastian, we wandered into a bar, and while drinking and socializing with the locals, I met a kind Basque man. We exchanged addresses, write letters for two years, a romance bloomed, that kind man became my husband, and for the last 35 years or so, we’ve made our home in both the U.S. and San Sebastian.

Now that our children have flown the nest and I have moved entirely to freelance writing, editing and running writing retreats, I’ve got more and more time to spend in San Sebastian, which has come to feel like home.

A few years ago I started running creative writing retreats about an hour south of the city at a gorgeous holiday retreat home in Ituren, Navarra, and the retreats have been wildly successful.

I am excited for them to start again this year, in August. My husband has one year left of work, and once he’s retired, we plan to make the jump permanent.

And where are you now?

Our Spanish home is in San Sebastian, in the Basque Country. The top three reasons for coming here are:-

1) the food/pintxos are amazing.

2) The proximity of the beach to the the city. There are two big, clean beaches surrounded by undeveloped mountain landscapes so you never feel closed in.

3) Great summer jazz festival with free concerts. Over the years we have seen Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dr. John and many more legends at La Zurriola beach at sunset.

What was the biggest challenge for your move?

The biggest challenge has been dealing with bureaucracy around residency and health care. For some things you have to make an appointment online, for others you need to show up in person. Often, we get it backwards. The best way to overcome this is to be patient, read as much as you can before your appointment to make sure you have all your forms, and don’t lose your cool when things take way longer than you are used to in your home country. Spain is a laid-back place, so people tend to be more relaxed about everything, including paperwork!!

Do you have any advice for Women thinking about making the move?

Get all your paperwork in order.

Make sure you know how taxes work in Spain and what forms you will need to become resident.

Also, if you are moving to the Basque Country be forewarned that there is a very strong emphasis on speaking Basque. While most everyone does speak Spanish, you will also hear a LOT of Basque, which is not a romance language and very hard to learn. There are many things that can be hard to understand because they are rooted in Basque Culture and without the language, it’s hard to follow. But if you read up and take the time to learn about the culture, music and history, you will have a much richer experience of the area.

What is your Spanish life like? 

Because my husband is from here, we spend time with his family, both in San Sebastian and Bilbao.

I also have an active social life with a fabulous group of expat women who have formed various book club, business and social communities (including a Bay of Biscay Costa Women‘s group!).

I am a writer, writing coach, and editor so I spend most of my week day either writing, or editing and/or coaching other writers.

My favorite hobbies include reading/relaxing at the beach, visiting exhibitions at cultural centers, swimming at the beach, enjoying a late night tortilla de patatas, sharpening my drawing skills.

At some point I will bite the bullet and start studying Basque!

Diana Friedman

What is something spectacular you would like to achieve in just one day?

As a writing coach, I enjoy helping women who have put aside their creative pursuits (usually for family, profession or caregiving), rediscover their artistic selves.

A spectacular day for me would involve gathering a group of women and helping them unearth their dormant artistic talents and desires. As women, we are so used to putting other first.

When I work with writers at my week-long retreats, it is a gift to me when they blossom and their self-confidence skyrockets as they find their voice.

Something you are grateful for?

I am really grateful that after many years of working a desk job that I finally am living my life where my vocation and avocation–writing and teaching writing–line up. It took me many years to get here and I want to share my journey and what I’ve learned along the way with others who are struggling to give themselves permission to make a change.

While I work one-on-one with writers, I also offer writing retreats in both Spain and the US, and absolutely love doing these. We bring together 6-9 writers for a week and nourish them, support them, feed them amazing food, and build a mini-community that often extends far beyond the week in which we are together physically.

It’s been my dream to do this for years, and it’s incredibly gratifying to finally make it happen!

Who would be at your special dinner party?

I have too many people I admire to fit around a dinner table–accomplished musicians, writers, poets, etc.

Right now the people who I would most like to have to dinner would be contemporary writers I am reading: Gabrielle Zevin, author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow; Elif Safak, author of the Fig Tree; Rebecca Makkai, author of I Have Some Questions for You.

I would sit them down and ask, with reference to their wonderful novels, “How Did You Do That?”

Every writer wants to know how another writer accomplishes the Herculean task of putting together a complicated, layered novel. I am no exception to this rule.

As a writer, I love to lose myself in a book, but I also love to understand all the craft and techniques that an author uses to construct a work of beauty.

What’s your secret weapon?

My ability to create a learning space where everyone feels cared for, stimulated, and encouraged. Drawing out the strengths and creative potential in artists at every stage their creative journey. e.

Do you have a mantra you live by?

Choose art over irritability.

When I was younger, raising two kids and working outside the home, I was told this by a very wise mentor.

What it means is don’t put your art aside for the trivial stuff and then feel bad later because you neglected your art.

For some of us, art is like oxygen. If we don’t get to it, we feel terrible, irritable. I have a little poster with a flower I drew that says exactly this.  And I like to remind myself of it every day. 

Diana Friedman Writing Retreats

One thing you had to bring to Spain and could never give away?

My journals

Do you have a favourite book?

This is a VERY hard question to answer for a writer. There are SO many books to love.

I am a huge fan of Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. Atkinson writes with wit, grace and humor, all while traversing complex subjects such as sex trafficking, murder, infidelity, family trauma and more. She is brilliant at juxtaposing the serious with the silly through her caring, intelligent, and somewhat clueless protagonist, PI, Jackson Brodie.

Something you would tell your younger self?

Don’t sweat the small stuff so much. Have confidence that you will do well in the world. And don’t worry so much about what other people think!

Thank you Diana Friedman where can we find out more?

My website: https://dianafriedmanwriter.com/

Join my next retreat! More information here

Connect on instagram: @pyreneanwritingretreats

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianaFriedmanwriter


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