In praise of ‘virtual’ friends

Nov 15, 2019 | 10 comments |

While I’m blessed with many friends in my ‘real’ life (including one who goes back to my high school years and often reads this blog), my author life means I also have many ‘virtual’ friends—people I’ve connected with via social media who, at the click of a mouse, have been a source of encouragement, inspiration, and support in writing and beyond.

Although there are ‘odd’ people in social media land—and from my Twitter feed to a significant proportion of my Instagram followers and Facebook ‘friend’ requests, I have a daily reminder of the ‘oddities’ of human nature—there are numerous kind and good people too who enrich my life.

A learning community

Twitter, in particular, is where I go to learn not only about writing but also what’s happening in the wider world.

From my solitary desk, I connect with the #writingcommunity and keep abreast of writing and publishing news, including articles, online classes, and #writingtips that help me grow my craft and industry knowledge.

For me, Twitter is like a global water cooler and I dip in and out  to post, chat with writer friends, and learn.

I follow some of my readers on Twitter too and it’s a privilege to share in snippets of their lives, travels, and hobbies.

And, not least, Twitter is where I follow news outlets, businesses, heritage organizations, healthcare bodies, public figures and more to connect with people, places, and issues important to me.

Also, in a world where the news is often bleak, Twitter can be good for a daily smile—cue actor Chris Evans as Golden Retrievers!

A community of friends

I launched my Facebook author page in December 2015 and slowly but surely, it’s become a vibrant community of readers, many of whom are also friends.

I once heard Facebook likened to chatting on the porch and that image has stuck with me and is a guiding principle for the interactions I have on my author page.

It’s the place where I share more of my life beyond writing than I do on Twitter (more pictures of Floppy Ears and updates on Tech Guy, English Rose and my small-town life), and it’s where I’ve developed meaningful relationships with readers around the world.

I’m also privileged that members of my Facebook community have shared their lives and challenges with me and are part of the ups and downs in my life.

When ‘virtual’ friends become ‘real’ ones

Amongst many connections I’ve made via social media, some of those virtual friends have also become real-world friends.

I first met historical novelist Susanna Bavin (who also writes as Polly Heron) on Twitter and now count her as one of my closest friends not only in writing, but life.

With Susanna in Wales, and me in Canada, we don’t see each other often, but along with e-mail, social media helps us remain connected and part of each other’s lives despite the geographical distance that separates us.

When I was in England in July, I met other virtual friends in real life too, and did the same in September at the Women’s Fiction Writers Association conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As such, and in recent months, this kind of friendship community has grown exponentially and is one of the blessings in my life.

And when virtual friends share my writing…

This week, two virtual friends have also shared my writing with their readers.

I connected with Susan B. James when I won a copy of her recent release, Irish Magic, in a giveaway.

Susan kindly invited me to guest on her blog to chat about my new book, The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls, favourite authors (who knew we’d both be L.M. Montgomery fans?), tips for new writers and more.

Read the interview here and if you’re in the US, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle copy of The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls and signed bookmark.

Like The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls, Susan’s books (and Irish Magic is no exception) have a mystical element. Her writing also focuses on second chances in life and romance, and sometimes older heroines. I loved her first book, Time and Again, for those reasons—not to mention time travel to 1960’s London.   

I guested on my friend Maggie Blackbird’s blog this week too, again chatting about The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls, the main characters and my favourite scene, as well as sharing bits about my life. Read that interview here.

Like me, Maggie is Canadian and a dog mom, in her case to two gorgeous Malamutes. Unlike me, though, she is an Ojibway woman and from her home in northwestern Ontario writes contemporary and historical romance about Canada’s Indigenous people.

Not only is Maggie a gifted writer, but her stories shine an important light on people and places that don’t often feature in romance novels. Her newest book, Thanks to You, just came out and is on my TBR list.

Celebrating friends…

We can never have too many friends—or books!

As such, when I’m celebrating virtual friends, I’m also celebrating you, the readers of my blog, because whether we know each other in real life or not, I value what you bring to my life and writing.

And if we’re not already connected, come visit with me, virtually, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


  1. Jennifer Wilck

    As you said, writing is solitary, but social media enables us to connect with lots of people. I’m so glad to have connected with you and I wish you continued success and happiness!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Jennifer. I’m so happy to have connected with you too–and am also glad we’ve had a chance to meet in ‘real life’ as well.

  2. Susan James Berger

    And we have another connection. My critique partners Kelly Hartog and Therese Gilardi both go to the women’s fiction group every year. I love their writing and I love yours. Another favorite writer of mine is Patrice Locke who is also a regular attendee at that conference.

    • Jen Gilroy

      I was delighted to meet both Kelly and Therese at the WFWA retreat in September and am connected with Patrice on Twitter. It’s truly a ‘small writing world!’ Thanks again for hosting me on your blog, Susan. I’m glad you’re now part of my virtual community of friends.

  3. Susanna Bavin

    Every now and again you hear the question “Can a friend you make online be a real friend?” and the answer is a resounding “Yes!” You and I are proof of it, Jen, and I am honoured to be mentioned in your blog. I have other writer friends whom I also originally met on Twitter and subsequently met in real life. Having writer friends is a great gift. They are the ones who understand all the ups and downs of the writing life in a way that non-writers, no matter how kind or sympathetic, aren’t able to.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Susanna. You’re a great blessing in my life and I’m very grateful that social media brought us together. And yes, nobody understands the ‘writing life’ like another writer.

  4. Cass

    It’s been lovely to meet you in real life, Jen!

    This is a beautifully written post and it celebrates the best about social media and how it can enhance our lives. Thank you for writing this!

    I can’t imagine my life without the friends I’ve made online over the past 18 years since we got brave and installed the Internet at home!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I’m happy that you’re a ‘virtual’ friend who is now a friend in ‘real life’ too, Cass.

      Thanks so much for reading my blog post and your kind comment. I’m glad the post resonated with you and that you have online friends who enrich your life too.

  5. Lynn

    I’ve so enjoyed connecting with you , Jen, on social media and getting to know you. I consider you a kind and caring friend, even though we have not met in person. And this blog post, along with your many others, is a wonderful way to learn more about you personally and about your writing life too. Thank you.

    • Jen Gilroy

      And thank you, Lynn. I’ve enjoyed connecting with you too and hope that someday we’re able to meet in person. You’re one of the ‘virtual friends’ I thought of when I wrote this post.

      As always, I appreciate your friendship and support in reading and commenting on my blog.


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