La Muse Writers’ Retreat in May

7.-View-down-the-Valley-La-MuseFollowing on from many a successful writing workshop here in Brussels, BWC affiliate small hushed waves have decided to skip across the border and hold a summer writers’ retreat in France.

What? A week long writers’ retreat, complete with workshops, free writing time and one-to-one tuition
Where? La Muse, a rather picturesque mountain retreat in southern France
When? May 2 – 9, 2014
How much? Prices for one week at La Muse range from €350 – €695. Tuition fee for the week is €200. Flights must be booked separately.
How do I book? To find out more and reserve your spot, simply pop along to the small hushed waves retreat page.

Places on the retreat are limited, so if you’re stirred by the sound of sharpening those sentences surrounded by spectacular scenery, get booking soon!

Writing Workshop: Creating a Story World

1911733_10152086522562886_145343797_nBWC affiliate small hushed waves have cracked their knuckles and come up with another workshop for your writerly consideration. Here’s small hushed waves manager (and BWC member) Clare Taylor with some more information:

“This workshop will be of particular interest to those writing sci-fi and children’s stories, but the lessons learned are of equal value to all kinds of writing.

Every story, from realistic slice-of-life short stories to epic fantasy and sci-fi novels, operate with their own characters, geography, people, and rules.

In this workshop we’ll look at ways to develop the world of your story. We’ll find the hidden assumptions underlying your fiction and look at ways of making them work for your story.”

When? Sunday, March 23, 2014
Where? Sterling Books, Brussels
Time? 14:00 – 16:30
Cost? €20
How do I sign up? Simply shoot an email to smallhushedwaves at gmail.com
What do I bring? Pen, paper, perspicacity (but mainly the first two)

We look forward to seeing you there!

Blog Plug

bloggingNot surprisingly for a writers’ group, the BWC has quite a few bloggers among its ranks. Here follows, in alphabetical (rather than preferential) order, and for your reading pleasure, a list of blogs penned by our members.

Carpathian Fog
Poems of the corporate age
By Ciprian Begu

Ceci n’est pas une cuisine
A blog about Books, Baking & Brussels
By Jeannette Cook

Claire in DC
Living, studying and writing in Washington
By Claire Handscombe

Claude Nougat’s Blog
A writer’s notes about books, art and life
By Claude Nougat

Happy Plume
Writing workshops Sabine organises in her new hometown of Saarbrücken
By Sabine Sur

Living Room Philosophy
An interweaving of wisdom from diverse academic, popular and practical subject-matter with my personal stories, in the hopes of helping myself and others towards the good life.
By Gemma Rose

Poet in the Woods
Quirky, thought-provoking and nature poet
By Sarah Strange

Relatos-Cuentas-Poesia-Haikai
Poetry and prose (in Spanish and French)
By Ocean Smets

A Sheep Called Skye
The personal blog of Skype the Sheep, from Sarah’s children’s books. You can also buy the books online here.
By Sarah Harris

Zezstt
Stories to make you laugh, think and dream
By Norton Taylor

Astronaut_Rockstar
Drafts and stories with titles such as “When I Lit the Lawnmower on Fire”, “When I Swallowed a Straight Pin” and “The Yogurt Verisimilitudes”.
By Nathan Johnson

If you’re a BWC member and would like to add your personal blog to this list, just leave a comment here and we’ll pop it up for you.

2014 International Short Story Competitions

For all of you budding short story writers in the BWC, we’ve compiled a list of international short story competitions you might consider trying your hand at in 2014. Apart from the opportunity to make some dosh from your writing, recently-published BWC member Colette Victor also confirms that having a few short story competition wins under your belt can help you on the road to publication.

Since there are more writing competitions than you can shake an aardvark at, our search was narrowed to competitions that are (a) international, (b) include publication in either anthologies or magazines, and (c) preferably do not require the donation of one or more of your limbs in order to enter.

Most of the competitions listed below require that your submission has not been published elsewhere beforehand, but you can check each site individually for comprehensive entry rules. Some also include poetry and flash fiction categories, so these have been indicated where applicable.

JANUARY DEADLINES

Chapter One International Short Story Competition

Theme: Open
Word limit: 2500 words max.
Entry fee: £10
Prize: 1st prize £2500, 2nd prize £1000, 3rd prize £500
Deadline: January 30, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Winners, runners-up and highly commended published in Chapter One Promotions anthology
Website: http://www.chapteronepromotions.com/competitions/open-short-story-competition.htm

Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize

Theme: Open
Word limit: Max. 12 double-spaced pages
Entry fee: $25USD
Prize: $1000USD
Deadline: January 30, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Unclear
Publication: The Thomas Wolfe Review
Website: http://www.ncwriters.org/programs-and-services/competitions/26-thomas-wolfe-fiction-prize

Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Prize

Theme: Open
Word limit: 3000 words max.
Entry fee: $15USD
Prize: $1500USD
Deadline: January 31, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: 3 submissions max.
Publication: Winner published in Glimmer Train Stories
Extra information: This is a quarterly competition, so future deadlines will be announced for April, July and October 2014
Website: http://www.glimmertrain.com/veryshort.html

Labello Press International Short Story Competition

Theme: Open
Word limit: 12,000 words max.
Entry fee: €10
Prize: First Prize €300
Deadline: January 31, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Gem Street 2014 (anthology)
Website: http://www.labellopress.com/submission-guidelines.html

FEBRUARY DEADLINES

The Chris O’Malley Prize in Fiction

Theme: Open
Word limit: 30 double-spaced pages max.
Entry fee: $2USD
Prize: $1000USD
Deadline: February 1, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: No
Publication: Fall 2014 issue of The Madison Review
Extra information: Also a poetry category
Website: http://english.wisc.edu/madisonreview/?page_id=58

The Ledge Fiction Awards Competition

Theme: Open
Word limit: 7500 words max.
Entry fee: $15USD
Prize: $1000USD
Deadline: February 28, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: The Ledge Magazine
Extra information: Also a poetry category
Website: http://www.theledgemagazine.com/Annual%20Contests.html

MARCH DEADLINES

The Pinch Literary Awards

Theme: Open
Word limit: 5000 words max
Entry fee: $20USD
Prizes: 1st prize $1000USD
Deadline: March 1, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Spring edition of The Pinch Journal (University of Memphis)
Extra information: Also includes poetry and nonfiction categories
Website: http://www.thepinchjournal.com/contest/

The Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction

Theme: Open
Word limit: Under 50 pages
Entry fee: $15USD
Prizes: 1st prize £2000USD
Deadline: March 14, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Fall/Winter 2014 edition of Colorado Review
Website: http://coloradoreview.colostate.edu/nelligan-prize

Mslexia 2013 Women’s Short Story Competition

Theme: Open
Word limit: 2,200 words max
Entry fee: £10
Prizes: 1st prize £2000, 2nd prize £500, 3rd prize £250
Deadline: March 17, 2014
Multiple entries permitted:
Publication: Jun/Jul/Aug 2014 edition of Mslexia Magazine
Extra information: Women writers only
Website: http://mslexia.co.uk/whatson/msbusiness/scomp_active.php

Momaya Press Short Story Award

Theme: ‘Captivity’
Word limit: 3000 words max.
Entry fee: £8
Prize: 1st prize £110
Deadline: March 30, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Momaya Annual Review 2014
Website: http://momayapress.com/momaya-short-story-competition/

The Bath Short Story Award

Theme: Open
Word limit: 2,200 words max
Entry fee: £8
Prizes: 1st prize £1000, 2nd prize £200, 3rd prize £100
Deadline: March 31, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: E-book anthology
Website: http://bathshortstoryaward.co.uk

Exeter Writers Short Story Competition

Theme: Open (but no children’s stories)
Word limit: 3000 words max
Entry fee: £5 per entry
Prizes: 1st prize £500, 2nd prize £250, 3rd prize £100
Deadline: March 31, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Exeter Writers website
Website: http://www.exeterwriters.org.uk/p/competition.html

APRIL DEADLINES

Inkhead Short Story Competition

Theme: Stories must be written under one of five possible titles (listed on their website)
Word limit: 1000 words max
Entry fee: £5 per entry
Prizes: £100
Deadline: April 1, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Inkhead Winners Anthology
Website: http://www.inkhead.co.uk/pages/competition-2014

Bristol Short Story Prize

Theme: Open
Word limit: 4,000 words max
Entry fee: £8 per entry
Prizes: 1st prize £1000, 2nd prize £700, 3rd prize £400
Deadline: April 30, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology (Volume 7)
Website: http://www.bristolprize.co.uk

MAY DEADLINES

The Bridport Prize

Theme: Open
Word limit: 5000 words max
Entry fee: £9
Prizes: 1st prize £5000, 2nd prize £1000, 3rd prize £500
Deadline: May 31, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Bridport Prize 2014 Anthology
Extra information: Also includes poetry and flash fiction categories
Website: http://www.bridportprize.org.uk

Cinnamon Press Writing Awards

Theme: Open
Word limit: Short stories 2000-4000 words, first novels/novellas up to 10,000 words (can be longer, but they accept only the first 10,000 words)
Entry fee: £12
Prizes: Short stories: 1st prize £150; Novels/novellas: £1000 plus publishing contract
Deadline: May 31, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Not stated
Publication: Short stories published in Cinnamon Press winners’ anthology, novels/novellas published by Cinnamon Press
Extra information: Also includes a poetry category
Website: http://www.cinnamonpress.com/competitions/

JULY DEADLINES

Highlands and Islands Short Story Competition

Theme: Open (no link with Scotland necessary. Unconventional story lines encouraged)
Word limit: 2500 words max.
Entry fee: £5 (or 3 stories for £12)
Prizes: 1st prize £400 plus a Writing Retreat in Wales
Deadline: July 31, 2014
Multiple entries permitted: Not stated
Publication: Online only (HISSAC website)
Website: http://www.hissac.co.uk/CompetitionDetails

NOVEMBER DEADLINES

The New Writer Annual Prose and Poetry Prizes

Theme: Open
Word limit: 500-3000 words
Entry fee: £5 per entry
Prizes: 1st prize £300, 2nd prize £200, 3rd prize £100
Deadline: To be announced (was in November last year!)
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: The New Writer Annual Collection (anthology)
Extra information: Also includes a poetry category
Website: http://www.thenewwriter.com/prose-and-poetry-prize

ROLLING DEADLINES

Writers’ Forum Short Story Competition

Theme: Open
Word limit: 1000-3000 words
Entry fee: £5 (or £3 for subscribers)
Prizes: 1st prize £300, 2nd prize £150, 3rd prize £100
Deadline: Rolling
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Published in Writers’ Forum Magazine
Extra information: Also includes a poetry competition
Website: http://www.writers-forum.com/comps.html

The list above has been compiled mainly from the Booktrust website, which also includes more information about UK writing competitions.

If any BWC members or random site visitors know of a competition that fits our bill (i.e., it’s international, includes publication, and doesn’t cost too much to enter), just leave a comment here and we’ll see about adding it to the list.

Disclaimer: we cannot speak for the legitimacy of any of these competitions. They all seem bona fide, but we advise that you check the individual websites to make up your own mind!

Almost as good as having kids and getting married: BWC member Colette Victor on getting published

Congratulations wrapped in a big red bow go out to BWC member Colette Victor, who has recently joined the ranks of our published members! Her children’s book, The Zig and the Zag of Being Zeyneb, will be published by Chicken House in July 2014.

Colette, South African born but Belgium-based for 13 years, is a long-time member of the BWC, and read out chapters of her book at our meetings. We interviewed her about her new book, the long road to publication, and how she felt when she found out the good news. Of course she has some lovely things to say about our little Circle along the way, and she also has advice for those of you hoping to be published someday yourself.

Congratulations on your publication! Could you tell us, briefly, what the book is about?

The Zig and the Zag of Being Zeyneb is my first children’s novel and was shortlisted for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition 2012. It is a coming-of-age story about Zeyneb, a young Turkish girl growing up in an unspecified European city. She is faced with 2 dilemmas: will she wear the traditional hijab (headscarf) or not? What is she going to do about her feelings for Alex, a boy in her class who is not a Muslim? It’s aimed at girls between the ages of 12-15. (Although it really sounds like it, it’s not an issue-based book, but it’s hard to describe until you’ve read the book. My agent and my publisher agree with me about this one.)

Colette's back garden: the scene she looks out on while writing

Colette’s back garden: the scene she looks out on while writing

How long did it take you to write the book?

I wrote this book over the summer of 2012. I’d done research beforehand on how to write for children and, it being my first children’s book, I followed the format diligently which seems to have paid off. I carried the idea of this story around in my head for a long time before that though. Having a job and a whole bunch of kids, I’ve been forced to become a fast writer. Then, when I heard I was one of the finalists for the competition, I spent about 2 months doing the editing – with the invaluable help of Sarah (van Hove) from the BWC – to have it ready on time.

You read your book out at BWC meetings along the way. Do you have anything to say about the feedback/encouragement you received? 

Yes, I read out the first couple of chapters at the BWC meetings. The feedback and support were inestimable in helping me become a decent writer. I know, for a fact, I would never have reached this level without all those years of attending the BWC meetings.

Most of the comments you receive are genuine so I listened, I took everything on board, tried to improve what wasn’t working. After a while you already anticipate the comments you’ll get on a particular sentence or paragraph so you can work on this before you get to the meeting. I used to sit around on my little island, writing to and for myself, and all that resulted in was some pretty poor writing. Writing is not a solitary practice – or, at least, not for me. You need people, you need feedback, if you’re going to write anything halfway decent. Plus, which is probably the hardest part, you just have to keep on going long after you want to give up.

How did you go about getting your book published? Did you have an Agent, or did you approach publishing companies directly?

Well, can I give you the short, happy version or the truth?

The truth is that I’ve literally been looking for an agent on and off since 1998. The last 5 years very intensively. I tried approaching publishers directly but they’re simply not interested. No matter what they say on their websites, the truth is they only read manuscripts sent in by agents – and then only the agents whose judgment they trust. I have approached literally hundreds of agents. I had a few close calls, about 5, from agents who considered taking me on but didn’t in the end for some or other reason. Then, last year about this time, I approached yet another batch of agents (I’d long since given up on the advice of approaching agents whom you know represent your kind of work. I simply took the Writers and Artists Yearbook and worked my way through the list). I’d just made the shortlist for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition as well as the long list for the Dundee International Book Prize for an adult novel I’d written (which I also read out during BWC meetings). On the strength of this, my agent signed me up.

Her initial email – 1 December 2012 – to give me the good news, actually never arrived in my inbox. I sent a follow-up email in January because I hadn’t heard anything from her and she was shocked that I still hadn’t heard the news and baffled as to why I hadn’t replied to her! Of all emails that can go missing in bloody cyberspace, it had to be that one!

Anyway, she started sending off my manuscripts and managed to get me a fantastic deal from Chicken House, which I’m really excited about. This last weekend, on 25 October, I got an offer from Cargo Publishing to publish my adult novel. A long, long, long hard search is what it comes down to.

Any failed publication attempts, and lessons learned here?

Loads of failed publication attempts, like I said above. Query letters to an uncountable amount of agents, hopes raised, hopes dashed. I’ve actually written 6 novels to date. The first 3 were absolute crap, although obviously I didn’t think so at the time. They were all rejected with a laugh and a scoff. The last 2 I considered up to publishing standard and, thank God, I appear to have been right. I don’t believe anyone sends off their first manuscript and it’s snapped up for publications straight away, at least not from any of the authors’ stories I’ve read or heard.

How did you feel when you found out your book was going to be published?

Honestly, it was one of the happiest days of my life.  I’ve been going after this since I was 9 years old. Maybe having my 2 babies beat this, and my wedding day. Nothing else.

I don’t have a very bookish family so they didn’t really know how to react. I don’t think they ever took me seriously until I got offered a publishing contract. I went out for supper with my husband and kids. There was more talk about the food than the book while I just wanted to go stand on the tallest building and shout out, “My book is being published!”

I still haven’t done the shouting bit, but I adore my unbookish bloody family, and I forgive them (though they don’t know there’s anything to be forgiven for.) Anyway, the internal sense of satisfaction is indescribable. It really is. I found out about the first book in July (2013) and I’m still high from that. It’s the most incredible feeling and it definitely makes up for all the years of being a wannabe writer.

Do you have any advice for any BWC members clamouring for publication?

I honestly think too many writers write for their own ego and imagine they’re doing something really deep and intellectual and that agents/publishers/readers simply don’t understand their genius. Once you get off this high horse and start writing for readers, plain, straight, honest good writing, then things start getting easier. All the basic advice – plot matters, strong characters matter, show-don’t-tell, make sure every single word you write advances the plot in some or other way (in other words: kill your darlings), scene is important, so is dialogue and making sure the whole thing isn’t too oblique – isn’t repeated in every writing book for no reason. These things really are essential to good writing. And so is sitting your arse down on your writing chair whenever possible. Or, at least, I should say, this has worked for me. Presumably everyone will have their own formula?

Painful Surgery Writing Workshop

Following on from two other successful workshops run by BWC affiliate small hushed waves, we’re pleased to let you know that there’s another one in the offing. This time the workshop is entitled Painful Surgery, but never fear, you don’t need to have undergone any painful surgery in order to participate. Instead, the workshop is about putting those wayward tales of yours under the knife…

Cure your tales from what ails them...

Cure your tales from what ails them…

BWC member and small hushed waves manager Fintan O’Higgins clarifies: “The workshop will concentrate on participants’ works-in-progress and we will spend time discussing what is working in a story and what needs a generous dose of Dr Invasive’s Patented Cure-All.

We’ll be taking a holistic approach to the health of the story, examining in particular how each part of a story relates to the whole: character, story-points, language, etc.

Very often there is a single identifiable problem that can be addressed, and we’ll help to root it out.  In addition to diagnosing what is wrong with a story, we’ll also be prescribing a course of treatment to help get your story back on its feet.”

The workshop will take place on Sunday November 3 at Sterling Books in Brussels. To find out more and register, pick up your scalpel and pop along to the small hushed waves website.

We look forward to seeing you there!

After the Retreat

Back in May a bunch of BWC members travelled to Tremelo (Flanders) for the annual BWC Writers’ Retreat. Keen attendee and next year’s convenor Ann Kronbergs was kind enough to provide a few words about the goings on of the weekend.

Siddartha in Tremelo

Siddartha in Tremelo

“This was the fourth annual BWC Writers’ Retreat held in Siddartha, a residential centre near Tremelo, a small town about 20km from Brussels. It was organised by Colette Victor, writer of short stories and novels and former BWC member.

Friday evening started with an indoor barbecue giving everyone the opportunity to exchange stories, starting off with those about their gruelling journeys from Brussels along a traffic-choked Ring Road. Tongues loosened and stories grew more expansive as boxes (and bottles) of wine were consumed over supper and after.

On Saturday morning we all re-convened in the conference room for Nathan’s morning wokshop in which he drew attention to the nuts and bolts of the writer’s craft by drawing on examples from a range of role models including F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.

In the afternoon Sabine used a writing prompt to make us all put pen to paper, leading us later in the session to edit and develop our work.  It was entertaining to hear several examples of well-written, impromptu pieces, each of which merited further development.

Saturday evening, after supper, we all sat around the fire telling ghost stories from memory. Given the cosmopolitan nature of our group it was not surprising to find that ghosts are alive and active in places as far away as South Africa or North America or as close as Bruges.

On Sunday morning David directed an ‘Extrospection’ workshop in which participants first discussed ideas about people at different stages of life. After this we each ‘created’ a character and read aloud our attempts at this exercise before joining together in small groups to create scenarios including each of our characters. This exercise generated several ‘playlets’ which were surprisingly polished and amusing to watch.

My impression was that everyone in the group enjoyed the opportunity to share time with other wannabe writers in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. The workshops were each purposeful and produced high quality writing.

Ideas have already been mooted for workshops for next year and I’m happy to be taking over from Colette as the organiser for the 2014 Writers’ Retreat. Siddartha has again been booked between 16 -18 May 2014: a date for your diaries!”