Following on the popularity of the May 2015 writers’ retreat in Tremelo, Flanders, participants were eager to organize an additional gathering after the summer holidays. Hamed Mobasser, BWC event manager and organizer of the May retreat, accepted the challenge, albeit with doubts about whether fond memories of the spring event would translate into a successful remake. Hamed put together a varied 3-day programme from 4-6 December of workshops and entertaining Yuletide interludes that met with general enthusiasm, and even a touch of primal screaming.
Retreat participants trickled in in the early evening on Friday to settle in their rooms and enjoy dinner, drinks and some ice-breaking activities which included the writing of a collective surrealist poem. The retreat began in earnest on Saturday morning with a poetry workshop given by Barbara Mariani who explained Dante’s monumental use of the three-lined rhyme scheme in The Divine Comedy. Barbara then proceeded to show us the influence and creative possibilities of rhyme schemes used by Shakespeare, Shelley, contemporary poets, and, eventually, those in the workshop.
The next workshop was presented by Leda Papasokrati on Myths, Legends and Fairytales in Fiction. Leda first described how narrative elements, motifs and formulas recur in many classical stories that have been told and re-told for millennia around the world, before leading the group in a collective fairy tale rewriting exercise, which, using the forms of recipes, text messages, rhyming couplets, and journalism took Snow White to curry shops in London, converted the seven dwarfs into radical feminists and landed Prince Charming in the ladies’ toilet.
Saturday afternoon sessions began with Claire Davenport, who ran an exercise-based workshop on Character Building, in which the virtues of showing over telling when it comes to character description became abundantly clear. Claire’s workshop concluded with an exercise in which characters in conflict were developed and acted out in pairs, proving the usefulness of anger management.
Saturday concluded with a visit from Frank Van Passel, a Belgian film producer, who spoke on the principles of screenwriting and the daunting process involved in going from screenplay to film. Frank spoke about the importance of character and gave tips on how a script should be developed and presented to potential producers. Frank emphasized the importance of perseverance, paraphrasing Louis Armstrong saying that “the air that you don’t blow into the trumpet will never come out as music.”
There was time on Saturday evening to explore the surroundings and visit the local Tremelo Christmas market. After dinner, there was a Christmas party with dancing and fun by a roaring fire.
Sunday morning’s session was devoted to a workshop by Ciprian Begu on self-publishing. Ciprian gave a very convincing and detailed presentation on the trends in self-publishing and the steps required to self-publish with success. Ciprian’s workshop was certainly enriching and intrigued many attendees who were hesitant about self-publishing.
The retreat closed with a final workshop on Native-American poetry by Ocean Smets. Ocean concentrated on two forms, the acrostic and the epitaph, and the session finished with the creation of a teepee village.
The retreat participants greatly appreciated the diversity of the workshops on offer and many thanks go to Hamed for putting it all together so convivially and efficiently. The next BWC retreat is scheduled for May 2016, so make sure to check back for further information as Spring approaches.