What do you get if you take fifteen international writers and poets to a remote location? Either a good thriller or a comedy or even better, a writers’ retreat.
For the last weekend in May, we were lured to Tremelo with a promise of exciting writing workshop, cheese and wine evenings and pleasant company. What we got was even more than just that: two and a half days of seriously creative fun.
With her inventive exercises Cynthia Huijgens took us out of our creative comfort zones and helped us to look at our writing with fresh eyes. We turned into poets, looked for structures within images and used them to create story structures. We visited brown town and played with words, but most of all, we put our writing brain to a good use. Cynthia’s workshop equipped us with all sorts of tools to help us flip things around and do them differently.
Though most of us have heard of micro fiction, it was Ciprian Begu’s workshop that showed us how useful it can be. Did you know for example that you can write a whole novel in micro chapters, no longer than 40 to 100 words? Or even better, use the micro fiction to pinpoint each chapter’s essentials. There’s more. Cross genres, make it into a mystery, play with the meanings. Once you start it’s hard to stop. Yes, the dopamine kick created by writing micro fiction can be insanely addictive. For many of us, Ciprian’s workshop opened the doors to new forms.
It’s fairly easy to laugh. However writing something funny is a whole different ball game. In his excellent workshop Kevin Dwyer helped us turn into comedy writers, at least for two hours. We created characters with amusing names, gave them funny tics, threw them far out of their comfort zones and watched them try to find their way back, tripping over their fears and discomfort. Though most of us probably won’t turn to comedy full time, we left the workshop with some valuable tools and even more interesting story ideas.
We all know when dialogue sucks, but when instructed to write as badly as possible, many struggled to do so. In her workshop Karmen Špiljak shared a few tools from James Scott Bell’s book that can help write dazzling dialogue. By adding more tension and conflict, even flat dialogue came to life. To test new skills the workshop finished with a short competition where everyone chose one of the pre-defined expositions, turned it into a dialogue and weaved in a random dialogue line, defined by another writer. The competition was tough and brought great results. Finally it was Lida who won the prize.
Online publishing was a game changer for many writers. On the last day Patrick ten Brink helped us learn about different marketing approaches to promoting our work. We examined the advantages and disadvantages of traditional and indie publishing, talked about methods that work (and those that don’t) and shared useful templates, resources and tools that can help us showcase our work, including our ‘The Circle’ anthology, which will come out on 15th October this year.
Between and after the workshop, there was delicious food, sunny weather, beautiful nature (that caused allergy attacks) and the company of people who love words and stories.
See you there next year? You can subscribe to Brussels’ Writers Circle updates and find out about weekly meetings and our yearly writer’s retreat.