Brussels Writers’ Circle Retreat May 2016

Continuing with what some may now dare call a tradition, members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle gathered for its annual retreat at the Siddartha Centre in Tremelo in the heart of Flemish wine country on 20-22 May.  Although the number of participants was lower than in previous outings, a spell of sunny weather and an engaging pallet of both practical and discussion-based workshops allowed participants to open their minds, and their notebooks, and reflect on essential questions about their writing methods and practices.

After settling in and sharing dinner on Friday evening, retreat participants sat around the fire and broke the ice in a mind-meld activity that involved staring into each other’s eyes and transmitting poems to the other person by telepathy!

EVERetreatMay16NickPThe first morning session on Saturday was devoted to Writing Discipline.  Nick Parrott led the group in an open discussion, firstly about the constraints and blockages that prevent us from writing with serenity and efficiency, and then about strategies to remain motivated and inspired throughout the writing process.  Among the solutions found by the group were finding pleasure in writing, realizing and accepting one’s limitations of space and time, turning off or away from the internet, and sharing one’s work with others (and we all agree that the Brussels Writers’ Circle is a great place for that!).

EVERetreatMay16KevinThe second morning session conducted by Kevin Dwyer was more practical in nature and dealt with Story Design and Structure.  After considering a number of ways that stories are traditionally constructed (in scenes, acts, movements, sequences) participants were then invited in a collaborative exercise to build a structured scene based on characters created by other members of the group.

EVERetreatMay16PatrickThe outdoor afternoon sessions on Saturday also combined discussion and practice.  In a workshop on Writer’s Craft, Patrick ten Brink led the group in a wide-ranging and eye-opening discussion about narrative voice, internal dialogue, and point of view.  Brainstorming around the table, the group shared their approaches and preferences on how closely they as authors stay to their characters and on how to develop personal style and voice.

To conclude the Saturday sessions, Hamed Mobasser guided a workshop on Building Suspense.  Hamed emphasized that suspense is necessary in any type of storytelling and is based on the judicious planting of questions in the reader’s mind and then gradually revealing the answers to those questions as the story moves along.  The group was then invited to put these ideas into practice, with many discovering hidden talents as mystery and horror writers.

EVERetreatMay16Ensemble

After pre-dinner walks and games, Saturday evening was devoted to meditation, discussion and a veritable orgy of wine and cheese by the fire.

A blurry shot of Hamed and Patrick, we assume not due to the amount of wine being drunk

A blurry shot of Hamed and Patrick, we assume not due to the amount of wine being drunk

The final session of the retreat on Sunday morning was devoted to a workshop by the tandem of Leda Papasokrati and Mimi Kunz on Writing Love in Fiction.  In a number of prompt-driven collective and individual exercises, participants brought love to the page, while Leda and Mimi tried to steer the group away from cliché and stereotype, despite the heart-shaped pink balloons.

During the Sunday afternoon feedback session, retreat participants expressed their unanimous appreciation for the mix of workshops and the overall convivial and challenging atmosphere of the weekend, none of which would have been possible without the devotion and care that Hamed put into the organization of the retreat.  Thank you Hamed!

Planning for next year’s retreat is already under way, so please check back here or on the Brussels Writers’ Circle Facebook page for further details as May 2017 approaches.

Brussels Writers’ Circle – December 2015 Retreat Redux

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.

EVEReduxBarbaraPhotoRetreat 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.

EVEReduxLedaPhotoThe 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.

EVEReduxClairePhotoSaturday 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.

EVEReduxFrankVPPhotoSaturday 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.”

EVEReduxMarketPhoto

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.

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BWC Members are of course accomplished dancers…

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… in addition to their undoubted skills as writers!

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

EVEReduxOceanPhoto

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.

 

Creative Writing Workshops with Colette Victor – Brussels January-April 2016

The BWC is delighted to announce a series of workshops to be held in Brussels starting in January 2016 and hosted by former BWC alumnus and now twice-published author Colette Victor.

EVEColettePhotoCreative Writing for English Speakers is for native or second language English speakers who would like to learn the basic ingredients of qualitative creative writing, be it short or longer fiction or memoir.

Short stories, novellas, longer works of fiction and even poetry all require the same basic ingredients to draw readers in and to keep them turning the page. Collecting ideas to write about, characterisation, dialogue, points of view, plotting your work, creating tension, editing and revising – these are all topics that you will be introduced to over the course of 8 workshops. You will also learn to access your creativity and switch off your logical brain half during the initial stages of writing. This course aims to introduce you to the joy and creativity of writing as a form of self-expression.

Creative Writing for English Speakers covers a wide range of exercises to hone your creative writing skills, to write lively and vivid prose and create unforgettable characters. This course will help you cultivate a productive writing habit and teach you how to edit and revise your work.

Over the course of 8 workshops you will learn how important it is to employ your creative brain half when writing creatively, you’ll be guided through many creative exercises, experience a significant improvement in your style and quality of writing and ultimately communicate more effectively with your (future) readers. Besides the workshops, you will be expected to complete about 1,5 – 2 hours of homework per week. The exercises will be discussed in the group and you’ll receive feedback from both your peers as well as the tutor.

This course is for beginners and beginners with some experience. It is for anyone who has a good command of the English language and wants to express themselves in it creatively. It is not a language course for people still trying to get to grips with English.

EVEColetteHeadOverHeartWhat to Do With Lobsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Colette:

Colette Victor is a twice published author (‘Head Over Heart’, Chicken House 2014, Young Adult fiction and ‘What To Do With Lobsters In A Place Like Klippiesfontein’, Cargo Publishing 2015, literary fiction.) She is an experienced writer of many years and a trained creative writing teacher. Colette has extensive experience in coaching new writers, teaching workshops, organising writers’ retreats and giving constructive criticism.

Learning objectives:

  • Stimulate creativity during the writing process
  • Produce livelier and more readable content for your readers
  • Improve your writing skills
  • (Re)discover the pleasure of writing
  • Learn with and from your peers
  • Find new and fresh topics to write about
  • Learn new ways of releasing your creativity
  • Get a first introduction to and understanding of the following elements:
  • Genres, setting, characterisation, dialogue, point of view, plotting, descriptive language, plotting and revising…

Why this course ‘Creative Writing for English Speakers?’

  • Practical workshops with a maximum of 10 participants
  • Qualitative personal attention and feedback from the tutor
  • Learning with and from peers
  • Intensive creative writing training with many exercises
  • Cover a lot of ground in a short space of time
  • A qualified tutor with many years of writing experience
  • In the centre of Brussels, easy access by public transport

P.S. PLACES ARE LIMITED AND FILLING UP FAST!

Practical Details

DATES: 30 January; 6, 13, 20, 27 February; 5, 19 March and 2 April 2016
LOCATION:   MicroMarché / MicroFactory / DIY DAY
Steenkoolkaai 9
1000 Brussels
NUMBER OF WORKSHOPS: 8
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS:8 – 10
TIME:  10h00 – 13h00
FEES: €250 for early registrations (until 31 December 2015) and €280 for students registering thereafter. Payment secures your place on the course. Confirmation of payment will be by email.
TUTOR: Colette Victor

Registration

You can register your interest in this course by sending an email to info@colettevictor.be
with ‘Creative Writing for English Speakers’ in the subject line.

After registration you have 14 days in which to change your mind. Within these 14 days you are entitled to cancel your enrolment without providing a reason (by email to the above address). After this, your enrolment on the course is irreversible.

In case that there are fewer than 8 participants enrolled at the start of the course, we
reserve the right to cancel it. We will undertake to inform all enrolled participants of the
cancellation. In the case of a course cancellation, we will refund all participants the full
amount of their fees paid.

 

December 2015 BWC Writers’ Retreat – Registration now open!

Stop press!

You loved the fifth annual BWC Writers’ Retreat back in May so much that, to insistent demand, a follow-up is being organised this December. And now, registrations for the December Retreat are open!

EventsHamedPhotoHere’s our very own Retreat organiser, Hamed Mobasser, with more information:

“It’s my great pleasure to finally announce the start of the registration for our second Writer’s Retreat 2015.

Practical Information

The retreat will take place from Friday 4 December to Sunday 6 December at, Siddharta in Tremelo. The price, will be the same as in May i.e. €75 – which includes your bed and all your meals.

The venue exists of 2 buildings with 17 rooms in total. In principle, this means that we can accept a minimum of 17 participants, but should you not mind sharing a room (see registration), we can allow more people to join the retreat as a number of the rooms contain 2 beds.

Siddartha 2Registration

Please register through this link.

Please note that places will be appointed based on a First-Come-First-Served basis. Once you have registered, I will contact you with payment details. Your place will be reserved once payment has been received.

Preparation of Workshops

For those of you interested to help out in the organisation and planning of the content, which we will base on the numerous responses we had our previous survey, please contact me at: hamedmobasser@gmail.com

Previous Retreats

For a look at our 2014 Retreat, visit our blog page at:
https://brusselswriterscircle.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/2014-writers-retreat-review/

Looking forward to hearing from you.”

2015 BWC Writers’ Retreat

Registrations for the fifth annual BWC writers’ retreat are now open! Here’s this year’s event organiser, Hamed Mobasser, with more information:

“It’s my great pleasure to finally announce the start of the registration for our Writers’ Retreat 2015.

Siddartha 1

Siddartha, in Tremelo

Practical Information 

The retreat will take place from Friday 8 May to Sunday 10 May at Siddharta, in Tremelo (Flanders). The price will be the same as last year – €75 – which includes your bed and all your meals.

The venue consists of 2 buildings with 17 rooms in total. In principle, this means that we can accept 17 participants, but should you not mind sharing a room (see registration), we can allow more people to join the retreat as a number of the rooms contain 2 beds.

Registration

You can register for the retreat by following this link.

Please note that places will be appointed based on a first-come-first-served basis. Once you have registered, I will contact you with payment details. Your place will be reserved once payment has been received.

Preparation of Workshops

For those of you interested in helping out with the organisation and planning of the content, which we will base on the numerous responses we had from our previous survey, please contact me at: hamedmobasser at gmail.com

Want to know more about what the retreat will involve?

Read about our 2014 retreat, and see a few more pictures, here.

We look forward to seeing you there!”

2014 Writers’ Retreat Review

In May a bunch of BWC members once again toddled off to Tremelo (Flanders) for the annual BWC Writers’ Retreat. Organiser Ann Kronbergs was kind enough to provide a few words about the goings on of the weekend.

Siddartha 1“From May 16-18, nineteen members gathered for the fifth annual BWC Writers’ Retreat held in Siddartha, a residential centre near Tremelo. The weather was gloriously hot and sunny so people were able to enjoy meals, as well as some of the workshops, outdoors in the garden which surrounds the main house.

Friday was for meeting and greeting, but on Saturday morning David Ellard led a workshop on Launching the Main Character. In many books, films, etc. the opening scenes serve the purpose of launching the main character. This workshop looked at how this is done using some classic movies as writing fodder (eg. Gone with the Wind, Casablanca and others) and succeeded in getting participants to recreate their own opening scenes. Groups then presented outcomes in the evening.

Sabine Sur followed David’s workshop in the afternoon with a focus on ways of using body language and non-verbal communication to portray characters.

On Sunday morning Ann Kronbergs led a workshop on how to open a novel. Looking at some of the stylistic effects used by writers to start their novels or short stories, she led a few exercises in ways of applying some of these techniques to existing openings of famous novels AND/OR to the opening paragraphs of our own “work in progress”. Attendees had brought along work of their own to revisit at this stage in the weekend.

In a final session there was a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the Retreat. People felt that next year it would be better to enlarge the focus on members’ work in progress. It was suggested that there might be a choice of workshops on offer so that attendees could opt to allocate their time to match their writing interests more. Workshop leaders felt there should be a clearer emphasis on the expectations of group members. They thought it would help to try to recruit more workshop leaders by advertising through the blog and the weekly sessions.

Hamed Mobasser has agreed to organise the BWC Retreat 2015 (8-10 May) since Ann Kronbergs is returning to the UK.”

The BWC would like to thank Ann very much for organising this year’s retreat!

Siddartha 2

Perfect spot for a bit of wordsmithery

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A rather fitting statue

Group 1

Members of the BWC getting cosy

Group 2

Discussions in the sun

Joss and Mauricia

BWC members Mauricia and Joss hard at work

Sabine, David, Ann

Workshop leaders Sabine, David and Ann

Details of the 2015 BWC Retreat will be released probably around January 2015. Watch this space!

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!

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!”