Brussels Writers’ Circle Retreat 2018

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.

Workshop on creative brain

You have the right to be un-focused.

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.

Writers creating micro fiction

Making every word count

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.

Writers' workshop on dialogue

Add a pinch of drama

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.


Meet the Circle: Colin Walsh

Colin Walsh photoThe members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle are a varied bunch. Prose writers, poets, playwrights, memoirists, screenwriters and bringers of silly bits and pieces, we sweep in from all different occupations and locations twice a week to share our scrawlings with one another. In ‘Meet the Circle’, we introduce you to some of our members, hopefully providing an insight into who we are, what we do, and other writerly nuggets.

This week we will hear from Colin Walsh. Colin is from Galway, Ireland, and writes fiction.

When did you join the group?
It was February or March 2017. I’d started writing short stories in 2016. Completing a story is a bit like screaming off a mountain and hoping for some echo that’ll prove you’ve climbed the mountain in the first place. Readers can offer a chink of light and fresh air on whatever it is you’ve been working on in the dark, and that does help you stay vaguely sane. I was having one of those ‘I AM ONLY WRITING INTO THE GAPING VOID’ moments when it’s hard to stay motivated. So I googled ‘writing group in Brussels’ and found the Brussels Writers Circle. I emailed the BWC asking if I could come along to a meeting, and that was that.

What were your first impressions of the group?
That it was totally nuts. Not in the sense of everyone being mad – you only discover that after a couple of meetings – but more in the sense of how wildly eclectic the mix of writers and readers was. It was great. People who were interested in very different things, literature-wise, approaching the world from different angles and backgrounds, all gathering around a large table over a few drinks and giving their time and energy to other people’s work.

Also, the basic kindness and openness of people to the work of anyone who reads – kindness that isn’t hollow back-slapping, openness that is genuine. The BWC is a place for constructive, helpful criticism and real encouragement. That made a very positive impression on me.

What have you published so far?
Last year I won the RTE Frances MacManus Short Story Award, and I was a prizewinner in the Bridport Short Story Prize, got shortlisted for the Bath Short Story Award and the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, and I won a prize at a cool literary festival back in Ireland a few months ago. All those stories ended up being published in anthologies or online in newspapers. I have another story being published later this year, which I’m very excited about.

When you list all those things out like that, it sounds like a big run of successes, but that’s a total misrepresentation of the reality. The fact is that every single one of those published stories, including those which won prizes, had all been rejected by (at least) one publication/competition before finding a home. There’s never any guarantee as to whether or not what you’re doing is ‘good’ in any objective sense. I find that pretty tough, to be honest.

Ultimately, your own quality compass (which shifts over time) is the only metric against which you should judge yourself, but that’s advice which I consistently fail to follow, haha. It does take a while to get used to just how subjective the whole submissions process actually is, and to not allow it destroy your self-confidence.

You see this type of radically diverging reception at the BWC too; a single text will provoke a huge variety of opinions/tastes around the table. Sometimes I’m bewildered by what other people like/dislike or fixate upon, and I’m sure they are equally nonplussed by what I blather about whenever I give feedback. It sounds harsh, but I really feel like anyone can write something that will be universally rejected, but no one can write something that’ll be universally approved. Like, Hilary Mantel and Flannery O’Connor and William Shakespeare could all read at the BWC and no doubt there would be people who would wrinkle their noses and have reservations about the writing of these giants.

So yeah – in terms of publication, rejection, etc., I suppose the fingers pointing at the moon are not the moon.

What are you currently working on?
A novel. I have a pretty tight deadline on me now, so I’m focusing on that entirely these days – no short stories. It’s a very different experience to working on short stories, but I’m enjoying it. Hopefully I haven’t just jinxed myself by saying that. I have to submit a draft by the end of the summer. Nicely primed for a total meltdown by mid-July, I reckon. I’ll be running naked through the streets screaming ‘show don’t tell.’ In Brussels, I don’t think people would even notice.

Who are your biggest literary influences? How have they influenced you?
My PostI think different writers and books have all had very different influences, at different times and in different ways. I remember Zadie Smith said something about how reading is not a passive form of entertainment like watching TV. She said it’s much more like sitting at a piano with sheet music written by a composer, a composer who is usually light years from you, musically; sometimes you can sit at that piano and you’re able to access all the magic that the composer has put there for you, but the onus is on you. The pleasure is richer the more you lean into it. Sometimes, I find myself years away from being up to the task of honouring what a writer has actually done. Other times, a novel or short story hits me at just the right time, and has a huge ripple effect on both my writing and my reading.

All of which is a very long way of saying that I don’t think I have any specific writers in mind that I’d single out as clear ‘influences.’ I’m neither coherent nor consistent enough as a reader to say that.

But I can name a couple of books that I think have been important for my writing over the last two years:

Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. This is really the book that made me decide – okay, this is what I want to do. I mean, sweet Jesus, that novel. What he’s doing with voice, language, pace, drama, rhythm, time. Unbelievable. The sheer nerve and courage it would take to even attempt writing such a book. I read it over Christmas 2015. At the time I was buried deep in the pyramid scheme of academic philosophy. I hadn’t read a work of fiction in years. Literally, years. All I was reading was philosophy, theory, history.

Then I read A Brief History and remember being just totally overwhelmed with the depth and breadth of what James was weaving. The throb of life in the prose. It really made me reassess what the hell I was doing with my life. A total Eureka experience. A couple of months later, I left academia for good. I started my first short story on the same day. Best decision I ever made.

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. This novel represents a sort of Platonic ideal for me in terms of the balance between literary prose and the popcorn-munching thrills. Fantastic writing and a totally compulsive story, both powering each other. One of the most purely pleasurable reading experiences I’ve had in the past couple of years – the closest to the pure joy I had when reading as a child.

I recently read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and it absolutely wrecked me. Reading it was like swallowing a grenade and feeling it gradually explode inside you. But in a glorious way, you know? She’s doing so many things simultaneously, and she is doing all of them at the highest possible level, in prose that really doesn’t call attention to itself as it quietly sets about rearranging your guts. I was totally shook for a few days after I finished. Standing with a wobbly lip in the middle of the street, that type of scenario. Absolutely devastating, in the best way. Exhilarating.

Other writers: Anne Enright for her psychological acuity and the type of sentences that slice your eyelids off; George Saunders and Donal Ryan for their sheer heart without mawkishness; Kevin Barry and Lucia Berlin for their swagger and mastery of the short story; Angela Carter, Mike McCormack, Elizabeth Bishop, Danielle McLaughlin, William Blake, Ezra Pound, Doireann ní Ghríofa, Ginsberg, Heaney, Hughes, the essays of Zadie Smith… blah blah blah…

What do you get out of the group?
An education! I’ve learned so much attending the group – both on the page and in terms of how people approach what’s on the page. Like, you might have someone reading from a genre-mash-up novel they’re working on, and they’ll be receiving considered and in-depth feedback from an experimental poet, a memoirist, a songwriter, a YA author, a playwright, etc. All of these different lenses through which work can be approached, critiqued and enriched.

The sheer generosity of what people are doing at the BWC every Tuesday and Thursday is really incredible. You learn a lot from that alone. People can be so good.

Meet the Circle: Klavs Skovsholm

54DD994B-63CB-4C9E-96B2-5B114EF1DA22 (1)The members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle are a varied bunch. Prose writers, poets, playwrights, memoirists, screenwriters and bringers of silly bits and pieces, we sweep in from all different occupations and locations twice a week to share our scrawlings with one another.

This week we will hear from Klavs Skovsholm who has been an member for several years. Klavs is probably best known for writing Christmas stories over the summer.

When did you join the group?

I am not entirely sure. I believe that it was Autumn 2011 or Spring 2012. I do remember it was a mild day and that it took place in the library of Cercle des Voyageurs.

What were your first impressions of the group?
BWC members were a very welcoming and congenial bunch of personalities. I felt immediately at ease and many have become personal friends over the years.

What have you published so far?
I have self-published two short historical novels “Golden Fields” and “At the Bay” in which we follow the lives of a lovely elderly lesbian couple in South Africa during the Boer war. I have published a children’s book in Danish “Grantræet” in 2017, and

I am involved in making teaching materials, in the form of a children’s book called “Die Kokerboom” in Afrikaans and is in Xhosa with illustrations to colour in. Last year 3000 copies were distributed; this year another 5000 kids in poor rural schools in the Western Cape will have the pleasure of getting to know the story of an unfortunate Quiver tree which ends up as a Christmas tree. Finally, I have a Christmas story included in Anthology 1 & 2 (and hopefully also in the future Anthology 3).

What are you currently working on?
Nothing of my own. I am helping edit an amusing novel written by a very creative Dane who sadly suffers from serious dyslexia . Serious but rewarding work! And not to forget: I am been honoured by the task of being part of the editorial team for Anthology 3.

Who are your biggest literary influences? How have they influenced you?
History books and historical novels! I have a very keen interest in Colonial African history so writers like Thomas Pakenham and Wilbur Smith have certainly played a role.

Do you have a memorable moment from the BWC that you could share?
What springs to mind is a few evenings where I was reading aloud of a fantasy short story set in the Middle Ages. As the story progressed, my audience was convinced that the mushroom the poor people had to survive on, had to be magic mushrooms! Maybe I should add that, in my view, the audience had had too many Leffe!

What do you get out of the group?
It is a wonderful place to come for inspiration and exchanges of ideas. The social aspect is very important. Let’s not forget that otherwise writing is a solitary activity.

Meet the Circle: Cynthia Huijgens

The members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle are a varied bunch. Prose writers, poets, playwrights, memoirists, screenwriters, we sweep in from all different occupations and locations twice a week to share our work with one another.

In ‘Meet the Circle’, we introduce you to some of our members, hopefully providing an insight into who we are, what we do and what we think about the social life of tardigrades. Well, maybe not that last bit.

This week we will hear from Cynthia Huijgens, co-chair of our Tuesday evening sessions. Cynthia earned a BA and MEd in Art Education, and spend many years working in museum education writing guides and school curriculum to enhance visitor experiences and introduce viewers to artists and the creative processes that inspired them. Today, somewhere between the screaming sirens of Brussels and the muffled silence of falling snow in the mountains of British Columbia where she spends a few months each year, Cynthia finds subjects for her writing which is almost exclusively fiction.

“Dream up big, hairy, audacious goals that you are passionate about and pursue them relentlessly. You have to begin with the end goal in mind, knowing that a goal is a dream with a deadline.” Clay Clark

When did you join the group?
I first attended a Thursday evening session back in October 2016 and loved it. The following week I attended a Tuesday session, and I’ve been a Tuesday regular ever since.

What was your first impression of the group?
Spirited. Fun. Diverse. At the time I joined, I was a new student of The Writer’s Studio Online, a program of Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. Through the program I had a virtual writer’s circle, but I was hungry for contact with local writers. BWC provided that.

What have you published so far?
An article for a fitness magazine in Egypt, an excerpt of my first manuscript, for upper middle grade readers, in an annual anthology of SFU. In October 2018, a short story will appear in the BWC second anthology, Circle 2.

What are you currently working on?
A work of creative nonfiction about my grandmother and things she left behind. I’m also working on a thriller for adults and several short stories, in addition to a sequel to my first MG manuscript. Whew! I’m trying to approach writing not as a hobby, but as a business. I want to get really good at writing and make money from it, so I am now giving myself multiple projects, deadlines, timelines, and real commitment. I’m dedicating resources too, and, if all goes according to plan, by the end of this year I will have extended my publication list of credits!

Who are your biggest literary influences?
unnamed (1)I’m going to go with a contemporary influence: Canadian writer Eileen Cook. Not only because she’s found a way to craft really fun stories for young adults ( I think she has eight or nine novels to her credit), but she’s very generous with her time in helping me and other emerging writers to grow our craft and realise our potential.

I think its important to have different role models, but I’ve never been comfortable trying to follow in the footsteps of some 19th century literary master. I want to be inspired by real writers who are living in my times, dealing with issues I can relate to, enjoying success that I can see is possible for myself.

kingThat said, craft books have greatly influenced me. Among my go-tos: Startle and Illuminate, Carol Shields on Writing, Edited by Anne and Nicholas Giardini; On Writing, Stephen King; On Becoming a Novelist, John Gardner; and Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark.

What do you get out of the group?
Good advice, support, and a sense of community. If I’m not there on Tuesday evening, I miss it.

You can read more about Cynthia at

Meet the Circle: Barbara Mariani


Barbara Mariani

Barbara Mariani

The members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle are a varied bunch. Prose writers, poets, playwrights, memoirists, screenwriters, we sweep in from all different occupations and locations twice a week to share our work with one another.In ‘Meet the Circle’, we introduce you to some of our members, hopefully providing an insight into who we are, what we do and what we think about Greco-Roman wrestling. Well, maybe not that last bit.

This week we will hear from Barbara Mariani, our Thursday evening sessions’ co-chair. Barbara is Italian but a happy resident outside her own country. Brussels has brought her back to her university literary interests, which she left aside too long to dedicate herself to what she thought was a more promising profession in environmental policies and public affairs. She is an enthusiast reader of literary fiction, the only fiction she is really passionate about, and has decided to write her first novel in English.

When did you join the group?
In 2014, as I was looking for a writing course.

What were your first impressions of the group?
My impressions were so great that I never stopped going to the weekly meetings since then. What captured me was the mix of informal atmosphere of the gatherings and genuine talent and generosity of spirit of many of the members, some of whom unfortunately have left the Circle as they have headed back to their own countries. Since the first meeting I attended I have felt a sort of sense of “belonging” to the Circle. For me it has been like finding an escape from everyday work routine to a territory where I could switch off and become absorbed in artistic creation with people who share the same passion, even though we come from diverse cultures and are all very different.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a novel which I have started a couple of years ago, evolving from a short story. It’s set in our times and tells the story of a young woman, Caterina Del Canto, whom life has put in front of many unexpected reversals of fortune which have taken away from her origins but also, projected her into unknown worlds. It’s a story about the recklessness and sense of uncontrolled speed, the confusion and profound loneliness that characterises our age.

What are your biggest literary influences ? How have they influenced you?
Raymond Carver book coverThere are so many. I’m a passionate reader of classics and those who have influenced me most are Tolstoj, Proust, Mann, Miller, Hemingway, Flaubert, Maugham, Marquez, Nabokov, Fitzgerald. But I have also found inspiration in many writers of the late 20th century, such as R. Carver, P. Auster, M. Richler, D.F Wallace, J. Irving. I think that these writers have in common the capacity to write in a way that the experience in front of our eyes is really authentic (even though it may be all invented… but that’s the real talent!), something we can connect to emotionally, and at the same time so special in the way they are telling it. It’s the perfect mix between the universal and the particular that make these books unique. They are all style masters, they have found the right “voice”, so difficult to find for a writer, that makes their books stand out in a special place in people’s souls. Finally, each time I re-read them is a new experience. They really are like precious Chinese boxes.

book cover by marquez

Do you have a memorable moment from the BWC that you could share?
I have some beautiful memories from the BWC annual retreats in Tremelo. I felt like we were a big family and that those winter evenings spent in front of the fireplace playing ice-breaking games or talking about writing tricks, politics, religion, philosophy, music or whatever was the issue of the moment are priceless and stand out. Another great emotion was the publication of the first BWC Anthology in 2016, a project in which very few of us had really believed at the beginning but that finally went through thanks to the tenaciousness of some members.

What do you get out of the group?
Inspiration, challenging thoughts and ideas, good vibes & good company.

Meet the Circle: Karmen Špiljak

Profile photo KarmenThe members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle are a varied bunch. Prose writers, poets, playwrights, memoirists, screenwriters, we sweep in from all different occupations and locations twice a week to share our work with one another.

In ‘Meet the Circle’, we introduce you to some of our members, hopefully providing an insight into who we are, what we do and what we think about Greco-Roman wrestling. Well, maybe not that last bit.

This week we will hear from Karmen Špiljak, our Thursday evening sessions’ co-chair. A Slovenian, who feels European, has been writing since a very early age. She is a big fan of crime fiction and writes mystery stories that often have feminist and environmental notes. The biggest obstacle to her writing is that she often has to negotiate computer time with her two cats.

When did you join the group?
Sometime in summer 2017. Before that, I facilitated a workshop at the retreat in May. It’s my first ever writers’ group and I was really excited to join and meet other writers.

What were your first impressions of the group?
It has a lot of talent from all over the world. When it comes to creativity, Brussels really can surprise. I was quite impressed by other people’s work and feedback. It’s great to see such a variety in genres, too. Though I was a bit nervous, the group turned out to be very supportive and motivating.

What have you published so far?

Cover of the novel A perfect flaw

A prefect flaw, cover

In my teenage years, I published several short stories in local newspapers, regional competitions and Slovenian magazines. During my student years, I hardly wrote anything at all, but the story idea began to shape in my mind, that became my first novel: A perfect flaw, a contemporary story about growing up and finding out who you really are.

What are you currently working on?
I have just finished the first draft of a dystopian science fiction novel. It’s set about 200 years in the future in a small society that has survived a climate disaster and has taken some drastic measures to keep peace and order. My heroine suffers the results of these measures and tries to discover what really happened to her.

Who are your biggest literary influences? How have they influenced you?
I’m influenced by pretty much everything I read and definitely try to learn something from each book and author. Those closest to my heart, though, have remained the same: definitely the queen of crime, Agatha Christie. She had this incredible plotting ability that I really admire a lot.

Then there’s Stephen King. I really love how he puts usual characters in very unusual situations, which I also sometimes do in short stories. One of my all-time favourites is Douglas Adams, whose work encouraged me to get more creative and use humour differently.


But perhaps one of my biggest influences was Miha Mazzini. He’s a very versatile Slovenian writer, whose work covers everything, from literary fiction like Crumbs to haunting stories like The Collector of Names.

He also happens to be an excellent screenplay writer and film director. I was lucky enough to have had him as a tutor at a screenplay writing course in 2006. Many of the techniques that he taught then, I still use today. That course made me think that I can really write for more than just a hobby.

Do you have a memorable moment from the BWC that you could share?
We once tried to read poetry while a rather big and loud group was having dinner next to us. It proved to be a rather amusing experience.

What do you get out of the group?
Many things. For starters, it’s very rewarding to be among fellow writers, people who go through similar things when creating their stories. I learn a lot from hearing people’s feedback, which affects how I read stories. Of course, there’s also feedback on your own stories. As scary as it can feel to share your writing with the group, it’s also very rewarding, because you get new perspectives, that can help make your story richer. I certainly got a few great ideas that I incorporated into the novel I’m currently working on.

International writing competitions 2018

If you started 2018 full of energy and fresh ideas for stories, we’ve got good news for you: many competitions might be waiting for them.

Here’s our selection of short stories and competition for this year. Most of the competitions listed below accept only submissions that haven’t been published anywhere else. Do check individual website for details.

Best of luck!

Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: Max. 3,000 12 double-spaced pages
Entry fee: $25 per submission ($15 NCWN members)
Prize: $1000
Deadline: January 30, 2018
Publication: The Thomas Wolfe Review

The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition 2018
Theme: Ghost story
Word limit: n/a
Entry fee: £8 per story
Prize: 1st prize £500, 2nd prize £250, 3rd prize £100
Deadline: January 31, 2018
Publication: The Fiction Desk Ghost Stories Anthology 2018

Glimmer Train Short Story Fiction Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: 12,000 words max.
Entry fee: $18 per submission
First Prize: 1st prize $2,500, 2nd prize $500, 3rd prize $300
Deadline: February 28, 2018
Publication: Winner published in Glimmer Train Stories

Exeter Writers Short Story Competition 2018
Theme: Open
Word limit: 3000 words max
Entry fee: £6
Prize: 1st prize £500,  2nd prize £250, 3rd prize £100
Deadline: February 28, 2018
Multiple entries permitted: Yes
Publication: Exeter Writers website

The Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction 2018
Theme: Open
Word limit: Under 50 pages
Entry fee: $17 per story
First Prize: $2000
Deadline: March 14, 2018
Publication: Fall/Winter 2018 edition of Colorado Review

The Pinch Literary Awards
Theme: Open
Word limit: up to 5,000
Entry fee: $20 for first entry or 1-3 poems, $10 for each subsequent entry
Prizes: 1st prize $1000
Deadline: March 15, 2018
Publication: Spring edition of The Pinch Journal (University of Memphis)
Extra information: Also includes poetry and nonfiction categories

Tethered by Letters Short Story Fiction Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: 1,000-7,500
Entry fee: $15 per submission
First Prize: $1,000
Deadline: March 15, 2018
Publication: F(r)iction

Short Fiction Journal Short Fiction Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: up to 5,000
Entry fee: £8 per story
Prizes: 1st prize £500, 2nd prize £100, 3rd prize online masterclass
Deadline: March 31, 2018
Publication: The Short Fiction Journal

The Bath Short Story Award
Theme: Open
Word limit: up to 2,200
Entry fee: £8 per story
Prizes: 1st prize £1200, 2nd prize £300, 3rd prize £100
Deadline: April 23, 2018
Publication: The Bath Short Story Award 2018 Anthology

Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: up to 3,000
Entry fee: $16
Prize: 1st prize $2,000, 2nd prize $500, 3rd prize $300
Deadline: April 30, 2018
Multiple entries permitted: 3 submissions max.
Publication: Winner published in Glimmer Train Stories
Extra information: This is a quarterly competition, other deadlines are 31 August 2018 and 2 January 2019

Momaya Press Short Story Award
Theme: Coming of age
Word limit: up to 3,000
Entry fee: £15 per story
Prize: 1st prize $150, 2nd prize $75, 3rd prize $55
Deadline: April 30, 2018
Publication: Momaya Short Story Review 2018.

Bristol Short Story Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: up to 4,000
Entry fee: £8 per entry
Prizes: 1st prize £1000, 2nd prize £700, 3rd prize £400
Deadline: May 1, 2018
Publication: Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology (Volume 11)

The Bridport Short Story Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: up to 5,000
Entry fee: £10 per entry
Prizes: 1st prize £5000, 2nd prize £1000, 3rd prize £500
Deadline: May 31, 2018
Publication: Bridport Prize 2018 Anthology
Extra information: Also includes poetry and flash fiction categories

Metamorphose Short Story Contest
Theme: fantasy & science fiction
Word limit: 1,000 – 7,500
Entry Fee: $5 per entry
Prize: $50 and publication in the anthology
Deadline: May 31, 2018


Literary Taxidermy Short story Competition
Theme: Open but the competition provides opening and closing lines, chosen from a classic work of literature
Word limit: 3,000
Prizes: a total prize for winnng stories: $1500 and publication in Literary Taxidermy anthology.
Deadline: June 4, 2018

Wells Festival of Literature
Theme: Open
Word limit: 1,000 – 2,000
Entry fee: £6
Prizes: 1st prize £750, 2nd prize £300, 3rd prize £200
Deadline: June 30, 2018

Moth Short Story Prize
Theme: Open
Word limit: 5,000
Entry fee: £12 per story
Prizes: 1st prize £3,000, 2nd prize week-long writing retreat at Circle of Misse in France plus €250 travel stipend 3rd prize €1,000
Deadline: June 30, 2018
Publication: The Moth

Highlands and Islands Short Story Competition
Theme: Open (no link with Scotland necessary)
Word limit: 2000 words max.
Entry fee: £5 (or 3 stories for £12 or 5 for £18)
Prizes: 1st prize £650, 2nd prize £50, 3rd prize £25
Deadline: July 31, 2018
Publication: Online only (HISSAC website)

Writers’ Forum Short Story Competition
Theme: Open
Word limit: 1000-3000 words
Entry fee: £6 (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 poetry and flash-fiction competitions

Have more competitions you would like to add? Great! Leave a comment and share link to more information.

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!

Works-in-progress: Pages of an Autumn Journal, by M E Grey

What are you currently working on and what inspired you to start writing it?

‘Pages of an Autumn Journal’ is a series of poems I wrote in late 2016, and I am now posting them at They’re going up one at a time, a year after they were written, and the last one will go up at the end of December – so take a look, and do come back.

IMG_5994The title ‘Pages of an Autumn Journal’ originally applied to a pair of poems I wrote at the start of October 2016 – as if they could be leaves torn from a larger diaristic work, such as Louis Macneice’s Autumn Journal, which reflected on personal and public events during the autumn of 1938.  I then found myself persistently thinking about that title, and realised that I could collect a larger group of poems from that period together (that first pair now go untitled).

Macneice’s work is very engaged with political matters, yet from the perspective of an individual living within them, rather than as persuasion. I am not trying to directly equate 2016 and 1938 (a recent lecture by David Runciman details how this decade is not like that one), but last year there was certainly a feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next.

As a poet of British origin living in Brussels, this means living through the aftermath of terror attacks and the UK’s EU referendum; it means living in a town where people are trying, with and on behalf of a diverse continent, to come up with solutions for youth unemployment and the human consequences of geopolitical instability. Dealing with these ‘issues’ coexists with the experience of just getting on with life – and this quotidian aspect provides at least as much focus for the collection.

Who would be in your opinion the perfect audience for this?

Posting these poems one year later means that the pieces have had some time to breathe – yet they are still very recent. I hope that readers may be able to relate them to their own responses to some of the situations described, and also realise how things have changed in the time since. The poems are, together, a document from a particular time and viewpoint. Thus, while some readers might feel they have more in common with the narrative voice than others (for example if you live in Brussels, if you travel for work, or if you closely follow current affairs), they are intended for general consumption and not just people ‘like’ the narrator.

That said, I also hope the poems are of interest to people who can recognise aspects of themselves in the work – the number of people who proactively read poetry is tiny, so I hope people can come to the poems through interest in the content, as well as the form.

You have read some parts of it in BWC meetings. Did you find the feedback useful

Definitely. There is certainly a sense of validation when you get good feedback, but perhaps more important is to see people reacting to the poems in different ways.

Sometimes people ‘get’ what you first meant, but that isn’t the purpose of writing: a diversity of responses demonstrates the ways that a work can actually continue to exist. The feedback from the group helps me to develop my sense of what I am doing as a writer, and give me the confidence to put effort into disseminating this particular project.

If you could pick one celebrity to read out one of your poems, which poem/celebrity would it be?

I just want people to read them. I want you to read them – and why not start at the beginning. If I try and explain this impulse to myself, then I can use that idea of the poems as documentation or reportage – perhaps to serve the purpose of increased mutual understanding, integral to literature. But who really knows what it is that makes people write?

Time to celebrate

It’s always great to see writers getting rewarded for their hard work, especially when they belong to your writers’ circle.

This year has been especially fruitful for the BWC’s writers: another proof that Brussels is a city of inspiration.

Antoinette Naomi Reddick published her book, “Waiting for Oz, Follow the Lessons Along the Road”.

Colin Walsh won the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition with his “The Flare Carves Itself Through The Dark”. His short story “The best thing” was highly commended by the Bridgeport prize and was published in the latest anthology.

J. L. Morin’s “Nature’s Confession – Climate Change” is among the Book Excellence Award finalists and was listed a top 10 Best Science fiction book. “Nature’s Confession” was also chosen as The Best Climate & Environmental Fiction Book and got an honourable mention on Reader’s Favorite.

Lida Papasokrat published her story “St Roman the Melodist” in Offshoots 14: Writing from Geneva.

T. D. Arkenberg’s short story “Marguerite and the Grand Sablon” is a semi-finalist and “Parvis de Saint-Gilles” is among the finalists in the Faulkner-Wisdom Literary Competition.

Martin Jones’s “What women want” got a third prize in Story Comp and is now published in the Writer’s forum.

Patrick ten Brink’s short story “The take” got an honourable mention in Glimmer Train’s short story award for new writers. His short story “Amelia Borgiotti” is long-listed in the Hourglass short story competition.

Some of our more modest writers, Kevin Dwyer, Claire Davenport,  Joachim Schloemer and Hamed Mobasser aka Punchdog Productions, received awards for their film scripts.

Congratulations to all!


The annual BWC retreat took place in May in Siddharta,Tremelo, with fourteen writers getting together for a weekend of writing workshops in the Flemish countryside. On Friday evening we found our way to Tremelo, defying rainstorms and rush hour traffic, and were rewarded with a delicious dinner and great company. Thirteen different nationalities from all over the world were represented at this year’s retreat – quite a feat for a group of fourteen! Some of the participants were familiar faces, having attended the retreat before and/or being regulars at the Tuesday and Thursday BWC meetings at the Maison des Crèpes; and there were some new faces as well, joining the group for the first time. In either case, once introductions were made there was no shortage of conversation topics, the most popular subject being, as expected, books and writing. The evening continued with an impromptu ice-breaker game of charades with a literary twist, before we retreated (ha!) to our cozy bedrooms to get some rest before the weekend’s workshops.

retreat 1

On Saturday we woke to the smell of pancakes and armed with notebooks, pens and coffee we settled in for a weekend of writing. Mimi Kunz and I were in charge of the first workshop of the retreat, called ”Short Stories: Beginnings, Endings and the In-Between”. Since we’re not experts on short stories, we turned to our favourite short story writers for inspiration. We started with a guessing game of ”Opening line or Closing line?” and a few other exercises around first and last sentences in short stories, and at the end, everyone tried their own hand at writing a very short story. We were quite nervous at first so we’re really grateful to the group for being so nice and participative – we hope everyone had as much fun as we did!

The morning continued with a workshop led by guest workshop leader Cynthia Hiujgens, on ”How to Inject More Creativity Into Your Writing Practice”. Cynthia began by illustrating some of the techniques writers customarily use to find inspiration (listening to music, going for a walk outdoors…) and suggested some exercises to get out of our comfort zone and experiment with stretching our imagination – from writing our name upside down with our non-dominant hand (easier said than done!) to drawing a scene from a work-in-progress to role-play using props to get under our characters’ skin. Cynthia’s workshop left us full of new ideas and perspectives on art and writing, and excited to try new ways of bringing more creativity into our lives.

retreat 2

After a quick lunch we gathered again for the much-anticipated meeting with agents Sharon Galant and Thomasin Chinnery of the Zeitgeist Media Group Literary Agency. Sharon and Thomasin explained what a literary agent does, what happens during the different stages of book publication and very patiently answered all our questions on how it all works. After the session, we were given the opportunity to individually pitch an idea and get feedback on our pitching technique. Thank you to Sharon and Thomasin for this wonderful workshop!

retreat 4

After all this excitement, we bid farewell to our guests and went outside to enjoy the brief spell of sunshine in between rainstorms. Some authors went off to write, inspired by the day’s workshops, others went for a walk or played a friendly game of pétanque (and by friendly, of course, we mean extremely competitive). Authors also had the opportunity to have a professional author’s picture taken by photographer Maite Morren, who joined us on Saturday evening. After dinner we indulged in the traditional BCW retreat cheese and wine extravaganza, against the backdrop of the the Eurovision finals (congrats Portugal!)

The next morning we woke up to bright sunshine and more pancakes (thank you Genevieve!) Given the warm weather, an executive decision was made to take the workshops outside, and we gathered around the picnic table sporting sunglasses and sunscreen for the first of the day’s workshops, “Writing Comedy”, led by Hamed Mobasser. Hamed talked about different techniques used in comedy writing both in screenplays (his specialty) and in other forms of writing. Participants then got to write their own funny bumper stickers and comedy scenes, with hilarious results.

retreat 3

Our last workshop of the retreat but by no means the least was led by author Karmen Špiljak, who put together a series of exercises on ”Descriptions”. After illustrating different types of description techniques by comparing passages from different books, Carmen had us write a description of the retreat’s setting, which was completely transformed depending on the genre the author had chosen: comedy, romance or thriller!

A Sunday feast was waiting back at the house, and everyone enjoyed a long lunch before returning to everyday life, hopefully full of new ideas and inspiration to write – I know I did!

An immense thank you to:

Sharon Galant and Thomasin Chinnery of the Zeitgeist Media Group ( Huijgens (to find out more about the inspiration behind Cynthia’s workshop look at and and Karmen Špiljak ( for taking time out of their weekend to lead workshops at the retreat,
Mimi Kunz ( for being the awesomest workshop co-leader,
Maite Morren for the professional photography (,
Hamed Mobasser, who has been organising the BWC retreat for four years now,
the Siddharta community for their kind hospitality (,
and of course to all the participants!