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.

 

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BWC member Colette Victor published for the second time

Two thousand and six congratulations to BWC member Colette Victor, who has recently published her second book! Her novel What to Do with Lobsters in a Place Like Klippiesfontein was released by Cargo Publishing earlier this month.

We interviewed Colette back in November 2013 about the publication of her first book, Head Over Heartso we thought it only fitting to sit her down again to talk about her latest success. Here she talks about her novel which may never have become a novel at all if it wasn’t for the prompting of the keen members of the BWC.

What to Do With LobstersCongratulations on the publication of your second book, What to Do with Lobsters in a Place Like Klippiesfontein! Could you tell us, briefly, what the book is about?

Oom Marius, storeowner in a conservative, rural town, has long harboured a crush on Patty, but fails to impress her when he installs a lobster tank in his shop. Tannie Hettie, Oom Marius’ wife, must have cancer treatment in Cape Town, creating a predicament for Oom Marius. Petrus, Oom Marius’ mute helper for twenty-two years suddenly speaks! He volunteers to run the shop asking if bookkeeping-skilled Precious, a young township woman he secretly loves, can work with him. Oom Marius agrees.

In church, the dominie (pastor) informs the congregation that a black man will manage the shop while Oom Marius is gone. Many white inhabitants do not want black people taking traditionally held white positions. A group of white men barricade Oom Marius’ shop front, while Charlie, one of Oom Marius’ supporters, helps Petrus and Precious. An attraction develops between Precious and Charlie: Petrus helplessly watches.

In South Africa there are towns where the dominance of whites and contempt for blacks still exists despite twenty-one years of democracy. This bittersweet comedy raises aspects of the dilemma. A gentle story, set at the beginning of summer, always hot and dry, revolves around the shop and a lobster tank. Will the lobsters survive? Will Charlie and Precious’ feelings come to fruition? Will Tannie Hettie survive cancer? How do Patty and Oom Marius relate when Shawn leaves?

How long did it take you to write the novel?

It started off as a short story probably about four or five years ago. The novel itself took me more or less two and a half years to write, including the various edits and redrafting.

Colette (right) with fellow BWC member Sarah Van Hove at the launch of 'What to Do with Lobsters' at Waterstone's Bookstore in Brussels

Colette (right) with fellow BWC member Sarah Van Hove at the launch of ‘What to Do with Lobsters’ at Waterstone’s Bookstore in Brussels

Did you read out draft versions of your novel at BWC meetings? If so, do you have any memorable moments you’d like to share from this experience? 

I remember reading out the short story in someone’s flat at the height of summer, I think it was Kathleen’s place. Several people commented that it was too short, that the characters were too interesting to abandon to such a short piece of fiction. It was on my way home in the train that I decided to develop it into a full-length novel.

I read many chapters out at the meetings and always took the advice or comments I was given to heart. There was no point being defensive about my work and defending each and every sentence because that way I’d be stuck with a well-defended piece of writing and nothing more. If I wanted to grow then I had to listen to what people were saying. If a single person made a comment on some or other obscure phrase I would ignore it, but if several people commented on the same thing I knew I was doing something wrong. Eventually I started anticipating the comments while I was writing and I think it was at that point that my writing started improving.

This is your second experience with publication, following Head Over Heart. Was it just as exciting, second time around, learning that the book would be published? How did you feel when you found out?

The news of publication for both books followed each other pretty quickly. First I went through years and years of rejection emails from agents and publishers and then suddenly both books did well in two separate competitions – The Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition 2012 and the Dundee International Book Prize 2013. On the back of this success I found an agent and then two publishing contracts followed within a couple of months of each other.

And yes, it’s definitely just as exciting getting this one published. What to do with Lobsters in a Place Like Klippiesfontein is probably a little closer to my heart than Head Over Heart. Cargo Publishing is a small publishing house with a lot of attention for its authors. So saying I’m thrilled would be a sad understatement. There probably isn’t a word big enough to describe what this feels like since it’s something I’ve hankered after since I was nine.

Do you have any other books/novels in the works right now? If so, can you tell us about them?

I’m working on a book called The Godforsaken. It’s set in a run-down bar in the middle of Brussels and is frequented by a bunch of characters who live on the seedier side of life. It takes a look at poverty in Belgium, in Europe, and society’s prevalent pastime of blaming poor people for their situation while sitting happy and insulated on a cushion of middle-class contentment. Hopefully it should be finished to send off to my agent by the summer.

Last but not least, what a title! Did you have any other possible titles in the offing, or was this one always it?

The book started off as an entry for a short story competition under the title of ‘In the Deep’, but it changed pretty quickly after that, to What to do with Lobsters in a Place Like Klippiesfontein when I decided to develop it further. I played around with ideas and word combinations until I found something I was happy with.

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?