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.

Advertisements

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!”