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.

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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.

 

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.”

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!

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!”

BWC Annual Retreat 2012

For the past two years, the Brussels Writers’ Circle has held a weekend retreat at Siddartha, a refurbished convent in Tremelo (Flanders).

“The weekend consists of writing workshops given by members of the group and/or invited guests, lots of writing and the sharing of writing, socialising and quite a bit of red wine and/or beer (in no particular order),” explains Colette Victor, BWC member and organiser of this year’s retreat.

The 2012 retreat will be held on the weekend of June 8, but due to the popularity of the place, if you are interested in attending you will need to send a €25 deposit to Colette by February 17. The total amount will be in the region of €75, but Colette is awaiting confirmation on this.

Schedule

  • Friday: arrival from 17h00. Supper will be served at 20h00.
  • Saturday: breakfast, lunch and supper (workshops/writing sessions take place throughout the day, inbetween meals)
  • Sunday: breakfast, lunch, check-out by 17h00

Accommodation

As the convent only has 17 rooms in total, it is likely that you will need to share a room. Colette says, “If everyone wants their own room, there will only be place for 17 writers. If there are people who are prepared to share, there’ll be a spot or two extra. We do not spend much time in our bedrooms however, besides for sleeping.”

How to Get There

Siddartha is about 30km to the North-East of Brussels, and the best way to get there is by car (about a 45 minute drive). As it is in a remote location, it is difficult to reach via public transport, but if you do not have a car and are interested in attending, Colette says that other attendees are usually prepared to offer a ride. Click here to see the location on a map.

How to Book

To book your place, simply send an email to Colette at colettevictor at hotmail.com by February 17 and she will reply with the banking details. Once you have paid the €25 deposit your place is secure. Should you have any special dietary requirements, or if you will require a lift to and from the retreat, please let Colette know at the time of booking.

Interested in Organising a Workshop?

If you are interested in running a workshop at the 2012 retreat or would like to help out with the arrangements, just get in touch with Colette at the email address listed above.

We hope to see you there!