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