Painters have it easy



I made the above assertion today at the closing session of the short story boot camp in Vienna. Being in the company of some very motivated writers (and not painters), no one took fierce objection to the observation or supportive argument:

A painter can immediately see their entire composition on their canvas. The writer’s canvas is the imagination, which can only be gleaned piecewise through their text.

Little wonder that many writers find it challenging to see the bigger picture, to observe their entire composition objectively. In the short story boot camp though, writers developed their compositions—from a few sketches (first drafts), to their final “masterpiece”. They neither got lost in the words nor forgot their grand design.

As the boot camp writing coach I had the pleasure of listening to the final stories. The reading session lasted over 2 hours and yet it felt like a few fleeting minutes. Every writer put in not only a great deal of time and effort, but also put their heart into their story.  Everyone, I am certain, gained confidence with their writing.

The closing boot camp session closely follows the last creative writing session (last weekend) for spring. The creative writing session was just plain fun! We wrote a group song (and sang it), explored poetry, speculative fiction, and some flash fiction. All of this in the space of a couple of hours! I think everyone was positively “buzzing” with creative energy at the end.

Over the summer break I’ll be preparing new material for creative writing and short story programs for the fall. The information should be up around the end of July. If you’re in Vienna then, I hope to see you there.

Until then, enjoy your summer!


Publication news


Isn’t it time you tried writing in the bathtub?

When not coaching at the short story boot camp or running creative writing sessions in Vienna, Austria, I’m writing.  My most recent short story “Night of the Sand People” was accepted for publication this week by The School Magazine–Australia’s leading children’s literary magazine.  Another one of my stories “How to Catch a Rainbow” (also accepted by The School Magazine) is likely to come out in print in the next few months.

As much I love seeing my stories in print, it’s an equal thrill to see writers who have participated in the short story boot camp get their stories published. These are such exciting times for the participating writers and coach alike!

If you’re interested in participating in the next short story boot camp in Vienna, Austria, keep an eye on this page for dates (winter 2017). I hope to see you there.







Creative writing at The Vienna Workshop Gallery


VWGThe Vienna Workshop Gallery has an open day next weekend (Saturday 3rd June). I’ll be there with information about the creative writing sessions and courses for children and adults that I’ll be running at the gallery in the autumn. This delightful little gallery, run by Valeria, has regular exhibitions and offers art workshops for children and adults.

You can find out more about The Vienna Workshop Gallery here:

Address: Laudongasse 9, 1080 Vienna

Time: from 10:00am


Both Valeria and I hope to meet you at the open day!







May 2017 short story boot camp


With the May 2017 short story boot camp kicking off in Vienna tomorrow, one particular short story competition presents itself as a potential target market for participants’ boot camp stories. Perhaps you might be interested in the Berlin Writing Prize too. With the competition titled “Home is Elsewhere” many European expats and immigrants with an English language background will be interested. If you’re interested, here are the details:

The 2017 Berlin Writing Prize

More news on the short story boot camp to follow soon!


May Creative Cafe


A creative envelope to contain “inspirational snippets”!

What fun we had at the May 2017 Creative Cafe session in Vienna! Among our various creative writing activities, we used our “inspirational snippets” (gathered in the days leading up to our session) to spontaneously write team stories. Each person had around two minutes to contribute to the circulating stories. I have typed them up (unedited, naturally). The different colours represent a change of writer. The underlined words are that writer’s inspirational snippet.


collaborative story 1

When I was small, I dreamed of what it would look like to be all grown up. To be able to do everything you like. It turns out, it is not like that at all. It is all about living through seasons. Seasons of love. As an old willowy lady I can tell you that I don’t agree with you, sorry for that; things just seem to turn out so differently compared to your imagination. But, in fact what helped me through my most difficult times was therapeutic cooking. I can concentrate on slicing vegetables, breaking eggs into a bowl, making dough out of flour and water and feel the change of elements in my hands. I did not ever think about any problems at all until it hit me. I am living in a lie! All the steps I made during my life lead me to this U4 subway in Vienna! It was the first thing I learned in Vienna and I as sticking to it for the last 15 years!

collaborative story 2

Joshua stood nervously before the frosted glass door, waiting to be let in.

“Howard M. Smith, Director,” stood on the door. Remember, it’s all an act, Joshua reminded himself. Suddenly the door opened He looked very surprised because nobody was behind it. Got inside the dark room he saw there only one big Vikings teddy bear. All of your life you tried to be pragmatic, Joshua told himself. Maybe it’s time to let yourself go completely to the situation. In the corner of this dark room there was a pink door.

“If you see through this door,” said Joshua, “you will see your alternative future. But be aware! Once you know what could be, you won’t like your present life anymore.” And suddenly the dark room cleared, bright summer light flew in and Joshua saw his life.


As you can see, these stories are quite nonsensical. Still, the exercise gave writers the opportunity to write spontaneously and collaboratively, to use their “inspirational snippets”, and it was an interesting way of getting to know one another.

Aside from the team stories, writers dabbled in some poetry—creating “riddle rhymes” and “puzzle poems”. We all enjoyed guessing the answers to one another’s poetry.

The second half of the session was devoted to writing short fiction. The session was based on the essay “Three Flat Tyres and the Outer Story” by Ron Carlson as published in The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing. Writers experienced for themselves Ron Carlson’s methodology of using the outer story (the unfolding physical events) to discover the inner story (the characters). Everyone managed to write their story opening using the above method. And writers were so enthused, many said they would be returning in June.

The last of the spring creative writing sessions is coming up in Vienna this June. Then its time for summer break! If you happen to be in Vienna this June, I hope you might join me for what promises to be yet another fun creative writing session. More info here.

Tennis players have it easy



Tennis players have it easy: there’s no mistaking when they’re on the court, racket in hand, slamming the ball over the net. It’s not as though they’d say “I’m right in the middle of a match, here!” when in fact, they’ve dropped the ball and the racket, slipped off their shoes and wandered off the court to go smell the hydrangeas. Writers do this all the time!

I’ve been most fortunate to have met many writers over the years. Of those I met early on, a few are still writing; others are off doing other things. Such is the way of writing as with tennis–it’s not necessarily a lifetime affair. But writers have a far tougher job of sticking to their game, and many, I believe, have not so much as intentionally put down their pen, as simply lost their way. Consider the following comparison:

Tennis Writing
Regular tennis practice Regular writing practice
The tennis court The page
The racket The pen or keyboard
The tennis match The writing project
Winning a match Getting published
The umpire The editor
The tennis opponent Other writers’ stories
The coach Self-discipline, continual learning
The cheering crowd The ardent readers
The winnings Payment for publication
The playing season The writer’s strategy
The tennis club The community of writers

While a tennis player has, to some extent, it all set out for them (they join a club, play in a division, turn up for training and matches, win or lose, etc.), the poor writer is left to their own devices. No one will tell them when to practice, what to focus on, when their next match is, or who their opponent is. And as for a writing strategy—well, that’s just for the pros. Writing, it would seem, is a mug’s game. No wonder many writers fall by the wayside and become disheartened.

But what to do about it?

Joining a community of writers is a good idea. Having focused on stories for children and young adults in recent years, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They’re a wonderful international organization, and I intend to make good use of membership in the future. But if you’re not into writing for children, you are bound to find a local writer’s organization for support.

How I can help you

If you live in Vienna (Austria) or nearby, you might like to attend one of my creative writing workshops. They’re an ideal way for you to enrich your regular writing practice. And if you’re up for the challenge of an actual game, you might like to join one of my short story boot camps. The aim of the boot camp is for you to write a short story and get it published!

Whether you join me or not, I wish you every success with your writing. May you go out there and win!

Creative Cafe in Vienna



On Saturday April 1st I ran the very first Creative Café creative writing session in Vienna (Austria). With ten participants from various countries (it really was a multicultural event!) the creative writing session was vibrant, inspiring, and plenty of fun.

We kicked off writing extended metaphors, answering the question: What kind of animal are you? We had bats and cats, dogs and eagles who morphed into penguins. Some wrote rhyming poems; others, prose reeled out in a dizzying (and exhilarating) stream of consciousness. Later we played with words and came up with wonderfully unique imagery. We explored absurd titles chosen through a lottery of words. And we explored our trove of unique objects (everyone bought along a couple). Curiously, a simple lace doily caught a few participants’ attention, and at least one complete flash fiction piece based upon the doily was written in the space of ten minutes.

After a well-deserved break where people seemed to click like old friends, we launched into a team story, using another lottery of words. We drew “Waffle Dust”, and so the story was pinned down: Ether is in a televised waffle making competition. She’s attracted to Gregory, the official taster. Everyone launched into their own version of the story. We all had a good laugh reading them out!

We closed with some reflective writing, stepping way back in time, discovering memories imbued with strong feeling. Here too there was remarkable synergy: three participants wrote about being on the swing. Happy times! Everyone went away with inspiration and plenty of writing material to draw upon. I am curious to discover what might develop.

The next creative writing session is coming up in May. I look forward to seeing a few familiar faces and a few new ones too.

If you happen to be in Vienna at the time: Creative Cafe