A suprise in the mail this week: two copies of The School Magazine (Touchdown, Nov. 2018) featuring my short story, “Night of the Sand People”. With some lovely illustrations by Australian illustrator / author, Gabriel Evans. More about Gabriel and his impressive work here.
Have you ever tried sculpting a sand person? You can use seaweed for hair, starfish for eyes, and shells for a smile. Give it a try next time you visit the beach.
September is when it all begins–as much for the kids returning to school as the active writers dedicated to improving their craft and broadening their horizons. If you happen to live in Vienna and you’re keen to make your new writing year as colourful as autumn in the Vienna woods, here are a few ways of making that happen:
Attend an Open Mic night at Café Korb (third Thursday of every month from 7.00pm). Take to the stage and read out your latest poem or short story, or simply sit back and enjoy the live entertainment. Next open mic here.
Join a creative writing session at The Sunday Writers Club. Run by Keith Gray and myself, the sessions run most Sunday mornings at various café’s in Vienna. All the info here.
Join Vienna Writers for Young Readers: Once a month we meet to discuss the latest books were reading for young readers, and to share some of our own writing. Come along here.
Attend a writing workshop in Vienna. I’ll be running my next short story workshop in November. You might also like to check out the novel writing workshop run by Keith Gray this October. Find out about Keith’s workshop here.
Go for a walk with your notebook and pen…and capture all the inspiration autumn has to offer.
In the midst of a European heatwave, with temperatures in Vienna hovering around 35 degrees Celsius, parts of Spain tipped to hit 48 degrees Celsius on the weekend, I thought I would not only post an update about creative writing workshops, but also touch on what surely should be on all our minds: the state of our environment.
With soaring atmospheric C02 levels , extreme weather now the norm, sea levels rising, coral reefs being bleached to death, governments still in denial!—our world, or at least a world that can sustain us—is rapidly dying. And we’re all to blame!
Will we wake up before it is too late? Is it already too late? Many have already paid the ultimate price—their lives cut short through drought, famine, the perils of taking flight and seeking refuge.
Such important questions demand an answer…and preferably a positive one: Yes, humanity will rise to the challenge and come up with ingenious solutions along with a quantum shift in global consciousness.
Creative writers have a huge role to play in all this. Using their imaginations and desire for knowledge, they can:
- explore ideas and speculate—what might the future hold?
- creative human narratives to engage readers
- challenge readers to think critically about the world they live in
- inspire and encourage readers to act and bring about change
I am sure there are many more ways by which a creative writer can play a pivotal role in changing our world for the better.
A few key words you might like to explore in your creative writing:
- Climate Change
- Plastic Oceans
- Carbon Footprint
- Carbon Engineering
I invite you also to explore this Creative Writing on the Go website. As of August 2018 there are new creative writing sessions and workshops in Vienna. You’ll also find a link to an exciting new collaborative project: Sunday Writers’ Club. I hope to see you at one of these soon.
Until then, stay cool!
My most recent short story publication (“How to Catch a Rainbow”) was in The School Magazine, Orbit, June 2018. With great suprise and delight I discovered the poem, “Shell” by John Malone right before my story. Dad’s been writing poetry far longer than I’ve been writing. I won’t go on about it all here, just to say, it was a nice suprise!
Above; where a few of my more recent stories (and one of dad’s poems) have been published. If I were to post all the magazines where dad’s poems have been published, you’d be scrolling for a very long time 🙂
A little while back I presented an interesting model to help writers understand the central conflict in a story. I’ve since expanded upon the model and presented it as a blog post for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Germany / Austria. The post includes two different models:
- central conflict, two main characters
- central conflict, multiple main characters
I personally find these models very useful for critically reflecting upon an early draft, thereby paving the way for a strong rewrite. You might find the models useful too. Here’s the link to the post at SCBWI Germany / Austria.
News from the broader writing community in Vienna:
Vienna Writers for Young Readers is a brand new group aiming to bring together authors interested in writing for young people, whether that’s picture books, early readers, chapter books, middle-grade fiction or YA novels. Anyone who is currently writing for a younger readership, or who has the ambition of breaking into this particular market, is welcome along to the informal yet informative monthly sessions.
We’ll discuss the current climate of the children’s books industry both in Austria and abroad. We’ll gain inspiration from the best (and maybe worst…) books already out there. And everybody will have the opportunity to share their own current writing within a friendly forum of constructive criticism and advice.
The meetings will be led by Paul Malone – who has published many short stories for children in both The School Magazine (Australia) and Scoop magazine (UK) among others and is the brains behind Creative Café Austria and Creative Writing On The Go; and Keith Gray – award-winning author of over 20 books for young readers including Ostrich Boys, The Runner and You Killed Me! and has edited 2 collections of short stories for Teenagers.
Each meeting will be a packed 2 hours. In the first hour the writers are encouraged to bring along a children’s or YA book that they have read recently and can be shared with the rest of the group – what was good about it, what was great about it, was there anything disappointing about it, what can we learn about writing from it? The second half of the meeting will be for the writers to share their own current work-in-progress and receive constructive feedback from the rest of the Group.
If you would like to share your work please keep the word count to a maximum of 2000 words and if possible bring along extra copes as handouts.
There is absolutely no obligation to have to speak aloud or share but our whole aim is to create a friendly, relaxed yet professional atmosphere where writers can improve personally and inspire publicly.
All meetings will be held in English.
Our first meeting:
Where: Praxis Wien 5, Rüdigergasse 18/9, 1050 Vienna
When: Tuesday 10th April, 7.00pm to 9.00pm
Email (to register): firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost: between €5 and €10 to cover the venue hire
Paul’s Story Trigonometry is a useful way of visualising the central conflict in a story. By using such a model, you can gain critical insight into your story: have you identified the central conflict? Do you understand the main characters’ desires and resulting actions? Do these opposing courses of action intersect (climax)? And is the story resolution integral to the conflict (not incidental)?
I recently presented this model during a 6-week short story program. Having such a model at hand can be particularly useful for gaining insight into a story draft, and thereby paving the way for a successful revision.
Presented below is Part 1 of Paul’s Story Trigonometry. I will present Part 2 in the coming weeks.
Model 1a: Story Conflict (2 central characters)
Model 1a Explanation:
Desire: Three desires: to have, to become, to be freed from.
Action objective: the action the character takes to try and satisfy their desire.
Tension: arising through the opposing character desires and resulting actions (opposing forces).
Climax: Where these two opposing action objectives finally collide.
Resolution: The result of these two opposing desires and action objectives.
Model 1b: Central conflict within the entire story world.
In the above model, the story conflict is centred in the story world. A story sets out at the perimeter of the story world (an opening situation), and progresses to the centre (the climax).
In part 2 of Paul’s Story Trigonometry, Model 2a (multiple main characters) will be presented, along with more details about the story world.
If you found this model interesting, please feel free to share it with your writing friends.
This weekend, both the creative writing and the short story programs began here in Vienna. A very busy time for me, getting to coach an intriguing bunch of international people. Nations represented:
- United States
I might even have missed a county or two. As you might imagine, the writing in both workshops reflects this wonderful cultural diversity.
Also went along to a book launch: Irish Poet, Neil McCarthy has just launched his fabulous book of poems: Stopgap Grace. Publisher: Salmon Poetry. Grabbed myself a signed copy, got a photo with Neil, and listened to him read a few poems from the collection. Great music too, from his musical “troubadour” friends from both Austria and Ireland.
Back from Australia, fully recharged (I’m solar powered) and bravely facing down the remains of a bleak Vienna winter, I thought I’d share a few updates:
My latest short story, Shadow Town has just been released in Scoop Magazine (issue 14) in the UK. A copy should arrive in the mail any day now. Here’s the link to Scoop Magazine.
Two books on my recent holiday reading list:
- The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
- Nevermoor by debut Australian novelist Jessica Townsend
Both wonderful middle-grade novels.
In a second-hand bookshop in Victor Harbor, South Australia, I discovered a hardcover of an Australian classic, The Nimbin by Jenny Wagner. Now out of print, an entire Australian generation still remembers it. At every book shop I asked after The Nimbin (it was hard to find), people browsing near the counter looked over and said, “Oh, I remember that book. I loved it!”
Why was The Nimbin so loved? What makes it so special? And why the heck is it out of print?! I’ll reread The Nimbin this February and unlock its secrets from a writer’s perspective.
“How to Write a Short Story” Workshop
I ran this fun workshop last week at The Vienna Workshop Gallery. A vibrant mix of participants, many with an international background. Together we read and discussed, “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian as found in The New Yorker December 11, 2017. You can read it here.
We then went on to look at what makes a good story, and applied this understanding to collectively lay the canvas for a story with a title drawn by our fun word lottery:
Pride Tears Lavender Left
Here’s our story logline:
A narcissistic inventor of make-up colour names must face the harsh reality he is not his deceased friend’s only best friend.
The story opens at the funeral. Lavender (the narcissist) is the protagonist. Every participant in the group went on to write their own story openings.
At the end of the workshop, each person then set out to write their own stories. I wish them all every success. At least one or two participants may go on to do the 6-Week Short Story Program.
YA Novel Writing Workshop with Keith Gray
Good friends at Write Now offered this wonderful writing workshop run by award-winning YA novelist, Keith Gray. I came away with some fantastic insights and the inspiration to finally start writing my novel. Keith has another workshop coming up in February. Check out the Write Now website for more details.
Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Austria Meet Up
One coming up! If you’re interested in writing or illustrating for children or young adults, perhaps you’d like to attend. Where to register: Meet Up
My own writing projects for 2018
- A middle-grade novel. Writing has begun (Many thanks, Keith!)
- A few short stories, including a couple to connect with the themes sought by The School Magazine. More about what they need here: The School Magazine writers guidelines
- Another writing project…top secret at this stage
- A few more story publications are on the horizon!
The next open mic at Cafe Korb in Vienna is only a few weeks away (Thurs, Feb 15). If you’d like to attend, here’s where to register.
Creative Writing on the Go Workshops
They’re up on the website. The creative writing and short story programs are starting in the next few weeks. As always, I am very excited to be running these. I hope to see you there!