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.

How to write a group story


Community Teamwork Together Group Team Motivation

At the January short story boot camp kick-off session in Vienna, a group of motivated writers developed a humorous team story, starting out with nothing more than their chosen title (Creative Sneezing*) and a few literary constraints. Through group discussion, characters came to life, their situation became clear, a setting drew into focus. In no time each person was able to write their own take of the story opening.

Although there were many minds behind the inception of the one story, the creative process was essentially the same as that undertaken by an individual:

A story might be explored within such boundaries or constraints as mentioned above, perhaps starting with a character or a feeling or a situation—with whatever inspired the writing. The writer fields questions to the imagination (Who is this story about?) and writes a response (Charlie, whose every sneezes brings a revelation!).

This exploration may progress through writing the story itself—allowing ideas to coalesce along the way, or through taking notes at the outset until the story feels pinned down. I suggest the second method can save considerable time. This is not to advocate knowing everything  about  the story at the beginning (a strongly plotted story); rather, to establish the basis from which a memorable story might evolve.

More on the January boot camp and the team of talented writers to follow!

If you missed out on the January short story boot camp but would like to participate next time, please check out the short story boot camp page for more details. Next boot camp in Vienna: May 2017. I’d love to see you there!

* Many thanks to Petra for coming up with the story title as part of her creative writing exercises in preparation for the boot camp