An exciting new creative writing program!

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View from the lookout in our woods: a perfect place to write!

If you’re like me, you’ll likely agree that creative writing is sunshine for the imagination. Still, there’s a lot to be said for sunshine and fresh air. Over the summer I’ll be out amongst it all. I hope you too get the chance.

At the end of July, the new creative writing program will be up on this website.  There will be creative writing sessions for young people, for people who would like to improve their English, and for those who would love to write a brilliant short story.

If you’d like to be kept posted, drop me a line (visit the contact page), and I’ll send you a newsletter at the end of July.

In the meantime, I wish you a lovely summer!

Here’s a lazy summer tune I just made up and played on my guitar for fun 🙂

 

 

Painters have it easy

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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!

Creative writing at The Vienna Workshop Gallery

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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:

http://www.theviennaworkshopgallery.com

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

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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!

 

The importance of title

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moon

A title,

like the moon,

casts its subtle light,

gently swaying the story’s tide.

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Without title is writing in the dark.

With wrong title is writing in the fog.

With right title is writing in the clear moonlight.


So I told a couple of participants in the January short story in Vienna. What do you think?

Would  F. Scott Fitzgerald have written a different story with a title such as “Good Ole Gatsby”?

How about “My Travel Tales” by Jack Kerouac? Or “Black Horse” by Anna Sewell?

Did these authors write their stories and arrive at the title later?  I wonder.

Outer world / Inner world–an original approach to writing immersive scenes

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No doubt you’ve been drilled on the writer’s axiom: Show, don’t tell. And I’m sure you’re well-versed on how to write richly immersive scenes using the palette of senses. But I bet you’ve never heard of the “Outer world / Inner world” approach to writing scenes. Or if you have, then it’s because you discussed it with me—the originator!

The outer world / inner world approach to writing a scene is included in the creative writing exercises I hand out in the writing boot camps. I thought it’s time to share the secret with you:

The Outer World / Inner World Approach

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POV focus

In the above “Outer World / Inner World” diagram, a shift in focus within the same point of view (POV) is shown. On the left hand side of the diagram the narrative is focused on the outer world (the inner world is peripheral). As the narrative progresses the focus makes a transition to the inner world (the outer world becomes peripheral).

The outer world (sensory)

The outer world is sensory—felt through the senses relating to sight, sound, hearing, touch, and taste. With an outer world focus, the narrative unfolds in the form of a scene from the chosen POV. The scene is immersive (using the varied senses).

 Inner world (mental)

The inner world contains perceptions, mental feelings, dispositions, thoughts, memories, intentions, states of mind, consciousness. In this inner world the POV character seeks to make sense of their situation. In a story (and in life in a far less coherent way), the POV character seeks happiness / a release from suffering through the pursuit of any one or all of three desires: to have, to become, to be freed from. In short, the POV character is motivated to overcome something.

Transition

Transitions are triggered by feelings arising from a “significant” event in the POV character’s outer- or inner world. The POV perceives something significant in either world, drawing them in. These transitions might also be considered the story’s silver thread weaving these worlds together.

A transition that is not triggered by feeling will have an incidental feel about it—the author groping about in the dark or attempting to adhere to a preconceived plot.

Story magic

A story may unfold in a sequence of these “outer world / inner world” events. The reader becomes immersed in both worlds, enjoying each transition because it is underlain by feeling, and because the reader attains a pleasing sense that there is no real boundary between the outer and inner world—both are dependent on the other. In this way too, the boundary between the reader the story on the page disappears—this is the magic of a story.

Example

(Outer): Manu steered the stolen motorbike through the rain and silty puddles along the road’s narrow shoulder. He passed gridlocked vehicles idling, trucks belching out fumes. The motorbike’s rumbling motor was warm comfort against the insides of his legs while the rest of him shivered. (Transition): He caught glimpses of impatient motorists, stuck, angry, cursing him it seemed, in their steel cocoons as he motored past. (Inner) To hell with them! His lips tightened as he thought about the wad of stolen money and gun in his backpack. He thought of Rita—how she would be waiting for him at the hotel. (Transition) Tonight, he decided, opening up the motorbike’s throttle, couldn’t come fast enough.

 Now it’s your turn!

Now you have the outer world / inner world approach and an example, why not give it a try for yourself. I wish every success!

How to write a group story

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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

Your personal Christmas story

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NO PHOTO OF ME HERE!

“We didn’t take a photo of you!” I was told at the end of this weekend. “All that writing and not a single photo!”

“That’s perfect,” I said. “I didn’t want a photo. I didn’t want to stand in the way of the writing. That would have just spoiled everything.”

My answer caused some confusion. By way of explanation:

This weekend I wrote personal Christmas stories for anyone who wanted one at the Purkersdorf Christmas market. Visitors gave me their name, a word or two they felt important for the story, and the rest was left to me…or so they assumed. The fact is, the stories wrote themselves so long as I held the pen steady and set it tracking unimpeded across the page. There was no “thinking” about writing. There was just the writing itself.

What was written? I don’t recall precisely! There was a triathlete sheep lost in the snow, a snowman who came to life and fell in love, a unicorn who appeared in a glittery burst on an ice skating rink. You might say the Christmas stories weren’t exactly traditional. Still, each story was spontaneous, original, and written especially for each visitor at the little pop-up gallery at the Christmas market.

People were incredibly generous with their donations (for charitable causes). I hope they all enjoyed reading their personal Christmas stories as much as I did watching their stories unfold on the page from the tip of my pen.

Thank you to Eva and Paul who own the pop-up gallery and who so generously allowed me to write in it.

Here is a link to their gallery:

The Pop-Up Gallery

Thank you also to my author heroine, Natalie Goldberg who wrote Writing Down the Bones. Her book inspired the personal Christmas stories.

I don’t expect to write another entry before Christmas, so for those who read this, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

 

 

How to write at a thermal spa

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a salty croc–the one guest you don’t want to meet at a thermal spa!

Writing at the Spa

 With pleasure I wrote down at the spa,

between dips in the pool, veiled in steam,

under a glistening sky—

a hedonist’s dream.

A jaunt in the sauna, too hot for me,

on a bright orange tube down a thundering slide,

in the FKK* whirlpool for those who are free,

on deckchair and towel,

with notebook and pen,

I wrote my story,

from beginning to end.

The story I wrote at the spa. The poem (attempt) I wrote this morning on the train. It is true: in that bathing paradise, while people wallowed and dreamed, I wrote an entire story.

You might conclude thermal spas are the perfect place to write. Or how about at a lovely desk beside a crackling fireplace? Neither are any good when faced with a blank page and a starved imagination.

My story first came alive in the train, on a bus, standing at a platform, riding an escalator, in another story draft that came to nothing…except that which is most important—food for the imagination. When I sat at the spa all I had to do was put pen to page. The rest took care of itself.

Don’t wait for the perfect time and place to write. If you do, you’ll be waiting forever.

By the way, 2017 is almost upon us. How will your writing year unfold?

If you’re looking for a big start, check out my short story boot camp in Vienna. I’m a tough coach—you won’t get to loaf about the pool, but you just might get to write your dream story!

FKK: Freikörperkultur or nudism

The Very Personal Christmas Story

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Purkersdorf in Winter

This Christmas I’ll be creative writing at the Purkersdorf Christmas Market. The creative writing event is titled Die Ganz Persönliche Weihnachtsgeschichte (The Very Personal Christmas Story).

People can pop in, give me one or two personal details (a name, perhaps an interest, the name of a pet, etc.) and I will intuitively write on the spot their very personal Christmas story. Such stories make for a unique Christmas present. The stories might be funny or wise or silly or sad—I won’t know until each story (written in the company of each guest) is finished.

 How to write a spontaneous Christmas story:

  • Be mindful of each guest and their wishes
  • Put pen to page and write in their company
  • Change nothing
  • Make it a brilliant story, naturally!

Simple enough, right?

If you’d like your own Christmas story or one as a present for someone special, then here’s where you can find me on the 10th and 11th of December:

Pop Up Galerie (scroll down)

 There is not charge for a story . People are welcome to leave a donation. Proceeds will go to a charity or worthy community cause.

The Purkersdorf Christmas Market has some wonderful stalls and a little ice skating rink, so come along and make an afternoon of it.

 I look forward to seeing you there!