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!

Tennis players have it easy

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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!

January 2017 Short Story Boot Camp Ends

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Last weekend the four-week short story boot camp in Vienna came to an end. As the coach, I had the pleasure of sitting back and listening to some marvelous stories. Everyone put in a big effort over a month to get their stories out. During the kick-off session, people got to know one another; I discussed the writing program, and we dived in—moving from ideas into stories.

In the first two weeks of the boot camp, each participant wrote two separate short story drafts. They “pitched” their stories and received feedback from their buddies (on a rotating system). In the third week they took the plunge—choosing the stronger story draft to revise. As the coach, I appraised their revision (along with their buddies). And in the final week they narrowed their revision and edited.

Along with the final readings on Sunday, we discussed getting published—every writer’s dream. Although it is early days yet, I am confident I will soon post news of their publication success.

Enough from the coach though…What did some of the participants have to say about the boot camp? Find out here

How to write a group story

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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