- Richard Beynon
We’re serving our best, vintage wine in two distinctive flagons this August and September.
On August 22, the next regular 10-week course kicks off at 6:30pm at our new venue, Ailsa Craig, in Craighall Park, Johannesburg. In it you’ll find the full range of writing skills that any writer needs as she tackles her writing project.
And then, on Monday, September 3, we’re launching our first one-week Creative Writing programme. This will consist of the regular wine, decanted into a brand new bottle and served in sparkling crystal. The daily sessions will run from 9:30am to 4:30, with a fine lunch in the middle.
We’ve devised the new format for two reasons. On the one hand, we’ve been getting increasing number of queries from potential participants who prefer not to come out at night, and who have the time (or are happy to take a few days leave) to attend sessions during the day.
On the other hand, we wonder whether the creative momentum we can generate over the five days won’t serve writers more effectively than the 10-week format does.
Whichever course you choose to attend, though, we can guarantee an exhilarating experience that’ll sharpen your creative skills, expand your writing horizons, and – in the words of many of past participants – quite possibly change your life, forever!
Please contact Helen to book your place or for for information.
A wonderful selection of entries this month that astonished Jo-Anne and me with their variety, technical virtuosity and individually distinctive voices.
As always, very difficult to choose the best of an excellent crop – but a choice must be made and eyes turned resolutely from the consequences.
Trumpets. Drums. A golden scroll:
The winner is Priscilla Holmes.
Why did we choose to elevate her entry above its peers? Because it’s neat, it’s clever, it succeeds in biting its tail and so completes a lovely little circle of plot, it touches on all the features listed in our challenge, it adopts a less obvious perspective – the female companion of the intruder – and it maintains a lovely sense of voice throughout. And then there’s one other thing about it that we really like – and that is the unexplained dynamic at the heart of it: the unexplored relationship between father and daughter, that smacks of incestuous attraction, but isn’t spelled out in any obvious way.
Priscilla wins a book voucher from the independent bookshop of her choice and has chosen Kalk Bay Books.
Other entries worth a mention (and more):
We simply loved the voice in Cat Pritchard’s story, and the momentum that story generates and then maintains – it seems to proceed helter-skelter, without pause for breath, and some really funny observations, my favourite of which is: “Stark blood naked with a vacuum cleaner between her legs. Like a late-night Verimark ad.”
Slick Tiger, last month’s winner, turned in a neatly-stitched little murder story. And Kelly Ansara earns an honorable mention for her chilling psychopath.
And finally, there’s Jeff Meyer, whose name pops up here as regular as herrings in Holland, with his nicely judged piece about Harry the Blade. We loved the voice, Jeff!
As always – and it is necessary to repeat this – we loved all the entries for a wide variety of reasons – a great phrase, a beautifully observed detail, a cunning plot twist – and hope you continue to enter in ever greater numbers! And as always the entries were of course judged blind. Click here to read the selected entries.
Here’s a challenge that is as much about story as it is about technical mastery. We want you to write a tight little, right little tale of a fraught family gathering – twice! Once from one character’s perspective, and again from another’s. (You could even think of the two perspectives as making up a single story.)
Here’s the scenario:
A small party is being held to celebrate the 21st birthday of the beloved youngest child of a conventional family, in their home.
Write a scene in which you describe the setting, one or two family members, and what happens – through what they say and do. BUT write one version from the perspective of the girl, whose birthday it is. And then the same scenario, but from the perspective of a sardonic sibling, the black sheep of the family, recently returned from rehab. Keep each scene short, no longer than necessary, maximum 250 words per scene. Keep your descriptions tight. Often one or two telling details can be a lot more powerful than reams of description.
Write no more than 500 words in total and email your entry to Helen by midnight on 31 July.
Trish and I have been cruising the canals of the Midlands this last week or so, and have learned (and are learning) a number of lessons of equal interest to canal-boat navigators and writers.
On the fifth day of our cruise, as we were heading into Banbury, our engine ceased to co-operate. Or to be more precise: it ceased altogether. We called an engineer out to analyse the problem. He spent an hour or two groaning, upside down in our engine compartment trying to identify the specific cause of the problem.
He tried first one hypothesis – a corroded cable to the starter motor – then another – a failed battery. He conducted various tests of these different hypotheses. Then he abandoned us to our fate saying that he would be able to make better headway when he was next available, on Saturday, in two days time. This is Britain, after all, where one man’s prior commitment can be another’s long and lonely wait.
But if there’s one thing that our many experiences on the canals have taught us, it is that nothing can be hurried. We have for instance, a couple of years ago, waited a week in the canal basin in Stratford, for the floods on the Avon to subside enough to allow us to take to the river. In vain, as it happened, and we had to turn back to Birmingham without having cruised those balmy waters.
But Saturday came, our man Mathew returned, the engine was repaired, and we set off again…
Now, the lesson is this: it happens, when you’re writing something long and complicated that your engine fails. The oomph deserts your story. You start, without motive power, to meander.
There’s nothing for it but to moor up and take stock. If you think you need some expert advice, call in a Matthew and ask him for his opinion. If you think you’re capable to fixing the problem yourself, do so.
This might take a few days – or weeks – to analyse the problem, diagnose the malfunction. Perhaps your characters were not well thought through enough. Perhaps your story was too linear and was unable to stay the course. Perhaps your destination was not clear enough in your head, and instead of writing scenes that took you, step by sure step towards it, you were flailing around a little, heading for Napton-on-the-Hill (a famous canal village) instead of London, and the Olympics.
You need to fix the problem before proceeding. You’ll only find yourself in deeper and deeper waters if you don’t attend to it.
“You should never read just for ‘enjoyment’. Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgemental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behaviour, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books’. Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.” ~ John Waters in Role Models