Upcoming courses, community news, writing competition and tips help you lose yourself in your tale of getting lost
I struggled to get the hang of friendship, as a child. Something would always shift: I would express a liking for the wrong band, or even the wrong hairband. And seemingly, without a word being spoken, notes were passed over me in class and secrets whispered out of my hearing.
I had a secret life, though. I could disappear into Rebecca or She or Girl of the Limberlost and, suddenly, I was no longer a woeful eleven-year-old with no friends. I could lose myself so completely that, forced to return to the world, I felt a real jolt.
Literature is one of the few places you really can lose yourself and, this month, we’d like to celebrate this loss of self into other worlds – and into the characters we create. Writing does many things for us, but one of the most pleasurable is the portal it creates into different lives.
That’s where we come in. We’ve got offerings to support your writing life wherever you live in the world.
From June 5, our flagship Creative Writing Course will invite you to step out of your ordinary life to learn the skills to write any book – fiction or non-fiction. Running in Cape Town and online, this course will get you writing confidently in scenes, in a kind and supportive environment. If writing for the screen is your dream, our next How to Write a Screenplay course starts on 1 June.
We pop up again in the historic village of Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds, UK, for our Stow-on-the-Wold Weekend Workshop from 22 to 24 September. The workshop will deal with the basis of any story, no matter how literary, or what the genre. Literary conflict is the life-blood of narrative. It’s what draws us in makes it possible for us to lose ourselves.
Now, if you really want to get lost, just for a week, we have only a couple of places left on our famous Venice Retreat, from September 6 to 13. Here, it is possible to pretend that you live the ideal Venetian life. Fling open the windows of the Palazzo Albrizzi and look out over a quiet canal or a residential square in which the nuns bring the schoolchildren out to play. Sit and write in one of our frescoed halls or on a roof terrace as the sun sets over the rooftops.
This is one of the most romantic cities in the world and has been a hub for writers through the centuries. In fact, Byron attended soirees in our very palazzo. After a leisurely Venetian breakfast, we offer guidance on aspects of writing. Daily one-on-one sessions provide intensive mentoring or the chance to brainstorm a new idea. For those without an existing project, we offer daily creative exercises with feedback.
We have a special treat this year. Our resident travel writing expert, Fred de Vries, will lead a group on a day-long travel writing excursion to a mystery destination.
Email us to book your place on any of the courses.
We have many items of Community News this month. Our most exciting news is the launch of our very own publication The Eleventh Month. This is a collection of the stories produced during our McGregor Short Story Weekend in November, as well as one or two by our competition winners. It will be on sale on our website shortly, but we’re taking orders now. The book costs R120 and profits will be donated to Short Story Day Africa.
Speaking of which, Short Story Day Africa is calling for submissions for their 2017 competition, from June 1, around the theme of Identity. The competition carries a generous $800 for the winner, $200 and $100 for the runners up, among other prizes. Click here for more information.
SSDA’s most recent publication Migrations is on sale now. It contains 21 stories by African writers around the theme of migration.
On to our other news: Our mentoring participant Tracy Todd presided over a packed Johannesburg launch of Brave Lotusflower Rides the Dragon on May 3.
Mentoring participant and published author Gail Gilbride will be interviewing UK novelist Lesley Pearse at Exclusives Cavendish on May 17, at 6 for 6.30pm. She’d love your support if you’re in the area.
Now for some exciting news for those of you with manuscripts in your bottom drawer. Pan MacMillan SA doesn’t usually accept unsolicited manuscripts. However, they are holding an open submission season from May 8 to 12. They will accept manuscripts in the following categories: general fiction, literary fiction or memoir/biography/autobiography/general non-fiction. Click here for more information.
To make it past Jacana Media’s slush pile, the publishing house is offering you the chance to participate in a 20-minute session in which you’ll be able to pitch your book to a panel: a media representative, three publishers and a high-powered bookseller. If you’d like to be one of 20 candidates who will present on August 4, submit an entry on their website in which you tell them why they might be interested in hearing your pitch.
And lastly, Jo’burgers, don’t forget the Kingsmead Book Fair on May 13, which features many of our community: Michele Rowe, novelist and scriptwriter, who runs our How to Write a Screenplay course will be speaking, as will authors Ekow Duker and Christa Kuljan, both past Creative Writing participants. Author Gia Nicolaides, our former mentee, will also feature, along with Thabiso Mahlape, former Creative Writing participant and founder of BlackBird Books.
Last month, we challenged you to try your hand at memoir, by writing a seminal scene from your lives. The winners of the best two entries will receive a copy of Tracy Todd’s memoir, Brave Lotusflower Rides the Dragon. Here are our competition winners:
We loved Penny Castle’s story of kindness found where least expected. The story is deeply evocative with a satisfying narrative arc. Well done, Penny. I hope you enjoy Tracy’s book.
Our runner-up this month is Mitzi Bunce-van Rooyen, for a humorous story, well told, about the humiliations suffered by our younger, less confident selves. You will also receive a copy of Tracy’s book.
Special mentions go to Keith Kinambuga, for his charming coming of age story and to Jennifer Peacock-Smith, for her poignant story of loss and pain.
Click here to read the winning entries.
This month’s challenge carries an exceptional prize: three books by members of our Allaboutwriting family, generously contributed by Pan Macmillan, Jacana, and Cactus Rain in the US. The winner will receive Darwin’s Hunch by Christa Kuljan, The God who Made Mistakes, by Ekow Duker, and Under the African Sun by Gail Gilbride. All have attended our Creative Writing Course. Ekow’s book has recently been long-listed for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, and Christa’s for the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction. We’ll also include a copy of our anthology The Eleventh Month.
To qualify for this prize, we invite you to write a scene (as usual, no more than 250 words) about getting lost. You can view it literally or metaphorically, but treat us to a very short story in which someone… loses themselves.
Here are our Writing Tips for the month, which will hopefully help you lose yourself in your tale of getting lost:
- Consider what your character wants. In every story, a character wants something badly.
- Something stands in the way of their getting it. In this story, getting lost might prevent them from getting what they want or need. They might also not want or need very much – until they get lost. Then they want very much to be found. On the other hand, what they desperately want could actually be to lose themselves (perhaps metaphorically) in something or someone. But something stops them, or prevents them experiencing it in the way they long to.
- That’s what creates your story’s arc. Your character starts somewhere, wants something badly, struggles to achieve what they want and and ends up somewhere else – perhaps literally, but certainly within themselves.
- They might have reached their goal, or they might not, but they will almost certainly have realised something: about themselves and perhaps the world, which could be good or bad. This doesn’t have to be spelt out. It can be implicit.
I hope that helps you write the winning entry. Please paste your entry (of no more than 250 words) into the body of an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on 31 May.
We look forward to your stories.