The best life is a creative life

 In Newsletters, Tips for Writers, Writing Competitions

Our reason for being – to make the world a more creative place

We exist to animate your creative life. We see it as our purpose in life, so we’re always trying to think up new ways to energise you.

Here’s one for the new year, for all those people who share a burning desire to write for screen – big or small.

Too often, it becomes a dream deferred: you have a job, or kids, or perhaps you’re too scared to risk failure. Please don’t do that. The best life is a creative life, and you don’t want to end your life regretting the risks you didn’t take.

We can help, and we promise it won’t be so very scary. You’ll be in the safe and capable hands of our veteran screenplay writers Michéle Rowe and Richard Beynon.

We are now able to walk you through the entire screenwriting process

We’ll provide you with the skills you need, help you conceive of and develop your idea … and write it from beginning to end.

Our brand new Guide to Creative Screenwriting is a ten-module course designed to teach you all the elements you need to write for big and small screens. We’ll show you how to craft a killer start, develop characters, write scenes and dialogue, and how to structure your screenplay.

At that point, you’ll be ready to move on to the advanced Kickstart your Screenplay programme, which will help you craft a clear, well-structured outline. We’ll help you turn an idea into a workable outline.

Then you’re ready to enter our Mentoring Programme, through which you’ll write your screenplay with the constant support and constructive feedback of Richard and Michéle.

Life has been tough, work has been hard – you deserve Venice

If ever there was an offering designed to provide you with the ultimate writer’s life, romance and all, it is our Venice retreat.

We give you the opportunity to live and write as Byron and Hemingway did, and so many other writers who have lived and worked among the canals and cobbled alleyways of this ancient city.

You will stay in a palazzo which has remained in the same family since the 1600s. Write with a view of Venetian rooftops, eat sumptuous meals, sight-see with likeminded people, and have the benefit of daily mentoring advice from internationally published novelist Jo-Anne Richards, award-winning scriptwriter Richard Beynon and internationally published non-fiction writer, Fred de Vries.

What more can I say? I’ll just add that we’ve run this retreat for three years now and we haven’t had a participant who didn’t rave. In fact, a few of them have attended all three.

Click here to read more, or email us if you’d like to devote a week to being a writer at work in Venice.

The winners of our December/January writing challenge

The honours this month go to Tayla Kaplan for her wonderfully layered, tough but emotional elegy to a lost child.

There were many good entries this month – but here are the best of the best, in no particular order. Kevin Wilson for his laugh-out-loud take on a James Bond/Miss Moneypenny/M sequence; Darryl Boswell for his quite mysterious meander through the sort of second-hand bookstore we’d all love to stumble across and, in another submission, his great mix of bookishness and mayhem; Christine Bayly for her depiction of a down-and-out academic on the skids; Shirlane Douglas for an altogether surprising revelation concerning the inspiration for Bleak House; and Mitzi Bunce-van Rooyen for her neat blend of fiction and meta-fiction.

Congratulations to you all. For her prize, Tayla gets a full literary assessment by Richard and me of a piece of writing of up to 1500 words long.

Click here to read all the winning entries.

Community news

Creative Writing and Mentoring past participant Gail Gilbride’s successful first novel, Under the African Sun, published by Cactus Rain Publishing in the US, has just been translated into Afrikaans, under the title Sononder. The translation was done by Julia Kramer. Watch this space for the publication date.

Alissa Baxter’s third Regency romance, A Marchioness Below Stairs, launches on 24 February in Johannesburg. We’ll be celebrating with her. It’s no mean feat to publish a novel with two toddlers competing for your attention.

The rest of our news this month is more general.

A number of our mentoring participants are just starting out on the grand adventure of writing a novel or work of non-fiction.

Other course participants, past and present, are approaching the end of their first drafts. Still others already have publishers waiting for their finished works.

Not all of our writers set out to write for publication. Some want their lives enhanced by exercising their dormant creative muscles, while others want to write for family – but in a way that ensures their families actually want to read what they produce.

We believe in writing for writing’s sake. So while we’re immensely proud of all the published members of our family, we’re just as proud of those who are setting down a record to leave for the generations to come – and those who simply want to make the world a better place, one creative person at a time.

Please remember to send us your news, big or small, to do with your writing adventures. It’s important to celebrate ourselves and our creative achievements.

February writing challenge

This month’s writing challenge offers a gift voucher worth R1000, to be redeemed against any of our courses or programmes, from our flagship online Creative Writing Course to our Venice Retreat.

Here it is:

Write a scene in which two colleagues are having a vociferous, perhaps even vicious, argument. But try to give us a couple of clues that show us what your character (and perhaps his or her companion, as well) is not yet aware of: that they are actually crazy about each other. Or alternatively that one of them is crazy about the other.

Write this scene from the perspective of one of the colleagues – either using first person (I) or an attached third person (he/she).

Your scene should be no more than 300 words long. Paste your entry into the body of an email and send it to Deadline midnight 28 February 2018

Here is some writing advice, just in case you need a little help with the challenge:

In life, we are always forming and adjusting impressions of the people around us. Often without even realising it, we listen to what they say (and don’t say), we watch the way they react (or don’t react) and we pay attention to other people’s responses to them. Then we decide what kind of person we are dealing with.

No heavenly voice appears to tell us the “real truth” about anyone. If someone else tells us what they think of a particular person, we might pay attention, but we don’t regard it as gospel. We add it to the store of evidence we have been accumulating and we make up our own minds.

This is how writing should work too. Your readers don’t want some heavenly voice to tell them how to think. They want to build up their own evidence about people and their relationship to each other.

This is the best writing: writing that does not explain things to us, but allows us to develop our opinions of characters through the way they act and speak, or fail to do so, and their impressions of the world and people around them.

For a writer, this is further complicated by the fact that people (and characters) seldom say what they mean. In fact, they might not even be aware of how they really feel, and so would be incapable of expressing it (either in thought or, even less so, out loud).

The trick then, is to give the reader just enough clues to start building up a picture of what is really going on between your characters, perhaps before they even twig themselves. Pay attention to the things they say, or don’t say and to their body language. Also, perhaps look at your character’s sensory impressions of the environment that surrounds them.

We wish you a month full of writing.

Warm regards,


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