December Newsletter: A thoroughly creative year was had by all

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A thoroughly creative year was had by all

Our participants have had a hugely creative and fulfilling year, judging by their communications.

When our community is happy and effective in achieving their goals, we consider our year at All About Writing to be a success. So please join us in celebrating all of the many highlights of 2019.

We are proud to have connected so many creative minds across the world. Although we are based in South Africa, our community has become truly global.

Venice and Stow-on-the-Wold

We ran our two very successful international offerings: the weekend retreat in Stow-on-the-Wold in the UK, and our two-week writing retreat in Venice. We hosted participants from the UK, Tasmania, USA, Canada and South Africa.

Both will be run again next year, Stow in June and Venice in September. If you’re interested in either, please speak now because they are filling up fast.

Here’s what a couple of our Venice participants said about the experience:

“The Palazzo was the most extraordinary place to live and work in and so centrally located…[but] what made it truly great was you, Jo-Anne, Trish and Fred,” said Fizz Carr, from the UK. “I couldn’t have imagined working and being alongside kinder, more helpful and creative people. It was just so much fun.”

And Jane Salvage, also from the UK, added: “Venice was terrific, even more than I expected (as I run so many workshops I’m a stern critic of other people’s). I’d thought it would be a good space to focus fully on my book but hadn’t expected the retreat to be so transformative. I can’t thank you all enough. It really was a breakthrough in how I have been thinking about the book, and indeed about myself.”

Katherine Hoehn from Florida in the US had this to say: “Thank you for a wonderful two weeks. We were all so much like family by the end and I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated all of it. You all put on a great program and it was amazing how you were able to give each person the time they needed and personalize the impact for everyone.”

Writers seemed to feel equally at home and inspired in Stow. According to Lindy Price: “This was the third Writers’ Weekend in Stow, a vibrant and beautiful market town set in the heart of the Cotswolds, where participants immersed themselves in a workshop exploring story and dialogue.

“Friendships blossomed as they only can when one is thrown together for a short time. We shared our writing hearts and souls, and left after forty-eight unforgettable hours, thoroughly enriched by the experience.”

Literary events and university course

Jo-Anne offered a very successful week-long course on fiction writing at the UCT Summer School, and will be doing so again next year.

She and Fred de Vries were invited to be part of the programme at the Schreiner Literary Festival in June, alongside JM Coetzee, Dorothy Driver and Jonty Driver.

Zonderwater Prison Project

Our All About Writing pilot project to provide the prisoners of the maximum-security Zonderwater Prison with a creative outlet – and the skills to write their own stories – was a great success, thanks to dedicated facilitators Pierre Brouard and Helen Webster.

Members of All About Writing and the prison authorities were present to see the prisoners receive certificates and copies of their collection of stories. The project was run on resources from All About Writing, Macmillan Education, a few generous members of our community, and the facilitators themselves.

Book launches – mentors

Two of our mentors launched books this year.

Jo-Anne’s novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken, was rereleased by Pan Macmillan, as part of their Picador Africa Heritage Classics Collection, where she joins writers such as Ellen Kuzwayo, Frank Chikane, Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Pallo Jordan and Johan Steyn.

The book is available in all good South African bookstores. If your local doesn’t have it, they’ll be happy to order it. Alternatively, have it delivered (anywhere) by If you prefer to read digitally, it’s also available on Amazon or Kobo.

Fred’s seventh book, Wiegelied voor de witte man, was launched in the Netherlands on 24 October in a packed Worm theatre in Rotterdam. Situated in America’s Deep South and South Africa, Wiegelied voor de witte man (Lullaby for the white man) starts as a search for the roots of the music that Fred grew up with, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin etc. But it quickly develops into something more than a book about blues, country and soul. It becomes a personal journey that goes deep into the heart of issues such as black anger and pain and white supremacy and fear.

Book launches – our community

A number of our community brought out books or published stories this year.

Eva Mazza launched her book, Sex, Lies & Stellenbosch (Takealot or Amazon) at a sell-out launch in Stellenbosch. Based on true events, the book uncovers what really goes on behind closed doors in one of South Africa’s wealthiest small towns.

Alissa Baxter, Regency novelist supreme, with five novels to her name, signed with the Seymour Agency in NYC for her latest Regency novel.

Penny Castle’s memoir, Cultivating Happiness, tells the story of Penny’s madcap chase in pursuit of that most elusive of conditions: happiness. Only after a series of hilarious adventures, does she realise the true path to happiness lies right in front of her.

Ekow Duker brought out Yellowbone (Takealot or Amazon), through Kwela Books. Growing up in Mthatha, light-skinned Karabo is called ‘yellowbone’. She often hears her parents argue, not realising her complexion, and questions surrounding her paternity, is the cause.

Frankie Francis self-published her memoir, Stay Light in the Saddle, which launched at the Welcoming Function of the Walvis Bay Endurance Ride in August.

Jo Carr published Our Honest Charlie Wood, a story which delves into the dark side of racing history in Britain – and, in so doing, provides a stark commentary on the social history of the time.


Lisa Anne Julien had her short story, Gangster Paradise, accepted for publication in the Caribbean literary magazine, Pree.

Merle Grace, had her short story, 206, shortlisted for the Woordfees Short Story Competition. It has been published in an anthology, Jonk, which was launched at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch last weekend. And The Record Cards won third Prize in The SA Writers College Competition this year.

Harriet Anena from Uganda was shortlisted for the prestigious Short Story Day Africa Prize.

Two of our former mentees were longlisted for the Barry Ronge prize this year, which honours the best fiction published in South Africa: Vernon Head for his A Tree for the Birds, and Vincent Pienaar for his Too Many Tsunamis.

Another former mentee, Anita Powell, had a short story longlisted (for the second year running) for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Finished drafts and creative endeavors

We’d also like to congratulate those of our mentoring participants who have recently finished first or second drafts of their novels, including Tracy Fox, Lisa Anne Julien, Yvette Wilsenach, Adam Kethro, Bindi Davies, and Marci du Plessis (who’s writing a series of short children’s books).

While we salute all those who brought out books and finished drafts, we are just as proud of those of you who have developed a writing discipline, tapped into your creative self, learnt new skills, or simply written one piece you are pleased with.

Hopefully, we’ve helped make some of this happen through our courses and mentoring programmes. That’s our role and we are proud to have been part of all this success – in whatever way we were able to help.

If you’re keen to join us for any of these courses next year, please remember our early bird special discount, which lasts until 3 January, for the February courses.

Face-to-face courses

We ran six Creative Writing Courses in Cape Town and Johannesburg during the year – all vibrant, dynamic and fruitful. Even our face-to-face courses are now attracting international participants.

When Sara Green priced writing courses in London this year, she realised that, for the same price, she could travel to Cape Town and attend ours. Here’s what she said about the experience:

“I joined the ‘All About Writing’ course in London and came over to Cape Town to attend it. I know it sounds unusual – but it was worth every mile! Jo-Anne Richards is inspiring and she runs the course with expertise, humour and patience…

“I cannot recommend this course more – and you don’t have to travel to Cape Town as there are options available online. Having said that, the cost of a flight, my AirBnb AND a hire car combined were still less than a course at Faber and Faber!”

Online courses

We ran three online Creative Writing Courses and our introductory Power of Writing six times, besides numerous other courses, including our popular script-writing courses and coaching programmes.

Participants were based all over the world, as far afield as Japan and Ukraine.

From Ukraine, Nataliya Pidluzhna described her experience: “Little did I know that when I signed up for the online Creative Writing Course I signed up for a life-changing experience. I had no experience in creative writing and it opened up a whole new world to me…

“Writing is an excellent skill, a therapeutic activity and a tool to connect with others in the writing community. It warms my heart to know that such caring teachers still exist.”

From De Rust in South Africa, Brett Bard had this to say: “I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the course. Each module contained valuable insights and concepts. The way it is structured naturally builds a working knowledge for the student to attempt to bring everything together in increments…”

Mentoring programme

Through our Mentoring Programme, we’ve been privileged to help more than forty writers from all over the world achieve their dream of writing fiction, non-fiction or short stories this year.

Margaret Renn has been writing a biography. “If you are serious about your writing project,” she says, “you must join the All About Writing mentoring scheme. They will keep you going. Through the ups, and the downs (and there will be downs, I know.) There are two things that Jo-Anne and Richard bring: their vast writing experience, so they know how to guide you through the turmoil all the way to the end. And their endless cheeriness and sympathy – they can always find the good in what you write, so they can encourage the best out of you.”

So, thank you…

… from All About Writing for allowing us the privilege of walking beside you all as you released and developed your creativity this year. Enjoy a rest over the festive season and come back to us, refreshed, in the new year, ready to take on a new writing challenge.

Winners of the October/November Flash Fiction Challenge

Excellent crop of entries for our “memoir ten years hence” writing challenge. I can’t think of a single entry that wasn’t interesting for one reason or another. But inevitably, sigh, we have to pluck from the incoming tide just those items of sea wrack that particularly took our fancy. It’s difficult, as ever, to find the primus inter pares. But he is (and yes, it is a writer of the masculine persuasion for a change)…

Clive Goodchild-Brown, who wrote a beautifully restrained science fictiony piece in which technology has been developed that can fine tune one’s capacity to empathise.

The runners-up in no particular order are… Bindi Davies, Bonnie Espie, and Penny Castle.

Well done all of you – and thank you to all those other writers who laboured over their entries. Those labours, I assure you, are not in vain. Read all the winning entries here.

December/January Flash Fiction Challenge

All About Writing’s latest writing challenge offers the winner a literary assessment on 5000 words of writing worth R 2750 / £ 150 or a voucher to the same value to use on one of our courses or programmes.

This month, we’re inviting you to play with Point of View in an unusual way – to see what effect it creates. We’re seeking flash fiction (no more than 250 words) written from the second-person point of view. Click here for some advice and tips on writing in the second person…

Happy writing, happy holidays, and happy new year

From the All About Writing team


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