Write your way out of this hellish year

 In Newsletters

Write your way out of this hellish year

None of us has experienced a year as strange as this. So strange, in fact, that many of you have told us you felt creatively frozen.

But the year is not over. And as the sharp edge of shock is blunted, and life returns to something approaching normal, your creativity will nose its way out into the open again.

It’s important to encourage it, because that’s the only way we know to make sense of it all. It’s what humans have done since we developed the power of speech. We’ve used stories to make sense of our lives and times. To bear witness.

So, find your way back to a personal writing practice, and you’ll regain your equilibrium.

Follow community and team member Aimee-Claire Smith on Instagram as she works through our Logic of Story course in order to get back into writing for herself. She says ‘All the trauma around covid and lockdown hit my creativity hard, but I know from past experience that even when I don’t feel like it, writing helps me feel better.’

If you need help, we’re here to offer it. Sometimes a structured approach really can help. A writing course or programme, in a kind and encouraging environment, can ease you back into a writing discipline.

And the act of learning new skills can inspire you to use them in exciting ways. So here’s what we can offer, to make sure 2020 ends on a creative note:

Free webinars and resources

  • Free lunchtime masterclass with Tony Park – 29 September

    We’re delighted to be hosting a free masterclass with Tony Park, bestselling author of 18 adventure thrillers set in southern Africa. Join us to learn more about the craft of writing. Sign up here.

  • Free creative writing webinar – 30 September

    This webinar will be specifically and wholly devoted to improving your creative writing skills. You’ll set the agenda: we’ll be responding to your questions and discussing issues important to you. Sign up here!

  • Free-to-enter August/September flash fiction challenge

    Win 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 when you enter our August/September flash fiction challenge. Deadline: 30 September. Theme: Coming-of-age.

  • Monday Motivation: Capturing the moment

    Richard’s latest of his weekly Monday Motivation series covers the skill of finding the right word to capture the moment. Read it here.

  • Writing secrets: Writing for yourself, not others

    Don’t forget about Jo-Anne’s writing blog, which is published every Wednesday and contains invaluable writing advice and tips. In a recent episode, she covers writing for yourself, not others. Read it here.

  • Free Screenwriting Webinar – 7 October

    This webinar is your chance to find out everything you always wanted to know about any aspect of screenwriting – for film and television. Veteran writers Michele Rowe and Richard Beynon will answer any questions you may have about the craft of writing for the screen. Sign up here.

Tools to get you writing and help you hone your craft

  • The (free) Indispensable Guide to Creative Writing – Start anytime

    Sign up and receive a fresh module in your inbox every day. Use this guide to refresh your skills or as an introduction to creative writing.

  • Thirty-Day Writing Bootcamp – Enroll anytime

    A self-guided programme to better writing with advice, stimulation, practice, every day for 30 days. Option to receive feedback on final exercise. Enroll here.

  • Coaching Programmes: Focus on scenes – Starts 19 October

    On this particular coaching programme the focus is on writing scenes. We’ll tackle ten different issues involved in writing compelling scenes. Sign up here.

Courses and workshops in October

  • The Power of Writing – 1 October

    The four-module introductory creative writing course will help you develop a more creative style by giving you the tools to enhance your writing voice. £ 45 / ZAR 750

  • Saturday Writing Workshop – 3 October

    Have a bit of virtual literary fun with All About Writing and a community of fellow writers when we present our online Saturday Writing Workshop. £ 20 / ZAR 325

  • Online Creative Writing Course – Starts 12 October

    Our flagship course will appeal to anyone ready to embark on a serious writing project, or who has stalled in the process. Each module tackles a key skill and challenges participants with carefully crafted writing exercises, with personal feedback. On early-bird special until 30 September. £ 315 / ZAR 5,670

  • Virtual Creative Writing Course – Starts 12 October

This is our much loved face-to-face Creative Writing Course, offered with discussion, chat, and   feedback – and notes to keep afterwards. All we can’t provide is the glass of wine. You’ll have to pour your own. On early-bird special until 30 September. £ 396 / ZAR 7,155

This webinar will be specifically and wholly devoted to improving your creative writing skills. You’ll set the agenda: we’ll be responding to your questions and discussing issues important to you. Sign up here!

  •  Screenwriting Workshop – 24 October

    Join our Saturday screenwriting workshop, run by two of South Africa’s most experienced screen- and scriptwriters, Michele Rowe and Richard Beynon for an introduction to what goes on behind the scenes of any movie script. £ 20 / ZAR 325

  • Screenwriting Crash Course – 26 October

    The Screenwriting Crash Course is a ten-module online programme that runs you through the essential skills required to write for film or television. In just five weeks you’ll master the basic array of skills that could start you on a creative – and profitable – screen or tv writing path. Early bird special: £ 315 / ZAR 5,670 

Our extra-special virtual weekends – for something more

  • Travel blogging weekend – 7 and 8 November

    Join Fred de Vries for a fun weekend honing your travel writing craft by signing up for either the travel writing day or the ‘start your own travel blog’ day or both days. Share ideas and learn with a community of fellow travellers. £ 150 / ZAR 2,750

  • Virtual Short Story Workshop – 20 to 22 November

    Join our virtual weekend course and emerge with the first draft of a short story. We will encourage and mentor you through the process of developing story, from the initial impulse – the virus of an idea – through the building of characters, and the world of the story, to the step-by-step raising of the stakes towards the satisfying crunch of a resolution. £ 150 / ZAR 2,750

We may not have been in Venice…

Under normal circumstances, we would now just have returned from Venice, after our sixth writing retreat in the palazzo which has become our home each September. Ho hum.

We had to make do. Our participants, scattered across the globe, stocked up on Prosecco and Aperol (or Campari), to make their own Spritz, and joined us for our Not Quite Venice virtual retreat.

It wasn’t quite the same (as the name implies). But our participants were all intensely creative. Some brainstormed new projects. Others shot ahead or navigated critical sections of on-going projects.

It was intensely rewarding for us to see everyone achieve so much. But here’s to next year – in Venice (hopefully, with no need of Zoom)!

Unveiling the winners of our June/July Flash Fiction Challenge

Congratulations to Rahiem Whisgary, the winner ouf our June/July Flash Fiction Challenge! You win a literary assessment of 5 000 words valued at R2 750 – which you can also, as you know, use as part or full payment on one of our courses.

Runner-ups, in no particular order, are: Mitzi Bunce–van Rooyen for an amusing and macabre take on a murder victim. Yageshree Moodley for a humorous tennis lesson that makes the most of double entendres. Patricia Groenewald for a marmoset that saves the blushes of a would-be suitor, Jenny Alence for a disturbing glimpse into a dysfunctional father and daughter relationship, and Bindi Davies for a frog’s peculiarly satisfying revenge; and finally another one from Rahiem Whisgary for their pregnant Russian student who contemplates abortion as she recalls her lover’s visit to the site of the Romanov massacre.

Read all the winning entries here. And, check out our August/September Challenge, currently open for entries!

And here’s the good news:

Yes, it can happen. Four of our community have books coming out now or in the near future. (You heard right. Even in these dark times for books and publishing: Four!)

We’ve mentioned Lynn Joffe’s debut novel before, but The Gospel According to Wanda B Lazarus, her outrageous serio-comic work of literary fiction, is soon to be published by Modjaji Books.

Vincent Pienaar will be launching his second novel Limerence, with Penguin Random House, next year, two years after his first novel, Too Many Tsunamis, which was nominated for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize last year.

Here’s a teaser: Scout needs money and he needs it now. And that’s only the start. There are also five women, neatly spaced about ten years apart, all with the same objective. They want to look through the little window of a microwave oven and watch his slowly rotating privates frying in dirty black cooking oil. Well, they don’t all want that. The more forgiving ones just want to see him in jail – with or without his privates.

Anton Roodt, who joined us for our Venice retreat in 2016, launched his first book, Weerlose Meganika  (Defenceless Mechanics), this month through NB Publishers. It’s billed as “a delightfully awkward novel, both rich in imagination and sharp satire”. We can vouch for the fact that Anton exhibits both of these qualities in his writing.

Vincent Pienaar, lynne Jofee, Anton Roodt, Lisa Anne Julien

And now Lisa-Anne Julien has received an offer.  She shared her big news, during the Not-Quite-Venice Retreat. But I’ll let her tell you about it herself.

Are there any words sweeter than ‘Offer of Publication’ in a subject line? After joining the All About Writing Mentoring in 2015 and penning the first chapter of my novel – a chapter littered with exposition, cringe-worthy cliches and seven-syllable words because… well… why not – I’m ecstatic to announce that Kwela Books has made me an offer of publication.

My novel, Season of Promise, which connects five characters across London, Johannesburg and Trinidad, wrestles with relationships, secrets and the choices we make to give our life meaning. Watching the story take shape over these years has been like watching dough rise – slow, but then you look up and find that it’s grown and multiplied all by itself.

I’ve enjoyed wrestling with my characters, even having a stand-off (well, a write-off) with one of them, demanding that he tell me why he was so obscure!

Jo-Anne and Richard helped me polish my manuscript within an inch of its life in 2019, and despite having received some 38 rejections from publishers, novel competitions and agents, I soldiered on. Another day. Another submission. Another rewrite, if necessary.

I just needed a publisher to see something, take a chance on me. That was all I needed. Just one chance.

It proves there’s always room for hope. We believe it’s about learning the skills – and then being dogged. Keep writing, keep learning, keep getting better. As Samuel Beckett said: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Happy writing,
Team All About Writing

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