December newsletter: Here’s to holidays – and a year of writing holidays
It’s the month of holidays, so this newsletter will celebrate holidays and gift-giving – and look forward to a new year packed with writing holidays (because we know how badly you’re longing to get away).
And we, at All About Writing, give thanks for you, our community, and for what the year has brought.
A gift for everyone
This is the time for gifts. If you’re at a loss for a gift, we have something for every writer, and to suit every pocket. And if you don’t give presents this time of year, gift yourself for getting through another Covid year. You deserve it.
We have so much to offer, from our brand-new Writers’ Circle, which will go on giving throughout the year, to our self-directed Thirty Day Writing Bootcamp and Indispensable Guide to Creative Writing, which provide daily advice and practice; from our introductory Power of Writing, to our flagship Creative Writing Course, which will provide everything you need to write a book.
A gift for anyone creative, no matter their project, is our Hero’s Journey® course, licensed and approved by the Joseph Campbell Foundation.
Early Bird discounts are still available on both our Hero’s Journey® and our Creative Writing Courses, till the end of the month. We also offer gift vouchers, for those who want to offer someone the gift of choice.
Or perhaps you know someone who has completed a draft. The best gift you could possibly give them is a dispassionate eye – a compassionate “book doctor”, who will provide what friends and partners can’t. Our literary assessments and mini-assessments provide a professional, objective view on what works and what still needs a bit of effort in order for a draft to become the best book it can be.
A year of writing holidays
After the strictures of Covid, we’re breaking out in 2022.
We’re celebrating, not just a return to our annual Venice Retreat, from 5 to 20 September, but we’re offering our UK community another creative trip to Stow-on-the-Wold, and we’re spiriting South African family members to the quintessential Karoo village of Barrydale for a weekend, from 18 to 20 March, focusing on Memoir.
I (Jo-Anne) and acclaimed writer, Joanne Hichens, will offer guidance on how to plan, structure and write your memoir. We’ll get you started, and offer personal feedback on your writing.
You’ll be able to live and work in the quirky Karoo Art Hotel – the quintessential Karoo country hotel. It is a classic, artistically driven place of elegance and ease, where everything is done in the proper way. We can promise you the art of a Karoo country kitchen: local organic sourcing, farm to fork, smoked meats, preserves and a focus on Karoo lamb. Vegans and vegetarians will also be well catered for.
Non-writing partners are welcome, and there will be plenty of activities for them, including a walk with a highly regarded botanist. Partners and participants will be given a list of suggestions, so you won’t be at a loss over what to do.
Those who attend the memoir weekend, and need on-going support to bring their manuscripts to a professional standard, will be guaranteed a place on our sought-after Mentoring Programme. Places are usually granted on this programme by application only.
If you’ve been wanting to start a memoir, but didn’t know how, here’s your chance to get away and concentrate on yourself. Your eyes need to concentrate on a horizon wider than your computer screen.
We also have a brand-new adventure lined up for you next year. We have pleasure in inviting you to join internationally best-selling author, Tony Park, and me, on a Writing Safari from 9 to 16 June, at Victoria Falls and Nantwich Lodge in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
After two nights at the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, you’ll be cosseted in Nantwich Lodge, with all your needs taken care of. Set on a commanding hill, Nantwich’s nine suites each have uninterrupted views of Hwange’s wilderness. Meals, with drinks included, are served on the long, shady veranda of the main building, a renovated retreat from a bygone era overlooking the water hole. It’s also a perfect place to write. A game drive per day is included, to stimulate you.
The best retreats offer some tricks of the trade, alongside personal attention on you and your work.
The Writing Safari was devised to deliver on both these needs. You’ll have the attention of two highly experienced writers, who can offer knowledgeable advice on what works and what can make your writing better.
Tony Park, who does much of his own writing here, says: ‘Nantwich Lodge is the perfect place for writers and aspiring authors to get away from it all, and find peace and inspiration.
You’ll have the best of both worlds – guidance, and time out of time to concentrate on yourself. We’re offering you the chance to think, to write, and to look up from your writing to watch the impala frolic.
This is not a luxury. Each of us has been starved of the time and space to focus on ourselves. We all need the time to tend to our creative health, if we are to be balanced and healthy human beings.
Celebrating our community’s achievements – use the book covers for the image – and link to the books
A number of our All About Writing community have recently brought out books or had manuscripts accepted for publication. We’re immensely proud of all of them.
Jane Evans, former Creative Writing and mentoring participant, launched her memoir, A Path Unexpected, published by Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is a story of family, love, loss, finding purpose and dedicating oneself to a life of service.
Sally Ann Carter, who has also been with us through Creative Writing and mentoring, launched her memoir Just Kidding: life, love and laughter at Zeekoegot farm (Write On Publishing) – a collection of anecdotes, stories and vignettes, capturing the joys, sadnesses, trials, tribulations and triumphs of their 20 years on Zeekoegat Farm, just outside the small town of Riversdale.
Yvette Wilsenach launched her children’s book, The Magic Baobab Tree (E&W Publishing), in which a boy enlists the help of animal spirits to defeat a band of poachers. Yvette also joined us in Creative Writing and has worked with us through the mentoring programme on another, recently completed manuscript.
Ingrid Lomas, who attended our Creative Writing Course and Venice retreat, has launched Alone. Together. Loved. Forever. (Reach Publishers), which describes her personal journey from unhappiness to the spiritual transformation which changed her life.
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon has had his manuscript, The Blinded City: Ten Years of Tumult and Renewal in Inner-City Johannesburg, accepted for publication by Pan Macmillan SA in 2022. Matthew was a Creative Writing Course participant and also submitted his manuscript for a literary assessment, both of which, he says, “helped immeasurably to get my book accepted for publication”.
Highlights of the year from each of us
I count my blessings every day for having work that allows me to concentrate on my passion, and for the lifelong friends this has given me. I think writers are the nicest people in the world: they’re sensitive, creative, they like people, they understand nuance … (I used to have a news editor who was wont to say: ‘I love being a journalist. You meet such interesting people – and all of them are journalists.’)
After a longish hiatus, I got back into my own writing this year. Whether anything will come of it is another thing, but I believe we write for ourselves, because we have to. That’s the important thing. Anything else is a bonus. – Jo-Anne.
Writers write, whatever Covid or load-shedding thunderclouds loom overhead, and helping them hone their skills, through our courses – the Creative Writing and Hero’s Journey programmes – has been exhilarating. I’ve also been working very closely with two writers on books they’re preparing – and, of course, with writers on our Mentoring Programme. We don’t call it creative writing for nothing. – Richard
And from our beloved All About Writing associates:
My personal highlight was of course the release of my book Blues for the White Man, published by Penguin Random House. I had worked on this book for years, trying to capture all the complexities of race and music in America’s Deep South and South Africa in words. An impossible task, but, given the glowing reviews, I think I succeeded at least partly.
I spoke about my writing journey in an All About Writing Master Class, which I called a Twelve Lesson Programme, focusing on some of the issues that one has to struggle and deal with when writing a non-fiction book.
And now I’m busy working on a new project, a book about Progressive Rock in the seventies, which I’m doing together with my Dutch friend Siebe Thissen. We have a contract and we hope it will be published in April next year. Immersing yourself in something new, I have learnt during my career as a writer, is the best way to avoid the deep hole that the ‘post-book blues’ wants you to disappear in.
My advice for the holidays, and beyond? Before you take your break, stop your writing at a point that you really enjoy; stop at a point where you know the story will be going when you pick it up again. In other words, make sure it’s something you’ll look forward to. – Fred de Vries.
Washed up on the shores of a pandemic has led us to wonder why we have neglected or discarded so many creative aspects of our lives. Why have we placed so much importance on acquiring the trappings of the outer world, yet so little on the pleasures of self-expression?
These ponderings have led to an explosion of interest in creative writing. We have seen this reflected in the diversity of participants from all over the world who have joined our Hero’s Journey courses this year. Some of you have already come through our popular Screenwriter’s and Creative Writing courses.
Some of you are novices, new to writing, others are professionals in completely different fields. You’ve all been curious about Joseph Campbell’s legendary theory of a monomyth—and wanted to know more about what underlies nearly all stories. I feel very privileged to have shared in the boundless imaginations and potential you brought to the Hero’s Journey® courses. I hope you too have forged a deeper relationship with yourselves, and the world, through the magical process of writing.
I’ve been struggling to finish my third novel through the pandemic, but doing these courses with you has inspired me to continue. I guess that’s the beauty of the Journey. It seems to teach writers as much about themselves, as it does about writing. – Michele Rowe
It has been a highlight of my year to connect with and work with the All About Writing team. I discovered the services of All About Writing during lockdown when Richard and Josie offered free writing webinars every week. Their generosity was a life saver to a lonely writer, and I had only admiration for the team.
I felt honoured when Joanne and Richard asked me to run a workshop or two and now I’m a regular fixture! I’ve run memoir workshops, as well as a crime writing workshop, always with a view to teaching with kindness and respect – I truly believe writing can be taught and improved on, whatever our level. I personally am learning all the time, from my own mentors, from reading plenty of books, and from people in workshops who come with wonderful stories to share and to discuss.
My major achievement of last year was publishing my memoir Death and the After Parties. It went into reprint three times during 2021, was well received in reviews, and I loved to share the material in various talks and at writing festivals. So many people are dealing with loss these days, in all sorts of ways, that we have a greater understanding of how loss brings us closer to our vulnerable selves and enables us to live life to the full. – Joanne Hichens.
Happy December, everyone. Don’t look backward, at what you haven’t done. Celebrate the fact that you survived another Covid year, and look forward to all there is to achieve in the next.