2023 in review: How a writing community became a lifeline

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Newsletters

How did we get to December? Surely it was only last week that the other Joanne (Hichens) and I were swimming at sunrise beneath the towering cliffs of the Tradouw Valley. And warming up over a hearty breakfast in the Aga-warmed dining room of the Karoo Art Hotel.

For the third year running, Jo and I set off in March for the Karoo Art Hotel in the village of Barrydale, to run our weekend Memoir Workshop, and the week-long retreat for writers of fiction and non-fiction.

We were joined this year by two successful novelists, who gave as much as I hope they gained, and I was thankful for their generosity in granting us all the benefit of their experience.

We made new friends and saw the return of a couple of suckers for punishment. My heart always lifts when I spot the friendly faces of our returnees. We’re grateful when people put their trust in us more than once. But more than that, our participants almost always become friends.

That’s an aspect of this work that I never take for granted. Perhaps it’s just that writers are nice people. But there’s something about the vulnerability, sensitivity and openness required of writers, that forges life-long bonds between our participants, and ourselves.

This is satisfying work. It’s deeply fulfilling to see the writing of our participants emerge and progress, and I’m often as proud of their writing and writing successes, as I am of my own.

2023 in review: How a writing community became a lifeline

But I was never more grateful for the warmth of our community than I was this year. You buoyed me through the difficult months I spent recovering from breast cancer. You made me feel needed, and loved. Thank you all. I’m not sure I could have done it without you.

Newly emerged from radiotherapy, I set off for our annual Venice Writing Retreat, and it was, as usual, a huge success. We lived and worked as Venetian writers – early morning walks through the misty sunrise hours, followed by croissants and cappuccinos.

Our writers produced an extraordinary body of work, between them, over the two weeks, but they also had fun on outings and boat rides, and slipping out for gelato and almond tarts (me, usually).

If you’re keen on joining us in October, 2024, speak now. It is already starting to fill up.

Two of our writers featured prominently in the Sunday Times Literary Awards this year. Ekow Duker convened the judging panel for the fiction awards, and Matthew Wilhelm Solomon was shortlisted for Blinded City: ten years in inner city Johannesburg (Picador Africa).

But we’re equally proud of all the writers of our Mentoring Programme, who show up month after month, demonstrating the quality of doggedness that is required of any writer. Some of our mentees finished drafts this year, others embarked on first or second works, but almost all made significant progress. Well done to you all. We’re rooting for you.

Thank you all for another year. I can hardly believe All About Writing has been around now for 16 years, and that’s down to you all, for sticking with us, believing in us, and keeping us going.

Happy writing



Writing retreats and weekends coming up in 2024

The Art of Memoir weekend and The Art or Writing retreat at the Karoo Art Hotel with Jo-Anne Richards and Joanne Hichens in Barrydale, South Africa. 26 to 28 July and or 28 July to 2 August 2024

Writing Weekend with Richard Beynon in Stow-on-the-Wold in the United Kingdom. 26 to 28 April 2024

Writing Retreat with Jo-Anne Richards, Richard Beynon and Fred de Vries in Venice Italy. 2 to 9 and/or 9 to 16 October 2024

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