2023 in review: Community trials, tribulations and triumphs

 In All About Writing, Newsletters

Every writing  journey comes with obstacles, lessons and victories. We know this.  But this year let’s remember that we learn a lot from them. Let’s carry these lessons into the new year to boost our creativity for the next twelve months.

Here are some reflections from our community on the trials, tribulations and triumphs from 2023, which will inform their (and our) 2024 writing journeys.

–  Frankie Francis

Joining the Writer’s Circle in January was my most significant writing moment in 2023. 

Recovering from a knee replacement, followed by my husband’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, our lives were in crisis, and writing was at the bottom of my daily to-do list. Then impulsively, I joined the Writer’s Circle. Guided by Richard and Jo-Anne, our inspirational group of participants kept me sane throughout the year.

When life got overwhelming, I retreated to my den and tapped away at my faithful keyboard, which became my confidant – sometimes just some scribbles, occasionally peeling away the onions skins with tears dropping onto the keyboard. And for a short while, I would lose myself in the joy of words, often just playing with phrases/ideas/grammar, querying prepositions and whether I had too many commas and repetitions in my short story that I’d prepared for our next WC meeting. Lise, Tanya, Marie, Ank and others were always honest but kind in their reactions to my occasional volatility and we’d have masterclass-type stimulating discussions. 

Have I written a best-seller during the year? Oh no. But I’ve kept writing, knowing that us writers are not alone. I thank you all. And hope to re-connect again in 2024.

Hugs and Season’s Greetings from FRANKIE in WINDHOEK xxx


– Jan Glazewski

My Grandfather 

He remained in the East

When the Russians came

Refused to budge but his four sons fled

Thinking they would return (after all this was just another war)

But they never did


He remained there under the Russian yoke

Another twenty years

But never saw his sons again


I visited him at this grave in the Lyszakowska cemetery

A World Heritage site

Under dappled Ash trees

Shared with his own father and two others  

I never met him

But he’s embedded in my DNA

* Find out more about Jan’s story in his book Blood and Silver: A true story of survival and a son’s search for his family treasure


 – Alan Haller

To create context, I must relate briefly how I became a writer.

January 2020. My wife and I relocated from Greyton to Phalaborwa to assist family who live there. Too soon boredom overcame me. One can only visit the Kruger Park so often. By the time I’d learned the name of each elephant in the park, the bushveld adventures had stalled. The intense heat added to my frustration. By choice an outdoor lover, I had to seek refuge in our air-conditioned house.

I turned to writing as a hobby. I’d not enjoyed any formal training, and this showed. My naivety blazed through my scribbles like stars in a big Karroo sky. But the more I wrote, the deeper the bug bit. I soon had every reason to embrace each day, enthusiastically driving myself to improve. I endured the school of hard knocks with pleasure because I learned. I grasped the enormity of becoming a published author. I tripped here and there, but each time got back up and dusted myself off. I clung onto helping hands offered. I wrote more and learned more. I scaled the learning curve slipping and sliding, grasping tightly where I could.

We know about this all-consuming passion.

We also know that the pleasure we take from writing alone does not completely crack it. The added reward of sharing our work is our mantra.

‘I enjoyed your book, Alan,’ fuels a warm glow which tugs a smile into place.

I reflect on the moment, mid-year, that I received an order for my books from my distributor.

Wow. Readers can now buy my books from Bargain and Exclusive Books (or Amazon). Further reason to carry on learning. Added stimulation to keep writing. I’m so lucky.

I look back on that one moment in 2023, chuckling. Ya, I did it!

P.S  We escaped Phalaborwa early in the year and have happily settled in Hopefield. 😊


– Mandy Hackland

Some time ago I ran a small group of writers’  with ten or so members. I gave them a challenge. In the five weeks between the current session and the next one I challenged them to write a short story in 10 minute a week installments. They could choose any subject they wanted.

The results were amazing. Our minds moved along routes we had never even imagined when we began and ended up in places we never suspected we would be.

My ‘hero’ was a man called Blog – I won’t go into the details here but he turned out to be a prehistoric character who was isolated from his people by a natural disaster. Inevitably he died, leaving traces of his existence which would only be discovered millennia later. Such a fascinating journey in following broken trains of thought.

It was fun – and I am still rather fond of Blog! He is one of my favourite characters.

God bless you


– Julia Preece


She was my muse, a critical friend, the most extraordinary human being. Each week her lungs stiffened a little more, the limbs, sloth-like, stretched and sank. Her ipad voiced what she could no longer say. When her lips opened like fireflies in the delight of her message tap tapping onto the keys, I knew a quip or note of frivolity was coming. Like a dying lion, proud and stubborn, muscles wasted and weakened, her love sang into the space between. I gave her my printed book of short stories. A memento. The light in her eyes, her big grey eyes, glimmered above those facial muscles that flopped like loose skin, blankets around lips that had always laughed. I played her piano and she soaked in the sounds like discovery of shared magic.

Under the crisp, winter sun, near her childhood farmland, the velvet green hillsides softened the thud of that last shovel of earth. So many people waved her goodbye. A torrent of unfamiliar faces, a few I knew who hugged and shared our grief.

A lid shuttered my writing brain into a dark, metal box. Its lock clinked. For a few days I spluttered one or two short poems, private and hopeless. With no-one to measure their worth I tucked them away. Stories that might have been, seemed trivial and soon abandoned. No listener, no guide, the sentences snarled upwards unguided, lost inside a place I could not reach. Who would judge, nurture, or listen with such connection, who would share my journeys, my memories, my fantasies, the dream world of our realities?

The days and weeks have become months. Lumps of throat rise and choke like waves. A cataract of emptiness blurs my thoughts. Opaque and distant, lies a range of mountains, colourless, two dimensional. Those are my stories. A burnt field of dead spikes spreads before them. Each time I tread forward, a mist clouds my steps and the way fades into a mirage. A far-away oasis that is not really there. Maybe later, I say, maybe next year. But then maybe it will be too late and I will have forgotten all that I learnt.

How to find that perfect metaphor, capture the moment of tension, draw the reader in, make the dialogue sing, project my voice.

What stories are there now? Will I ever find the words?


P.S. If you haven’t already read them, here are all of team All About Writing’s 2023 wrap-ups:

Jo-Anne’s: 2023 in review: How a writing community became a lifeline

Richard’s: 2023 in review: Celebrating the words that emerge from a community of writers.

Fred’s: 2023 in review: Music and words

Michele’s: 2023 in review: The writer’s struggle

Joanne’s: 2023 in review: All in a year’s writing …

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Showing 4 comments
  • Frankie Francis

    Thank you, Allaboutwriting Team. It’s such a joy to be a part of your writing community. Frankie x

  • All About Writing

    Frankie, the AAW community wouldn’t be the same without you! Thank you for being with us all these years. You did Power of Writing in 2012. Can you believe it?

  • Rebecca S Mason

    Still loving your ‘take it or leave it’ blogs, information, and interesting news about people and places. No pressure, nothing required to do unless driven. I’ve been on the periphery of AAW for many years, and getting your regular emails gives me a bit of a boost to hear about other writers and projects. I was a short story author, with a few joint-group books published, but I’ve just had my debut novel published – The Shimla Legacy – thrilling to see it on Amazon, Kindle and Barnes and Noble. My expectations are not great, but it has spurred me on to get into writing the sequel. I just hope it doesn’t take as long as the first one!

    • All About Writing

      Congratulations on publishing The Shimla Legacy, Rebecca. We know exactly what goes into what goes into writing a book, and it’s no mean feat. Enjoy writing the sequel. Thanks for letting us know that you enjoy the emails, and thank you for being part of our community. Happy writing, Jo-Anne and Richard

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