Writing from Life

Award winning novelist and creative writing lecturer at Goldsmiths, Ardu Vakil, based in Mumbai and London, is coming to do a workshop for us this May!

The workshop will be looking in particular at how to successfully draw from your personal life story and incorporate it into your writing. This may be in the form of memoir, using your life as inspiration, writing what you know, or simply boring details from life. 

As an introduction to Ardu Vakil and his thoughts on writing, here’s an interview I did with him over the phone earlier this week.

How old were you when you first started to write?

Twelve. In the school magazine. ‘One Night in the Life of Ardu Vakilovich’. I still have a copy somewhere.

Describe for us an early experience that taught you language had power.

My friend at school, Dilip used to ask me for help with writing love letters to a girl he had a crush on. It worked. She became his girlfriend on the strength of my flowery, purple prose.

When did you realise you could actually make a living as a writer?

In London, in 1994, after the publication of my first novel ‘Beach Boy’. It won a Betty Trask Award before it was even published. And I was contacted by the Wylie Agency to come and meet them with a view to representing me. The reality, of course, is that it is only a handful of published writers who can actually make a living solely from the income generated by sales of books.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Write as much as you can, be disciplined, force yourself to write sometimes even when you don’t want to, but don’t be judgemental and self-stricturing. Don’t keep worrying about whether something is brilliant or not.

How important is personal life experience for you? Is it the most potent tool aspiring writers have to work with?

Yes. In the beginning. You have to start, in my opinion, by making yourself and any of your experiences the stories you write. If you can’t bring your own stories alive, if you can’t make yourself an interesting character to readers, you are unlikely to be able to make up convincing, engaging situations and characters.

What’s the most challenging part of the writing process for you?

Returning every day to the work, despite being beset by anxieties and uncertainties.

Does writing energise or exhaust you, and how has it changed you over the years?

When something I have written, after months of the hard work of searching, composing and editing is finished, I read over a decent paragraph and feel a sense of wonder. It’s certainly a rare feeling.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

My friends and sometimes members of my family have read over my work and made helpful suggestions. Working with Creative Writing students at Goldsmiths has also been instructive and inspiring for me as a writer. Watching the growth of other people’s work and seeing what dedication to determination can achieve. Those last two are probably the most crucial aspects of writing, though they don’t guarantee success, they guarantee that you will finish the work you started.

Do you want each of your books to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’d like my stories and books to stand on their own. Each one is a separate entity. I do intend to write a sequel to Beach Boy, but in many ways, it will be a very different kind of book.

Who is your favourite author, and why?

I think Chekhov’s stories are always improvisatory, moving and alive.

I think all writers who have any ambition should read and reread ‘Anna Karenina’.

Recently, my favourite author has been Sadat Hasan Manto.

One of your most critically-acclaimed books has been Beach Boy, dealing with your youth in what was then Bombay. What did you edit out of this book?

A scene where I went for a swim in the sea outside my childhood home and I cried a lot; my salty tears mixing with the waves. It was untrue, lachrymose, and didn’t fit with the character in the book.

What has been the hardest scene you’ve ever had to write, and why so?

Writing is most hard when you feel you have to do it and you don’t want to. For example, I know what a train station in Bombay looks like, but to have to put it into words is a struggle. How to avoid clichés? What to leave in what to leave out? Who am I writing it for? Ultimately, I go back to the characters and the story. I’m not that interested in description for its own sake, a few lines maybe, if they are really beautiful.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The most important thing money buys for a writer is time, apart from laptops!

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

I am the first and foremost reader of my work. I am an exacting reader. I don’t like being experimented on by the writer, especially if that writer is me! Much of what I have written has been pushed to one side; my own slush pile if you like. I want to be moved and I want the character and situation to be alive on the page. If that happens, I’m satisfied, if not I start anew.

 

How long on average does it take for you to write a book?

How long is a piece of string question?

‘Beach Boy’ took two years, start to finish, but it depends on what you mean by the ‘start’.

Faulkner wrote ‘As I Lay Dying’ in 8 weeks. Harper Lee’s second novel took 30 years, but not sure this kind of info is helpful to any writer. A writer acquaintance said to me, she always knows how many hours a novel is going to take her start to finish. That’s a little weird. She’s written three or four short novels. (100 pages each)

What’s more important for you: characters or plot?

Definitely characters. Plot is empty without character who the reader cares about.

Early bird registration for this workshop will open on Wednesday March 1, 2017. Early bird tickets for the two-day workshop, running Saturday May 6 and Sunday May 7, will be €175. Registration after April 1st will be €195. Workshop details will be posted on the site on March 1st. This workshop is limited to 12 participants and tickets are expected to sell out fast, so please contact us at office.writenow@gmail.com to reserve a seat, or check back next week for more info!

 

Poetry and Story Workshop

Award winning poet Alice Miller is back for yet another workshop with Write Now! Why do we keep bringing her back? Because she is an amazing teacher, poet and all round nice person. As we are exploring storytelling through our workshops and events this year, Alice has delightfully created a workshop that does just that, and much more. Don’t miss the opportunity to work with Alice and come out with some polished poems that tell a story…

Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Alice…

Poetry and Story

This is the bridge where at dusk they hear voices

In this class we’ll look at how different poets touch, brush against, and embrace story, through narrative devices, line, voice, or music — not only in a single poem, but also in a poetic series, or over the course of an entire book. The classes will be divided into two — the first part being an informal lecture and discussion, and the second part being a workshop of your own work. Limited to 10 participants.

Instructor: Alice Miller

Location: vienna poetry school

Every Friday for four weeks, 10 February, 2017 to 3 March

18:30pm – 20:30pm

Fee: €185

Workshop Registration Form

Literary Reading- Julian Gough

Julian Gough with coffee in Library Bar credit Solana JoyCome to a reading on November 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Julian Gough, award winning author of “The Orphan and the Mob”, the “iHole”, Jude in Ireland, Jude in London, and the UK number one Kindle Single “CRASH!” will be reading from his work. He is contemporary, creative and entertaining. So please do come out for a listen, ask some questions, meet some people and have a drink. This event is co-hosted by Write Now and the Irish Embassy. And it’s FREE.

Where: Lane and Merriman’s Irish Pub, Spitalgasse 3, 1090

Registration is not required but we always appreciate a quick email to let us know you are coming. tamara.writenow@gmail.com

And don’t miss out on Julian’s spectacular Short Story workshop on November 14/15! More information here.

An Evening of Critiquing

An Evening of Critiquing!

Join our May 21st Creative Meeting

19:00 at Café Kotor, Schubertring 4, 1010

Come out and practice the art of critiquing the written word! Get feedback and give feedback. We promise you will leave the meeting with refreshing insight on your work.

Don’t be shy about sharing your work. The room will be full of other writers just like you. We promote a creative environment and constructive criticism.

Participants will be divided into groups of 4 (each led by a Write Now committee member) and will critique each other’s work.

Pre-submit to (office.writenow@gmail.com) up to a 1000 words of prose by May 14th , or bring 4 copies with you on May 21st. Pre-submitting allows your group to read your work before the meeting and perhaps offer more insightful comments.

This evening is FREE for MEMBERS and €7 at the door for NON MEMBERS.

We ask that you do inform us if you will attend as the meeting will be capped at 20 Participants. Critiquing Guidelines will be sent out to participants (and anyone else who requests them!).

 

 

When Word Becomes Flesh

This week, some words from our very own Tamara Radak!

Five years ago, I co-wrote a play with 19 other authors, each of us between 13 and 27 years old at that time. Apart from the requirement that there should be a baby who turns up at school unexpectedly and causes considerable uproar and confusion among the teenage characters, there were no limitations as to what the text should be about. At the week-long workshop, we wrote short pieces based on automatic writing: specific or abstract images served as stimuli and we soon started creating short prose about depressed pillows, dialogues between two socks in a drawer or metaphysical explorations of the philosophical value of salt shakers. Occasionally, we would read out particularly interesting, but also hilariously silly bits and pieces from our collections. In this process of reading out not only polished and perfect set pieces, but also very immediate and honest drafts, we not only ended up bonding over the powerful language of literature, but also creating characters and story lines for what was later to become the Schrilles Herz, without having to sit through endless weeks and months of solitary drafting and editing. At the premiere, we were still somewhat dumbfounded that we had actually succeeded in creating a more or less coherent play. The feeling of hearing my own words on stage, intertwined with and in dialogue with those of others and even eliciting emotional responses from the audience is something I will never forget.

Those Moments in Story

Today we have a guest post from the talented Caroline Bruckner. She is a screen writer and short story writer living here in Vienna. Not only is she a great writer, but she’s also a ridiculously lovely person! Check out this interview. And be sure to leave a comment on her blog post.

http://www.crackthespine.com/2014/02/weekly-wordsmith-caroline-bruckner.html

Those Moments in Story.

I sit at my desk with a blank mind and that drowning feeling that there is something missing in my story. And then it becomes clear to me. What is missing in my story is obviously what is missing in me: I am not Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman, the holy asshole, the fantastic director, the incredible screenwriter and novelist. Why can’t I be more like you? Why can’t I be a tall wiry man with a nasty temper and an uncanny talent for bringing characters into the shit and back without anybody realizing what just happened? Why can’t I, like you, bring characters to the page and have them become so much alive no one could ever doubt having met these people in real life? Why can’t I write those moments that just punches one in the gut until one is bleeding to death inside?

There are two scenes that keep coming back to haunt me.

The first scene is from a film called ‘The Best Intentions’. In the scene an adopted boy, overcome by jealousy, grabs the newborn baby of the parents and runs. He runs over a meadow, knee deep in snow toward the furious, thundering, ice cold river. It is clear is he is going to drown the baby. He is going to throw the infant into the freezing water. The mother catches a glimpse of him. Her face, as she realizes what is seconds away from happening is full of panic and horror at the thought of her baby dying. The helplessness. The hate of the adopted boy that she never liked in the first place. But the thing that really gets to me is the look on the boy’s face as he is caught. There is no regret in his eyes, only cold stubbornness. And it is here we realize how deep his hatred is. His hate goes so deep that he can’t even put on a show of regret or ask forgiveness to redeem himself. Every time I watch this scene I get a stomach ache that lasts for about a week.

The second scene is from a film called ‘The Virgin Spring’. A father has just gotten the information about who has raped and murdered his beloved daughter. He is calm as a sphinx in Egypt. He tells the maid to prepare the sauna. He walks out from the farm towards a tall birch tree. He shakes it, tugs at it, pulls it and finally breaks it – all in silence. There is no trace of emotion. In the sauna he beats his body with a bundle of birch twigs. As he comes out from the sauna he asks for his slaughter knife as one would ask for a glass of water at a cafe. The scene always brings shivers down my spine. This man seemingly has zero emotion as he is preparing to kill the men who took his daughters life, and that lets us sense a rage and grief so deep it could never be communicated with an emotional breakdown or aggressive fury.

No words are spilled in either character of their hate – and that is what makes these scenes vibrate with depth. Me, when I write, tend to overdo the weeping and the shouting a bit. Oh, my character is sad, she must weep! My character is angry he must shout! And weep and shout they do indeed. I sit at my desk feeling complete hate as I think about all the weeping characters I have created though my years of writing. I stand up, walk out the door and down three flights of stairs. Down the road a tall birch stands swaying as the bus passes by. I shake it, I tug at it and I finally break it. Back at my desk I beat my head with a bundle of birch twigs. Oh, Ingmar Bergman! Why could I not have been you?

– – – – –

What moment in a story, film or novel, moved you to want to become that writer?