Indian Spring

Award-winning Indian author Ardashir Vakil is coming to Austria in May to host an exclusive networking/reading, following by a creative writing event. The title of the workshop: Writing for Life. A special offer price on the workshop ends on Friday.

As writers – especially in that first big work – we often choose to use our own life experiences and memories, drawing on deeply personal themes and details to enrich plot, create three-dimensional characters and build a body of material to work from. But how should we do this effectively, and make the most of those experiences to create really strong writing?

Now, in a creative writing weekend organised by writers’ group Write Now, the author Ardashir Vakil, who also lectures in creative writing in London, will be giving a free reading of a recent short story of his, following by a two-day workshop. Here’s what that weekend will look like…

On the evening of Friday 5 May, Vakil will read ‘Impromptu’, a piece he wrote in 2014 and which was published in the spring of that year in Raritan, a prestigious American literary journal. The piece has a very Viennese theme, and the reading will take place at the Arts Centre below the Cafe Korb in the Innenstadt, beginning at 9 p.m. The author will read for 35 minutes, after which participants will be invited to question Vakil, before enjoying a drink and networking event with the other writers, publishers, journalists and artists present. The reading and social opportunity will be free of charge.

Subsequently, on the mornings and early afternoons of Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 May, Vakil will host a workshop for twelve people, examining how to take one’s own life story, experience and memories, and work it into your writing to enrich plot and characters in novels and short stories. Vakil’s own best-selling novel, ‘Beach Boy’, is a coming-of-age story dealing with his own childhood in ‘60s and ‘70s Bombay, which won the Betty Trask Award.

The workshop will consist of writing exercises when all participants, including Vakil, will write for anything from 5 to 20 minutes. All participants will get a chance to read to the group and receive feedback from Vakil and their peers. Questions on issues such as plot, character, narrative technique and voice will be discussed throughout the workshop, and Vakil will make room to address any outstanding questions participants may wish to discuss during intervals in each session and lunch afterwards.

The workshop is being kept small, with twelve participants, to maximise direct interaction and close-in access to the host. Tickets for the workshop cost € 175 if booked by he end of this week, 31 March, and € 195 if booked after that date. The workshop will be held in the Arts Centre below the Cafe Korb, five minutes’ walk from Stephansdom.

If you think you might be interested in attending the workshop and networking event for free, or would like to book a place on the workshop, please contact Tim Martinz-Lywood by calling 0650 289 1150 or drop in at the Write Now website.

Write Now is a group dedicated to creating a platform for English-language writes in Vienna to network, exchange writing experiences and socialise with life minds. 

Songwriting Workshop

na2008024_Renee Benson_Head ShotsInterview with Renee ‘Raie’ Benson

“Thank you Renee, for teaching me how to turn my broken heart into a song.” 

Ghislaine, Visual Artist, commenting on Introduction to Songwriting, January 2015

On 23 and 24 January 2016, New York soul singer (and much else besides) Renee ‘Raie’ Benson will be hosting a Write Now workshop, Beyond the Basics of Songwriting. The workshop will build on Introduction to Songwriting, which she ran in January 2015. This workshop will look more closely at the technical and emotional aspects of songwriting, focusing on the art of arranging music, using and understanding chord progressions, and developing strong musical intent.

Tim Martinz-Lywood spoke to Renee about what writers can learn from the process of writing a song, what she does in her spare time to help her musical creativity, and what advice she would give a young singer starting out on her career…

Hi Renee, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us! What have you been up to in the past year since Introduction to Songwriting?

It’s been quite a year, Tim! Since the last workshop with Write Now, I’ve performed in New Orleans (always a dream of mine), taught in the NorthWest Territories of Canada (teaching songwriting and singing with First Nations youth), flown an eight-seater passenger plane, taught and led an arts programme for young women in the South Bronx of NY, started writing my first solo album, and worked as the Musical Director for Caravan Stage Theater Co (in New York). I’ve also just finished a Gospel tour throughout Austria. So a busy year, all told.

How did you meet the musicians you’re working with currently?

The members of No Home for Johnny came together through horn player Julian Prueschl. He had an idea for a project combining jazz and hip hop with a singer who could sing intricate jazz lines and rap (and most importantly write her own music).

The group’s killer rhythm section, Raphael Prueschl and Michael Prozwanik, was Julian’s first choice (and not just because he grew up with Raphael!) The group was originally the brainchild of Julian and Vincent Pongracz, but Peter Rom of Jazzwerkstatt joined us after Vincent left. Peter brought sounds and melodies to our music we’d never even dreamt of.

Meaghan and I, of Cheating on New York, met here in Vienna, although we are both New Yorkers. We instantly found each other’s wild and quirky energies charming, and have worked together ever since.

Where can people see you performing in Vienna in the near future?

Well, my time here is coming to an end, as I will soon be off to work on my youth programmes in North America. But for Nina Simone fans, I am doing a tribute at the Albertina Passage in Vienna, at 10.00 pm on 21 January.

What do you like to do outside of music that contributes to your musicality?

Nothing. Music is everywhere in life. Every moment contributes to my music. I am a writer. Even flying a plane has its own melody.

What are some typical mistakes people make when trying to write a song, do you think?

Overwriting! So many songs have too many words, too many images and too many metaphors in them. There is no space for the listener to breathe, capture the moment, pack their bags and take a trip with you. I think many songwriters want their audience to understand their music, and strange as it may sound, this is not necessary. Interpretation is important. Your listener will always apply the music to their life in the way they need. It is vital for a writer to understand when their music is for the people, because at that moment it no longer belongs to you.

How does writing a song differ from writing a short story, or a poem?

It doesn’t. I write short stories and poems all the time. In fact, I am thinking of publishing my own poetry book in 2017 since I have so much material. All the rules apply. That’s why some short stories sound great with a soundtrack in the background.

What might a budding writer of other styles take from your creative process to make their own stories more readable?

Trust. I never appreciated how lucky I have been as an artist to be raised by a community that always allowed me to be myself. My mother never punished me for my grades, but would ask what I needed to do better with my studies. My dance teacher never told me to lose weight, so I happily twirled through numerous dance competitions through my youth winning awards with thick thighs and a big smile. Because I never had to conform, I never did. Working with me means I’m working with you. My style is mindful and always based on what my student needs and who they are. I mean, it’s their life, right? Why would I ask them to write MY story?

You’re sitting in a bar alone after a gig. A young woman sits down next to you, orders a drink and tells you she’s about to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. What should she do – and what should she be sure not to do?

I would laugh and say, “Do it! The world needs music! They need love and most importantly, the world needs you. Oh, and I’m teaching a workshop with Write Now you need to attend.”

On the second point: I never tell people not to do anything. Our journeys are important to travel alone. I provide resources, not advice. In fact, I tell people to trust their bad decisions because you can write about those as well.

What should people expect to take away with them from Beyond the Basics of Songwriting?

I want my writers to leave after two days feeling like they have begun a song they have been trying to write all of their lives. This time, they will think about what the band plays, where they want the song to be heard (venue, radio, recording), and whether they want to perform it themselves or have another singer do so. Most importantly, I want my writers to let their music live on its own (without judgements or emotional ties).

Inspiration should be the big take away. The inspiration to do what you have to to have your music heard or just complete the song (because we all have different goals and intentions when we write).


Renee Benson, aka Raie, is a singer, songwriter, emcee, writer, educator and arts education advocate.  Her voice has taken her to Eurovision, PopFest, FM4 and to headline at events throughout Europe. She is the lead singer of No Home for Johnny, an experimental jazz and hip hop collective and a member of Freudian cabaret duo Cheating on New York.  She has taught for GirlsRock, What’sYourStory, InMyWords and of course Write Now, and run workshops for a wide range of universities, charities and other organisations. 

https://www.facebook.com/reneebensonmusic/?ref=hl

To find out more about joining Renee’s workshop, Beyond the Basics of Songwriting, just go to www.writenow.at now!

 

Interview with Abigail Rasminsky

2012-03-08 14.19.16On 22 November, Abigail Rasminsky will be hosting a Write Now workshop, “Getting Started: How to Begin a Writing Project.” Tim Martinz-Lywood talked to Abby about writing in the online age, writing in New York vs. writing in Vienna, and how to get writing at all…

  1. Abby, much of the work you’ve published since arriving in Vienna has consisted of essays on issues that interest you. Has the new bottom-up, ‘rolling news’ culture of publishing that has developed through social media over the past decade enriched writing, or impoverished it?

Well, it has certainly created more forums for being published. You don’t even need an editor anymore! Get a blog (or a Facebook or Twitter account) and you can write whatever you want and publish it by simply clicking “Send.” In some ways this new culture of publishing—in which there are umpteen places to send your work—is wonderful. If you get rejected by one online magazine, for example, you can just send it to someone else, and usually you hear back quite quickly. Gone are the days of sending anything out by mail and waiting months for a reply. All of this is great. More people are being published, which means there are more voices out in the world. That said, something is lost when editors (and writers) aren’t paid to do their work. There’s a reason editors are employed (and writers, too!)—they are, for the most part, really, really good at what they do! They make your essay or story or novel better. So while I’d say that social media has certainly opened up many more channels for publication, the quality is not necessarily better.

  1. Do blogging and essay-writing help develop the writing craft in other forms, such as fiction or journalism?

Writing helps writing—in other words, the more you write, the better you get at it, no matter the form or venue. The major thing blogging can do is to get you to write regularly—and perhaps it can help you collect a few loyal readers along the way. Because there aren’t any rules to blogging (a blog entry can be mostly photos or links from around the internet), it isn’t always going to do a whole lot to improve your craft, but if the blog entries are little essays—then of course they can help! Anytime you have to think narratively, create a coherent arc, build tension, etc., you’re working your craft, and that can always translate into journalism or fiction.

  1. Much of your work has also focused on being forced to give up dancing professionally at 28, due to injury. How has writing about the experience of a life-changing health issue changed that experience, do you think?

When I was first injured—I herniated two discs in my lower back and had to quit my career as a professional modern dancer—writing was the only thing that provided any solace. I spent most of my days at home, lying on ice or in the bathtub (and ingesting way too many pain relievers), and writing was the only thing that helped me make sense of this scary, destabilizing experience. As the years went on and I started to write about the experience more seriously, I was able to turn something devastating and personal into something that was connected to a larger narrative of pain, illness and loss—I wasn’t the only one who’d been through a life-changing physical change! I wasn’t the only one who had dreams for her life and career and body that fell apart! This is the incredible thing about literature—our own experiences are both our own and part of an enormous web of stories that can tell us something new and enlightening about what it means to be here, trying to make sense of our lives.

  1. What have been your impressions of the Viennese writing scene since moving here from North America? Has the internet dumbed down the major cultural distinctions?

Sadly, these days, my writing scene is almost all online. I communicate with other writers and readers through Twitter and Facebook and over e-mail. I choose what I read based on what my friends and fellow writers back in New York are touting, and I celebrate their books online. Since coming to Vienna, I’ve mostly been steeped in new motherhood, so my intellectual and artistic lives haven’t taken root in cafés, readings or conferences (yet!), but online during the short moments when my daughter is at school or asleep. I am, I must admit, very grateful for the internet for this very reason. I can be 3,000 miles away from New York, but still feel like I have a sense of what’s going on. And perhaps when my baby is a little older, I’ll spend more time drinking coffee and writing in old Viennese cafés like the greats once did.

That said, I’ve found that I have SO MUCH TO WRITE ABOUT simply by living here—the gorgeous city, the experience of being an expat, the difficulty of learning a language and adapting to a foreign culture. And I’ve met a lot of writers whose work is very different from my own, which didn’t happen as much back home. I have a good friend here who’s a science writer, and another who’s working on a dissertation about the novella, so in some ways, being in a new circle of writers has expanded my view of what good and interesting writing can be.

  1. How will your workshop “Getting Started: How to Begin a Writing Project” help participants do just that? How did you come up with the theme for the workshop, and how it has worked elsewhere?

I think of getting started in two ways: first there’s the actual act of getting started—sitting down, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and producing something, no matter how bad. Many people get stuck before they even start because what they hear in their minds (characters talking, plot brewing) is so much better than what actually ends up on the page. Welcome to every writer’s life! If we can just get going—generate material, no matter how sloppy or outlandish—we will have something to work with. So we’ll do a bunch of generating exercises to get some of those ideas out of our heads and onto the page.

The other aspect of getting started is the question of how books actually begin, so to that end, we will look at stellar opening lines from literature. How do the greats do it? Why do we all know “Call me Ishmael”? How can an opening line hook us in and keep us reading? What can an opening line tell us about what’s to come?

People are mostly very happy to just sit down and generate, so the workshop is always a lot of fun. It’s the editing process that’s a whole other story…

Abigail Rasminsky has written for The New York Times; O: The Oprah Magazine; Brain, Child Magazine; The Morning News; Medium; The Forward; The Toast; and Dance Magazine, among other publications. She is a graduate of Columbia’s MFA Writing Program, where she taught creative writing to undergraduates. More at abigailrasminsky.com.

To find out more about joining Abby’s November workshop, Getting Started: How to Begin a Writing Project, just click here and scroll down.

 

Interview with Sylvia Petter: Making Words Count

SP2013-1Coming up in November Write Now will be running its very first workshop: Flash Fiction: Making Words Count by Sylvia Petter. With a PhD in Creative Writing, an impressive portfolio of publications, and as Co-Director of the 13th International Conference on the Short Story in English, this year in Vienna, Sylvia Petter is not only a talented writer, she is also an exceptional workshop instructor. Paul Malone from Write Now recently asked Sylvia to tell us more about flash fiction. Here is what she had to say:

Paul: Although flash fiction has historical roots through many centuries and cultures, it seems to be either in the midst of a renaissance or perhaps even a coming of age. What do you think is driving this?

Sylvia: There have been print anthologies like Sudden Fiction and others around for a while, but I think the Internet has a lot to do with the current popularity of flash fiction, which doesn’t mean that collections and anthologies can’t also appear in print. Online projects like Flash Flood and National and International Flash Fiction Day have also contributed to the popularity of the genre, as have calls for submissions for product-related stories as with a recent competition in Australia to have flash fiction grace labels on bottles of wine. Lydia Davis’ 2013 Man Booker win for a collection of microfiction has also contributed to more awareness of the genre as have more experimental projects such as ones on Fictionaut online. So it would seem that technology and accessibility plays a big role, as well as the fact that byte-size reads on mobile devices can be enjoyed while commuting as well. Flash fiction also lends itself well to audio presentation and performance.

Paul: Are there many publishing opportunities for flash fiction?

Sylvia: Indeed there are. There are a number of online projects running competitions, and renowned competitions like the Bridport Prize and Fish Publishing also now have special sections for flash fiction. A quick Google on flash fiction markets will bring up a plethora of resources.

Paul: Is there a “must read” list of flash fiction stories? What are your favourites?

I can definitely recommend The White Road and Other Stories and My Mother was an Upright Piano, both by the UK writer, Tania Hershman, who received an honourable mention for her work from the judges of the 2009 Orange Prize, traditionally only recognising novels. See http://www.taniahershman.com/thewhiteroadflash.htm

I also love the stories in Robert Olen Butler’s collection, Severance, which contains sixty-two 240-word stories spanning 40,000 years of human history and focussing on the 90-second state of consciousness after decapitation. Austrian Radio FM4 recently aired an interview with Robert Olen Butler, which features three audios from Severance. See http://fm4.orf.at/stories/1748360/

Paul: Does writing flash fiction help develop writing craft in other forms such as the short story or novel?

Sylvia: Flash fiction is a genre in its own right, but the need for brevity, usually below 1,000 words, makes it imperative that every word count, that attention is paid to rhythm and voice. The quest for the right word in the right place, one that resonates and sings, will have you exploring and playing with words, it will let you appreciate the strength of nouns and verbs, and even punctuation. Reading aloud will help you hear where the story sings and where it stumbles. A certain amount of trading in associations and images also contributes to the richness of the form. Needless to say, attention to flash fiction can contribute to the development of craft. But just as short stories are not a practice ground for novels, so too flash fiction is not a means to an end but needs to be treated as its own powerful genre of story telling.

Paul: What is your shortest flash fiction piece?

Sylvia: I’ve written stories of 30 and 50 words as part of an online project, but my latest published one is 96 words, a story, Kone, at Microfiction Monday. http://microfictionmondaymagazine.com/tag/sylvia-petter/ Here’s a link to The New Yorker with some 25-word stories with mention of the categories, dribble, drabble, micro and flashfiction, as well as the famous Hemingway 6-word story. See http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/what-can-you-do-in-twenty-five-words

Paul: What inspired you to write flash fiction?

Sylvia: My natural cruising speed has always been around 1,000 words so I guess you could say I fell into the genre naturally. I love to play with words, but I also like the discipline of keeping to a given word count, honing a story until it shines. Sometimes, though, stories are fragile and might break, so it’s important to listen to your gut as well as your head, and trust the former.

There are still a few places remaining for Sylvia’s flash fiction workshop. Here’s where you can join.

 

 

 

An Opening Night to Remember, Part 2 by Tim Lywood

A huge moment: an informative, fun evening, a cellar full of writers of every shape and size, and a very new kind of writers’ association: that’s the launch of Write Now, held downstairs at the Café Korb in central Vienna last Friday evening, had been eagerly awaited by English-language writers throughout Vienna!

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Paul, Tamara, Ida, Kirsten, and Tim

Click here for more photos!

The evening turned out to be a roaring success, and the numbers proved it as membership rocketed – both at the meeting and online, as word got around over the weekend. Here’s how a year-long project took off with Part 2 of our eye-witness account of the opening night…

IMG_6086Ticketholders started taking their seats at around seven. As they came in, they were given a sticker bearing their own name and half the name of a famous writer (more of which later). After a few minutes’ mingling and helping themselves to wine and water from the open bar, the place was bulging at the seams with aspiring writers – with novelists in there, journalists, short story writers, poets, screenwriters, songwriters and more – chatting to one another, eager to find out more about the new association and what membership might be able to offer them.

At 7.30, people sat down on the seats and sofas, the chatter died down and all eyes moved to the stage, where Kirsten Donaghey, the president of Write Now, made a memorable and emotional speech outlining why we love to write and how membership of a group like Write Now can help transform our writing, and turn what can often be a solitary art into a more sociable and enjoyable activity.

Kirsten was followed by my good self, Tim Lywood, another member of the organising committee, when I described the Write Now networking meetings. These will enable members to get together, hear a talk from a published speaker, and chat in informal surroundings with members of Vienna’s writing community about their latest project, picking up and handing out tips and getting the word out about their work. I talked about how the group already included an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a Vienna-based film director with an Emmy and Golden Globe amongst his silverware, who would all be part of that accessible, informal network.

I then talked about the group’s workshops, and how they would focus on the craft of writing early on, then move on to subjects including social media marketing, self-publishing and the new software the group will be using allowing members to publish snippets of their work as mini-audiobooks to generate interest in their work. It certainly created interest amongst the audience, and with the representative of Vienna’s cultural department who was attending.

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Abby Rasminsky

Next up was Abby Rasminsky, who chatted about her workshop, How to Begin a Writing Project, which will be held on 22 November, how it would help participants get their work moving, and the activities she would be using to create memorable opening sentences. Unable to speak due to illness, unfortunately, was Sylvia Petter, whose one-day workshop, Flash Fiction – Making Every Word Count, will be held on 15 November.

There was a break in the talks for a few minutes, when the point of those stickers with half a famous writer’s name became clear! Tamara Radak, a member of the committee, explained how participants should look for their other half (if you had ‘Oscar’, look for ‘Wilde’), sit down for them and write two opening sentences together. The activity, which was typical of those used at Write Now’s writing meetings, helped mix up the audience and stimulate conversation. All those sentences were then posted in a box – so watch this space, as they’ll be on the site this week!

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Dardis McNamee

After the break was over, Paul Malone – whose critiquing group grew into the new association – got up on stage and described the various benefits of becoming a member, including access to those networking meetings, discounted prices on its workshops, posting their member profiles on the website, subscription to the newsletter and much, much more. Paul also talked about the regular writing meetings, which will look at work written by members and be held every other month. Next up was Dardis McNamee, who talked about her workshop, due to take place early next year, which will focus on how non-fiction writers can look at the city they exist in, peel away its historical and cultural layers, and describe Vienna in an engaging way.

Finally, the evening’s talks were wrapped up by Ida Cerne. Ida chatted for a few minutes about why she had wanted to become a member of a writing group, why she thought her writing improved after critiquing meetings, and more specifically about the association’s writing retreats, which help members take a couple of days out from home and working life to get to know one another and just write at locations in the Austrian countryside.

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The energy and excitement generated by the informal chats about Write Now could be felt throughout the audience, who immediately got up and started chatting with one another about whether they would become members and attend those meetings, retreats and workshops. As Ben Goodspeed – who had just signed up to become a member – got up on the stage and played his guitar in the background, people stuck around and chatted for another couple of hours, got to know the people they would be mixing and writing with as members, and enjoyed the open bar! Prospective members, not just from the English-speaking world but also from as far away as Moldova and Morocco, all of whom write in English and are based in Vienna, got a feel for the new organisation and how it could help their writing.

The evening was generally judged a huge success, and the start of something very new in the English-language writing community. November sees two workshops and a retreat, after which there’ll be a Christmas party in December – so click here to find more!

Were you in the audience at Write Now’s opening night? Tell us what you thought!

Were you a member of the audience last Friday? Then share your memories of the event with us – we’re always curious to hear your opinion! Write to us at LINK and tell us all about it!

Tim Lywood is a member of the organising committee of Write Now