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This Week on Writers Abroad
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Tags: This week writers abroad

Can't believe it's the last day of August and we enter the final quarter of 2015! Time to check on those airy fairy goals I set in January... anyway what's going on at WA this week?

Paola has written a great Blog about running a course for wannabe writers and asks us whether our writing skills are natural or learned. I'm the latter, definitely. Some things may come easier than others but I'm always learning how to write better.

Jill has provided our weekly motivation in the Monday Muses; some prompts which include particular words and a rather intriguing picture.

The September Challenge is up and running. If like me, August has been a dry month on the writing front then head over to the muse and write something for one of these markest. What's to lose?

Issue 3 of WA Magazine is polished and shiny patiently waiting to be released into the world tomorrow, 1st September. Please share where you can.

Our 2015 Anthology is taking shape. PDF approval has been obtained from all external authors and I shall be finalising the cover this week to start our marketing campaign.

The Bragging Stool is having bit of a rest, but I'm sure that will change shortly.†

Have a great week everyone!

Nature or Nurture? Tags: Writing travel foreign expat article style vocabulary vompetition publication critique
My writing was at an all-time low. Not only had my book, which had occupied my life for the best part of the last six months, been rejected by dozens of agents and publishers, but I realised why: they were right, the scope was too narrow. No one was interested apart from me. On top of that, I was in a new country in a different continent, feeling isolated, and I needed my confidence back.

C'mon, Paola, snap out of it, I said to myself. Get a new project. So that's when I decided to launch a travel writing course for non-native speakers on the Expatclic website. I had the credentials, with two wins and several mentions in competitions, and half a dozen published articles over the last couple of years.

Apart from getting myself out of a rut, my objective was to try to get other people to the stage when they feel that buzz of excitement, that 'Yes, I can do it!' We would work towards a choice of two competitions: the Senior Travel Writing one, and Chris Allen's I Must Be Off.

I had a few fears, the first one being, how would I organise it? My priority was to ensure that the articles the participants wrote were their own... I mustn't influence them too much. How could I get them to move from the more analytical, rather long-winded, explanatory Italian style to a more concise style? Another worry was that since it was a free course, everyone might get bored and drop out...

For the organisation, I thought back to my own experience. How had I got to the stage that I could confidently enter a competition or submit an article for publication? My first article was published eight years ago...what had got me there?

Well, first of all, an interest in language. Then the sheer luck of living in places where there were stories to tell (though I believe there are stories everywhere, it's definitely an advantage to have stories from unusual places). Motivation. Curiosity. An outgoing nature. All that was no credit to me.

On the other hand, what had I learnt? What didn't simply land at my feet? And how? Well, reading a lot certainly helped me differentiate between writing I like and writing I don't like. And the second massive lesson came from peer critique, initially on the Writelink site, then on here.

What was the strongest message? Be humble. Listen to others. After all, if you are writing for competitions and publication, you are writing for others...if you want to write for yourself, simply keep a diary!

So, in practical terms, I learnt that a story must be rounded: it must have a satisfying end (despite my initial reluctance: 'But life's not like that!') I learnt not to spoonfeed (spoonfeeding is what I call 'tell' rather than 'show'). I learnt how to use dialogue to liven up a piece. I learnt not to be 100% truthful...yes, there were twenty people there on the occasion I'm talking about, but how about eliminating a few and merging a few to make it simpler?

So on to the Expatclic course, or rather, courses: there were actually two, lasting about three months each: eight expat women, the majority with little or no writing experience, took part.

I only took on people who already had at least a B1 (pretty good) level of English. They were asked to read assigned articles from travel websites, and critique them according to guidelines I sent them. I figured that if they were answering questions like 'Does the dialogue move the story forward?' or 'Is the first sentence catchy?', they would realise these aspects were important when it came to their own writing.

Along the way one challenge for me was go keep track of who had completed which assignment...I'm sure there's a simpler way of doing it than sifting through emails and making and losing lists!

Then each one drafted her article for the competition, coming up with unusual angles for stories from all over the globe. I followed up with suggestions, much as we do here on Writers Abroad, though there was a lot more focus on linguistic and grammatical issues, vocabulary choices, and so on. After that the articles were circulated for peer critique, and final tweaks were made. I think it takes a lot of confidence to critique someone else's work when you're just starting out, but they did a brilliant job.

Six articles were entered into the two competitions, three made it to the final twenty of Chris Allen's competition, and two are in the final ten, right up there amongst great writers like our very own Jill!

It was all great fun. I was delighted that these women with busy lives took the time to go through with it, some of them redrafting their stories four or five times. I certainly learnt a lot about running courses, motivating people, and trying to point people in a direction without compromising their individual style. What did they learn?

'I have to avoid all the...what do you call them? "very"' "extremely" etc.'
'I have to avoid long and convoluted sentences.'
'I have to show and not tell.'
'I learnt that it isnít necessary to write absolutely everything that is in our head; one can omit some details for the sake of clarity!'
'I learnt how to handle foreign words and how not to overuse them.'
'I learnt to allow the "characters" to introduce themselves (e.g.: by giving them names) to add local color to the piece.'
'I learnt one can, indeed, create a very local atmosphere using an absolutely foreign language.'

The whole experience made me curious, and I'd love to hear from you:

How much of your writing skill is 'natural'?
How much is 'learnt'? (The whole nature-nurture argument)

P.S Do go over to the I Must Be Off site and read the ten finalists...and leave comments if you feel so inclined...I won't tell you which my two participants are, though you may be able to guess! (Link below, not sure how to 'embed. It on my iPad!

http://www.imustbeoff.com/search?updated-max=2015-08-20T15:30:00%2B02:00&max-results=7&reverse-paginate=true









This Week on Writers Abroad
Category: Site News
Tags: This week writers abroad

Apologies for my absence but I have my son and family over and enjoying some time out... they go home on Wednesday so will be able to have a proper catch up then. Also having problems with Internet access following a violent storm last week. Anyway a quick summary of what's been/is happening.

Alyson has posted a great selection of Monday Muses, including some pictures from her holiday. Something for everyone!

Rilla has written the weekly Blog about the difficulties of persisting with your writing - a familiar dilemma for all writers.

Doreen has posted the minutes of the Formal Chat uestereday and set up the September Writing Challenge.†

Issue Three of Writers Abroad magazine is due next Tuesday, 1st September. The Joomag link and PDF downloads will be distributed later this week. Here is the link to the Subscribe option, now on the mag page also.

We're entering the last week for submissions by WA members to the Anthology... please send to Jo directly rather than Submittable and it would be a great help if you could format your entries with regard to the Editing Guidelines...

I'm sure I've missed loads, apologies...

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