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Finally I have found some time to do a write up of the Red Village Weekend Workshop that Michael Blommaert, Edward van Egmond, Maarten Luikhoven and I held at the end of last year. Itís a quarterly event, but usually a pretty last minute arrangement because Maarten is in Holland very infrequently. Our first workshops were early in 2012, but we liked them so much we made it into a recurring event and gave them a name, based on our location for the workshop, which is the Red Village in Hilversum.
First we did some catching up on the past months since our last meeting and we discussed some of our successes in the past year. Unfortunately many publishing opportunities take that long to actually get back to you, accept your story, edit it, do layout, create the actual book or magazine and start promoting it. Itís a process, we all agreed, but why does it have to take so looooong???? Anyway, all of us have work accepted at various English publishers and of course reaching nice positions in contests last year created some publishing opportunities in the Netherlands as well.
Itís funny to see that each of us have our own specialties when it comes to writing. Michael Blommaert loves writing alternate history combined with weird fantasy themes. Edward van Egmond has a distinct love for Eastern culture, sometimes combined with Lovecraftian themes, which shows in his work. Maarten is a fan of Iain Banksí Culture novels and some of his stories feature the kind of ultra scale imaginings that Banks was so good at. He also writes with a touch of bizarro, which often gives interesting results. I myself am the most prolific of the group. There is a definite slant towards existentialism in my work, although I try to be allround and I make it a point to write each next story in a different voice, with different themes and often new experimental writing, to see what evokes the best response from our proofreaders. This regularly results in me cooperating with one of the other guys on stories.
We started out with a todo list for some of the anthologies and contests we were writing for at the time. One specific contest allowed us to send in quite a few stories and we all wanted to participate, so we dedicated the whole of Sunday to it. This particular contest delivers jury reports after the first round to improve your stories with and resubmit. This requires secrecy from the participants to not influence the jurors, so I wonít go into any detail here.
Another point we wanted to discuss and investigate more deeply was world building. And yes, weíre all very fond of maps of the worlds that we write in or about and we want to know about the history of such a world from as many perspectives as we can come up with. We came up with some interesting worlds in which certain laws of physics were more or less pliable and we designed the seven wonders of that world based on those altered laws. We spent most of Saturday morning on discussing all the intricacies and details of such a world.
After that it was time for lunch and more discussions on the various US and UK opportunities we saw for some of our stories and ideas. To Dutch people itís sometimes overwhelming to see how large the English language market is compared to the limited size and therefore limited number of publication possibilities in the Netherlands. Fortunately our English writing skills are good enough to compete in that huge market. (at least thatís what we thinkÖ)
In the afternoon Michael Blommaert used his considerable LARP GM skills to guide us through a couple of hefty dialogues in different and mostly challenging situations. Itís strange to say things you yourself would never say in real life, but imagining yourself for example running away from a zombie horde with your brother or sister right beside you, forces you to talk different, short, quick sentences to preserve breath. No time for flowery prose and such, just straight up survival. Interesting to say the least and helpful for writing proper dialogue in stories.
After dinner we had a physics and human physiology discussion with both Edward and Maarten showing different types of martial arts moves and weapons use and the improbability of many of the moves typically seen in bad kung fu movies. Quite educational in fact. I remember a few scenes that I may want to revisit now that Iíve seen that some things are just plain impossible. That concluded the first day of our workshop weekend.
The second day was spent in relative silence with mostly sound of clicking keyboards on laptops to be heard. We were writing, editing and critiquing to get all the stories we had prepared weeks in advance into our computers. The results were pretty good and we ended that day with four nearly finished stories that we would polish over the next days and weeks to enter into the aforementioned contest.
Itís of course only two days per quarter, but the direct face to face communication and feedback really helps us along in our writing endeavors. Itís becoming kind of a tradition, a nice one, and we want to keep it like this. Looking forward to our next weekend!