A day in the sun

{ Saturday, April 23, 2011 }
Saturday, April 23 2011

A few months ago, I entered a writing competition. Yesterday, I attended a workshop they organised and the award ceremony. 

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, warm day, like today. They say Belgium is the warmest place in all of Europe at the moment, can you imagine? Belgium has the reputation of being a cold, gray country, full of rain. 
My best friend had also entered the same competition, so we decided to meet up early. I wore a long turquoise dress, with white long sleeves underneath, and a beautiful necklace I borrowed from my mother. I love the feeling of the wind playing with my long skirt. Of course people stared, because it was very hot outside and I was fully covered! Since I don't wear headscarf, people don't really know in which box to place me, I guess. Some might think I'm just crazy, others might guess I belong to some obscure Christian sect. In the end, I don't know what they are thinking, and I don't mind so much. 
My friend and I went to the park. While we were looking for a place to sit, the wind brought some Arabic tunes, and I instinctively looked around to see where the music was coming from. A bunch of Moroccan men. They caught my gaze and I looked away very quickly. We found a place to sit - half in the shadow, half in the sun. There were a lot of people, and also a little boy tirelessly running around in some superhero suit. Very cute. 
We talked about a lot of things, and also about how sure we were we wouldn't win and the reasons why it was better to not win. We sat there for half an hour or so and then we stood up and headed towards the best vegetarian restaurant in town. Really, the food is so delicious. I ordered Thai curry and my friend a vegetarian cheeseburger, and we sat outside. When it was time, we walked towards the building we had carelessly thought we were supposed to be, only to find it deserted, and most doors locked. Then we decided to try out the library, which was from the same organisation, only to find it locked too. A boy approached us to ask if we were also looking for the workshop. Great, so we weren't the only ones who had assumed wrong location. We decided to go back to the main building, which is actually a concert hall, and luckily we ran into a woman who worked there, who gave us the right address. We arrived about half an hour late to the workshop. It was very hot there, and the air was muffled, like the windows were permanently locked. I felt a bit nauseous and shaky, but luckily it passed soon. The class was interesting, but also rather depressing. The lecturer, who is a professional writer, asked us to write a story about ourselves from our current age until we died, in five minutes. It also had to have an irrational, fantasy component. I felt really pressured and wrote a childlike tale about me moving to South Africa with my husband to live amongst giraffes, lions and shamans. Then one night I was sleeping alone in my hut and someone knocked on my door. It turned out to be the ghost of the local shaman. I never told anyone and died when I reached an old age. Really, that was all I could manage in five minutes. I don't even know if some still live in huts in South Africa lol. Then the writer asked some of us to read aloud, and I was astounded by the things I heard. Although they didn't really tell a story, but more like very abstract tales that I found hard to follow. But still I was amazed about what their brains could come up with in bloody five minutes. From that moment I was convinced I wouldn't win.
Then, the ceremony. Of course they wanted to keep us in suspense by scheduling some performances before we were allowed to know the results. The presenter was a guy who thought he was funny. There was actually a performance of a girl that caught my fancy, because she had a nice voice and could play the guitar well. She turned out to be the girlfriend of a friend of my brother, who's also doing well in the music industry.
Next, one member of the jury, who obviously thought that he knew best what good taste was, climbed the stage. He had decided that today, he would do his utmost best to crash our dreams. He started talking about how the quality this year was really low, and that we seemed to have misunderstood the assignment. We wrote too personal, too much about ourselves (how the hell does he know?) and that we should try to write more about persons not directly linked to ourselves. Uhm, hello, the assignment was "write about whatever you want, just don't make it more than 2000 words". Maybe they should have explained beforehand that our stories were supposed to be realistic, descriptive and without fantasy. And you know, the girl who won, she had written a travel story, very realistic, very depressing, without any ideas behind the words. Also, I think the story was about her own experiences. So again, about herself. It's not that I'm jealous of her or anything, because the big final in the Netherlands is held during the period I have my exams, so really my little hopes were just about becoming second or third. But I really wonder, is imagination dead? Is a deeper meaning to a story suddenly old fashioned? It seems like I just don't agree with the Dutch style. Life is already realistic and cold enough, do stories necessarily need to be like that too? I've doubted for a long time whether I should write in Dutch or English. It seems now like I don't have a choice. Although I think my English vocabulary is still seriously lacking, I have the feeling that my style might be more appreciated in that language. I also wish I could do more workshops about writing, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of courses available here. It's such a matter of luck, really, and I wonder if I'm up for the job. I'm rather sensitive, and like that member of the jury proved, critics can be real jerks. 

Well, all by all, I had a nice day with my friend and I didn't let anything spoil it. ;-)


Marie said...

Looks like yuo had a great day! I too love the wind blowing my long skirts.....
The subject of your story looked good by the way - you can't write an essay in 5 minutes but practice is good and will help to improve your syle, for sure and by experience.
You are right Writing should take us far away from the difficulties and hardship Life brought us some days. But it looks like some people enjoy reading about pain or distress more than Joy, adventure, feelings and imaginary fiction.

Have a lovely week-end Safiyah and thanks for taking us all to a sunny day trip! Feels good and refreshing!!

Safiyah said...

Thank you, Marie :) Have a lovely weekend yourself!

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