Tuesday 24 May 2016

Lion City Lit: Marion Kleinschmidt and Coill.net

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore. Our regular column Lion City Lit explores in-depth what’s going on in the City-State, lit-wise. Here Raelee Chapman talks to Marion Kleinschmidt.

Marion native of Bavaria, but now dividing her time between the USA and Singapore, is the founder  of Coill.net  which provides dynamic, bootcamp-style online courses to help writers of all levels to lift their game. She here discusses her upcoming Singapore-based hands-on writing retreat, and the writing scene in Singapore in general. Marion has worked for the last 12 years as freelance copywriter, editor, translator and creative writing coach. A prolific member of Singapore Writers Group, she has published short fiction in Germany and Singapore. She started to run highly successful writing retreats in Bintan and Batam last year. 

So over to Marion…

So far, I’ve found South East Asia the most exciting place to share and coach creative writing. The sheer diversity of voices is mind-boggling and expands our sense of what literature can do. Having said that, I also very much enjoyed teaching fiction and poetry with the Open University in Ireland: the Irish really are natural storytellers! It was during this period, in 2010, that I founded Coill, a series of online creative writing workshops for writers of all levels of experience. It turned out to be the perfect vehicle for me to explore the writing scene in Singapore.

Pestowrimo is the most popular Coill online format so far, a writing gym where you post 500 words of fiction or 10 lines of poetry every day for a month - great for anyone like me who writes zilch without a deadline. Some of the Irish students from my Open University days take part, sharing work with Singapore peers and it’s inspiring to witness these literary encounters between Europe and Asia. Most of my participants have very demanding schedules - juggling work and family commitments - and I love that my workshops enable them to put out work they otherwise wouldn’t.

However, nothing beats the magic of sharing a room with like minds. I look forward to hosting the hands on retreat on 8 and 9 June 2016, a Singapore staycation, where writers can escape for a day or two into that rarefied world of creativity. My goal is to facilitate highly interactive workshops, where participants get to do much more than listening: trying out new techniques and discussing results straight away. After all, writers learn most by doing. They also learn by reading and thanks to my Master of Arts in Comparative Literature, I have a well-stocked larder of spectacular works (now easily transported on my Kindle) for us to analyse.

For now, I divide my time between Asia and Denver, where my partner and my cat hold the fort. I look forward to autumn in Singapore, when more Coill retreats are scheduled to take place on Batam and Bintan. Writers will be able to create their ideal retreat, choosing between a selection of carefully prepared workshops or a writing-only experience. Joint dinners bring everyone together again in an atmosphere of camaraderie. The endorphin levels at these retreats tend to be pretty high!

It was a thrill to see a short-story of mine included within the Tales of Two Cities Anthology, published in 2015 by Ethos and I hope to be around to launch another anthology that holds a short piece of mine: Singapore Love Stories, to be published by Monsoon and edited by the wonderful Verena Tay. Next winter, you’ll find me snow-boarding in the Rocky Mountains and focussing more fully on my own writing projects: mainly short stories and poetry. My favourite poetry form is the haiku: you can complete one in the time it takes the ski lift to carry you to the top of the slope, leaving plenty of time to share them online and stay in touch with my writing pals around the world.