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Creativity at InterNations — Writing Challenges between Riga and Seattle

With the introduction of online events in 2020, our members have found many new and creative ways of connecting and interacting with each other. While collaborations between different communities weren’t out of the ordinary before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have become a lot more common since and allow members from all around the world to meet who would otherwise never have crossed paths.

In some cases, these connections and collaborations lead to particularly impressive outcomes — this is the case with the Seattle Literature Group and the Riga Language & Literature Group. Knowing that writing a story can be a challenging task for many, Consuls Claude (Riga) and Margie (Seattle) came up with a microfiction challenge for their members.

The authors hailed from around the globe and contributed prose and poetry in abundance — from a moving poem about living with dementia, to a series of linked stories, combined to tell complex tales and stories rooted in the writer’s home culture.

Claude and Margie decided that collecting these works in an ebook would be the perfect way to recognize everyone’s writing efforts. But their 2020 anthology of microfiction is also a reflection of the global nature of InterNations.

We talked to Margie and Claude to learn more about the writing project and their microfiction ebook.

How did the idea of the ebook originate?

The idea of publishing a book originated as a goal for 2020 at the Year-End Social for the Seattle Literature Group in 2019. When we started meeting virtually in 2020, the scope of the project simply expanded. Online activities brought the Seattle and Riga Literature Groups into contact, and with the success of the first microfiction challenge, we realized an ebook would be the perfect way to recognize all our authors, especially those who were writing for the first time. We also realized it would be a great way to accomplish the 2020 book project within the new context of virtual connections.

We would like to know who was involved in making the ebook. Can you tell us a little bit about the members who contributed and where they are from?

The inspiring thing about this ebook is how it encouraged so many members to try writing for the very first time. We know the idea of writing a story can be daunting, but as the event description declared, “anyone can write 250 words”—and that proved to be true. Further, because of the online format, anyone could participate from anywhere. At the end of the year, we collected the stories posted on the activity wall for each microfiction activity and combined them into a single document, forming our ebook!

Each contributing author interpreted the provided prompts in a unique way. One piece that stands out is a moving poem by Amir (from Bangladesh, living in USA) about living with dementia based on a prompt about waking up in a hospital and hearing voices outside a door. Another author is Ben (from USA, living in Poland) who created mini chapters by responding to all the prompts provided each time, creating a series of linked stories that combined to tell complex tales. Other authors, such as Praline (from South Africa, living in Spain), penned stories rooted in their home cultures while simultaneously highlighting our common humanity.

How has the online format of InterNations helped you to create the ebook? And how did members get involved in making of the ebook? Tell us about the process.

Given the enthusiastic response to the first microfiction challenge in spring 2020, we launched an ongoing series of joint microfiction events. The online format proved perfect for the activity, as we could post the prompts a few weeks in advance, and participants would then post their microfiction stories of 250-350 words in length onto the activity wall as they wrote them. Each new post would inspire further posts by other participants, and it was exciting for everyone to see the collection grow as the date of the actual event approached. Participants also used the activity wall to share their feedback and support for one another in comments, which meant that by the time we finally met on Zoom for the event itself, the conversation had already started.

What other activities do you have planned in the next few months?

Over the course of 2020 we developed two types of activities: 250-word microfiction in English with several prompts provided and 350-word freestyle microfiction where authors can write on the topic of their choice in the language of their choice. The freestyle events in particular have proven attractive as authors can write in the comfort of their native language or challenge themselves to create a story in a language they are working to master.

Our next two events are being hosted by the Riga Language & Literature Group on 11 April and 2 May 2020, and the first stories have already been posted on the walls. We invite you all to join us and discover your “inner author”! Contributions to these and subsequent microfiction events will be included in our 2021 anthology ebook.

If you want to read the works of fiction created by the members of these groups, take a look at the 2020 ebook anthology.


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