We’re really excited to team up with The Reader Berlin in 2017 for their annual writing contest. Victoria runs the Reader and we met up with her to talk about her company, the contest and writing in Berlin.
Victoria, how long have you been in Berlin? And why did you decide to found the Reader here?
I’ve been here nearly 9 years and, as everyone knows, once you move to Berlin you stop ageing. I started The Reader because a writer friend convinced me to. She persuaded me that as an editor I had something to offer. Originally, I planned to do manuscript assessments but then I started a workshop, one night a week in the cellar of the Another Country bookshop. The next time I looked we had had over twenty tutors, were running retreats, training, workshops, competitions, and events.
This is the Reader’s sixth year. How has it evolved?
It’s interesting to have this entity. It’s quite mysterious to me. I get approached by authors to do something that I think is exciting, or I think to myself, ‘I wonder if writers are interested in X’. Then we organise it and only then do I find out if people want that. A lot of effort goes in, but it is very rewarding when someone says you have helped them write, or they’ve been inspired by a tutor or a workshop. Creating something of your own, from your own raw materials, is a form of magic. Magic is a good thing.
I like to keep trying new things with the Reader. It’s a vehicle to go on adventures in words.
This is the fourth year of the competition. For the last two years, here at The Circus we’ve hosted the judges’ dinner and watched the sparks flying. We’re delighted that this year we can offer the residency and become a part of the competition. Can you tell any Circus guests who are thinking of entering a little more about the contest? Who can participate and what’s the big prize?
Anyone can enter – absolutely anyone as long as they are over 18. I’m not going to hand a 15 year a old a month in Berlin in a fancy hotel apartment, no matter how talented. They young ones must wait their turn. So, yes, a competition open to any writer, published or unpublished, from any country in the world. Their entry must be in English and the theme is ‘Home is Elsewhere’. I wanted to keep the theme fairly open, but home is a rich subject; the feeling of being at home, the feeling of not being at home; what being away from home can make permissible. In English, I think home is one of the most evocative words, and the idea of not having a home immediately creates this awful pang. And yet, at times, it’s wonderful to leave home behind completely – the people there, the ways of doing this, the expectations, even the morality, and to become someone different. That brings people to Berlin sometimes. But that’s just my interpretation. I am very interested to see what people make of it.
There prize is amazing. I’m quite jealous of whoever wins it. There’s a month in one of your beautiful apartments up for grabs – a whole month for the winning writer to stay here for free, to write and explore Berlin. They also win a place at the British Council’s Literature Seminar in early 2018, which is going to be fantastic. There’s more – weekends at The Circus for two runners up, goody bags of wonderful books, Elsewhere and SAND Journals, beautiful RSVP stationery… and we’re going to publish the top ten shortlisted entries in a book!
So, 4 weeks writing in Berlin. What do you think the writers will find in Berlin? How will our city inspire them?
Well Berlin takes people different ways, doesn’t it? The residency will be taking place in winter, and Berlin winter certainly suggests a certain mood. Other than that it is hard to say. There’s something for everyone here, layers and layers and layers to be explored.
Will Circus guests be able to read the winning piece? Will there be any public readings?
The winning piece will be available to read in SAND, the unbelievably good English-language journal that comes out of Berlin. We’ll also be publishing the runners up here and there online – via our partners and sponsors and on The Reader Berlin website. The ten shortlisted entries will also go into a book. It will be our third book! epubli, one of our sponsors, has kindly helped us make anthologies of the winners of the last two competitions. You can still buy them in print and as ebooks. It’s an amazing feeling when all the effort and excitement and arguing comes together into this object you can hold. I also understand that everyone who entered the competition should get the chance to read the pieces that made the cut.
We’re also hosting a prize-giving event together in February 2018. Don’t you remember, Katrin? We’ll be drinking wine together! The winner and authors on the shortlist will read from their work. I hope everyone involved – those who entered, the judges, sponsors and all those who helped out – will come along and we can all celebrate and have a bit of a knees up.
We are really looking forward to the contest and hosting the winner among us for 4 weeks. Thank you Victoria for taking the time to speak to us. And if you feel inspired, pick up your pen and start writing. You have until July 31st to submit your entry. We are looking forward to reading them. For more details check out: http://thereaderberlin.com/the-2017-berlin-writing-prize/