I have lived in Amsterdam for seven out of the last 10 months (3 having been spent travelling). Considering how short that space of time is, I am amazed out how possible slotting into a writing and literary culture in this town has been. Maybe it’s just that I have never really tried to do such a thing before, or maybe it’s because there is so much going on here. Either way, this town has impressed me with all the literary things that are on the go.
One of the first things I noticed is the profusion of independent book shops. Small places, selling new, second hand, Dutch only, photo only, you name it: shops everywhere. And most of them host a calendar of events consisting of launches, talks, workshops, classes, readings and signings. As someone writing in English, my focus has been on tracking down opportunities only in English, but I can assure, you, there is more than enough Dutch stuff on the go as well.
Big organisations alike the Atheneum Book shop and De Nieuwe Liefde provide larger platforms and bigger names but shops like The American Book Shop, The English Book shop and more all chip in with plenty of activities. Meetup.com is also full of Amsterdam writers groups getting together to read and crit each other’s works, or discuss the latest release over a few glasses of beer. As a newbie expat, I have been able to easily find these events and join them with minimum fuss. They are also a large number of live events and journals keeping everyone informed.
And this for me has been crucial in this New Year. I am adrift from my own network, and its influence does not reach
here. I also have a very small support structure. So being able to tap into a status quo has been refreshing and challenging and I have learned a lot. As a writer in South Africa I was always a rather solitary beast, slaving away in my Linden Turret and churning out work. Here I am aiming to become more a part of a community. It’s a nice feeling from the day to day isolation of scribing.
I have already met senior publishers and agents, top authors and book sellers. It’s …. Relieving I guess. Everything I learned DOES hold and one can start afresh. Except of course it isn’t fresh, because I have a catalogue, I have experience. I am enjoying the freshness of it.
Of course it will soon be my turn to submit material to group scrutiny in a few places… material that is slowly coming along but has yet to assume much shape… which is actually kind of cool. I am hoping some group consensus can help me with some of the issues I have traditionally tried to solve myself: is this a 1st or 3rd person story? Does this dialogue actually work? Etc. etc.
Long story short: Still very pleased to be in Amsterdam!