Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Vacationing in the Low Countries: Reflections on Writing about Belgium and the Netherlands

This was my second year participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Last year I wrote about wine--which became part of my comedic wine book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker. Meanwhile this year I wrote about the Low Countries. As an American who's spent beaucoup time in Belgium and the Netherlands I gambled that I had enough material to write for a whole month about these two adjacent, diverse yet different countries.

I should have bet double or nothing because I would have won big time. I had so much to write about  I ended up cutting material. I'm a good gambler.

Like last year, I wrote a list of A-Z topics in advance but did not write the actual blog post until the day it needed to be posted. Writing this way is a great challenge to me and I enjoyed it. While last year I found it tiring to write every day, this year my blog post was just one of the several things I was writing: namely a novel, a screenplay and comedy sketches. My writing work ethic has improved in one year and the A-Z Blogging Challenge has helped that.

As a side note I learned during the challenge that a screenplay I wrote made the top six finalists in a screenplay competition. From these six, one finalist will be chosen to have their screenplay made into a movie. The finalist winner will be announced in June.  Pretty exciting stuff.

During the A-Z Challenge month I switched between writing about the Netherlands then writing about Belgium. For example, I wrote A is for Amsterdam, B is for Brussels, C is for (Dutch) Canals, D is for (Belgium's) Diamonds, etc. this worked well and kept things lively.

This year I had the label of (HU) for Humor and I'm glad I did for it helped readers identify me as a humor writer. Just in case they didn't get my hilarious, knee-slapping jokes.

I visited a number of other blogs which, like last year, reminded me how vast the world and blogosphere are. It's a good reminder. Since I couldn't visit all of them in April I plan to try to visit the rest now that the Challenge is over.

The two best things about this year's Challenge were: 1) The people reading and leaving comments; and 2) Trying out a non-humourous post on my blog. About the first, the comments are proof that the reader read the post, which always makes me happy. As for the second--the un-funny writing--when writing about Belgium, I felt I had to write about Ypres, the Belgian town and site of five big World War I battles. With this year being the 100th anniversary of that War to End All Wars, I took a gamble that my usual and new readers would go with me on the sad, historical journey to Ypres to remember the 1.7 million soldiers and civilians who died near Ypres over the four years of the war. I should have bet triple or nothing. Not only did they go with me, they spoke and wrote to me about it afterwards. Not everything in life is funny. Sometimes we have to suppress our funny bones and feel with our hearts. Writing about Ypres showed me that.

All of which brings me back to the best thing about the Challenge: the people.

Thanks to all the people who read my blog, participated in the Challenge, and wrote their own blog(s). Finally, a special thanks to all those writers who organized this year's wonderful event! For me it was even better than last year!

I gambled and learned so much in this year's Challenge, so now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the racetrack to gamble on California Chrome in the Preakness!