WB Column: Accents

Awrite! Hou’s aw wi ye? Can A gie ye a haund?

It’s quite remarkable that when you study English you get taught about grammar, literature, philosophy even, but nothing about pronunciation. We do have phonology, but that is mostly theoretical and only in Received Pronunciation. We learn how to pronounce sounds and phonemes, but don’t actually practice it, there is no oral exam.

We firmly believe that there should be a possibility to both practice oral skills and different types of accents. Wouldn’t we all like to show off our well-polished Scottish or Australian accents? We understand that this might not be suitable for the obligated curriculum, but it would definitely be so much fun as an elective. Take the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen for instance, they already have a similar course to train their students’ oral communication skills.

It would not only be fun but also very useful to be able to speak different accents, because it would broaden the fields of research in other courses. There are books that read as though written in an accent. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh for example, is written in Scottish English, or The Color Purple by Alice Walker, which is written in African American Vernacular English, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner in a Southern American dialect. One can of course understand these books when you speak RP, but knowing the accents and where they come from enriches the experience of reading so much more.

Another reason to learn all sorts of accents, is because it is toe-curlingly awkward when you’re having a conversation with a native speaker and you don’t understand them, to tell them that you study English at University. We’ve had many occasions when we had to embarrassingly admit to this.

Basically, we’re secretly hoping a UvA staff member will read this column and get it done. From our most beloved source WikiHow. We’d like to share with you this golden gift of learning how to speak like a Geordie: http://www.wikihow.com/Talk-Like-a-Geordie . Enjoy rebelling against the system and learning your first non-standard accent on your own! Cheers!

Ines Severino & Yentl Dudink

We’re only human / Column Block

We as editors of Writer’s Block have decided to start a new series of columns, of which this is the first. Our aim with this is to write about the things that us editors encounter whilst being a part of the Writer’s Block editorial board.

Having read so many work sent in by you, it’s daunting to start writing ourselves. We have to be such grammar nazi’s about your work, so how to write our first column ever? We want to get the best out of your work, however, we are, not infallible either. Most members of our board are aspiring writers as well; we understand that writing is not easy, and it is even harder to show your work to others and be criticized.

So with that in mind, what would be a suitable subject for an editorial column? Why not to show you how hard it is for us to write a column open to your critics. Let’s see if we can write a column that lives up to our own standards.

Where to start, where are we going? Can we make grammatical errors? What will our fellow editors say? As we mentioned before, the task is daunting, to say the least. We are the first editors of Writer’s Block to write a column for our website, however all the editors have to face the same challenge as we are facing right now. So what now? Writer’s Block? Column Block? Blocking our column, blogging our column, blogging our block? We don’t know. We thought it fitting to write about our difficulty to write a column. So here we are writing, thinking, delving deeper into an abyss of despair. How will we ever reach our target of 500 words, or rather, will we ever reach it? It feels like we’re trying to make a deadline, with all our readers , writers and editors as our professors.

We are nearing our end now, thankfully. We can assure you, it was quite the ordeal. This still has to be approved by the editors. Let’s hope they are kind to us. Five more words. Done! Or… ?

Joeri Vrouwenvelder & Joshua Swart

How we work at Writer’s Block

As published in Writer’s Block #20, Februari 2014


Dear readers,

You might wonder what we, the editors of Writer’s Block, actually do when you hear silence in our office and when we keep telling you we are lost in a cacophony of sound, craving caffeine and sleeping too little. This is why we want to enlighten you as to what the world of Writer’s Block actually entails. We are a small group of people and we have a big interest in our readers and contributors. Therefore, we want to show  you how we are running this magazine, so that you know it as well. Every once in a while, all of a sudden a Writer’s Block wildly appears lying around in the Bungehuis, ready for you to read. This has happened twenty times by the time you read this. This is the fifth time that the Writer’s Block editors in this current formation (more or less) make sure you get to read the finest pieces of writing from our contributors. We plan to keep doing this, albeit with different people joining and leaving the editorial board each year.

Every single week we to come together in the Bungehuis and talk about the submissions we received. If we didn’t receive any, it is a wonderful moment for us to despair and lapse into yet another brainstorming session about PR techniques, because we need submissions in order to exist. Every submission is read by all editors before the meetings and is discussed in all its aspects when we meet. We often don’t agree on which is the best part, or the least interesting part, but we keep on talking until we reach a consensus about what feedback we want to give the writer. If we don’t reach a consensus, we – very democratically – vote and some will be happy and some will be heartbroken for the rest of the meeting. For each piece of work, whether we want to place it or not, we assign one or two editors to add comments to the text. With these comments we try to point the writer to grammatical or lexical mistakes and gently try to suggest some changes. This could be a suggestion to leave out a certain part that we think is unnecessary and without which the story will have a stronger impact on the reader or will simply flow more easily. We always want to be in dialogue with our writers rather than imposing radical changes on their texts without explanation. Sometimes writers are not amused by our suggestions, but then again, writing is a very personal engagement. It’s hard to let someone touch your baby and you might not expect to have to change a lot in your writings when you send your work to a magazine. We, however, want to make use of the full potential that a text has. Therefore, we want to share our humble opinion with you and we hope the writer can find a use for our trains of thought. Of course we have read a lot of texts by now and we try to use all this experience to edit your works and prepare them for publication.

While our meetings are the most regular part of our schedule concerning Writer’s Block, it is definitely not the only thing that has to be done in order to successfully publicize the magazine. The editors have a lot of email contact with the writers and once in a while arrange a personal meeting with them. We are often busy with designing posters, flyers, finding interesting things to share with you on Facebook and sometimes visiting your classes to encourage you to submit anything you might have written lately or in the past. Within the group, Ruby takes care of our e-mail inbox, Ines takes notes during the meetings and Joeri takes care of  our expenses and income. Robert usually leads the meetings and Nora makes to-do lists for everyone and makes sure the entire group takes notice of the deadlines ahead. Isadora takes care of our contact with the Amsterdam Writer’s Guild, a group that we’d like to support in their enthusiasm for English creative writing in Amsterdam. Isabel, Thirza, Yentl and Joshua are passionate general editors and writers. They work hard to fill our issues with the very best.

After the editors have finished discussing the texts, the final editing round still has to be done. This means looking for minor mistakes like misspelled words, comma splices or double spaces. Then it is time to collect and order all the reviews, stories, poems, photos and other creative works that are ready to be placed in the issue. The actual pages are then put together and designed by Nora, after which the whole is once again checked for errors by our proofreaders. The last two steps consist of contacting the press and making sure they print our issue in the exact right format and on the exact right paper, and eventually, it is time to distribute all the copies that are now ready to be devoured by you. At this very moment we can only hope that you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed making it, and that it will inspire some of you to send in your writings for the next WB!

Yours sincerely,

Yentl Dudink and Nora van Arkel


Would you like to know more or give us some feedback? Contact us here:

Send in your work for #19!

We are looking for new work for our #19! The submission deadline is soon, so don’t hesitate and send us your poetry, columns, stories and more! You can submit your work until the 26th of September and we hope to read all your wonderful things. We have a max of 1200 words for short stories and essays and a max of 600 words for reviews, but if something is only a bit too long, please send it anyway!

Email your writings to writerssblock@gmail.com

Winners of the Competitions

Now the summer has started for real, Writer’s Block would once more like to put the winners of our three competitions in the spotlights. Once again, congratulations!


After many meetings and careful deliberation we decided, together with the two jury members (Dr Jane Lewty and Dr Rudolph Glitz), that the poetry prize should go to Christian Greer for his “Morimoto-san.” Furthermore, two other competitors deserve credit by giving them an honorable mention for their outstanding poems: “Conversation at Night” by Claudia Daiber and “Asperger in Love” by Maarten van Lummel, to be read in WB #18.

– The WB Editorial Board

The winning entry honours all the precepts of a haiku (in terms of line, syllables, and sound units) and certainly achieves the objective of this classic poetic form—to encapsulate a distinct moment, firstly in time and secondly within the sonic and literal abeyance of the white page. Here, we have tiny shards that blur into a single moment of dispassionate reflection, a whirring frenzy of masochism that settles into a dreamlike observation. Most impressively is how the subject mimics the act of writing itself, the violence of inscription and how a single stroke made by a pen or stylus can lapse into over-scoring and laceration. The audience of the poem looks at another audience who misreads a situation; beauty becomes horror and vice versa. This poem deftly and vividly renders the process of error, ironically through a masterful and controlled process.

– Jane Lewty


With a 200 yen box cutter

Mr. Morimoto cut himself to ribbons

it looked like he was dancing

by Christian Greers


For the translation competition the competitors were assigned to translate a short excerpt from Allerzielen by Cees Noteboom as best as they could, that is, by creating a readable text that is faithful to the meaning and style of the original. The two jury members, Dr Imogen Cohen and Dr Theodor Harmsen, awarded the first prize to Marjolijn Huiberts for her excellent English translation of Noteboom’s passage. Although it has some “surprising word choices,” according to Harmsen, it also had “some good solutions” and was rated as a very “promising” translation. Read the winning submission below.

– The WB Editorial Board

Just a few moments after he walked past the bookstore, Arthur Daane realised that a word had stuck to his mind, and that he had already translated that word into his own language, making it sound less dangerous than it did in German. He wondered whether the final syllable was responsible for that. Den, a strange, short word, not nasty and tart like certain other short words, but rather reassuring. Somewhere you could keep yourself safe, or where you would stumble upon something hidden. Other languages didn’t have such a word. He tried to get rid of the word by walking faster, but that didn’t work anymore, not in this city, which was drenched with it. It continued to stick to him. He had that with words, lately. Sticking was the right word for that matter; they stuck to him, and they resonated. Even when he didn’t say them out loud, he heard them. Sometimes they actually seemed to reverberate. As soon as you unravelled them from the sentences in which they were embedded they take on, if you were sensitive to this, something frightening; a freakishness you didn’t want to think about or else your whole world would start to shift. Too much spare time, he thought, but that was just how he wanted his life to be. In an ancient textbook he once read about ‘the Javanese’, who, whenever he had earned a shilling, would sit under a palm tree. In those bygone days, you could apparently get by on a shilling forever, because, according to the story, the Javanese only went back to work when his shilling was spent. A crying shame, the booklet said, because that’s not the way to a get ahead in life, but Arthur Daane had decided to agree with the Javanese.

by Marjolijn Huiberts


This is a beautifully crafted and moving story about a difficult topic: aging and death. The author manages to structure and balance the piece perfectly, while creating a considerable impact in the form of a deeply moving and personal “sting in the tail”. In short, this story leaves the reader with plenty of food for thought through a compelling meditation on the meaning of life, death and longing.

– Joyce Goggin

Where Nothing Ever Happens

Dead people were laughing on the television. Their guffaws and snickers, canned somewhere in the early sixties, reverberated on the walls of our country-style kitchen. The jubilant hysterics were reduced to ominous moans through its singular walls. Nobody was alarmed. Dead people or not, it all comes down to the same thing: sound. Vibrations. 

All life is made of noises. I should know. I hear voices every night before I fall asleep. You got to excuse me for making this sound more severe than it actually is. Most of my night-time visitors are remarkably benign. Marilyn Monroe sings me birthday songs. Anne Frank whispers secrets in my ear. Franz Kafka thinks my eyes are beautiful. Even Bette Davis agrees. Though I realise how ridiculous it is to be flattered by people who do not exist outside of pictures, I consider them my dearest friends. It are their words that triumph the din of mundane life, that force my fears into nothingness. 

Caroline is blasting The Sugarcubes in her room upstairs. The strange lyrics, sung with a strong Icelandic accent, slither down the stairs like a wailing spectre. Caroline had just turned fifteen, and at her age it was common to appreciate music of a generation other than your own. In her case, that of the early nineties. Caroline may be impressionable, but she is a good kid. I wish I could tell her about my bedtime conversations, but she wouldn’t understand. Caroline dabbles in the world of the living; I spelunk in the abyss of the dead. 

The night air is cool as it slips through the crack of my window. Mom and Dad are still watching television downstairs. I lie in bed, facing the ceiling. Brown blotches taint its flaking surface. My heaven is rotten. How could it be any different, with so many souls ascending to the skies every day. The putrid stains are like a silent foreboding. Like the smell of old people’s houses. Stuffier than hospitals, but still the clinical scent of a death knell. A place inhabited by people with skin like parchment and nitroglycerin pills in their pockets. Just a small fright away from a heart attack, the end always looming near. 

When my grandmother died, my parents and I took care of her belongings. Caroline was too young to accompany us at the time, so she stayed with my aunt for the weekend. Mom equipped me with a pair of gloves and a garbage bag, and commanded me to throw away everything that couldn’t be sold on Craigslist. At the time, this seemed a strange request from someone who just lost the one who gave her life. Of course, now I know that people have their own ways of coping with loss. For Mom, it was the destruction of any evidence that she once had a mother of her own. Drastic, but acceptable. With the open garbage bag trailing behind me like a plastic shadow, I traversed the staircase and did my best to heed my mother’s request. I entered the bathroom, where I perused my grandmother’s toiletries. These seemed particularly useless to me as no one cares for second-hand sundries, so out went the toothbrush, the hand-mirror, the half-empty bottle of Coco Mademoiselle. A small stub of red lipstick was spared this tragic fate and slipped into my pocket as a prize. I was a scavenger hunting for treasure. Unlike my mother, I refused to annihilate the living memory of the dead. 

The stains in my ceiling, they’re products of that same philosophy. They give my room character. When it rains, small droplets collect in a ridge to form larger drops that fall down on my face as I sleep. I do not mind them – it feels like dead souls are crying with laughter at my bedside, amusing themselves with my juvenile dreams. I prefer their laughter over the canned kind from the television any day. In fact, I consider myself lucky to be in their presence. Many people would gladly die for someone at their side every night. 

Caroline turns off her stereo. A mild thump, the result of her ritual jump on the bed before sleep , and I know the last of living noises has ceased for this night. My heart swells in my chest but the organ is mute, and I am not sure if I am alive or dead. I wonder about this a lot. Yesterday I felt the skin on the back of my hands and noticed they weren’t as smooth as they were a few years ago. They felt dry and cracked, like those of my grandmother as she lay in her coffin. I remember stroking them softly before they lowered the lid. The smoothness was replaced by an almost reptilian roughness, and I realised I had begun to age somewhere along the line and that from now on everything would be one decline after another. Such is life, Grandma would have said. Only she did not say that. She was throbbing in the earth somewhere with all my former goldfish and guinea pigs. 

Maybe they aren’t coming tonight. The voices, I mean. Maybe they never were here in the first place. I guess that must be Death’s idea of an awkward silence. She has an odd sense of humour. I should know. When I came down the stairs after filling my garbage bag with dental floss and hairspray, I noticed Mom silently crying in the hallway. She was clutching a gilded baby shoe with pink laces. But when she turned around to face me, she was smiling as if someone had just told her a charming anecdote. Something I could not hear. I guess sometimes being dead is just that. Silence. A story saved for another life. 

I focus again on the ceiling. The stains look darker tonight. For a minute I think I hear something, then I realise it is just the wind rustling my curtains. I resume my normal heart rate. Perhaps they are not coming tonight. It would not be the first time the living were ignored by the dead. Thousands of prayers are launched from churches worldwide on a daily basis, but none ever receives a reply. Funny. I draw the sheets up to my shoulders and wonder where my friends have gone. I fantasise about Marilyn and Anne distorting radio signals with their literary discussions. I hear Kafka cracking jokes to a colony of cockroaches. They all think it’s hilarious. Even Bette Davis agrees. I let out a chuckle before my eyelids start to flutter, and I know that I am drifting towards sleep. My 17 16 

friends will be fine. The dead go on living in ways we cannot fathom. A lady on the news said her late husband contacts her every evening around supper. The phone rings twice and she is never on time to get it, and when she dials return she gets the number of her husband’s old cell phone. His voice-mail tells her that she cannot reach him right now, but that he will be sure to call her back if she left him a message. She says she misses him, and puts down the receiver. Then she returns to the potatoes boiling on the stove. 

None of this is cause for alarm. We expect the dead to come back to us. We accept ghosts as a legitimate possibility. The idea that our loved ones have dispersed into nothingness is much harder to process. So we invent rituals, we light candles after Sunday service, we burn incense at our window. We keep pictures in our wallets. The dead always smile at us when we pay for our morning coffee. Because unlike them, we do keep on living. We wake up every day and we go on. We need those pictures to remember their faces. Maybe I think of my grandmother before I fall asleep because I do not want to lose her a second time. They say the first time is always the hardest, but I beg to differ. It is the decay that hurts. 

Look at your hands. Notice how they are not smooth like they were before. Look at them again tomorrow. Keep this up for a year or so. Think about me when you see the flakes forming. When you start to fall apart. Remember that wallets get stolen all the time. Nothing lasts forever. You are not exempt from this fact. Sleep tight. 

by Nadia de Vries

Essay and Fiction Competition


After the success of the first two competitions, Writer’s Block magazine will now continue with the next categories: essay and fiction. We are looking for:

Essay: No restrictions regarding theme and form. Maximum of 1500 words.

Fiction: No restrictions regarding theme and form. Maximum of 1500 words.

We hope you’ll be inspired to write for us in the next few weeks, or that you already have something that you can adjust so you can make it to fit our competition!


A professional jury of at least two academics will award a prize worth 50 Euros to the winner in each category. The winners will of course also be published in our next issue.


To participate, you have to be a student of the University of Amsterdam, but if you are not, you are very welcome to submit any kind of creative writing for the magazine itself.


You can submit your work (essays and stories) until the 21st of April by sending an email to writerssblock@gmail.com and mentioning the category of your choice in the header.

Please let everyone who might be interested know we are hosting this competition and we are looking forward to read you work!

Poetry and Translation Competition


Writer’s Block magazine proudly announces four competitions: in the upcoming half-year we will be hosting a translation, poetry, essay and fiction competition. The first part, for the next edition of WB, will be the translation and poetry categories. This is what we are looking for:

Poetry: No restrictions regarding theme or amount of words. Send in your best work, with a maximum of 3 poems.

Translation: 300 words of Dutch prose into English. The text we selected is from Allerzielen by Cees Noteboom, to be found below.


A professional jury of at least two academics will award a prize worth 50 Euros to the winner in each category. The winners will of course also be published in our next issue.


To participate, you have to be a student of the University of Amsterdam, but if you are not, you are very welcome to submit any kind of creative writing for the magazine itself.


You can submit your work (poetry and translation) until the 24th of January by sending an email to writerssblock@gmail.com and mentioning the category of your choice in the header.

Please let everyone who might be interested know we are hosting this competition and we are looking forward to read you work!

Text to be translated, by Cees Noteboom, first passage from Allerzielen:

Pas een paar seconden nadat hij langs de boekwinkel gelopen was merkte Arthur Daane dat er een woord in zijn gedachten was blijven haken, en dat hij dat woord intussen al in zijn eigen taal vertaald had, waardoor het meteen ongevaarlijker klonk dan in het Duits. Hij vroeg zich af of dat door de laatste lettergreep kwam. Nis, een raar kort woord, niet gemeen en bits zoals sommige andere korte woorden, eerder geruststellend. Iets waarin je je kon opbergen, of waar je iets verborgens in aantrof. Andere talen hadden het niet. Hij probeerde het woord weg te krijgen door sneller te lopen, maar dat lukte niet meer, niet in deze stad, die erin gedrenkt was. Het bleef aan hem haken. De laatste tijd had hij dat met woorden, wat dat betreft was haken de juiste uitdrukking: ze haakten zich aan hem vast. En ze klonken. Ook als hij ze niet hardop zei hoorde hij ze toch, soms leek het zelfs of ze galmden. Zodra je ze uit het snoer haalde van de zinnen waarin ze thuishoorden kregen ze, als je daar gevoelig voor was, iets angstaanjagends, een vreemdheid waar je niet al te veel over na moest denken omdat anders de hele wereld ging schuiven. Te veel vrije tijd, dacht hij, maar dat was nu juist zoals hij zijn leven had ingericht. In een oud schoolboek had hij ooit gelezen over ‘den Javaan’ die, als hij weer een kwartje verdiend had, onder een palmboom ging zitten. Kennelijk kon je in die lang vervlogen dagen heel lang leven van een kwartje, want die Javaan ging volgens het verhaal pas weer werken als het kwartje helemaal op was. Daar werd schande van gesproken in dat boekje, want zo kwam een mens niet verder, maar Arthur Daane had bedacht dat de Javaan gelijk had.