Register by March 15 for our Newport, RI Writing & Yoga Retreat (April 2-5, 2015)

CWW-Newport-March15DeadlineThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop has extended the registration deadline for the first annual Newport, Rhode Island Writing and Yoga Retreat on April 2-5, 2015!  The retreat will be held in the beautiful, gilded Newport, Rhode Island where participants can take a mansion tour, visit the Newport Art Museum or amble along the Cliff Walk during their free time. Enjoy a massage or aromatherapy! Tuition includes:

  • Shared room lodging
  • Daily creative writing workshops 
  • Craft seminars
  • One-on-one manuscript consultations
  • Toasts
  • An orientation dinner
  • A farewell brunch 
  • Yoga and meditation classes

During the retreat, writers and yoga practitioners will learn craft techniques alongside award-winning and internationally-renowned authors such as Kathleen Spivack (fiction, poetry, nonfiction), Stephen Aubrey (playwriting, screenwriting), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), & Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction).  Yoga and meditation will be lead by Elissa Lewis

Not able to make the whole weekend? Partial attendance is welcomed, and special tuition rates may also be available to students.  There are limited seats, so apply early!  The extended deadline for admittance for our retreat is March 15, 2015.  Apply at cww.submittable.com.

 

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2015 Retreats featured in Poets & Writers Magazine

IMG_0036Writers such as David Shields, Kathleen Spivack, Peter Orner, Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Stephen Aubrey, Jessica Reidy, and yoga instructor Elissa Lewis are featured in the March/April 2015 Writers Retreats Issue of Poets & Writers Magazine for their instruction in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, and yoga the CWW Newport, RI Writing & Yoga Retreat (April 2-5, 2015), CWW Summer Writing Retreat in Paris (July 22-30, 2015), and CWW Summer Writing Retreat in Granada, Andalucía, Spain (August 3-10, 2015).  In this special issue of Poets & Writers, the “Conferences & Residencies” section features the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2015 Spring and Summer Creative Writing Retreats in New England, France, and Spain.   Here’s some more information on each retreat:

CWW Newport, RI Writing & Yoga Retreat (April 2-5, 2015)

NewportThe 2015 Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Writing & Yoga Retreat will be held from April 2 to April 5 in Newport, Rhode Island. The retreat offers workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as craft seminars, manuscript consultations, time to write, daily yoga and meditation classes, and local excursions. The faculty includes poets and prose writers Rita Banerjee, Kathleen Spivack, and Diana Norma Szokolyai; and prose writer Stephen Aubrey. The cost of the retreat is $650, which includes tuition and some meals. Shared room lodging is also included. Using the online submission system, submit five pages of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction with a $5 application fee by March 15, 2015. Apply at cww.submittable.com

CWW Summer Writing Retreat in Paris (July 22-30, 2015)

ParisThe 2015 Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Paris Writing Retreat will be held from July 22 to July 30 at the Hôtel Denfert-Montparnasse in Paris. The retreat offers workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as craft seminars, one-on-one manuscript consultations, time to write, daily yoga and meditation classes, and local excursions. The faculty includes poets and prose writers Rita Banerjee, Kathleen Spivack, Jessica Reidy, and Diana Norma Szokolyai; and fiction and nonfiction writer David Shields. The cost of the retreat is $2,950, which includes tuition, lodging, and some meals. Using the online submission system, submit five pages of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction with a $5 application fee by May 5, 2015.  Apply at cww.submittable.com

CWW Summer Writing Retreat in Granada, Andalucía, Spain (August 3-10, 2015)

alhambra-granada-spain-900x1440The 2015 Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Andalucía Writing Retreat will be held from August 3 to August 10 at the Hotel Gar-Anat in Granada, Spain. The retreat offers workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as craft seminars, time to write, daily yoga and meditation classes, and local excursions. The faculty includes poets and prose writers Peter Orner, Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Jessica Reidy. The cost of the retreat is $2,950, which includes tuition, lodging, and some meals. Using the online submission system, submit five pages of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction with a $5 application fee by April 20, 2015.  Apply at cww.submittable.com

CWW Writing & Yoga Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island (April 2-5, 2015) Class List

CWWNewportSchedule1

Join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop in Newport, Rhode Island for the opportunity to take these exciting classes taught by award-winning authors and editors. The 4-day retreat will allow participants to hone their craft and writing skills in fiction, poetry, non-fiction, screenwriting and playwriting.

Registration for the retreat ends on March 15, so apply while seats are still available.

Workshop on the Evocative Object
(with Diana Norma Szokolyai and Rita Banerjee)
Enjoy searching for and discovering evocative objects in your surroundings, and tell their stories through lyrical descriptions that will thrill the reader.

Literary Taboo (with Rita Banerjee)
Learn to play a literary game that will keep you on your wordsmithing toes. You will have to think of new ways to write about subjects, while avoiding clichés!

Your Voice: Bringing your Page to Performance (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
Whether preparing for a literary reading or recording your poetry with musicians, it is important to develop your own voice because it is the vehicle for your words. In these sessions, you will connect with your inner voice to bring it outward, learning how to better create a bond between you and your audience.

Developing Your Manuscript for Publication (with Kathleen Spivack)
All genres, all levels welcome
Please choose only one project to work with, and bring all necessary materials. Plan to dedicate yourself fully to your writing project during the retreat. This course will look at beginnings, transitions, and choices of endings. We’ll discuss the many publication options, but if your manuscript isn’t ready for that yet, don’t worry. My goal is to help each of you shape your manuscript to the best of your ability. The classes offer encouragement, support and yes, the gentlest of pushes. We’ll work with the positive energy of the group to support you in your writing goals.

Weirding the World (with Stephen Aubrey)
“My mind affects my reality.” -Farad’n Corrino (in Frank Herbert’s Dune)
The script is not a flat work of literature, not a description in poetry of another world, but is in itself another world passing before you in time and space. Language is only one part of this world. The rest is space. And before we populate this space, we must create it.

Theater of the Impossible (with Stephen Aubrey)
From “Exit, pursued by a bear” to today, part of the joy of live performance has been in watching the difficult, the unlikely and the unstageable become staged. Instead of thinking of a play or script as a blueprint for a realist performance, this class encourages you to think of it as a challenge for potential collaborators. A problem to be solved instead of a recipe to be followed. In this class, we will explore the tension between imagination and execution in order to answer one of the central questions of playwriting: how do we create spectacle and what’s the purpose in doing so anyway?

Against Aristotle: New Structures for New Stories (with Stephen Aubrey)
For over two millennia, Aristotelian structure has dominated the Western sense of story. Protasis, epitasis, and catastrophe. Over and over. The same structures breeding the same stories. In this class, we’ll first look at what makes Aristotle’s ideas so seductive before investigating alternative ways of imagining and telling story. From collage/assembly to circular structure to devising, we’ll study new forms of a very old practice.

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Recommends: Winter 2015 – Books to Keep You Warm

EveningSnowatKanbara
Hello everyone!  Happy Valentine’s Day!  We hope you’re all enjoying 2015 and staying warm through all that snowy weather!  To celebrate February and the snowy tidings of 2015, our CWW staff has written about their favorite reads to keep you warm through this winter season!  Some of these works that have inspired our own writing and changed how we think and see the world, and other works have just stayed with us, entertained, or made us stop, stare, or smile for a little while.  Special thanks to Stephen Aubrey, Rita Banerjee, Alex Carrigan, Gregory Crosby, Katy MillerDavid Shields, Emily Smith, Christine Stoddard, Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Megan Tilley for sending in their favorite winter lit picks & recommendations! – Alex Carrigan (Curator)

CWW Winter 2015 Lit Picks:

pillowman theThe Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
(Recommended by Stephen Aubrey)

In an unnamed totalitarian nation, a Kafka-esque fiction writer called Katurian is detained and questioned by two policemen after a string of gruesome infanticides resembling dark fairytales Katurian has written. As Katurian seems unconcerned about the ramifications of his art, the police officers—playing a twisted game of “good cop/bad cop”—inform Katurian that his intellectually-disabled brother Michael, who is currently being tortured in an adjoining room, has been coerced into confessing to the crimes. What follows is a harrowing meditation on our responsibility to our art and our family, one without easy answers or reassurances. Small and contained (it’s a four-person cast in two small rooms) yet with very high stakes, it’s one of the most tightly-written and surprising of contemporary plays. It’s also funnier than any play centered around murdered children has any right to be, that’s Irish theatre for you.

91gug5d5wlL._SL1500_A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
(Recommended by Stephen Aubrey)

Rebecca Solnit is one of the most interesting nonfiction writers around today. As both a writer and an activist, she’s made a career exploring issues related to the environment and its impact on politics, our sense of place, art, and society. In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, perhaps her finest work and certainly the best introduction to her formidable intellect, Solnit explores her own past in a series of linked essays as she explores questions of identity and the importance of the unknown. In a wonderful instance where form imitates function, the essays don’t necessarily build to a cohesive argument so much as they meander from Solnit’s Russian Jewish ancestors to her own youthful dabbling in punk rock and experimental film to a love affair she once had with a desert recluse. Each is tinged with a painterly lyricism that makes the settings Solnit writes about as vivid as the people who occupy them. Come with no expectations; simply agree to follow Solnit wherever she leads you and you will find this a perfect book to get lost in.

whereeuropebegins_300_411Where Europe Begins by Yoko Tawada
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Yoko Tawada is a force of nature.  She has mastered the art of defamiliarizing the familiar whether it be language, gender, the facets of the body, or the interplay between imagination and reality.  She is a master of writing fiction, memoir, and gorgeous lyrical essays in both Japanese and German (for which she’s won the Akutagawa Prize and Goethe Medal, respectively), and she’s given some impressive speeches in English quoting Japanese, German, and even Italian idioms and literary texts at free will.  (I had a chance to see her recently at Munich’s 2014 Shamrock festival and was floored by her performance and also later when she spoke to me in Japanese!)  Where Europe Begins explores the strangeness and uncertainty one encounters when looking at things just a little too closely.  In these short stories and musings, one’s body, one’s relationships and feelings towards others, one’s language, and even one’s existence become irrevocably uncanny and peculiar.

Akashic’s Noir Series
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

SFNoir2BostonNoir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, I picked up my first Akashic Noir Series book in the famed City Lights Books in San Francisco while I was working on my dissertation at Berkeley.  I selected San Francisco Noir 2: The Classics because for every flower in someone’s hair, San Francisco was also pretty cold and gritty, and the ghosts of Dashiell Hammet, Jack London, and Mark Twain seemed to hang around downtown, just lurking in the air.  And this volume did not disappoint.  Frank Norris’s chilling, uncomfortable view of Chinatown still haunted in “The Third Circle,” and you could see why Hitchcock was so mesmerized by the city by the bay.  Flitting back to Cambridge for work, Boston Noir also provided a delightful read.  Don Lee’s “The Oriental Hair Poets” seemed especially à propos in the atmosphere of Cambridge.  The story centers around two female Asian poets who compete with one another for men and literary accolades, attempting to sabotage each other’s poetic careers and prestige, until something goes horribly wrong…

TreadwindsTreadwinds by Walter K. Lew
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

During my MFA days, Walter K. Lew’s Treadwinds was a poetry collection that I returned to again and again.  Like Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s novel Dictée, Lew’s Treadwinds was unique and powerful for its unusual collage-like form and ability to breakdown and rethink linguistic barriers.  Lew presents poems written in English alongside phrases and texts written in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese in order to demonstrate the narratives of colonial occupation, immigration, and cultural assimilation felt by Koreans and Korean-Americans in the 20th century.  He juxtaposes images from film, photography, news stories, and idioms from folk songs, jazz, and old family anecdotes and tales of trauma to convey the complexity and multifaceted voice of the Korean in the modern era.  In the namesake poem, “Treadwinds” language and grammar itself breakdown as Lew explores what it means to return, hungry and dwindled, to home and “the sounds of spring.”

moon-mountain-banerjeeMoon Mountain
by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay

(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Moon Mountain or Cāndēr Pāhaṛ  (চাঁদের পাহড়), is a famous Bengali novella by the much-loved Bengali novelist, Bibhutibhushan Bandopahdyay (author of the renowned novel Pather Pāncālī, which was later made famous on the silver screen by Satyajit Ray).  Set between 1909-1910, Moon Mountain focuses on the story of Shankar Roy Chowdhury, a young Bengali man, who goes to Africa and winds up working for the Uganda Railway.  Hungry for adventure, Shankar meets a strange cast of imperialists and prospectors from Britain, Portugal, Holland, and elsewhere as they try to exploit the riches of Africa and its people.  One prospector, the Portuguese Diego Alvarez, a Kurtz-like figure, tells Shankar about his trials and misfortunes hunting for diamonds in the caves of the Moon Mountain, a legendary place deep in the jungles of Richtersveldt, which is haunted and guarded by a spirit called bunyip.  Shankar then has to decide whether or not he will follow Alvarez and his thirst for adventure with open eyes or with eyes wide shut.

tolstoy-family_happinessFamily Happiness by Leo Tolstoy
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

There’s really nothing like setting the mood for Valentine’s Day in the middle of a snowy winter than reading some dark, deeply existential Russian Literature.  Leo Tolstoy is a master of examining the minutae of social relationships and the unpredictably psychology of human behavior.  In “Family Happiness,” he takes a hard look at romance and bourgeois obsession of finding the perfect romantic partner and creating the façade of the perfect family.  The story follows Masha, a young seventeen-year-old girl, and Sergey, her much older would-be paramour as they engage in a courtship which leads to “romance” and a very unexpected ending.

PoeticScientifica Poetic Scientifica by Leah Noble Davidson
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Leah Noble Davidson’s poetry collection, Poetic Scientifica, is a beautiful experiment.  The collection follows the breakdown of a romantic relationship as it simultaneously explores memories of past sexual violence, individual agency, and female empowerment.  In doing so, Poetic Scientifica explores the roles of double-identities, mirror images, Norma Jeane & Marilyn Monroe, beauty, and its lovelorn echo.  Perhaps, the charm and play of Davidson’s work can be best described by the hidden poem in her collection which introduces all others: “Oh careful readiness, oh cinders in the jaw / you: fountains of birdsong and / velvet ropes, aspiring Marilyns / maybe I covet you / the way you would have me, do so / Climbing into our story / we build your image together / a person to love, an echo / of the anecdotes strangers tell each other / I can not hate you for being the bathtub / I drain my culture into / for shining myself into / so many lights.”

JulesVerne-VoyageExtraodinaire Voyages Extradonaires by Jules Verne
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

When I was studying at the Sorbonne, I would always carry a Poche paperback of a Jules Verne classic with me and would devour it as I made my way through the undergrounds of Paris each morning.  Some of my favorite reads were Voyage au centre de la Terre, Vingt milles lieues sous le mer, De la Terre à la Lune, and Paris au XXe siècle.  While the stories were familiar from childhood, there was just something about cracking a secret code or cipher with Axel and Lindenbrock in French.  The scope and worldview of Verne’s novels, which are set in Baltimore, Hamburg, Paris, China, and India, was also impressive as was his mastery of the scientific romance genre.  Characters in his novels always seemed to be at the brink of discovery, whether in realizing the potential or limitations of science and technology or in understanding the potential and limitations of their own humanity.  The future could materialize crystal clear in a Verne novel, full of possibilities and full of failures.  And now as I am writing my own futuristic novel, it’s wonderful to go back to the pillars of modern day science fiction with writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and try to find answers to those big and scary questions like, “what is science?” “what is fiction?” and “what might tomorrow bring?”

schomburg-themansuitThe Man Suit by Zachary Schomburg
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

The Man Suit is a memorable, must-read collection of poems by Zachary Schomburg.  The poems in The Man Suit dance a fine line between melancholy, dark humor, and unnerving absurdity.  Images of forests, monsters, stars, death, white and black telephones, music bands, and theatre pepper the collection.  And stories of late barons, experiments gone awry, John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln, and a singular tale of a lost love and a girl named Marlene appear, disappear, and remix like constellations across the page.  Read in another way, Schomburg’s collection takes a hard look at the values of Americana and the changing shape of the American social and political landscape in the waning years of the Bush presidency.  In “Last President of a Dark Country,” the speaker of the poem, states “Trying being the last president of a dark country.  It is lonely as hell here.  You should come. / …if you are careful, you can find the railing.  It will lead you to a dimly-lit hole that you can climb down into.  You’ll find me there, most likely.  I’ll be working on my last presidential address.  It will be a list of everything that haunts me.  No matter how much you ask me to read it, I probably won’t.”

Haunted511a1mqxnhl-_ss500_ by Chuck Palahniuk
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

This short fiction anthology by Chuck Palahniuk was every bit as morbid, disgusting, and shocking as I hoped it would be, with tons of awesome stories involved. The novel’s frame story is a bunch of writers going on a writing retreat where they spend three months locked in an old theater with all the amenities provided by the benefactor and his assistant. They all individually get the idea to write a tale about how they were held captive and tortured, each going about destroying their new home and forcing themselves into acts of mutilation, cannibalism, and murder. The stories in the book are all written by a character in the story and cover a variety of subjects from angry feminists to reflexology to masturbation accidents. This book really gripped me because all the stories are so unique and weird. It’s also very postmodern in design, something I’m always a fan of and want to attempt in the future.

{D89C61A6-9DA2-409A-9A9E-ADFD027A9D27}Img100Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

This was a book I had to grow up to read. It’s a book my father loved a lot and told me about when I was younger. The story, detailing the incompetence of the racist police force in an Apartheid South Africa town, is a screwball satire showing how a crime of passion was turned into a full-blown political scandal due to how just darn stupid everyone is. It’s satirical, funny, and full of political commentary. It’s also a book with a really creative writing style and humorous voice that Sharpe uses when describing events. It will have you looking at elephant guns differently, so you should check it out.

wernerherzog_guidefortheperplexedWerner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed
by Paul Cronin

(Recommended by Gregory Crosby)

It’s a huge series of conversations with Herzog about his film and career, but it’s also the only self-help book any artist will ever need, whether they make films, write, paint or engage in any creative endeavor that requires courage, persistence, and endurance. Herzog is also dryly funny in only the way a German can be.

 

the_dream_songspicThe Dream Songs by John Berryman
(Recommended by Gregory Crosby)

If you’re suffering from heartache and pain and want to know how to sing the blues, you should avail yourself of John Berryman’s The Dream Songs. It sounds like hyperbole, but this was a book that more or less saved my life when I was at my lowest point.

 

 

81XbzO1loHLEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
(Recommended by Katy Miller)

Opening with the ominous sentence “Lydia is dead,” Everything I Never Told You unspools the deep, psychological layers of the Lee family as they deal with loss and tragedy. For the first half of the novel, Ng tells the reader only sparse details about Lydia herself—the oldest child of Chinese-American James Lee and his white wife Marilyn—and focuses instead of the dreams and disappointments of her parents. Set mainly in the 1970s midwest only just after the Supreme Court overturned the interracial marriage ban in 1967, Everything I Never Told You beautifully captures the quiet desperation of crushing familial expectations coupled with heartbreaking loneliness. Ng deftly writes the inner life of the five family members and how difference affects each one, expertly weaving their voices into the suspenseful narrative.

41FP9H01AjLThe Thing Around Your Neck
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

(Recommended by Katy Miller)

The characters in this 13-story collection are just as vivid as those in Adichie’s marvelous novels. The majority of these narratives are written from a female perspective, and Adichie fully explores their struggles to settle into American lives, their complex relationships, and their diverse motivations in beautiful detail. A thoughtful writer, she delights in revealing uncomfortable observations, such as in the inner monologue of a Nigerian waitress in Connecticut in the titular short story: “He told you he had been to Ghana and Uganda and Tanzania, loved the poetry of Okot p’Bitek and the novels of Amos Tutuola and had read a lot about sub-Saharan African countries, their histories, their complexities. You wanted to feel disdain, to show it as you brought his order, because white people who liked Africa too much and those who liked Africa too little were the same—condescending.”

51A1wj3p3eL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano
(Recommended by David Shields)

Galeano marries himself to the larger warp-and-woof by allowing different voices and different degrees of magnitude of information to play against one another. A mix of memoir, anecdote, polemic, parable, fantasy, and Galeano’s surreal drawings, the book might at first glance be dismissed as mere miscellany. But upon more careful inspection, it reveals itself to be virtually a geometric proof on the themes of love, terror, and imagination. This is perhaps best exemplified by this mini-chapter: “Tracey Hill was a child in a Connecticut town who amused herself as befitted a child of her age, like any other tender little angel of God in the state of Connecticut or anywhere else on this planet. One day, together with her little school companions, Tracey started throwing lighted matches into an anthill. They all enjoyed this healthy childish diversion. Tracey, however, saw something which the others didn’t see or pretended not to, but which paralyzed her and remained forever engraved in her memory: faced with the dangerous fire, the ants split up into pairs and two by two, side by side, pressed close together, they waited for death.”

A1ShzwjgyDL._SL1500_Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
(Recommended by David Shields)

This is the book that I think of as mattering the most to me ever, but I read it more than thirty years ago and find that I have trouble re-reading it now. Seems sad—do I still love it, did I ever love it? I know I did. Has my aesthetic changed that much? If so, why? Does one resist that alteration? I think not. The book still completely changed me, still defines me in some strange way. Proust for me is the C.K. Scott-Moncrieff translation in paperback, its covers stained with suntan oil since I read all seven volumes in a single summer (supposedly traveling around the South of France but really pretty much just reading Proust). I came to realize that he will do anything and go anywhere to extend his research, to elaborate his argument about art and life. But his commitment is never to the narrative per se, it’s to the narrative as a vector on the grid of his argument. That thrilled me and continues to thrill me—his understanding of his book as a series of interlaced architectural/thematic spaces.

41Mm2ZM0NvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_For Love & Money by Jonathan Raban
(Recommended by David Shields)

For twenty-plus years I’ve been showing drafts of my books to Jonathan, who within days of receiving the manuscript will call and not only insist that it can be so much better but show me how. For Love & Money, which he calls “only half a good book,” is one of my favorite books ever written—a brutal, ruthless coming-of-age-of-the-author disguised as a miscellany of essays and reviews. Jonathan comes out of what is to me a distinctly British tradition of showing respect for the conversation by questioning your assertion rather than blandly agreeing with it. He’s exhaustive and disputatious, never settling for received wisdom or quasi-insight. More than anyone in my life, he encouraged me to think off-axis about “nonfiction.”

rent-girl-michelle-teaRent Girl by Michelle Tea
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

Rent Girl is a gritty and blunt graphic novel/memoir that focuses on Michelle Tea’s history as a prostitute in the early 90s.Throughout the novel, Tea is unapologetically honest about her many shocking exploits: appeasing her clients — one a self-proclaimed warlock — to a terrible case of crabs, Tea never shies away from reality.

margaret_atwood_the_handmaids_taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood follows the story of Offred, a handmaid living under a totalitarian Christian regime responsible for usurping the United States. The novel explores how women gain agency, especially under a government that enforces trope-like roles: wives, handmaids (surrogate mothers) and Jezebels (prostitutes).

 

51SvR6tvD2LGather Together in My Name by Maya Angelou
(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

This year we lost one of the greats. Her stunning life inspired not only poetry but prose. Gather Together in My Name is an autobiographical account of Angelou’s early years as a single mother shortly after World War II in a deeply segregated America. A story of hope and redemption, it’s the perfect read to inspire you to seriously reflect on your own flaws and make meaningful and sincere New Year’s Resolutions.

 

948009Intimacy by Jean-Paul Sartre
(Recommended by Christine Stoddard)

This collection of four short stories and a novella is complex and unnerving. All of the stories deal with intimacy or, more aptly, the lack thereof. They deal with sex, perversion, sensuality, and ugly truths. My personal favorite is the first story “Intimacy,” for which the collection is named, because of its stream of consciousness, changing narrators, and obsession with hypocrisy in love. Intimacy is a great winter read because it will chill you to the bone, not for its otherworldliness but for its raw portrayal of reality.

Unknown-4The Theory of Everything (dir. James Marsh)
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

Would I be wearing my heart on my sleeve if I admitted to crying upon just seeing the trailer to this film?  After watching the film in its entirety, I saw that this was not just a historical tearjerker, but a deeply moving and realistic account of the life and love between Stephen and Jane Hawking.  Of the movie, Stephen Hawking has said that it was “broadly true” (Variety.com) and that, at times, he felt as though Eddie Redmayne was himself.  Indeed, the actor has done such a marvelous job that he is nominated for a 2015 Oscar for best actor in a leading role—we shall see at the end of February if he gets this well deserved award.  After watching this film, you will feel closer to the emotional world of cosmologist Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds of our time.  The hope, heartbreaking honesty, and intensity of Stephen and Jane’s story will rekindle your faith in the true potential of the human spirit.

safe_amy_king_0I Want to Make You Safe by Amy King
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

Amy King’s poems examine the delicate boldly.  The visual imagery is unforgettable and leaves the reader with impressions to ponder long afterwards.  Consider these lines and you’ll understand: “I can’t imagine the heart anymore/now that it presses my ribs apart,/a balloon of such gravity I ache for stars in a jar,/wasps whose love reminds be of fireflies tonight.”  King is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Women’s National Book Association Award.  John Ashbery described her poems in I  Want to Make You Safe as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging rather than out of the busyness of living.”  The book was also one of the Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011.  Read it!

Unknown-5Someone Else’s Vows by Bianca Stone
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

I first heard Bianca Stone read at the Couplet reading series in Manhattan, organized by Leah Umansky.  Her poems seemed so ripe, containing an urgency.  In reading Someone Else’s Wedding Vows, you’ll enter a world of vulnerability and fireworks, where the past and present converge in a magnificent display of words. Here is an excerpt from her poem “The Future is Here”: “Man burns at a certain degree/ but I always burned a little slower./ When I went into school/ I left a trail of blackened footprints/ to my classroom of spelling words,/ never starred. At the end of the earth/ we’ll be locked in our own spelling mistakes,”.  Read this book.  It will make you question the world around you in beautiful ways.

Unknown-6Prelude to a Bruise by Saeed Jones
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

I recently heard Saeed Jones read at The Difficult to Name Reading Series run by Ryan Sartor.   I was immediately hooked.  His voice was electrifying, his delivery so precise and rich.  I bought the book from him immediately after the reading and devoured it.  Jones started his reading saying that his poems were the cross section of where race, sexuality and America meet.  Reading his work, you can certainly see him examining that triad so effectively.  Take his title poem:  “In Birmingham, said the burly man—/Boy, be/a bootblack./Your back, blue-back./Your body,      burning./I like my black boys broke, or broken./I like to break my black boys in.”   He is a 2013 Puscart Prize Winner and is now up for a National Book Critics Circle Award.  Reading this book will change you—it is that important.

11529868The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
(Recommended by Megan Tilley)

This 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner by Adam Johnson follows a citizen of North Korea through his rise and fall in North Korean society. The author read first hand accounts of defectors from the Hermit Kingdom and also travelled to North Korea to better acquaint himself with the unique political and social situation in the country. This is not a light read, but is a great choice for those interested in North Korea and in first hand accounts from the country. Meticulously researched and beautifully crafted, this is a novel that will change the way you look at North Korea.

51EvRAIqG0LThe Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Bloom
(Recommended by Megan Tilley)

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Bloom, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York is a fascinating look into the beginnings of forensic medicine. Organized into sections by poison, the book details not only crime cases involving that poison, but also the politics surrounding forensic medicine and the advances in medical science made by the tireless advocates of this new branch of crime investigation. A great book for anyone interested in true-crime, medicinal history, or Prohibition, it’s an easy and fascinating read.

Register by February 20 for CWW Writing & Yoga Retreat in Newport, RI (April 2-5, 2015)

Newport2015-RetreatJoin us April 2-5, 2015 for our first annual springtime Writing & Yoga Retreat in beautiful and gilded Newport, Rhode Island.  Our Newport retreat offers the opportunity for writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors & editors to hone their craft and expand their writing skills, while working on new or existing projects.  Tuition includes shared lodging, classes, and some meals.  Faculty includes internationally renowned author and writing coach Kathleen Spivack (fiction, poetry, nonfiction), Stephen Aubrey (playwriting,  screenwriting), Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), and Elissa Lewis (yoga, meditation).  Registration closes on February 20, 2015, so sign up on cww.submittable.com while seats are available.

Register Now for CWW Summer in Paris Writing Retreat (July 22-30, 2015)

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The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Paris Writing Retreat will take place July 22-30, 2015 in France. The retreat offers participating writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors and editors. Participating writers will hone their craft and expand their writing skills, while working on new or existing projects.  There will also be time to explore the city of Paris in all of its historical, literary, and romantic charm. Situated in heart of Paris’ Montparnasse neighborhood, amongst the fresh and popular open air markets and charming boutiques, the hotel where we will stay is full of charm and our Moroccan themed classroom will offer a wonderful oasis to practice the writing life.  Faculty includes internationally renowned author and writing coach Kathleen Spivack (fiction, poetry, nonfiction), David Shields (fiction, book-length essay), Diana Norma Szokoloyai (poetry, nonfiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), Jessica Reidy (fiction, poetry), and Elissa Lewis (yoga, meditation).  If you’d like to join us in Paris, please apply online at cww.submittable.com by May 5, 2015.

CWW Interview with David Shields, Essayist, Paris Instructor, & Author of I Think You’re Totally Wrong (2015)

Author photo of David Shields, 2012.This year, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Summer in Paris Writing Retreat will take place from July 22-30, 2015. At the event, we’ll be hosting a wide variety of craft of writing seminars, creative writing workshops, and special readings from our Paris 2015 faculty, which includes David Shields, Kathleen Spivack, Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Jessica Reidy, and Elissa Lewis. One of our featured faculty members, David Shields, an essayist and fiction writer, recently co-authored a new book with Caleb Powell titled I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel. The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Alex Carrigan sat down to speak with David for an interview. Read below to see the interview, and be sure to register for our Summer in Paris Writing Retreat t by May 5, 2015!

AC: Your writing style is said to be very much like a “collage,” in that you blur genre, autobiography, fiction, and essay. How did you develop the form of the literary collage?

DS: I wrote three novels that were relatively traditional, although increasingly left. I wrote a book called Heroes, a very traditional novel, a growing-up novel called Dead Languages and then a book of stories called Handbook for Drowning. I was trying to write my fourth novel, a book called Remote, and I found all the traditional gestures of the novel just really were not conveying what I wanted to convey.

I was watching a lot of self-reflective documentary films, especially films by Ross McElwee who is from Cambridge. I was reading a lot of anthropological autobiographies by people like Renata Adler and George W.S. Trow and listening and watching a lot of performance art and stand-up comedy.

What was going to be my fourth novel became my first work of literary collage called Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity, published in 1996. Ever since then, I’ve been continuing to explore boundary jumping work, the limits of autobiography, and the limits of genre-jamming. By no means am I the progenitor of literary collage. Collage is an ancient form going back to Heraclides’ Fragment 3,000 years ago and coming up to all the way to, say, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. It’s a beautiful form that lets me do what I want to do on the page.

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AC: How did the idea of I Think You’re Totally Wrong develop?

DS: A lot of what I do on the page is to question myself. I write what I call “self-deconstructive non-fiction.” It’s a term someone applied to my work. I’m interested in exploring myself but also in demolishing myself as a way to get at large cultural and human questions. The canvas in my work is myself, only as an avenue to approach broader questions. I’m not interesting in anything like conventional autobiography or conventional memoir.

In a way, I was tired of debating myself in my work, in books from Remote to How Literature Saved My Life. I wanted to have somebody embody the opposition. I have always been a fan of books of dialogue from Plato and Socrates in Plato’s Dialogues all the way up through The Magliozzi Brothers in Car Talk. I just love the form of two guys arguing.

I sought out a former student of mine (Caleb Powell) who tends to have a different point of view from me. Three years ago, we went off to a cabin and argued for four days. Then we radically edited the transcript into a book, then we took the book and made it into a film with my former student, James Franco, directing the film.

AC: The book references My Dinner with Andre’ and The Trip as influences for the novel. What aspects of those works do you feel I Think You’re Totally Wrong best encapsulates? Do you feel the book does something those works didn’t?

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DS: It seems sort of foolish to not acknowledge the predecessors from Boswell and Johnson, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Laurel and Hardy, Car Talk, Sideways, and The Trip. A wonderful book I really love is David Lipsky’s book on David Foster Wallace in which the two of them argue for three or four hundred pages.

It’s not up to me to say what the book does better or worse, or what the film does better and worse than previous ones. The challenge I placed before myself and Caleb was to make it… I think what our book and film do well is being more naked, more raw, or more vulnerable. A few of these other projects, they might have more talented performers or whatever.

There’s a wonderful quote on the back of the book by Peter Brooks, my former teacher. He says “Confession makes sense only when it costs something, when it’s courting disaster; I found that risk-taking in this book, and it’s bracing.” That’s a very generous quote, and it goes to what we were trying to do. In a way, we wanted to court disaster, where something like The Trip is never seriously courting disaster. Even My Dinner with Andre’ is an incredibly polished performance.

I’m very fond of this quote by Walter Benjamin: “A work of literature should either invent a genre or dissolve one.” Our attempt was… to dissolve a genre or extend it, by making the quarrel between two people be just unusually naked and raw and vulnerable and discomforting. That’s our attempt at contribution.

AC: In the book, you and Powell briefly criticize the notion of “show, don’t tell.” Was that something that played into how you presented I Think You’re Totally Wrong since the book presents almost entire transcripts of your conversations?

I think it’s because I’m very invested in the essay and the contemplation, the meditation. In our book, it’s beside the point to do long description of what the woods look like. It’s essentially a play or screenplay.

It’s mainly “show, don’t tell,” because it’s two guys arguing. Any time Caleb goes to too great length on a story, I always imagine asking him “Okay, but what’s the point?” I think the book embodies “tell, don’t show” not because we don’t give scene descriptions, but because we don’t waste time doing a lot of dialogue. We’re trying to cut to what actually matters and to contemplate existence directly.

AC: Do you ever see yourself going on a trip similar to the one in I Think You’re Totally Wrong ever again, even if it’s not to write a book?

DS: No. Everything I do is related to books, and I guess that’s part of the comedy of this project. I’m really busy; I teach, I write, and a lot of the book is about how I really like to write. I might go off with my wife and daughter to hang out. To me, words are very precious, and I don’t give them to people for the hell of it. If I’m trying to use words well, I want to make it part of a book. I’m not going to spend five days thinking about existence and not try to make it part of a literary project.

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David Shields with Caleb Powell & James Franco

AC: How did the film version of the book come to be?

DS: James [Franco] was my student at Warren Wilson College (Masters of Fine Arts: Low Residency program). James is an actor, a writer, and a director. We were getting to know each other better, and we both share an interest in self exposure, nakedness, recollection, awkwardness, and in breaking the fourth wall. We have a shared aesthetic, so that we’re working not only on this film (which is completed) but also with two other books of mine that we’re making into film. We have a kind of shared ethos in self-deconstructive non-fiction. That’s not all I’m interested or all James is interested in, but it’s a shared interest.

James wanted to do a film of one of my books. I showed him I Think You’re Totally Wrong, and he said, “this is a movie, let’s do it.” Caleb and I wrote a screenplay, a scene sheet, a beat sheet, and a treatment. The irony of it, which I sort of love, was that on the first day of shooting, we wound up throwing away the script because a real life, real time argument broke out on the first day which was all about what can and what can’t be used in the film. It was a perfect embodiment about the whole life/art debate, which was what the book and film are actually about. We stumbled quite serendipitously into an actual argument and we filmed the actual argument.

AC: In the film, you and Powell play yourselves. Was there anything challenging about becoming “actors” and reliving the weekend?

DS: In many ways, it wasn’t reliving. It wasn’t like we act out our scenes from the book, which is what we thought we’d do. We created an entirely new work, which has a relationship to the book, but we basically started arguing on camera.  Franco and I started yelling at Caleb; Franco and Caleb started yelling at me. Ot was a real argument about a real thing.

I was just being myself and wanted to win the argument. You have to be aware there is a camera and that you are trying to make a good movie. Just like I do on the page, I took who I naturally am and was aware of projecting, amplifying, and exaggerating that for drama, which I think is what any personal essayist does.

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AC: Was there anything that had to greatly changed in the adaptation of the book, such as certain scenes that had to be cut or reworked?

DS: It’s an entirely different narrative that has a whole different strategy and purpose. It’s about an argument that develops when James and I urge Caleb to incorporate certain material into the movie. He refuses, I feel awful about badgering and bullying Caleb, then I apologize to Caleb, then James accuses me of being a theoretician and not a practitioner of riffs, then I accuse James of the same, then Caleb has a meltdown as he recounts this war movie he is telling us about, then we all worry that we don’t have an ending, and then out of nowhere we find an ending by, in a way, rediscovering what the whole film was about.

I think it’s a lovely little film and I’m quite proud of it. We were writing the film hour by hour over the four days that we shot it. Any time that we weren’t shooting I was madly scribbling notes about what we should do next. On one hand, I was trying to respond to the actual argument and on the other, I was trying to make a film. It was a completely different experience, much different from the book in my view.

AC: Do you have any upcoming works you’d like to talk about?

I have four books coming out in the next year. I Think You’re Totally Wrong just came out and the film will be out this spring. In April, I have a book coming out with Hawthorne Books called Life is Short- Art is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity. I’m the co-author of that book with Elizabeth Cooperman. In June, I have a book coming out with McSweeney’s Books called That Thing You Do With Your Mouth: The Sexual Autobiography of Samantha Matthews As Told to David Shields. It was kind of an amazing project.

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In next September, I have a book with Powerhouse Books which is a photography and art publisher called War Is Beautiful: A Pictorial Guide to the Glamor of Armed Conflict. It’s a book about war photography. Then in January of 2016, I have a book coming out with Knopf again called Other People: A Remix. I’ve taken about 60 essays of mine that I’ve written over the last 30 year and rewritten them all to make an entirely new book with a contemplation on a particular theme.

Those are all keeping me busy for the next year, just ushering these new books to print.

AC: Since you’re going to be coming on our Paris retreat later this year, what are you looking forward to and what are you planning to teach?

DS: I’m looking forward to meeting my French publisher. I’m looking forward to meeting some friends I know in Paris. I’m looking forward to giving a reading at Shakespeare and Co. Those are the side things.

The core of the experience is the Cambridge conference. I look forward to talking about brevity; I’ll be using my brevity book as the core of that seminar. I’m going to talk about collage, and I’m going to talk about collaboration. Three of the things I’m most passionate about (collage, brevity, and collaboration) will form the basis for three workshops. I’m still working out exactly what, but I teach out of my passion, and those are three of my literary passions.

AC: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The best thing I can think of comes from a wonderful line of William Butler Yeats who said “Out of the quarrel with others we make politics; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” That’s sort of the essence of what I’m interest in: to harvest the arguments with yourself, and out of that to create what you hope is memorable.

Author photo of David Shields, 2012.David Shields graduated from Brown University in 1978 and holds an M.F.A in Fiction from University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Since 1984, he has published sixteen books on fiction and nonfiction. He is also a Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at University of Washington and a member of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers faculty. He was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Black Planet in 2000 and has had essays and stories published in Harper’s, Esquire, Village Voice, and Salon, among others. His work has also been translated into twenty languages.  He currently lives in Seattle with his wife and daughter.

I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, can be purchased on Amazon. The book was named one of Amazon’s Ten Best Nonfiction Books for January, 2015 and one of Powell’s Books Favorites for January, 2015. The film version will be premiering at Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival in April, 2015.

 

Echo in Four Beats – An Evening of Poetry & Fiction by Rita Banerjee – Feb 7, 2015

EchoSaturday February 7, 2015 * 19:00-20:30
The Munich Readery * Augustenstraße 104 München, Germany

Join the Munich Readery for an evening of original poetry and fiction by writer and creative writing instructor, Rita Banerjee. Rita Banerjee will be reading from her poetry collection, Cracklers at Night, and her new poetry manuscript, Echo in Four Beats. She will also read excerpts from her novel manuscript, Mélusine, as well as her selections of her short fiction.

ritaRita Banerjee is a writer and creative writing instructor at the Munich Readery. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University and her writing has been published in Poets for Living Waters, The New Renaissance, The Fiction Project, Jaggery: A DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal, Catamaran, Amethyst Arsenic, The Crab Creek Review, The Dudley Review, Objet d’Art, Vox Populi, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure, and Chrysanthemum. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night, received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book at the Los Angeles Book Festival. Her novella, A Night with Kali, was digitized by the Brooklyn Art-house Co-op. She is Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and her writing has also been recently featured in VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Quail Bell Magazine, Speaking of Marvels, and on KBOO Radio’s APA Compass in Portland, Oregon.

Brooklyn Yoga, Aromatherapy, & Writing Workshop – January 31, 2015

Jan 31 Creativity through the Senses Workshop copyapply YOGA &  AROMATHERAPY & WRITING Workshop

SPECIAL DISCOUNT: REGISTER BY FRIDAY 1/30/15 AT NOON FOR ONLY $60 (after, workshop fee is $85)

This workshop is intended to invigorate and relax the mind and body, as well as open the senses and creativity centers of the mind and body.  After the yoga and aromatherapy sessions, participants will learn specific tools to improve and shape their writing to make it irrestible to read (whether it is fiction, nonfiction or poetry).

Our “Winter Workshop For Creativity Through The Senses” offers a relaxing and inspiring triad of experiences and is open to all levels of yogis and writers.  Join CWW’s Diana Norma Szokolyai and Elissa Lewis for a day that will allow you to:

* Immerse yourself in Yoga Sequences that Invigorate & Restore.
* Learn about how Essential Oils can inspire you to create, heal the spirit, and open up the chakras for living in harmony with your surroundings.
* Inspire your writing (for all levels & genres of writers) with a workshop on Writing for the Senses, Making your Reader Feel.

More information:
In preparation for the workshop, please wear comfortable clothing, and bring materials to write with (paper, pen, or laptop if that is your preference).  The center provides yoga mats, blocks and cushions, but if you prefer to bring your own, you are welcome to.

Our schedule will be as follows:
12:00 invigorating yoga  (with Elissa Joi Lewis)
12:30 aromatherapy workshop: we will learn about the therapeutic & healing uses of essential oils, as well as sample and explore how they can open our creativity through the senses (With Diana Norma Szokolyai & Elissa Joi Lewis)
1:45 break
2:00 restorative yoga (with Elissa Joi Lewis)
2:30 “Writing for the Senses, Making Your Reader Feel” writing workshop and feedback session (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
4:00 Workshop Ends

We are doing this workshop in partnership with the wonderful Family of Light Holistic Center in Ditmas Park.  Please register directly throughout Family of Light by calling, emailing or visiting their website. http://www.familyoflight.center. SEATS ARE LIMITED. CONTACT US TO PREREGISTER.  $85 ( $60 if you register by FRIDAY at noon) 717 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11218.   (718)928.7771 (347)587.9344 support@familyoflight.center     www.familyoflight.center apply

Meet Emily Smith, our new Editing and Communications Intern

EmilySmithPictureWe, at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, are excited to announce a new member of our CWW team.  Emily is our new Editing and Communications intern from Manchester, New Hampshire:

Emily Smith is an Editing and Communications Intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Originally from Sarasota, Florida, she currently attends school at the New Hampshire Institute of Art where she studies Creative Writing and Art History. She writes for Opposing Views, Highbrow Magazine and a number of health websites run by Deep Dive Media. Her poetry has been published in Walleyed Press, Essence Poetry, and Ayris.