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

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.

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.

CWW Intern Alex Carrigan’s Work Published in Quail Bell Magazine and Strike!

QuailBellThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is proud to announce that CWW Intern Alex Carrigan has managed to get some of his poetry published recently.  His work is featured in Strike!, a zine of radical flash fiction and poetry created by Amendment Literary Journal at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alex had three short poems published in the zine, covering the assigned topics of cat calling, “my privilege,” and reproductive rights. All the pieces were written under a time limit at a flash fiction event hosted last spring at VCU.  Alex’s poem  “When I First Saw Her,” is also featured in Quail Bell Magazine. The poem is based off a workshop from our Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga and Writing Retreat. Following a prompt from Jessica Reidy’s “The Art of Withholding in Creative Writing,” Alex wrote a poem based on how to tell someone about the first time you met your spouse, albeit with most of the details removed. Based on that prompt, he played around and created the following poem:

When I First Saw Her
by Alex Carrigan

When I first saw her,
it wasn’t anything like in the movies.
Time didn’t slow down to a crawl,
the music didn’t go silent,
and there wasn’t a change in lighting.

My heart didn’t freeze,
nor did it pick up in rhythm.
I could breathe easily looking at her,
my throat clear and open.

I know that tales of meeting your wife
are supposed to be more exciting.
But I didn’t feel that shock when I met mine.
It was a simple meeting, free of spectacle.

However,
my eyebrows did raise in surprise,
so I took that as a good sign.

CWW Interview with Stephen Aubrey, Newport, Rhode Island Instructor & Playwright

stephen AubreyThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is proud to introduce Stephen Aubrey, who will be teaching classes on theatre, performance, screenwriting, and playwriting at our Writing and Yoga Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island (April 2-5, 2015).  The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Megan Tilley sat down to interview Stephen Aubrey.  Check out Megan’s interview with Stephen below, and be sure to apply for our Newport Retreat by February 20, 2015!

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MT: How did you get into playwriting?  What were some of the early plays or performances which inspired you to write?

SA: My life as a playwright owes more to serendipity than anything else. Growing up, theater had always interested me. I was obsessed with Spalding Gray and I hung out with a lot of the theater kids in high school, but my complete incompetence as an actor meant that I was usually an audience member rather than a performer (save for one disastrous turn as Francis Nurse in The Crucible in 11th grade). Playwriting (and writing in general) never exactly occurred to me as something I could do.

In college, I took a lot of philosophy and history courses, which exposed me to a wealth of interesting stories and ideas and very slowly, I became interested in writing short stories my senior year of college. About this time, I was approached by a director I knew from a fiction workshop I was taking. She was interested in developing a documentary play about a historical event and asked me if I knew of any good source material. After batting around a couple of ideas, I told her about the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944. She was hooked on the idea immediately and we decided to round up a couple of actors and co-write the play.

I thought this was going to be a one-shot deal. I really thought of myself as an academic and was seriously considering getting a PhD in history after I graduated college. Slowly, however, writing got its claws in me. We brought our play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that summer where it was well-received and nominated for a prestigious award. When I came back from Scotland, I moved to New York and started thinking seriously about writing plays. The group of people who traveled to Scotland asked me to write another play to perform the next summer and we slowly coalesced into a theater company.

Since I came to playwriting somewhat late, most of the formative plays in my life haven’t been ones I studied in a classroom (though I love some plays I happened to study in school, mostly the Greeks and Shakespeare) but rather, ones I saw performed when I first moved to New York. I didn’t have very much money when I first came to the city. All those big sexy expensive shows were out of the question so I ended up exposing myself to the weird, scrappy stuff you can find downtown where the tickets cost the same as a beer at one of the ritzy joints. When I had been at the Fringe Festival doing my show, I had seen the TEAM’s Particularly in the Heartland which really blew me away (I think I’ve ended up seeing it 5 times in total in a bunch of different theaters over the years) and showed me how adventurous and alive and surprising theater could be. Nearly 10 years later, it’s still one of the most amazing pieces I’ve seen. So when I was trying to acquaint myself with what was happening in the theater world, I sought out more people like the TEAM. After seeing a few shows that interested me, I started lurking around theaters that I thought were curating interesting work–The Ontological-Hysteric [R.I.P.], The Ohio, PS122–and becoming aware of groups like Elevator Repair Service, 13P, and Pig Iron that were doing things I found really interesting. I think I learned a lot from these groups, but above all, my downtown education taught me to take risks and embrace the idiosyncrasies of my voice, things that are in abundance downtown and less so once you get above 14th street.

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MT: You’re the cofounder of The Assembly Theater Company in New York – what lead you to create the group, and how has it impacted your writing?

SA: The simplest explanation for why I created the group was that it was the easiest way to make theater in New York. Especially when you’re just starting out and have very limited resources, it really does take a village to make a play. Doing it alone is, well, lonely. It can be incredibly discouraging for the first few years as you try to break into the community and are dealing with expensive yet somehow filthy black boxes you can only half-fill with friends and loved ones you’ve coerced into buying a ticket. It helps to have comrades.

I was lucky enough to find a group of collaborators in college who have similar interests and aesthetic senses and whom I genuinely care about. We formed the company fresh out of college; there have been some personnel changes as we all learned what the life of a young theater artist entailed, but a core group has remained over the years which has been a wonderful resource to have as I tried to find my artistic identity.

As we’ve grown and developed as a company, we’ve worked towards a truly collaborative way of working together that has become fundamental to the way I think about my writing. After my first few plays, I became disenchanted with the way new plays were developed and also with the way that certain voices (namely straight white men like myself) were overrepresented. At the same time, I was being exposed to a lot of alternative ways of making work–chief among them devised theater–that seemed new and fresh. The Assembly’s four artistic directors are a director, a designer, an actor, and a writer (that’s me); the idea is that by working together as equal partners in series of development periods over the course of a year or two (rather than the typical new play process in which a playwright writes a script, a director decides to work on it and then hires a cast and crew who rehearses for a few weeks) we can create plays where every part of the production is realized in harmony. Even more recently, we’ve been working with group-writing where I write the script along with the actors so that as they get deeper into their characters and make interesting discoveries, we can integrate these into the script.

I’ve found that working this way has really opened up my writing. The plurality of voices and concerns you have to contend with when working in this way can be really overwhelming and intimidating, but it’s incredibly satisfying when it all comes together. It can get messy and heated sometimes in the rehearsal room, but the kind of work I’m creating now–where I’m a main voice, but by no means the primary one–seems important to me. I think we live in a complicated world, one where we need to be aware of and sensitive to alternative perspectives, especially ones that we don’t normally encounter on stage.

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MT: You’ve written plays that have been performed at venues from The Ontological-Hysteric in Manhattan to The Brick Theater in Brooklyn. What was the process like for putting on plays at these venues?

SA: When I first started, my company had to work very hard to find theaters to do our plays in. Being curated by a theater was ideal, but more often than not, we had to rent the theater (which is a huge financial burden). I was very lucky to be able perform in venues like The Brick or The Ontological-Hysteric; both of those came about by applying to programs or festivals like the Short-Form Series or the Video Game Festival. In those instances, the theater was given to me free of charge (though I was financially responsible for everything else). There were a few other fortuitous opportunities like the year-long residency The Assembly had at Horse Trade Theater Group, but for the most part, putting on a play at a venue in New York requires producing it yourself. At least at the beginning, that’s going to be the case. But these things tend to snowball. If you produce a play yourself, and you invite the right people to come see it (or the right people wander into the theater on their own, which is a rare, but beautiful thing), it’s possible that you will be accepted to a festival or residency somewhere down the road. Making a career from theater is largely about using each opportunity to springboard to the next. Once you start generating interest in your work, things get a little easier.

But what has been true throughout is that, even if we were given the space, my company has always been responsible for making the play happen. We have been responsible for finding a cast and design team, for doing the brunt of the fundraising, grant writing and marketing (or paying for our own press agent if we had the money). I’m also forgetting a thousand other small, obnoxious tasks that also fall to us. It’s a DIY world. Making theater requires initiative and a bit of humility; you may be the Writer, but you also have to be The One Who Takes a Vacation Day to Drive the U-Haul to The Storage Unit in New Jersey and Sit in Traffic for the Better Part of the Afternoon. Unless you’re at a theater with a lot of money and resources, that’s the reality of theater.  

MT: How would you compare your writing process for fiction versus screenwriting?

SA: In my mind, the difference is about a visual language versus a written language. In fiction, you can get so much deeper into a character’s mind. You can linger or digress in a way that screenwriting or playwriting cannot. Fiction necessarily requires narration which is something that doesn’t usually work on the screen. A voice-over is so often the sign of an insecure screenwriter, someone who isn’t thinking about a visual language. Because when you’re writing for the screen, you need to be thinking about the audience’s gaze. “Show, don’t tell” is one of those writing cliches I hate throwing around, but it’s an essential tip for screenwriting. Whether it’s through sharp dialogue or a clever structure, you need to find a way to dazzle the senses.

MT: What kinds of workshops are you planning to offer at our Newport, Rhode Island Retreat, and what would you say is the most important part of the workshop experience?

SA: I’m offering three workshops at Newport: one on world-building and the importance of defining space in playwriting and screenwriting; one on “impossible theater,” which is all about pushing yourself away from Realism and thinking in terms of visual and symbolic gestures; and a third on Aristotelian and anti-Aristotelian narrative structures and the opportunities that each affords a writer.

I think the most important part of the workshop experience is meeting other writers. Writing can be a lonely pursuit at times and community is very important. It’s helpful to know that there are other people also sitting at their desks staring at a blinking cursor for hours at a time. Sharing your work with other writers also exposes you to a lot of different styles and perspectives; other writers can show you tricks and tactics and solutions that would never have occurred to you. Finding your co-travelers is an immensely important task and the workshop is a great place to do it.

MT: What advice do you have for budding playwrights and screenwriters?

SA: The most important piece of advice I can give is: Learn how to produce your own work. It’s very difficult to find people willing to take a chance on your writing, financially or artistically, if you’re untested. No one is going to believe in your work, in your words, more than you. You are your own best ambassador for your art, and you need to learn how to present it and talk about it. If you keep at it, people will begin to pay attention, but they need to see your work first. You can apply to contests and festivals (in fact, you should apply to contests and festivals), but it takes a lot of time and patience to work through the system. You could spend that time waiting for a response, or you can take the matter into your own hands and make the work you want to make.

Stephen Aubrey descends from hardy New England stock. He is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, dramaturg, lecturer, storyteller and recovering medievalist. His writing has appeared in Publishing Genius, Commonweal, The Brooklyn Review, Pomp & Circumstance, Forté and The Outlet. He is a co-founder and the resident dramaturg and playwright of The Assembly Theater Company. His plays have been produced at The New Ohio Theater, The Living Theater, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, The Flea Theater, The Collapsable Hole, Wesleyan University, The Tank, The Brick Theater, Symphony Space, the Abingdon Theater Complex, UNDER St Marks, The Philly Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where his original play, We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, was nominated for a 2006 Fringe First Award. He is also the editor of two ‘pataphysic books, Suspicious Anatomy and Suspicious Zoology, both published by the Hollow Earth Society. He has an MFA from Brooklyn College where he received the Himan Brown Prize and the Ross Feld Writing Award and a BA with Honors from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. He is an instructor of English at Brooklyn College and holds the dubious distinction of having coined the word “playlistism” in 2003.

Christina Ruotolo, CWW Château de Verderonne Retreat Participant, featured in The Writer Magazine

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 7.08.06 PMChristina Ruotolo, a participant at the  Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2014 Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château at Verderonne, has been featured in The Writer Magazine!  In addition to presenting her new creative writing and enjoying hors d’oeuvres and cocktails with her fellow workshop participants, Christina found inspiration for her work when reading The Writer at the Château de Vederonne.  She also very much enjoyed the literary and cultural tours of Paris and Chantilly with the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop as well as her daily yoga classes with Elissa Lewis.

Christina Ruotolo, 36, is a published poet and nonfiction writer who hails from eastern North Carolina.  In 2014, she started a nonfiction blog, The Grief Project, after the loss of her mother in 2013, her father in early 2014, and a miscarriage a few months after that. “I used the blog as a way to navigate through my grief one thought and one word at a time. I want others to share their stories of grief and how they deal with the ups and downs that grief in all forms entail.” When not writing, Christina is an adjunct English instructor and Writing Consultant at Pitt Community College, a Barnes and Noble employee, and hard at work on a poetry chapbook and her first screenplay. If you would like to submit your story of how you dealt with grief to Christina’s blog, please visit the website, www.thegriefproject.blogspot.com.

Register Now 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.  Victorian Location.  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.

Happy New Year 2015 from the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop!!

CWW-NY2015 Happy New Year 2015 from the directors and staff of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop! We hope you’re all as excited for 2015 as we are!  We’re planning a delightful, productive year for our writers and artists with plenty of opportunities to travel, write, practice yoga, and network, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at our retreats, workshops, readings, and literary fest events in 2015!

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop had a wonderful year in 2014.  Over the last twelve months, we’ve had a chance to hold retreats and readings across America and the world, meet exciting writers, yoga practicioneers, and artists, and have found new ways to inspire our own writing.  Our year began with the 2014 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Seattle, WA in February. At AWP 2014, we got a chance to announce our CREDO Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing, promote our new literary internships,  and discuss our Summer 2014 Château de Verderonne Yoga & Writing Retreat, and our AWP 2014 A Night at the Victrola Reading. At AWP 2014, CWW Directors, Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai signed copies of their books, Cracklers at Night and Parallel Sparrows, respectively.  And our A Night at the Victrola, featuring readings from authors such as Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokollyai, Peter Mountford, Anca Szilágyi, Nancy Jooyoun Kim, Pattabi Seshadri, Susan Parr, Johnny Horton, Talia Shalev, Leah Umansky, Dena Rash Guzman, Kevin Skiena, Jessica Day, and Carrie Kahler.  Our AWP 2014 literary reading was even featured in Vanguard Seattle as a top AWP reading event.

After AWP 2014, we were off to our annual writing and yoga retreat to the Château de Verderonne in Picardy, France. The event, which was featured in Poets and Writers and Quail Bell Magazine, was a chance for writers to spend two weeks in the French countryside, participating in writing workshops and craft of writing seminars, yoga classes, and culturally tours of Paris and Chantilly. We liveblogged the entire event as well, sharing dozens of photos from our trip while also allowing our writers to share their thoughts on the experience.

Our New Yorker members also hosted an event as part of LitCrawl Manhattan in September 2014.  Our Literary Masquerade featured readings of poetry, noir, science fiction, and original songs from Diana Norma Szokolyai, Rita Banerjee, Gregory Crosby, Elizabeth Devlin, Jonah Kruvant, and Nicole Colbert.

We also hosted an annual Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga and Writing Cleanse in November 2014. The two day event kicked off with yoga lessons from Elissa Lewis, followed by fresh juice cleanses, and creative writing workshops and craft seminars from Diana Norma Szkolyai, Jessica Reidy, and Jonah Kruvant.  Some of the creative writing classes included on the retreat included “The Art of Withholding,” “The Art of Revision” and “Sense of Smell, Memory, and Narrative.”   Our Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga & Writing Cleanse was an opportunity for the participants to cleanse themselves mentally, spiritually, and creatively before the bustling holiday season, and was even featured in a piece in Quail Bell Magazine.

In 2014, we also began work on CREDO Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing.  The collection will feature personal writer manifestos, essays on writing advice, and writing exercises to help spur creativity. Our staff has greatly enjoyed critiquing and conversing with writers on this publication, and more information about our featured writers will be announced shortly.

In 2014, we also welcomed our first interns to the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and these interns include the wonderful  Alex Carrigan, Katy Miller, and Megan Tilley, all of whom have helped the CWW greatly this year. They’ve helped manage our social media and written up post about our events, critiqued and edited submissions for CREDO, shown their talent for graphic design and corresponding with writers and hosts in French, Spanish, and English, and have provided much valuable assistance on our retreats and literary events this year.  We’re excited to have Alex, Katy, and Megan on our team, and we can’t wait to show you what they’ve helped us plan for 2015!

This was also a good year for our individual staff members getting published. Quail Bell Magazine featured plenty of creative writing from our staffers, including Jessica Reidy’s essay on novel research in Paris, Norma and Rita’s Mis/Translation poems, Megan Tilley’s poem “Puddle,” and Alex Carrigan’s poem “When I First Saw Her.” Reidy also had a series of trauma poems featured in Luna Luna Magazine and Tilley was featured in FictionvaleSzokolyai was also named one of twenty Romani authors you should be reading by VIDA and published in the anthology Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History.

While 2014 proved to be a very exciting year for all of us, our staff is quite ready to move on to our next round of exciting events. The CWW will once again table at AWP in Minneapolis from April 8-11, 2015 You can find us at the AWP 2015 Bookfair at Table 954. We will also be planning an offsite reading, and more information about that will come as we get closer to the event.

Join 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.  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 and spots are limited, so sign up on cww.submittable.com as soon as you can.

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 (poetry, fiction, nonfiction), David Shields (fiction, book-length essay), Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), 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.

And from August 3-10. 2015, join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on our summer writing retreat to the cultural oasis of Granada, Spain. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes. Or, indulge in delicious Andalucían cuisine and traditional Arab baths. Work with world-renowned authors on your manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects.  Faculty includes Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction), Jessica Reidy (fiction, poetry) and Elissa Lewis (yoga, meditation).  If you’d like to join us in Granada, please apply online at cww.submittable.com by April 20, 2015.

We hope you are all as excited for our 2015 events as we are. If you have any questions about our upcoming retreats, please view the pages linked above. If you have any questions we may not have answered, you can email us at info@cambridgewritersworkshop.org, and for inquiries, please email the CWW Directors, Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, at directors@cambridgewritersworkshop.org.  You can also follow us on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter for more information and updates on any of these events. We look forward to making 2015 a year full of creativity, writing, and renewal, so join us as we make 2015 rock!

- Alex Carrigan & Rita Banerjee

CWW Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga and Writing Cleanse

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This past weekend, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop hosted a Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga and Writing Cleanse at Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Manhattan, NY. The purpose of this event was to allow participants the chance to enjoy a weekend of yoga, juice cleansing, and writing workshops before the holiday season began. With the help of yoga and juice cleansing, the participants were able to cleanse their minds and spirits, and in turn were able to focus their renewed energy on the two workshops hosted by CWW members.

The event began on Saturday, November 22. At the Shala, guests removed their shoes and moved into the yoga room to begin the cleanse. The first part of the event was forty minutes of yoga with Elissa Lewis, our yoga instructor. Elissa led the group through various yoga exercises, each designed to help circulate breathing and to eliminate any stress the participants might have been carrying before they came to the workshop.

After that, the participants were treated to a juice cleanse. CWW co-director Diana Norma Szokolyai, CWW Editorial & PR intern Alex Carrigan, and Norma’s husband, Dennis Shafer, presented three different types of organic fruit and vegetable juice for the participants to drink. They could choose between a carrot-apple-ginger mix, a carrot-celery-apple mix, or “The Hulk,” a concoction of cucumber, spinach, celery, apple, and carrot. Participants enjoyed this naturally sweet and delicious way to take in loads of nutrients and cleanse their digestive systems.

Jessica Reidy led our first workshop, titled “The Art of Withholding in Creative Writing.” This workshop was designed to have the writer use action and sensory details to convey exposition. This involved two different exercises. The first exercise was about writing about a person meeting a lover for the first time, but writing two versions.

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The first version would be writing as if you are telling a friend, the second telling your father. Jessica’s next exercise began with her having the writers draw a tarot card from a deck. The writer then had to write a piece based on the image of the card, without knowing what the card meant.

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Norma then led a workshop titled “Sense of Smell, Memory, and Narrative.” On Saturday, Norma read the famous excerpt from Proust’s Swann’s Way, and everyone relived the the exquisite “madeleine” moment, so quintessentially demonstrative of the power of the olfactory bulb to produce strong recollections.  Proust was so ahead of his time, and who knew that contemporary neuro-cognitive science would confirm what he had written so eloquently–that sense of smell is a powerful memory trigger?  She then passed along some essential oils for the participants to either rub on their hands or waft. The exercise was to take the smell and write about what memories and emotions they recalled, using the scents to get deeper into writing sensory details. These included recognizable scents like peppermint and lavender, but also included a fusion scent that Norma withheld the name of until after the writing was done. By using a scent of unidentifiable nature, the writers could pull out memories and different ideas, ranging from pieces about gardens to markets in Egypt.

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Sunday, November 23rd saw the second day of the workshop. Like before, Elissa led forty minutes of yoga, followed by a juice cleanse. Norma led the second part of her “Sense of Smell, Memory, and Narrative” workshop. This time, a wide variety of scents were laid out for the participants to choose from. They could apply some to their skin or smell them, and then choose one to write about, with the restriction of keeping the “scene” or “action” in the piece to one minutes at most. As Norma explained, studies have shown that the part of the brain that processes smell is linked to long term memory, and the memories that are recalled are usually vivid and emotionally-charged.  Norma’s unique idea for these”olfactory prompts” got the creative juices flowing for everyone, and some wonderfully rich pieces of poetry and prose were written by the participants.

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photo (15)Jonah Kruvant then led a workshop called “The Art of Revision.” Jonah’s exercise was all about how a piece can change the more you work on it, structured in three parts. The first part had the writers spend twenty minutes writing as many details about a room as they can. The second part had them write a paragraph about a person in the room, with the rule that the person had to be of a certain occupation that couldn’t be specifically stated.

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The last part was to spend five minutes writing three sentences about the person in the room, but convey their emotional state. The idea was that in each new version of the story, the writer had to choose the most important details to include and to also practice brevity.

Everyone left the workshop with something new. Some left with new juice recipes to try out, others had pieces of writing to expand upon or use in their writing projects, and some left feeling refreshed. We hope that those who came enjoyed their time and participate in another yoga and writing retreat we hold.

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Thanks to the CWW members who helped organize and run the event (from left to right: Jonah Kruvant, Elissa Lewis, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Jessica Reidy, Alex Carrigan)