The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in Portland Writing Retreat will take place from April 22-24, 2017. While you’re in the home of writers Cheryl Strayed and Ursula K. Le Guin, feel free to go bicycling and explore the terrain, hike, or relax at local cafes for people watching—no matter how you choose to spend your time, this city is full inspiration. We will be staying in the Alberta Arts District during the retreat, an area that is sure to inspire our participants and help them create. The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Adam Reid Sexton, Kerry Cohen, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The deadline to apply is March 25th, 2017.
Schedule of Classes:
Writing in the Lyric Register (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
In this writing workshop, we will practice writing in the lyric register, expanding our writing into descriptive, poetic prose. We will look intensively at writing “the moment,” slowing down and unpacking a single moment. After examining some examples in literature, we will take to writing and revising our own pieces to unlock the lyrical qualities of a single moment. Our aim will be to pull our readers into the emotionally charged and poetic world of our narratives.
Structuring Your Short Story or Novel (with Adam Reid Sexton)
From the time of Homer to the present day, writers have provided stories with the same basic shape – narrative structure, it’s called. Regardless of content, the result of that structure is a kind of reading machine that people feel compelled to experience from start to finish. In this course we learn the elements of classic story structure, as well as how much those elements can be varied without damage to your short-story, novel, or memoir. Learn how to structure stories so potential readers of your work become actual readers.
Writing Memoir Honestly (with Kerry Cohen)
Annie Lamott famously wrote, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” If only it were that easy! In this course we will examine the many challenges of writing about other people in memoir. We will discuss some anecdotes from memoir authors, address students’ concerns about their own memoirs, and we will complete writing exercises that will allow for practice in writing about ourselves and others honestly and ethically.
Science: Fiction – Building Literary Worlds (with Rita Banerjee)
In this class, we will explore how the fabric and rules of literary worlds in realist and speculative fiction are created. By examining the parameters of social and behavioral codes, human interactions and psychology, and the materiality of worlds, we’ll explore that volatile space where truth and lie meet, where conflicts crystallize, and where storytelling disturbs and delights.
Writing the Personal Essay (with Kerry Cohen)
Personal essays allow us to understand one another as fellow humans, to see ourselves in each other. They give us ways to know something in a new way, thereby expanding our understandings of ourselves. They are, in my mind, a key to living a self-examined life; and who wants to live another way? In this course, we will examine select essays by authors for their craft, their purpose, and their effect. Students will brainstorm ideas, write, workshop, and share their own personal essays, resulting in a polished piece by the end.
Playing with Point of View (with Adam Reid Sexton)
What’s the best point-of-view strategy to use when writing a particular work of fiction or creative nonfiction – first-person central, or third omniscient? Second-person (“you”) – or even first person plural (“we”)? This course breaks down the complicated, challenging topic of POV in storytelling, employing mini-lectures, in-class exercises, and short readings by contemporary masters like Jeffrey Eugenides and Lorrie Moore, to turn point of view from an obligation into an opportunity. POV can be fun!
Kerry Cohen is the author of 10 books, including the bestselling Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity and Girl Trouble: An Illustrated Memoir, her most recent book, which came out October 2016. Kerry is faculty at the Red Earth Low Residency MFA program and is a practicing counselor. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.
Adam Reid Sexton teaches writing at Yale University, where he is a Lecturer in the English Department, a Critic on the faculty of Yale’s School of Art, and a Silliman Residential College Fellow. He has taught writing at Columbia University and the New School, and he has lectured at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House, and the University of Alabama, where he delivered the Hudson Strode Lecture in the Age of Shakespeare. Sexton is the author of Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway and Other Greats, and with a team of graphic artists, he has adapted four of Shakespeare’s tragedies as manga (Japanese-style graphic novels). His anthology Rap on Rap was acquired by Harvard’s W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research, while Desperately Seeking Madonna is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archive. Sexton’s fiction, essays, and reviews have been published in the Bellevue Literary Review, the Mississippi Review, and Off Assignment, as well as the Boston Phoenix, the New York Times, and the Village Voice. For four years Sexton curated a reading series at KGB Bar in New York City. He has been interviewed on writing and literature by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and npr.com, and one of his classes was broadcast on BBC Radio.
Rita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.
Diana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (first runner-up Best Poetry Book at the 2009 DIY Book Festival). She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers. Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause led to their collaboration “Space Mothlight” hitting #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive. Szokolyai’s work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as anthologized in The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering and Teachers as Writers. Szokolyai earned her Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University and her M.A. in French Literature from the University of Connecticut, while she completed coursework at the Sorbonne and research on Romani writers in Paris. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.