Greetings from sultry New Orleans! Our Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat kicked off on Thursday evening with writers descending on NOLA from all four corners of North America. After a lovely orientation, meet and greets, and a discussion of our current writing projects, we were off to dine and wine and roll our sleeves up! On Friday, after a home-made breakfast, Rita Banerjee kicked off our writing seminars with a class on “Character Development and the Law of Desire.” From Hamlet to Tennessee Williams to Ben Percy and Siri Hustvedt, Rita and her students investigated what made their narratives and characters really tick, the charge between dynamic and typed, masked characters, and how many names desire could take. Writing prompts and heated exchanges abounded, followed by a break-out writing session and then a Louisiana lunch. In the afternoon, Emily Nemens taught a wonderful class on “The Art of Storytelling,” in which she examine the interplay between visual images, sculptures, artifacts, architectures, and the maps of streets and things, with the very process of creating evocative lyrical and narrative writing. After her seminar and prompts, our writers took a tour on the grand Mississippi, shuttling ourselves against a moody blue sky and scatting waves to the delightful and decadent French Quarter in downtown New Orleans. There we posed as Americans in Paris in Cafe du Monde, grabbing coffee with chicory, fresh beignets, and swapping techniques about speculative fiction and narrative craft for POC. We followed through, with a walking art and historical tour of New Orleans, in which Emily Nemens guided us to the homes and haunts of literary giants such as Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Anne Rice, introduced us to the local visual art scenes and galleries of New Orleans, strolled us past cemeteries and cathedrals, and narrated the history of how sugarcane and slavery had helped build the lofty, neoclassical homes of the Garden District. After toasts over roti and jerk curry at a wonderful local Caribbean restaurant, we were back home to write and plot and think.
Our second day of classes kicked off with Diana Norma Szokolyai’s class, “Writing in the Lyric Register,” in which she examined the relationship between music, writing, and improvisation. She discussed how writers quantify the lyric register and gestures of other writers with Kazim Ali’s Anais Nin: An Unprofessional Study, and discussed how writers from the French Troubadours to Maya Sonenberg used the lyric register to structure and charge their creative work.
And in just one hour, we will be launching out 24-hour creative writing bake off with playwright and Princeton Hodder Fellow, Dipika Guha. Dipika writes, “A bake-off is a playwriting exercise or writerly dare popularized by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel. The dare is to write a play in a fixed span of time 24 hours in response to a list of shared elements. We will begin with a seminar on Saturday when we’ll visit our playwriting toolbox and look at devices, forms and structures available for our use. At this meeting we’ll choose six elements to include in our writing drawn from the city of New Orleans, seeking inspiration from its architecture, history and myths. After the seminar you will go away and write until the next evening. On Sunday over food and drink, we will read your bake-offs together and celebrate your progress. Bake-offs are not critiqued.”
We welcome all of our writers and readers from around the world to join our 24-hour creative writing bake-off remotely and on-line. If you would like to participate in our 24-hour bake-off challenge, please tweet to us @CamWritersWkshp with the tag #BakeOff. The challenge of the Bake-Off is simple: write 1 complete narrative (as a play or screenplay, a short story or novella, a novel if you dare, an essay or collection of essays, or a series of linked poems or collection) in a span of 24 hours. Your work must have a beginning, middle, and end, and you must complete the challenge with 24 hours. The clock starts at 1 pm Central Time on Saturday March 25, and ends exactly at 1 pm Central Time on Sunday March 26. So join us, and tell us about your work and process with the tag #BakeOff at @CamWritersWkshp. Happy Writing!
Et bon courage, mes amis!
CWW Creative Director
New Orleans – 3.25.17