Announcing Our New Editing and Communications Intern: Amanda Toronto

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is pleased to announce the newest member of our executive board. Amanda Toronto has officially joined the team as our newest Editing and Communications Intern. As the Editing and Communications Intern, Amanda will be aiding the CWW in our upcoming programming and communications projects. We’re so pleased to have Amanda join us and we can’t wait to see what she brings to the team.

Amanda Toronto received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University where she focused on contemporary American literature, art and religion. She lives with her family in New York City and is at work on her first novel.  You can follow her on Twitter @TorontoAmanda

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CWW Fall Harvest Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day Four

Sunday, October 15 was the last day of our Fall Harvest Retreat, and we made sure to make the most of it. We woke up to fog covering the area, which presented a great view as we made our final breakfast.

Over breakfast, we discussed what we took away from the retreat. We shared what we accomplished and what our goals from here on out would be. Some of us even shared the work we did for Rita Banerjee’s workshop.

After that, the fog had dissipated enough that we all moved out onto the deck to share our Bake Offs. We discussed whether or not we succeeded with the assignment, and if not what we had gotten done and what we had planned to finish. Some of us shared our work, showing how me managed to create work featuring lobster traps, Joan Baez, lavender, waves, pots, “stunned,” and whiskey stains.

Once we were done, some of us moved over to the nearby town of Salem, MA for a farewell lunch.  Every year, Salem hosts a month full of spooky and fun events with “Haunted Happenings” throughout the month of October.  As we roamed the town, we saw the streets turned into a Halloween carnival, with caramel apples, kettle corn, customized elvish ears, and skeleton swords.  Mixed in the crowd of humans, were also goblins, witches, and fantastic monsters just strolling around Salem’s haunts, like yarn shops, magic shops with potions and tarot cards or seaside cafés. The Peabody Essex Museum has an exhibit “It’s Alive! Classic Horror & Sci-Fi Art,” and some of us enjoyed exploring it, while others roamed the streets traveling through hundreds of Halloween & New Age/Occult-themed booths.

CWW Fall Harvest Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day Three

On Saturday, October 14, we had our third day of workshops. While some of us were tired from working late into the night on our Bake Offs, we still convened in our meeting space for breakfast and our first workshop. Diana Norma Szokolyai led a workshop on Writing in the Lyric Register. In this workshop, we looked over studying lyricism in writing and how paying attention to lyrical structure can improve our writings.

We also had two writing exercises for this workshop. The first was to write a scene that was slowed down to just five seconds. The second was to listen to a piece of music, Edgard Varèse’s “Nocturnal,” and to write whatever came to mind. The challenge was that we were unable to stop writing during the entire piece, leading to over 10 minutes of nonstop writing.

Once we were done, we shared our work. Some of us shed tears, others were surprised by the imagery that came from listening to the piece. When were were done, we all felt we had a better understanding of writing lyrically.

After that, we all went into Rockport for the Harvestfest. We went back to the same area from our first day to look through stalls for local bakeries and restaurants, crafts, and breweries. It was a cool, cloudy day, but it was still nice to walk around and see so much local color. And it certainly helped that all the food was extremely delicious.

We then returned home for the second part of Maya Sonenberg’s Beyond the Plot Triangle workshop. We learned more about unique ways to break through plot structure, such as writing through different formats. We even played quick games of Snakes and Ladders to see how we could use a board game to make a story. This led to a short story about two men named Razzle and Dazzle trying to get beer before all the bars in Rockport closed for the winter.

After that, we broke for dinner and to continue work on our Bake Offs. We had to finish our 20 pages by the next morning, and thus, we prepared for the final day of our retreat.

CWW Fall Harvest Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day Two

On October 13th, we had the first full day of our retreat. We started by working together to make breakfast, with CWW Artistic Director Diana Norma Szokolyai serving a veggie omelet along with fresh fruit and toast.

We then gathered for our first workshop with CWW Director Rita Banerjee’s workshop on Character Development & the Law of Desire. In this workshop, we discussed how we can create rounder, more dynamic characters. The participants looked at classic character archetypes and compared them to modern archetypes they see in literature. They were then challenged to find a character and write two scenes for them: one where they were alone and the reader could see entirely who they are, and another where that same character is confronted by one of these static archetypes.

After that, we took a break for lunch and to do some writing work. Some of us walked to the nearby Wingaersheek Beach, where the tide was low enough for us to walk far out. There we took in the beauty of the New England coast and observed people playing with their dogs and looked for any interesting shells or rocks we could find on the beach.

Once break time ended, we reconvened for our next workshop. Guest faculty member Maya Sonenberg led the first part of her workshop Forbidden Forms: Beyond the Plot Triangle. Here she brought in numerous examples of poems and short stories that played with worm and encouraged us to find ways to play around with plot and action. She even shared some interesting writing exercises that can help the reader break form and discover something new about their work.

After that, we all took a walk to a nearby beach. There, we played Literary Taboo. Each of us had to pick a word that was inspired by something we’ve experienced so far on the retreat or something we experienced on our way to and on the beach. Once we knew what our words were, we had to each write a short piece based on it that the other participants had to figure out. The only catch was that we couldn’t use the chosen word at all in the piece.

Once we all shared our pieces, this led to our Bake Off portion of the retreat. In the next 48 hours, we had to create a chapbook-length piece of work (around 20 pages) using all seven words however we pleased. We could create a book of poems, a series of short stories, or one short novella in that period of time. The words that we had to use were:

  • Lobster trap
  • Waves
  • “Stunned”
  • Joan Baez
  • Pot
  • Lavender
  • Whiskey stains

After that, we went to a lovely seafood restaurant, where we enjoyed oysters and other locally-sourced dishes. We used this to share ideas and to think about what we’d do for our Bake Off, and we all got to work.

CWW Fall Harvest Writing Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day One

On Thursday, October 12, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop made its way to coastal New England for our Fall Harvest Writing Retreat. We arrived at our home in Gloucester and were immediately taken by the spacious rooms, large windows, and clean elegance offered by the space. We found plenty of places to sit and write, especially with the gorgeous view from our back deck.

In the afternoon, some of us went to Downtown Rockport and walked along Bear Skin Neck. We passed by small little shops selling tons of local merchandise and kitsch. We also stopped for lunch and enjoyed a meal of crab rolls and fish and chips. We spent time taking in all the views of the harbor, the adorable looking stores, and all the cute dogs walking around.

After that, we returned to our house and settled in for the evening. We made a meal of Chicken Alfredo together, then went around the table introducing ourselves. We each shared our backgrounds, our writing history, what projects we were working on, and what we hoped to gain from this retreat.

After dishes, we all went our separate ways; some went to bed, some stayed up to do some writing. Whatever we did, we all were excited for how the retreat began and for what was to come next, as our first workshops begin tomorrow.

Pride Month: CWW Manager Alex Carrigan on Washington D.C.’s Equality March

 

I recently moved to the D.C. area for a new job, and one of the things I was most excited about with the area was the opportunity to see and do new things in a large city. Living in this area, I’d be able to see concerts, films, shows of all kinds, and the sort of social activism that I normally wouldn’t see in towns I lived in before. It wasn’t that I lived in places without these events and attitudes, but they weren’t to the scale that excited me.

I wasn’t able to go to the Women’s March back in January. I was in the midst of a move, and driving up to the area was a bad idea. I had to make due with looking at photos on Facebook of people I knew who were able to go, including members of my family. The only other social event I went to was the Climate Change March, but I ended up there accidentally and felt somewhat detached.

When I heard there was a march for LGBT+ rights, I knew I had to go. I knew that no matter what, I had to go. Last year, I started openly identifying as an LGBT man, and that openness made me want to start getting involved. I began watching more queer media, I started to go to LGBT+ events, and I wanted to start expressing myself in ways that allowed me to explore different facets of myself, both heterosexual and homosexual.

Thus, I prepared for the Equality March on June 11, 2017. First was assembling my marching look. I knew there would be people in much crazier outfits that I couldn’t seek to compete with, so I settled for a shirt I got from Charlottesville Pride 2016. I had some beads I got from the Pride Parade the day before (and from other Pride/LGBT+ events in the last year or so), and I had some buttons I got from the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Writers in Resistance reading at AWP 2017. I also had some nail polish for my fingers, mostly cause I like how my nails look painted, and I did eye black with some red lipstick I had, paying slight homage to Shoshanna from Inglourious Basterds.

The most important part of it all (aside from sunscreen, sunglasses, and water) was the sign. I knew I wanted a sign to carry. Signs stood out, signs get photographed in crowd shots, and they’re also just really fun to make. I wanted to make one that referenced queer media, mostly cause I’m a total nerd, but also because I knew these were the people who would understand whatever I put on there. I had spent months going back and forth on what to do. I had considered Venus Xtravaganza’s famous line “You’re just an overgrown orangutan” from the film Paris is Burning, as well as Trinity Taylor’s “I call ‘Shade!'” line from season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I knew pieces like these would be popular and seen throughout the march, but I mostly changed my mind because of my extremely limited artistic abilities. Plus, I saw someone else do the Trinity Taylor one, and they had a much better looking sign.

I finally settled on a line that wouldn’t raise any concern from the elderly, conservative neighbors in the new apartment I just moved into: “Not today, Satan!” The line was uttered by drag queen Bianca Del Rio in season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. For those who don’t know, Bianca is a drag insult comic who has described herself as “Don Rickles, but in a dress, and prettier and not as old.” After winning season 6, she became one of the more known subversive comics in LGBT+ media. No one is safe at a Bianca Del Rio show. Everyone will probably be offended by a few jokes, but find themselves laughing at them anyways. Bianca Del Rio is the kind of person I admire because of her ability to say whatever she wants, make it funny, and show enough intelligence, wit, class, and soul that she ascends most insecurities and can float through the most ugly of situations with her head on right and zero fucks to give.

So naturally, she was the perfect person to emulate for this march. Also, because fire is way easier to draw than a human being.

Getting to the march, I was worried about the responses I’d get on the bus or the subway. Fortunately, everone on the bus didn’t care, and when I got to the subway, I saw more people heading to the march, so I was in good company. I even got to chat with a nice girl named Miriam on the way there. I wish I didn’t lose her upon arriving, because she was a very smart and kind person who would have been a good friend to make at the event. And after all, I had just moved to the area, so I am up for making new connections.

Once I joined the line and we started to march, that’s when the rush came in. I got a taste of it in the Climate Change March, but I really felt it here. I walked with all kinds of queer individuals from all over the country. I saw people from Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and even from outside the country. I saw people who were calling out members of the Trump administration, such as Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, and Jared Kushner.

And like me, I saw a lot of people taking various figures as icons for the march. Not only did I see other RuPaul’s Drag Race queens represented via signs, I saw signs using images of figures like Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, The Babadook, and more. Even the sign I chose resonated with a lot of people. Not only did people ask me to let them take my picture (which allowed me to show off my Bianca Del Rio bitchface), but I also had people look at me and cheer “Not today, Satan!” to which I shouted back “Not today!”

What I also found interesting was the chosen route and how it related to the march. Along the way, we walked past the White House. I could see figures on the roof, no doubt wanting to see if anyone would go too far with the march. People would stop on the march, look out the White House, and chant things like “Shame! Shame! Shame!” The whole way, I could also see notable Washington D.C. monuments like the Washington Memorial, and the Capitol Building, which is where the march ended.

What I took away from this event (aside from a bit of sunburn) was a perfect blend of social activism, popular culture, meme theory, and historical relevance. I saw men, women, and children from all over the nation marching together for the sake of equality and to fight against a system that would try to install a travel ban and would pull out of the Paris agreement. I saw the use of images used in creative ways and to play with the idea of icons.

But what I mostly felt was proud. I felt like every person I saw with a stitch of rainbow on them was a friend. I felt so comfortable and joyous surrounded by all kinds of people who were so comfortable expressing themselves and using that expression to call for change. I saw gay couples holding hands, I say gay couples walking with their children, I saw people of various races and creeds coming together to make a stand. And through all of that, I felt so much bigger than I am, and it made me want to continue to be a part of this community. It made me want to pay attention to these matters, and it made me want to be willing to get out of my home and do something about these issues.

I really hope to do more with the D.C. gay community in the future, even if it’s just going to a drag show in the city. At the very least, I hope something like this happens again next year, because I would love more time to prepare something fun and exciting for the march.

And if anyone tries to stop me, I’ll just say “Not today, Satan! Not today.”

— Alexander Carrigan, CWW Manager

 

CWW Summer in Granada Writing Retreat Scholarship Deadline – June 20, 2017

Granada2017PosterJune6 copyWe are offering scholarships in the amount of $500 – $650 for our Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat (August 2-6, 2017).  Deadline for Scholarship Applications is June 20, 2017 for Granada, Spain.*

For writers who are minorities, parents, and students. Please simply indicate your scholarship category and a one paragraph statement indicating need of financial support in your cover letter.

applyDeadline: June 20, 2017

* Apply Early, Limited Scholarships *

WRITING RETREATS with the supportive faculty of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop will take place in Granada, Spain (August 2–6) and Rockport, MA (October 13-15). Faculty for our 2017 retreats include Tim Horvath, Dipika Guha, Emily Nemens, Adam Reid Sexton, Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Kerry Cohen, Maya Sonenberg and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, and hybrid.

  • Diversity Scholarship
    Diversity scholarships will be offered to minorities who show a commitment to creative writing.  In your one-page cover letter, please describe how our writing retreat would make a difference in your writing life. Include a short bio (150-200 words).
  • Student Scholarship
    Student scholarships will be offered to students (both undergraduate and graduate, full or part time) who show a commitment to creative writing.  In your one-page cover letter, please describe how our writing retreat would make a difference in your writing life. Include a short bio (150-200 words).
  • Writer/Parent Scholarship
    Writers/Parent scholarships will be offered to writers who show a commitment to creative writing and are raising children (infant through college).  In your one-page cover letter, please describe how our writing retreat would make a difference in your writing life. Include a short bio (150-200 words).

applyDeadline: June 20, 2017

* We are extending our scholarship deadline for those who read about our Summer in Granada Writing Retreat in the Washington Post & Boston Voyager feature articles this month 🙂

CWW Spring in New Orleans Retreat Faculty & Playwright Dipika Guha Awarded Princeton Hodder Fellowship

Congratulations to our 2017 Spring in New Orleans Faculty and playwright Dipika Guha for being one of five artists selected for the Princeton Hodder Fellowship.  Hodder Fellows may be writers, composers, choreographers, visual artists, performance artists, or other kinds of artists or humanists who have, as the program outlines, “much more than ordinary intellectual and literary gifts.”

Dipika Guha will join the ranks of former fellowship recipients including novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and playwright Will Eno.  As a Hodder Fellow, Guha will be working on a play about the history of partitions, homelands, and the politics of migration.

Dipika Guha is a playwright raised in India, Russia, and the United Kingdom. She was the inaugural recipient of the Shakespeare’s Sister Playwriting Award with the Lark Play Development Center, A Room of Her Own, and the Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival. Her play The Art of Gaman was developed at the Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep and topped the Kilroys List 2016. Her other plays include I Enter the Valley (Theatreworks New Play Festival 2016, Ruby Prize Finalist 2016), Mechanics of Love (Crowded Fire Theatre, Two by For, SIS Productions), Blown Youth (published by Playscripts), and The Rules (San Francisco Playhouse). Recent commissions include Yoga Play for South Coast Repertory Theatre and a translation of The Merry Wives of Windsor for Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Upcoming commissions include a play for Playwrights Horizons Theatre School, the McCarter Theatre’s Princeton Slavery Project, and in collaboration with Jeremy Cohen a new play for ACT. Guha is currently a playwright-in-residence at the Playwrights Foundation and an artist-in-residence at the Orville Schell Center for Human Rights at Yale Law School.

Introducing our Spring in Portland Alumna Angie Walls’s Award-Winning “Redmonton”

Angie Walls, an alumna of our 2017 Spring in Portland Writing Retreat, has created an award-winning web series called Redmonton.  Redmonton follows four young girls who dream of leaving their small Midwest town for the big city, but life keeps getting in the way. They get a rude awakening when they find out a friend of theirs is moving to New York City, and have to come to terms with how their lives have turned out in their mid-20s, which grows with uncertainty and loss of direction.

Redmonton is the recipient of 27 prestigious film awards worldwide, including best screenwriting, direction, cinematography, women filmmakers, and ensemble cast.  For more information on Redmonton, and to watch the web series online, please visit the following:

Official Website: www.redmonton.com
IMDB Page: www.imdb.com/title/tt5181896/
Watch on YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCVTCxEWBBXUq9JTmsN8eJgw
Watch on Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/channels/redmonton  

Angie Walls is a short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter who grew up in Springfield, Missouri, near the Ozarks. Many of her stories explore contemporary themes of identity, isolation, and helplessness in the Midwest. She is the award-winning screenwriter and director behind Redmonton, an original web series inspired by her hometown, and has published stories in various journals including Cutthroat, East Bay Review, Summerset Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Helix, Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, The Griffin, and Stirring. Her short story “Things We Should’ve Said” received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train, and one of her essays will be published in Carve Magazine. In 2017, she will be releasing a new book of short stories, Anywhere But Here.  Angie Walls is an alumna of our 2017 Spring in Portland Writing Retreat.

CWW Recommends: Lit & Culture Scenes in Portland, OR

This April, I joined an amazing group of writers at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2017 Spring in Portland Writing Retreat, hosted in the Alberta Arts District. During our brief weekend, we enjoyed an inspired writing session at the (not so) Secret Library located in the historic Heathman Hotel; an afternoon exploring Powell’s, Portland’s most well-known bookstore that occupies a full city block and boasts a collection of one million books; and a public reading from local author Paul Dage at the American legion hall on Alberta Street.

I have been lucky enough to call Portland my home for the past year. Before moving here, I spent more than a decade living on the east coast, and have found Portland to be a different kind of city. If you’ve seen Portlandia, you know what I mean. From the outside, what usually stands out is Portland’s weirdness, often compared to the likes of Austin and Pittsburgh for its quirky locals and offbeat places (a museum of vacuums, abandoned schools/banks/jails turned into bars, and a vegan strip club, just to name a few). On the inside, Portland is a gem of a city that prides itself in many things: environmental consciousness, craft brewing, and a farm-to-table ethos – local bacon jam, local salt, local ketchup, local coffee roasters, and I could go on forever. Most of all, Portland is a city of passion, arts, and community, which frequently celebrates its indie authors, publishers, and artists. So in today’s post, I’m happy to share a few recommendations on the best places to write, discuss books, and otherwise soak up the creative life here in Portland.

— Angie Walls

Mother Foucault’s Bookshop

This beloved indie bookshop sells new and used books, and proud of its bookish, low-tech environment (cash only, no cell phones, and they don’t have a website). With floor-to-ceiling wood bookshelves, a small stage, a back room for book groups, Mother Foucault’s is a great spot to get lost reading. They host several readings and events for writers, poets, and performers, including this summer’s Last Thursdays of Humanity – an open stage for storytellers to respond to the current state of America.


Literary Arts

Literary Arts is a thirty-year-old nonprofit literary center in Portland that offers valuable programs and support services for writers. They celebrate local authors with the Oregon Book Awards and Fellowship programs, offer creative writing workshops, and build community around literature through lecture series and author events. Every November, they host the city’s biggest book festival called Wordstock, an entire day of fifty on-stage readings, writer panels, pop-up signings, and book fair.

Liars’ League PDX & Backfence

In addition to poetry slams, Portland has a few groups hosting spoken word open mics. The Liars’ League originally formed in London and has spread to NYC, Hong Kong, and Portland. Every month’s event is based on a theme like “East and West” and “Willpower and Shame.” The League picks the best  short fiction and then casts actors to reach them at the live event. And in the past week, the Liars’ League PDX will be part of The Archive Project, a collaboration between Literary Arts and OPB Radio that features recordings from lit/poetry slams and other live literary events around Portland.

Rimsky-Korsakoffee House

One of my favorite writing spots, the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House is one of the oldest coffee houses in the city and is full of oddities including a coffin centerpiece and self-rotating tables. Inside a Victorian house in Southeast Portland (formerly a warehouse and industrial neighborhood that now offers hip eateries and shops), Rimsky’s is great for a late-night writing session, complete with coffee and to-die-for desserts and live classical music. According to owner Goody Cable, “the house is haunted by it former tenants, a pair of writers who bore witness to the Russian revolution.”

Crystal Ballroom

Originally built in 1914 as Cotillion Hall to host dance revivals and popular music artists during the Great Depression, the Crystal Ballroom continues to be one of Portland’s top music venues. Even after decades of changes, the building has managed to maintain its unique character, in its high ceilings, murals, chandeliers, wide-arched windows, and restored “floating” dance floor. In addition to bringing in local and national bands, the ballroom also hosts its 80s and 90s dance parties that have been drawing crowds for the past ten years.

Saturday Market

Portland’s Saturday Market has been around for nearly forty-five years, and every Saturday, Portlanders come to explore the open-air market in Old Town. This market showcases more than 250 local arts, crafts, and food vendors: handcrafted soaps, mosaic art, oil paintings, vegan bakeries, eco-friendly jewelry, and more.

First Thursdays

Originally a gathering of art collectors and dealers, this is the place to discover Portland’s thriving art scene. In the heart of the Pearl District, First Thursdays draws thousands into the area’s thirty-plus art galleries spread over eight city blocks, so you can meet local sculptors, painters, photographers, collectors, and others over wine and a shared love of art. Come summertime, the closed-off blocks come alive through live music, beer, food, and new friends.

Revolution Hall

Revolution Hall is a performing arts venue and concert hall. It’s housed in what used to be the Washington High School building in Southeast, which was abandoned after the ‘80s and later renovated as a performance venue in 2013. It’s hosted local bands from Portland’s Mississippi Studios among a variety of national and international acts – from blues to grassroots to British indie rock. While most of the calendar is filled with bands, they host other exciting events like comedy, live author events (in Feb, an Evening with Activist/Journalist Dan Savage) and live radio productions, including Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar radio show and LiveWire (a popular live variety show).

Angie Walls is a short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter who grew up in Springfield, Missouri, near the Ozarks. Many of her stories explore contemporary themes of identity, isolation, and helplessness in the Midwest. She is the award-winning screenwriter and director behind Redmonton, an original web series inspired by her hometown, and has published stories in various journals including Cutthroat, East Bay Review, Summerset Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Helix, Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, The Griffin, and Stirring. Her short story “Things We Should’ve Said” received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train, and one of her essays will be published in Carve Magazine. In 2017, she will be releasing a new book of short stories, Anywhere But Here.  Angie Walls is an alumna of our 2017 Spring in Portland Writing Retreat.