CWW Summer in Granada Writing Retreat- Aug 4 2017: Storyteller’s Voice, Poetry of Flamenco, & Roma Caves Tour

Today, we started off our day unpacking the elements of The Storyteller’s Voice with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.  After enjoying this craft of writing seminar in our classroom overlooking the Alhambra, we enjoyed a lunch break and some free writing time.  We re-convened later in the afternoon for a class on The Evocative Poetry of Flamenco with Diana Norma Szokolyai, who taught about the history of flamenco and its influence on the musical and literary landscape.  We analyzed a variety of forms presented in flamenco lyrics, before setting off for Sacromonte to hike to the museum of the Roma caves.  After visiting several traditional Roma cave dwellings, we went to one of the most well known cuevas, Cueva de la Rocio to enjoy a spectacular performance of Zambra, a traditional Roma (“Gypsy”) wedding dance.  After the performance, we went to the Mirador San Nicolas for a stunning night view of the Alhambra and enjoyed the evening artist market.

-Diana Norma Szokolyai, Granada 2017


CWW Summer in Granada Writing Retreat- Aug. 3 2017: Character Development & Writing from your Senses in the City of Pomegranates

Granada. City that is a feast for the senses, city that pulls you into its perfumed streets, filled with the foglight of frankincense and the pepper of flamenco music.  We started Thursday off with an intensive class taught by Rita Banerjee on Character Development & the Law of Desire.  After breaking for lunch and some time to write our character sketches, we re-convened for Tim Horvath’s class on Writing from Your Senses. During the class, we examined a variety of literary texts, as well as sampled tantalizing chocolate from a world class chocolatier and some handmade by CWW Artistic Director Diana Norma Szokolyai just days before in a chocolate factory in a small mountain village, Mijas.  Cacao, ginger, chile, sea salt, essential oil of lemon, corn nuts, blueberries…these were just some of the flavorful notes that we tasted.  As we went through all of the senses, we were surprised by some I Hate Perfume scents that evoked literary landscapes from novels or particular seasons and decades.  At night, we went on a tapas tour and enjoyed sampling local sangria, wine, tinto de verano, clara (lemonade and beer) and cañas.  The colorful street markets were a delight to explore as we sampled local cheeses and tapas.  It was a day full of sensorial experiences to feed our writing.

-Diana Norma Szokolyai, Granada

Au revoir NOLA, je t’aime!

On Saturday, Dipika Guha brilliantly led a class unpacking the elements of a play. After an intellectual discussion about what makes up a play, we were given seven common elements to incorporate into all of our plays. Inspired by New Orleans, these included busking in the streets, a mule, and elevated cemeteries. We were given until the following morning to write a complete play, with a beginning, middle and end.  Welcoming the challenge, some of us cozied into our writing corners in our NOLA house, and others took their notebooks and pens in their pockets, setting off on the ferry to explore what inspiration the New Orleans streets had to offer.  Several of us went out to dinner at the infamous COOP’S Place, where the food is delicious and the servers are, well, let’s just say,…characters! I recommend the jambalaya (it takes five hours to make, and our server swore it was the reason that he got a job there).

On Sunday morning, we all gathered around the table and toasted to our writing with mimosas. Then, we all read through our plays, casting each other for dramatic readings.  It was truly amazing to see the depth and scope of work that could come out of a single bake off.

After we buttoned up our rooms and said our farewells on the big, welcoming porch of our historic New Orleans home, we set off with new writing goals and some new tools to apply to our manuscripts.  Those of us with some time to spare before our flights went to the French market to sift through the beautiful jewelry from around the world and taste decadent crepes and pralines.  (Recommendations: Rum Pralines and Banana-Chocolate-Peanut butter-Bacon Crepes).

On the way to the airport, I called one our trusty cabbies we had gotten to know over our time in NOLA, and he pointed out where the Voodo Lady lives, the ghost town areas of NOLA, and recounted his own story of Hurricane Katrina. I was thankful for his kindness, and for all the generosity and creativity blooming in New Orleans!

Au Revoir New Orleans, we love you, and we will be back!

–Diana Norma Szokolyai
New Orleans, March 26, 2017

CWW in Granada 2016 Writing Retreat: Day 7 & 8

On Wednesday, Alexander Chee taught his informative class “Historical Fiction: Part 3.” On Thursday, Rita Banerjee gave her essential class on “Revision & Publications.”  In the afternoon, we met one on one again for more feedback on not only our manuscripts-in-progress, but new writing generated on the retreat.  Many of us enjoyed some final tapas, visiting restaurants we learned about during our tapas tour earlier in the week.  The community came together for a farewell dinner that boasted stunning views of Granada and Al Hambra.

CWW in Granada 2016 Writing Retreat: Day 5 & 6

On Monday, Alexander Chee taught “Historical Fiction: Part Two” in the morning, and in the afternoon, we had our first set of writing consultations.  It was meaningful to have writers meet one on one with faculty members to receive specific feedback on the particulars of individual manuscripts. On Tuesday, Rita Banerjee gave her popular class on “Emotion and Suspense in Theater, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction.”  We enjoyed taking in the architecture of Granada as well as the beauty of the Andalusian landscape on our long walks during our free time.  Some of our best ideas are born during quiet walks!

CWW Summer in Granada Writing Retreat: Day 3 & 4

Alexander Chee taught his class “Historical Fiction: Part One in the morning on Saturday.  One of our writers enjoyed a weekend trip to Cordoba to do research on her novel set there in the 1970s.  On Sunday, Frederick-Douglass Knowles II taught his class “The Socio-Political Power of Hip Hop: Tupac Shakur, Martyr or Menace.”  There was incense, there were powerful words, there was history turned on its head, all from our beautiful classroom with a balcony overlooking Al Hambra.


Day 8: CWW Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat

Today,  Heidi Pitlor taught her very practical and helpful class, “The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing.” We had some great discussions and gained some clarity on what editors are looking for and how to write a query letter.  Then, we all went off on our own to write for a few hours before heading into town for a final delicious dinner.  We all enjoyed discovering the ancient Roman road as well!


Day 7: CWW Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat

It was a relaxing Sunday for everyone, and since everything was closed in town (as is the Catholic custom in such European towns), we stayed at the hotel and concentrated on our writing, taking breaks in the pool. Rita Banerjee taught her class on Emotion & Suspense in Theater, Poetry and (Non)Fiction, and we all learned about Rasa theory.  In the evening, we enjoyed listening to each other read our original work.