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.

Day 6: Bienvenue en France! CWW Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat

Early Saturday morning, we checked out and said adios to Barcelona. We took the high-speed bullet train to Narbonne, France, a charming canal city in the region of Languedoc Roussillon. In just a two hour commute through the beautiful Pyrenees mountains, we arrived in what was once a bustling ancient Roman city, on the trade route to Spain.  In parts of the city, you can see the Roman via Domitia, the ancient cobblestone road carved out from several layers under the current roads.

We settled into our rooms at the Hotel Novotel Narbonne Sud and while some of us went for a swim in the pool, others enjoyed a nice walk into town, where we ate a delicious meal and discovered a beautiful cathedral. Some of us went to bed dreaming of the Horreum, an ancient network of subterranean tunnels and passageways that dates back to 1 B.C.


Day 5: CWW Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat

Today, we continued to admire the many wonders of the city. Some of us enjoyed visiting Parc Güell, the park designed by Gaudí as a feast for the senses.  Others visited la Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s cathedral that started construction in 1882 and is still being built. They expect to finish within 15-20 years, so maybe some of us will plan to go back to see it! In the afternoon, Bret Anthony Johnston taught the second part of his Straight Outta Character Class, focusing on point of view this time.  In the evening, we went out to dinner as a group to Teatro Principal on Las Ramblas and enjoyed our gazpacho while watching an amazing flamenco show.  Tomorrow, we are off to France, so adios Barcelona. It’s been fun!