CWW Interview with Jade Sylvan Our Newport, RI Writing Instructor & Author of Spider Cult: The Musical

LowRes-DSC_0440-Edit-2Last week, our Spring in Newport, Rhode Island Writing & Yoga Retreat took place from April 22-24. Highlights of the retreat included featured faculty member Jade Sylvan’s class, Writing Yourself Naked. Sylvan, author of  acclaimed memoir, Kissing Oscar Wilde (2013) and writer/producer of the upcoming Spider Cult: The Musical (2016) took the time to sit down with Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Alyssa Goldstein Ekstrom for an interview. Read below the interview people and check out our Spring in Newport, Rhode Island recap! And don’t forget, you have until May 30 to register for our Summer Writing Retreats in Barcelona & South of France (July 18-26, 2016) and Granada, Spain (July 28- August 5, 2016)!

Alyssa Goldstein Ekstrom: You just taught a class on our Newport retreat called Writing Yourself Naked. What was your experience in Newport like and did you have a favorite part of the retreat?

Jade Sylvan: Honestly, my favorite part was getting to know the writers and what they were working on. It’s great to get out of my own echo-chamber and learn with people from all over with different backgrounds who I’d never meet otherwise.

AGE: You’re an award-winning poet, author, screenwriter, producer, and performance artist. What do you think it is that drives you to keep on creating?

JS: Habit. What else would I do with my feelings?

AGE: The Boston Globe called you a “risqué queer icon.” Do you feel being labeled an icon, and more importantly, a queer icon, puts more pressure on you when it comes to creating new work or does it perhaps aid you in your creative process or does it have no bearing on what you do at all?

JS:  I think it’s funny more than anything. Whenever people write about me it always feels like they miss the point, but I guess it’s good to be written about. I like attention but I’m an introvert. Writer’s curse.

KissingOscar-Book2AGE: You wrote a memoir titled Kissing Oscar Wilde. Was writing a memoir more than challenging than you expected it to be and what surprised you most about writing it?

JS: It was very hard to write something personal and honest and what surprised me most about it was how it changed and in some cases deepened my relationships with the other people in the book. I learned a lot about communication from that experience.

AGE: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about writing a memoir?

JS: Just write what happened.

spidersamAGE: Congratulations on Spider Cult: The Musical which will be held at the Oberon in Cambridge, MA June 24 & 26! It its description it says it is  “the apocalyptic lesbian sci-fi horror burlesque musical of the century.” What inspired you to write this script?

JS: People always say to “write what you know.” Well, I know about religion and lesbian orgies and pseudo-science and boobs.

AGE: Finally, aside from Spider Cult: The Musical, do you have any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?

JS: I’m working on a supernatural erotic thriller and a short YA story, but I can say no more!

jadesylvanJade Sylvan (they/them/their), called a “risqué queer icon” by The Boston Globe, is an award-winning author, poet, screenwriter, producer, and performing artist heavily rooted in the literary and performance community of Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. Jade’s most recent book, Kissing Oscar Wilde (Write Bloody, 2013), a novelized memoir about the author’s experience as a touring poet in Paris (sponsored by a travel grant from The Foundation of Contemporary Arts), was a finalist for the New England Book Award and the Bisexual Book Award.  Other work has appeared in The Washington PostBuzzfeedThe Toast, Mudfish, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and many other publications.  Jade has toured extensively, performing their work to audiences across the United States, Canada, and Europe.  They are currently overseeing the production of their first full-length stage play, Spider Cult: The Musical, opening June 24th, 2016 at Oberon Theater in Harvard Square.

Writing Yourself Naked, Collaborations, Straight Outta Character and more: Unveiling our 2016 Retreat Schedules!

Write Yourself Naked with Jade Sylvan, find out What’s at Stake with Diana Norma Szokolyai, and take Energizing Yoga with Elissa Lewis in Newport.

In Barcelona & the South of France, experience Brevity with David Shields, go Straight Outta Character with Bret Anthony Johnston, create Emotion & Suspense in Theatre with Rita Banerjee, and delve into the Troubadours in the South of France with Diana Norma Szokolyai.

Finally, discuss Historical Fiction with Alexander Chee, piece together Collage with David Shields, immerse yourself in the Evocative Poetry of Flamenco with Diana Norma Szokolyai, and explore Revision & Publication techniques with Rita Banerjee in Granada.

Below you’ll find our Spring and Summer Retreat Schedules along with course descriptions and faculty bios.

If you would like to join us on any of our retreats,  please apply online at cww.submittable.com by April 15, 2016, and include a $5 application screening fee, along with a writing sample of either five pages of poetry or ten pages of prose. (Due to limited seats, early applications are encouraged, but check for rolling admission after deadline, depending on availability).

applyDeadline: April 15, 2016

Spring in Newport, Rhode Island (April 22-24, 2016)

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Class Descriptions:

Writing Yourself Naked (with Jade Sylvan)
From nonfiction memoirs to poetry, from sci-fi to fantasy, it can be hard to wade through all of our associations, defenses, and unconscious belief systems to find what we really want to say.  Through a series of writing and personal reflection exercises, we will begin to slough off the layers of social, environmental, and biological noise to excavate the core of our authentic voice.

What’s at Stake? (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
Any good piece of writing makes clear to the writer what is at stake.  But how do we, as authors, clarify what is at stake?  In this craft of writing seminar, we will examine the central driving force of our narratives.  Taking examples from literature and applying them to our own writing, we will explore what is at stake in terms of several paradigms: the personal, professional, social, and ideological.

Your Voice: Performing Your Words (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
In this workshop, we will examine the elements of voice related to performing our work.  Whether you are a performance poet or doing a reading at a local library from a short story, novel, or nonfiction work, it is useful to think about how you can craft the delivery of your performance and leave the audience wanting more.  We will analyze the performances of several established writers and performers as well as experiment with recording and performing our own work.

Energizing Yoga (with Elissa Lewis)
Expect a breath-centered vinyasa class designed to bring clarity and lift your spirits.  A morning yoga practice is a lovely way to begin your day!  We will end on a relaxed note; with some combination of meditation and writing in your journal.

Restorative Yoga (with Elissa Lewis)
Gentle yoga to alleviate stress in the body.  Expect foundational and restorative poses as well as breathing exercises.  Class will end with some combination of meditation and journaling.

Summer in Barcelona & South of France (July 18-26, 2016)

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Class Descriptions:

Brevity (with David Shields)
Lecture. Exegesis. In-class writing/critique.
A sustained argument for the excitement and urgency of literary brevity in a hyper-digital, post-religious age; a rally for compression, concision, and velocity; and a meditation on the brevity of human existence. We are mortal beings. There is no god. We live in a digital culture. Art is related to the body and to the culture. Art should reflect these things. Brevity rules.

Collage (with David Shields)
Lecture. Exegesis. In-class writing/critique.
The novel is dead; long live the anti-novel, built from scraps./I’m not interested in collage as the refuge of the compositionally disabled. I’m interested in collage as an evolution beyond narrative./A great painting comes together, just barely./It may be that nowadays in order to move us, abstract pictures need if not humor then at least some admission of their own absurdity-expressed in genuine awkwardness or in an authentic disorder./These fragments I have shored against my ruins./Collage is the primary art form of the twenty-first century.

Collaboration (with David Shields)
Lecture. Exegesis. In-class writing/critique.
A class on kinds of collaboration: collaboration with yourself, with your own material, with other texts, with other people, and the world in general. I’ll talk for a while about the kinds of collaboration I’ve done and ask people in the class to bring in an idea for how they might collaborate on their next project.

Straight Outta Character (with Bret Anthony Johnston)
This course will be a hands-on and practical exploration of how writers create characters in narrative.  Using classic and contemporary examples of dynamic characters and a good many craft-based writing exercises, we will develop strategies and techniques to create nuanced characters in our own work.  We will consider how other elements of successful narratives are formed and informed by choices of character.  If character is fate, and of course it is, then character is also plot, setting, and point-of-view.  Our goal is to find the means to surrender to our characters, to find the courage to let them quicken to life in our and our readers’ imagination, and to find the faith to follow—rather than lead—them through the stories that they’re using us to tell.

Spatial Poetics: (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
In this craft of writing seminar, we will examine how theories in spatial poetics apply to the structure of our writing.  Using literary theory, elements of visual design, sociological paradigms, and our imaginations, we will explore the concept of spatial form in our narratives as it relates to concrete and abstract places and spaces.

Troubadours in the South of France: (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
The south of France was once a land rich with the culture of the troubadours, and these poets spoke in the local vernacular, Occitan.  “Troubadour” comes from the Occitan, trobar, meaning “to invent, to compose, or to find.” In this class, we will learn about the rich traditions of the troubadours and their influence on French poetry.

Science: Fiction – How to Build 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.

Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry and (Non)fiction: (with Rita Banerjee)
Plato argues that human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.  And before staging Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Śākuntalā, the director challenges his actress-lover: “As though in a painting, the entire audience has had their emotion colored through your melody.  So now—what shall we perform to sustain the mood?”  In this class, we will explore how creating vivid emotional worlds between characters and within storylines can build suspense, sustain drama, and lure the reader deeper in.

Summer in Granada (July 28-August 5, 2016)

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Class Descriptions:

Brevity (with David Shields)
Lecture. Exegesis. In-class writing/critique.
A sustained argument for the excitement and urgency of literary brevity in a hyper-digital, post-religious age; a rally for compression, concision, and velocity; and a meditation on the brevity of human existence. We are mortal beings. There is no god. We live in a digital culture. Art is related to the body and to the culture. Art should reflect these things. Brevity rules.

Collage (with David Shields)
Lecture. Exegesis. In-class writing/critique.
The novel is dead; long live the anti-novel, built from scraps./I’m not interested in collage as the refuge of the compositionally disabled. I’m interested in collage as an evolution beyond narrative./A great painting comes together, just barely./It may be that nowadays in order to move us, abstract pictures need if not humor then at least some admission of their own absurdity-expressed in genuine awkwardness or in an authentic disorder./These fragments I have shored against my ruins./Collage is the primary art form of the twenty-first century.

Historical Fiction (with Alexander Chee)
War and Peace holds a strange place in literary history, participating in the crowning of realism as a substantial and serious literary mode in America, even as the novel also contributed to the argument that historical fiction could be by nature dangerous, illegitimate, and inaccurate. This is the reason historical fiction is sometimes reviewed by historians, who may evaluate the novel for how much it has gotten right, instead of for its literary merit—as if the only thing for a historical novel to do is to authentically replicate the past. In this class, we will explore what historical fiction is and how to write it.

The Evocative Poetry of Flamenco (with Diana Norma Szokolyai)
In this class, we will explore the fantastically concise and heel-to-floor transmission of passion through the lyrics of flamenco music. Packed with intense rhythms, rhymes, and imagery to match the intensity of the music, flamenco songs are a form ofpoetry developed by Romani people to express the deepest human experiences of love, death, and oppression. We will examine symbols and structures in the poetry of flamenco, learning the distinctions between siguiriya, tango, playera, soleá, and carcelera. Complementary to the class, we will visit an authentic flamenco performance and get a tour of the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte, where Romani people have traditionally lived in cave dwellings and practiced the art of flamenco.

Poetry & What’s at Stake (with Rita Banerjee)
“What’s at stake” reveals how and why a poem is being told. What’s at Stake builds urgency, conflict, and pivotal turns within a lyrical or narrative poem, and drives engagement. It reveals what’s on the line for the speaker and the reader in terms of personal, emotional, psychological, physical, social, and political investments. In this class will read work by poets such as Elizabeth Bishop, Allen Ginsberg, Jamaal May, and Ocean Vuong, and will explore how writers and readers become more invested in a poem, its performance, and its narrative by raising the stakes.

Revision & Publication (with Rita Banerjee)
In this class, we will explore techniques for revisions, effective methods for submitting work, resources for publication, and of course, post-publication escapades.

Featured Faculty:

jadesylvanJade Sylvan (they/them/their), called a “risqué queer icon” by The Boston Globe, is an award-winning author, poet, screenwriter, producer, and performing artist heavily rooted in the literary and performance community of Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. Jade’s most recent book, Kissing Oscar Wilde (Write Bloody, 2013), a novelized memoir about the author’s experience as a touring poet in Paris (sponsored by a travel grant from The Foundation of Contemporary Arts), was a finalist for the New England Book Award and the Bisexual Book Award.  Other work has appeared in The Washington PostBuzzfeedThe Toast, Mudfish, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and many other publications.  Jade has toured extensively, performing their work to audiences across the United States, Canada, and Europe.  They are currently overseeing the production of their first full-length stage play, Spider Cult the Musical, opening June 24th, 2016 at Oberon Theater in Harvard Square.

DAvidShields-AuthorPhoto1-727x1000David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New YorkTimes bestseller), and Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award). Forthcoming from Knopf in February 2017 is Other People: Takes & Mistakes. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, Yale ReviewVillage VoiceSalonSlateMcSweeney’s, and Believer. His work has been translated into twenty languages.

baj-bio-pic-2Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the internationally best-selling novel Remember Me Like This, and author of  the award-winning Corpus Christi: Stories, which was named a Best Book of the Year by The Independent (London) and The Irish Times, and the editor of Naming the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. His work appears in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Paris Review, Glimmer Train Stories, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere.  His awards include the Pushcart Prize, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, the Stephen Turner Award, the Cohen Prize, a James Michener Fellowship, the Kay Cattarulla Prize for short fiction, and many more. His nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, The Best American Sports Writing, and on NPR’s All Things Considered.  A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he’s the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and a 5 Under 35 honor from the National Book Foundation. He wrote the documentary film Waiting for Lightning, which was released in theaters around the world by Samuel Goldwyn Films. He teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Harvard University, where he is the Director of Creative Writing.


cheeAlexander Chee
was born in Rhode Island, and raised in South Korea, Guam and Maine. He is a recipient of the 2003 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in Fiction, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Ledig House, the Hermitage and Civitella Ranieri. His first novel, Edinburgh (Picador, 2002), is a winner of the Michener Copernicus Prize, the AAWW Lit Award and the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, and was a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year and a Booksense 76 selection. In 2003, Out Magazine honored him as one of their 100 Most Influential People of the Year. His essays and stories have appeared in Granta.com, Out, The Man I Might Become, Loss Within Loss, Men On Men 2000, His 3 and Boys Like Us. He has taught fiction and nonfiction writing at the New School University, Wesleyan University, Amherst College, and the Fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in New York City and blogs at Koreanish.

diananormaDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer/interdisciplinary artist/educator and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Based in Brooklyn, NY, 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 published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, and Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as anthologized in The Highwaymen NYC #2Other 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 original research in Paris for two years. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.

RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.  Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in the Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, Poets for Living Waters, The Monarch Review, The Fiction Project, Quail Bell Magazine, Jaggery, Catamaran, The Crab Creek Review, The Dudley Review, Objet d’Art, Amethyst Arsenic, Vox Populi, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure, Chrysanthemum, and on KBOO Radio’s APA Compass in Portland, Oregon.  Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night, was published by Finishing Line Press and received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, is forthcoming from Spider Road Press in 2016.  Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, she is currently working on a novel and a book of lyric essays.

elissalewisElissa Lewis is the Yoga & Arts Coordinator of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She began her journey with yoga in 2006, when she moved to France and made the practice part of her daily routine. She saw yoga as a lifestyle, not only a class, helping her to clear her mind and have more compassion for herself and others. In 2010 she moved to New York and completed her teacher training at Laughing Lotus, a creative, soulful yoga studio that teaches the student to ‘move like yourself.’ She’s taught private and group classes in Manhattan and Brooklyn ever since. Visit her website for informative yoga sequences and information.

Alexander Chee, our Summer in Granada Fiction Instructor, feat in Elle, NY Times, The New Yorker, and on NPR

“A woman’s desire is either terrifying or it’s ignored. I think what’s terrifying, is that men want power, even over that. It is the one thing, in a sense, that a woman can withhold, her sexuality. It’s incontrovertible, the withholding of her pleasure—and that was a source of the courtesan’s power: the performance of pleasure. A courtesan not only played lover, but mother, too. You know, it was common to blame courtesans for the fall of the Second Empire—and that fascinated me. The idea that they bankrupted these poor young men, who spent so much money on them and made France so weak.”  — Alexander Chee on novel, The Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee’s second novel, has received significant critical attention since its February 2016 debut.   Read more about The Queen of The Night at Alexander Chee in ElleThe New York TimesThe New Yorkerand NPR.

alexandercheeAlexander Chee
was born in Rhode Island, and raised in South Korea, Guam and Maine. He is a recipient of the 2003 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in Fiction, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Ledig House, the Hermitage and Civitella Ranieri. His first novel,
Edinburgh (Picador, 2002), is a winner of the Michener Copernicus Prize, the AAWW Lit Award and the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, and was a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year and a Booksense 76 selection.  Chee, will be teaching at our Summer in Granada, Andalucía, Spain Writing Retreat (July 28-Aug 5, 2016).  The deadline to sign up for our Summer in Granada, Andalucia, Spain Writing Retreat is this April 15, 2016.  Apply at: https://cww.submittable.com/

Our Summer in Barcelona & Granada Nonfiction Faculty David Shields feat. on PBS / KCTS 9 for War is Beautiful

WarisBeautifulYes, of course, from Homer to Mathew Brady to Robert Capa, war photographers have aestheticized war, but nothing prepared me for the hundreds of full-color pictures that appeared on the front page of The New York Times from the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 until now. At least once a week I would be enchanted and infuriated by these images, and I wanted to understand why, so I recently spent many months reviewing every page A1 war photo over the last 4,500 days. This is what I learned. This is why I no longer read The New York Times.” David Shields, War is Beautiful

In an interview with PBS/KCTS 9, Shields, a former “life-long subscriber of The New York Times,” discussed his motivation for writing War is Beautiful: “As the Homeland Security slogan goes, ‘If you see something, say something.’ I felt like I was seeing something and I felt compelled as a democratic citizen to say something.”

In War is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict, bestseller David Shields critiques over a decade of “extraordinarily beautiful and. . .little war-like” war images.  The book contains 64 full-color photographs featured on the cover of the Times between 2001 and 2013.  During the interview, Shields states, “The book is meant to be problematically beautiful. I mean to ask of myself and my fellow citizens and fellow readers how much beauty are we prepared to swallow in the name of glorifying war.”  Watch the interview in its entirety visit PBS/KCTS 9.

Author photo of David Shields, 2012.David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), and Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award). Forthcoming from Knopf in February 2017 is Other People: Takes & Mistakes. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, Yale Review, Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney’s, and Believer. His work has been translated into twenty languages.  He is teaching at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Barcelona and South of France (July 18-26, 2016) and Summer in Granada (July 28 – August 5, 2016) Writing Retreats.

 

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop takes on AWP 2016 LA!

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AWP16LAThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is coming to Los Angeles for the AWP Conference (March 30 – April 2, 2016)!! We’ve got some exciting plans for AWP, so anyone who is in Los Angeles for AWP should come see us.  Last year’s AWP  was a success with our bookfair table and reading at Boneshaker Books.

This year, you’ll be able to find us at Table 1157 and find information regarding our upcoming Spring in Newport, Rhode Island (April 22-25, 2016) Summer in Narbonne & Barcelona (July 18-26, 2016), and Summer in Granada, Spain (July  28-August 5, 2016) Writing Retreats. We’ll have updates on CREDO and information for those who want to become a member of the CWW or apply for internships.  We’ll also be hosting our AWP Reading: Cambridge Writers’ Workshop takes on Los Angeles! at Sabor y Cultura (located at 5625 Hollywood BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90028) on Friday, April 1, 2016 from 4-7 pm.  Our featured writers include Rita Banerjee, Jessica BurnquistJulialicia Case,  Micah Dean HicksAriana Kelly, Gwen E. KerbyKatie KnollEllaraine LockieHeather Aimee O’Neill,  Ondrej PazdirekBrenda Peynado, Esther Pfaff, Jessica PiazzaJonathan ShapiroEmily Smith, and Emily Skaja.

We hope to see you there!

Summer in Barcelona and South of France Writing Retreat (July 18-26, 2016)

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Join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on our Summer in Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat to two of Europe’s most fascinating and scintillating locales, Barcelona, Spain and Narbonne, France. A little more than a two hour’s ride away from Narbonne via train, Barcelona, known for its award-winning architecture, beautiful weather, and rich European culture, is the perfect spot for any writer to fulfill their literary desires. The Sercotel Amister Art Hotel Barcelona, where we will be staying, features beautiful contemporary art, along with a very modern classroom space which will surely get those creative juices flowing.

After spending a few days and nights where participants will be allowed to explore Barcelona in all of its beauty, the retreat will move to Narbonne, France. Home to the Canal de la Robine and the Narbonne Cathedral, Narbonne is a great place for anyone to take a relaxing walk or do some historical sightseeing. Narbonne also has some amazing beaches and biking trails. Hotel Novotel Narbonne Sud will be our lodging in Narbonne. With its chic style and proximity to Narbonne’s historic city center, Hotel Novotel Narbonne Sud presents itself as the perfect sanctuary for any writer.

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Barcelona & Southern France Writing Retreat will take place from July 18-26, 2016, and the cost of the workshop is $3950, which includes lodging and breakfast in Barcelona, Spain and Narbonne, France, transportation from Barcelona to Narbonne, craft of writing seminars, and writing workshops. The retreat allows writers, both new and experienced, the opportunity to learn from and work alongside award-winning authors and editors. Participating writers will find themselves honing their craft and expanding their writing skills as they work on existing or brand new projects.

The retreat will be held at the Sercotel Amister Art Hotel Barcelona (Avinguda Roma, 93-95, 08029 Barcelona, Spain) and Hotel Novotel Narbonne Sud (130 Rue de l’Hôtellerie, 11100 Narbonne, France). Faculty includes Bret Anthony Johnston (fiction), David Shields (nonfiction, book-length essay), Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction), and Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction).

In addition to workshops and lessons, participants can opt-in for daily yoga lessons, which help soothe the mind and body by creating opportunities for personal exploration and inspiration. Please note that this yoga/meditation opt-in will be only be added to the writing retreat by popular demand (if enough writing retreat participants sign up for it). Taught by CWW’s very talented yoga instructor Elissa Lewis, our yoga classes focus on both the structural and spiritual and can be personalized according to any physical demands you may have.

If you’d like to join us in Barcelona and Narbonne, please apply online at cww.submittable.com by March 15, 2016, and include $5 application screening fee, along with a writing sample of either five pages of poetry or ten pages of prose. (Due to limited seats, early applications are encouraged, but check for rolling admission after deadline, depending on availability).

applyDeadline: March 15, 2016

Featured Faculty:

baj-bio-pic 2Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the internationally best-selling novel, Remember Me Like This, which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the 2015 winner of the 2015 McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize. It is currently being made into a major motion picture. His other works include Corpus Christi: Stories. His writing has been published in Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Paris Review, Glimmer Train Stories, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Best American Short Stories, and other places. He has also had his nonfiction appear in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and The Best American Sports Writing. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Director of Creative Writing currently at Harvard University.

david_appearences_retina.jpgDavid Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), and Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award). Forthcoming from Knopf in February 2017 is Other People: Takes & Mistakes. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times MagazineHarper’s, EsquireYale ReviewVillage VoiceSalonSlateMcSweeney’s, and Believer. His work has been translated into twenty languages.

DianaNormaDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer/interdisciplinary artist/educator and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Based in Brooklyn, NY, 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 published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, 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 original research in Paris for two years. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.

RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.  Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in the Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, Poets for Living Waters, The Monarch Review, The Fiction Project, Quail Bell Magazine, Jaggery, Catamaran, The Crab Creek Review, The Dudley Review, Objet d’Art, Amethyst Arsenic, Vox Populi, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure, Chrysanthemum, and on KBOO Radio’s APA Compass in Portland, Oregon.  Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night, was published by Finishing Line Press and received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, is forthcoming from Spider Road Press in 2016.  Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, she is currently working on a novel and a book of lyric essays.

elissalewis.jpegElissa Lewis is the Yoga & Arts Coordinator of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She began her journey with yoga in 2006, when she moved to France and made the practice part of her daily routine. She saw yoga as a lifestyle, not only a class, helping her to clear her mind and have more compassion for herself and others. In 2010 she moved to New York and completed her teacher training at Laughing Lotus, a creative, soulful yoga studio that teaches the student to ‘move like yourself.’ She’s taught private and group classes in Manhattan and Brooklyn ever since. Visit her website for informative yoga sequences and information.

 

November 2015 Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga and Writing Cleanse Review

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Last weekend, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop continued its tradition of hosting a Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga and Writing Cleanse, this time at Sacred Sounds Yoga in Manhattan. Just like with previous years, the CWW offered participants the chance to cleanse their minds and bodies through yoga, and come out feeling rejuvenated and ready to write later on in the two-hour session.

The event commenced on Saturday, November 21st, at two p.m. Located on Bleecker Street, Sacred Sounds Yoga was our generous host for the weekend. After being provided with yoga mats, blocks, blankets, and bolsters, we were ready to begin. The first hour of the Yoga and Writing workshop consisted of our yoga instructor, Elissa Lewis, guiding us through not only a wide variety of yoga exercises and poses, but also breathing techniques geared towards achieving a sense of peace and tranquility.  Elissa made sure that with every pose, we concentrated on our breathing.

For those of us who were either new to yoga or returning after a period of prolonged absence, Elissa explained each exercise and demonstrated the transition from one pose to another. Some of the poses we did included downward facing dog, warrior II, peaceful warrior; low lunge, high lunge, lunge twist, cow pose, and cat pose.

We concluded the yoga portion by writing how we felt after doing yoga. What was the one central emotion or thought surrounding us? I must say, as a fellow participant,  it was so relaxing and revitalizing that when it came time to say “Namaste,” and move on to the writing portion, we were more than ready to get our creative juices flowing.

In the second half of our Saturday cleanse, Jessica Reidy demonstrated how to write creatively by incorporating the sense of sight, of smell, of touch, and of taste. To aid us with this particular workshop, Jessica had pears, which she cut up and handed out to us.

To start the exercise off, Jessica read a poem written by an author who used the very same techniques we were about to.  We were asked what we thought the poem was about and what really stood out to us. After that discussion, we moved along to the pears.

With our pears on hand, we were asked to examine them. What did they look like? Did they trigger any particular memory? What did they smell like? How about their touch? What did they taste like? As we explored each sense, we took notes, assigning words to the different categories we had just talked about. We were then asked to – with the use of our notes – write for about ten minutes, and thus create either a poem or a story that captured the essence of the pear. It didn’t necessarily have to be a memory or anything connected to our own lives. It just needed to be a creative piece.

With the little time we had left over after writing, a few of us (including myself) shared our pieces. After each person read, Jessica asked those of us who had listened what had jumped out at us from the story or poem. And was there any particular detail we wished the writer would expand upon?

The yoga and writing festivities continued onto Sunday, November 22nd, the second and final day of the workshop. Once again, Elissa did an hour of yoga, and Jessica did an hour of writing.

After two fun-filled days of yoga and writing, guests who attended the cleanse found themselves not only with a renewed sense of self and a clear mind, but also really great ideas for future stories, as well as extremely helpful writing tools. As with all of our workshops and retreats, we sincerely hope that those who joined in on the fun had a wonderful time, and of course, that they join us for any writing retreats we have in the future.

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Jessica leading the writing workshop.

Brooklyn Book Festival Recap: Reading at Muchmore’s!

Quite the literary delight occurred at Muchmore’s in Brooklyn on Sunday night. As part of the Brooklyn Book Festival, which is the largest free book event in New York City catered to both established and emerging writers, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop held a Brooklyn Bookend Reading. The reading was moderated by CWW Executive Artistic Director Diana Norma Szokolyai, who shared some of her own work, and included readings from CWW Executive Creative Director Rita Banerjee, CWW Executive Board Members Jonah Kruvant and Jessica Reidy, Brandon Lewis, Elizabeth Devlin, Matty Marks, and CWW Managing Editorial & Communications Intern Emily Smith.

The warm, yet eclectic atmosphere of Muchmore’s was the perfect venue for friends, family members, fellow writers, and those who simply love all things literature to enjoy a night of fantastic talent.

Being a part of the audience at this event was a great treat, since we had the opportunity to hear from seasoned and published authors, many of whom have won distinguished literary awards. It was also wonderful to be in the midst of those new to the literary scene, since they are among some of the most fresh and invigorating voices of today.

While obviously entertaining, the reading also served a greater purpose – that is, it benefited the writing community at large by offering a creative outlet for writers of all different genres to share their works. While this was the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s first time at the Brooklyn Book Festival, it will not be the last.

You can read more about the featured writers below.

Diana Norma Szokolyai is writer/interdisciplinary artist/educator and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop who has had her works published in Quail Bell, International Who’s Who in Poetry 2012, Lyre Lyre among others. She shared a story inspired by her two-week visit this past summer to Hungary where, like she has done for the past decade, she interviewed her grandmother.

Rita Banerjee, co-director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, is a writer who holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University and whose writing has been published in Poets for Living Waters and Riot Grrrl Magazine to name a few. She shared a personal nonfiction piece she had been working on.

Jonah Kruvant is one of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s NYC area program organizers. Jonah read from his novel The Last Book Ever Written and has been published in Digital Americana.

Brandon Lewis, who was this year’s winner of the Sundog Lit Poetry Contest and a finalist for The Brittingham Prize and the Crab Orchard Review Series, recited his poetry. Brandon’s writing has appeared or will soon appear in The Missouri Review, The Massachusetts Review, Salamander, Drunken Boat, American Poetry Review, and Spork.

Jessica Reidy is a staff writer for Quail Bell Magazine, a teacher of creative writing and yoga, and managing editor of VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts. She is in the process of writing her first novel and read some of her own works of fiction. Jessica’s pieces have appeared in Narrative Magazine, The Los Angeles Review and other journals.

Elizabeth Devlin, music composer for her singer-songwriter act entitled ELIZABETH DEVLIN, is an illustrator and graphic creator at DEVLIN DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATION. She is also a bass player and singer. During the reading, she recited a few poems of her own.

Matty Marks is a musician, writer, and sports enthusiast. He read aloud excerpts from his debut novel Dunks, a book that follows its main character, Duncan, through a series of various adventures.

Emily Smith is the Managing Editing & Communications Intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop who also writes for publications such as Opposing Views and Highbrow Magazine. Her poetry has been published in Walleyed Press, Essence Poetry, and Ayris. She shared a fictional short story.