CWW Alumni News: “The One Tip that Changed My Life” by Nannie Flores

Nannie Flores at the Château de Verderonne in Picardy, France

Nannie Flores, an alumna of the 2014 Château de Verderonne Yoga & Writing Retreat in Picardy, France, writes a haunting and powerful new essay, “The One Tip That Changed My Life” for Ideiya Magazine.  In the essay, Flores tackles the taboos associated with writing nonfiction, trauma, illness, and its aftermath.  In the essay, Flores writes:

Write as if your parents were dead.” In retrospect, there was something ominous and sinister about this piece of writing advice. At the time, it seemed harmless. So I took the tip when I was in college.

While in university, I wrote two one-act plays that touched on themes such as virginity and physical and verbal abuse in relationships. My parents watched the play, and they applauded along with the audience. The writing tip worked.

On the ride back home, when all the hype was over, they made sure to say they were proud of me, but that they disapproved of certain elements in my works. “Relationships are meant to be healthy,” Mama said. Papa gave his usual silent nod.

But what’s done is done. I have already written it and I didn’t need to ask for their approval…”  

Read the full essay on Ideiya here.

Nannie Flores is a playwright and nonfiction writer based in the Philippines.  Her essays and articles have appeared in EntrepreneurCosmo.ph, ABS-CBN News, Ideiya, Spot.ph, and Philippine Daily Inquirer.  You can follow her on her blog, The Fancy Delight.

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CWW Alumni News: Christina Ruotolo’s new story, “Turning Water,” in The Petigru Review

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted to announce that Christina Ruotolo, an alumna of our 2014 Château de Verderonne Yoga & Writing Retreat in Picardy, France, has a new nonfiction story, “Turning Water” featured in the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Petigru Review.  This current issue of The Petigru Review published received a starred Kirkus review and copies can be purchased on Amazon.

 

 

Christina Ruotolo at the Chȃteau de Verderonne

Christina Ruotolo is currently the Hot Dish Writer for The Daily Reflector newspaper in Greenville, NC.  She writes a weekly food column about restaurants in the area.  She also writes for HER Magazine, a monthly women’s magazine features in eastern, NC with a circulation of 13,000.  When not freelance writing, she is a full-time Advertising Account Executive at a newspaper, Barnes & Noble Bookseller, Event Planner and Creative Writing instructor at a community college.  About the CWW Chȃteau de Verderonne Yoga & Writing Retreat, Ruotolo writes, “Attending a CWW writer’s retreat in France in 2014 was a life-changing experience for me. I met wonderful people from all over the world and was able to immerse myself in my writing, finding my inner calm, voice and enjoying the beauty of another country. I made life-long friendships and it was where the idea for my new book came from.”

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

 

Parts Unknown presents: Amahl Khouri’s play “She He Me” at the New York Public Library – June 22 – 7 pm

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted to announce the New York City debut of Amahl Khouri’s play, “He She Me” at the New York Public Library (18 W 53rd St) on June 22 at 7 pm.  Amahl Khouri is a Jordanian playwright based in Munich, Germany, and one of Rita Banerjee’s students at the Munich Creative Writers.

In her documentary play, “She He Me,” writer and director Amahl Khouri describes the complex living situation of transsexuals and homosexuals in the Arab world. She portrays Randa, a transsexual Algerian woman who is persecuted for LGBT activism and flees to Sweden. Omar, a gay man, moves in hetero- and homosexual communities in Amman and talks about expectations in Jordan’s patriarchal society. And Rok’s story begins with his despair at not being able to tell his mother that her daughter is now a son and ends somewhere in New Jersey.  “She He Me” is about discrimination of trans- and homosexual people and about the issue, independent of gender, of what it costs to remain faithful to yourself.  A selection from “She He Me” was published in Brooklyn Rail in English, and premiered in Arabic and German at Münchner Kammerspiele 3 on December 17, 2016.

Parts Unknown will perform “She He Me” at New York Public Library (18 W 53rd St) on June 22 at 7 pm.  The play is directed by Lisa Rothe and stars Andrew Dahreddine, Bianca Leigh, and Rhys Roffey.  Admission is free.

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop feat. in The Independent (UK)

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted to be featured in the British newspaper, The Independent, in their recent feature article, “World of Books: Ready to Write Your Own Best-seller?”  The article focuses on the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada Writing Retreat (Aug 2-6, 2017), and quotes Jennifer Howard’s feature from The Washington Post:

You’ve spent too many summers reading novels, isn’t it about time you started to write one yourself.  Jennifer Howard selects the best of the world’s writing retreats:

Summer in Granada is part of a series of retreats created by writers Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai. They describe their retreat model as a kind of roving salon, with previous sessions in Paris and at a chateau in Picardy, among its envy-inducing locations. “All of these places have a very alive and electric culture, a culture that exists on the streets, in the imagination,” Banerjee says.

To read the complete article, please visit the The Independent’s British edition here.  Applications and scholarships for our Summer in Granada Writing Retreat (Aug 2-6, 2017) are open until June 20, 2017.  Please apply at cww.submittable.com.

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Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada, Andalusia, Spain Writing Retreat featured in The Washington Post

Original illustration by Lisk Feng for The Washington Post

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted to be chosen as one of the six best writing retreats for the summer in their recent feature, “When You’re Ready to Move from Summer Writing to Summer Reading.”  In the article, journalist Jennifer Howard writes:

Your boss doesn’t care if you finish your novel. Your partner would rather not hear about the memoir you’ve been threatening to write. Feeling discouraged? It may be time to escape the creativity-quashing grind and reconnect with your muse in a lovely locale.

Whether you like Midwestern lakes or Icelandic hot springs, there’s a writers retreat for you. Here are half a dozen programs where you can spend quality time with your journal or get started on the next bestseller:

For culture connoisseurs

If tapas and flamenco are more your thing, the Summer in Granada retreat, sponsored by the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, promises a warm cultural bath: “Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes,” the website says.

Summer in Granada is part of a series of retreats created by writers Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai. They describe their retreat model as a kind of roving salon, with previous sessions in Paris and at a chateau in Picardy, among its envy-inducing locations. “All of these places have a very alive and electric culture, a culture that exists on the streets, in the imagination,” Banerjee says.

This summer, participating writers will enjoy an “experiential tour” alongside workshops and writing sessions. Fiction writer Tim Horvath will teach a “writing from the senses” class that includes a visit to a “museum of smells,” a visit to a chocolatier and a tapas tour. “No matter how intellectual writing gets, you always want to draw in the senses and immerse the reader,” he says. (Did we mention chocolate?)

Cost/duration: $2,950; four nights. Some scholarships available.

To read the complete article, please visit the The Washington Post website here.  Print versions of the article will be available on June 11, 2017.

Applications and scholarships for our Summer in Granada Writing Retreat (Aug 2-6, 2017) are open until June 20, 2017.  Please apply at cww.submittable.com.

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.

CWW Summer in Granada 2017 Nonfiction Faculty Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s memoir, “The Fact of a Body,” featured in Vogue

We are delighted to announce that our Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat (August 2-6, 2017) Nonfiction Instructor, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich has been recently featured in Vogue for her highly-acclaimed memoir, The Fact of a Body.  In the Vogue article, Julia Felsenthal writes:

At the start of her riveting new memoir, The Fact of a Body, lawyer turned writer Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich describes a famous case that illustrates the legal principle of proximate cause. A woman named Helen Palsgraf stands on a railway platform, waiting for the train that will take her family to the beach. Nearby, a young man leaps to catch another departing train. A conductor reaches out to pull him aboard; a porter gives him a boost from behind. In the process, a package he’s holding containing fireworks falls from his arms and detonates. Down the track, the explosion causes a baggage scale to fall on top of Palsgraf. It’s a Rube Goldberg–worthy domino effect, but how do we decide who is to blame? “The causes, in fact, are endless,” writes Marzano-Lesnevich. “The idea of proximate cause is a solution. The job of the law is to figure out the source of the story, to assign responsibility. The proximate cause is the one the law says truly matters. The one that makes the story what it is.”

In June of 2003, Marzano-Lesnevich, then a Harvard law student, was beginning a summer internship at a death penalty defense firm in New Orleans, when she encountered a case that altered the course of her life. As an introduction to the firm’s work, a lawyer played the interns a decade-old tape, in which a client, a Louisiana man named Ricky Langley, confessed to the murder of his neighbor, 6-year-old Jeremy Guillory. After that confession, Langley had been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death; then, years later, the verdict had been overturned, his case tried again, and he’d been sentenced by a new jury to life in prison…

There are no easy conclusions in The Fact of a Body, but there are many moments of profound revelation. Marzano-Lesnevich’s memoir is a braided narrative, weaving together Langley’s story and her own. She plays with the concept of proximate cause, untangling the long string of events that led her to Ricky Langley, and the long string of events that led Ricky Langley to Jeremy Guillory. But the book is actually something of a tribrid, with a third strand that’s about the act of braiding itself: how a story evolves in the telling; how each storyteller decides which facts are important, projects her experience onto the events and the characters (here, quite literally, the author allows herself to imagine details of Langley’s narrative that aren’t captured in the record). Most provocatively, Marzano-Lesnevich forces us to question how all of those factors work when applied to the legal system. What are cases but stories? What are trials but showdowns between competing versions of the truth? What are lawyers, and judges and juries, but people who do what people always do: superimpose their own perspectives onto the matter at hand? What part can empathy play in a criminal justice system predicated on the delusion that there’s one version of the truth, one set of facts, one story?

Read the complete review & interview on Vogue, and sign-up for our Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat (August 2-6, 2017) with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich by June 1, 2017!  Apply here: cww.submittable.com

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s first book, THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, has been released by Flatiron Books (Macmillan) in May 2017, as well as from publishers internationally. The book layers a memoir with an investigation into, and recreation of, a 1992 Louisiana murder and death penalty case. For her work on the book, Marzano-Lesnevich received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award, and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Other scholarships and fellowships received include those from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Studios at Key West, Vermont Studio Center, and the Alice Hayes Fellowship for Social Justice Writing from the Ragdale Foundation. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, The Rumpus, and the anthologies True Crime and Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women, among many other publications, and were recognized “notable” in Best American Essays 2013, 2015, and 2016. She was educated at Harvard (JD), Emerson College (MFA), and Columbia University (BA) and now teaches at Grub Street, a nonprofit writing center in Boston, and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  She is a nonfiction faculty member at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat (August 2-6, 2017).

Former CWW Board Member Tara Skurtu’s poetry chapbook, “Skurtu, Romania,” available from Eyewear Publishing!

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted to announce two new titles from Eyewear Publishing, Skurtu, Romania, and The Amoeba Game from poet and former CWW Board Member Tara Skurtu.  In Skurtu, Romania, Tara Skurtu lands physically and emotionally in the country of her family’s forgotten history, and she familiarizes herself in this foreign place through the dynamic of an alienating love story. Tara Skurtu’s poems have the logic of memory, the vivid spontaneity of dreams, and the precision of calculus – each line is, in a sense, an asymptote continually approaching the limits of language and love. This poetry holds a lens over every moment, alters the perception of home, invites the reader in as both foreigner and guest.

Tara Skurtu received a 2015-17 extended Fulbright, a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship, and two Academy of American Poets prizes.  Her poems are published and translated internationally, and recent work appears in The Kenyon ReviewPlumePoetry Review, and Poetry Wales. Tara is the author of the chapbook Skurtu, Romania (Eyewear Publishing, 2016) and the full poetry collection The Amoeba Game (Eyewear, 2017). She lives in Romania, and is a former member of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Executive Board.