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


Join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on our Summer in Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat to two of Europe’s most fascinating and evocative 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 looking to indulge in a feast for the senses. 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), Heidi Pitlor (fiction, publishing), Lily Hoang (nonfiction, poetry), 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 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 by May 30, 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: May 30, 2016

Featured Faculty:

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.

49zoqdckHeidi Pitlor received her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She eventually became an editor and later a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers.

lilyLily Hoang is the author of five books, including A Bestiary (winner of the inaugural Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s Nonfiction Contest) and Changing (recipient of a PEN Open Books Award). With Joshua Marie Wilkinson, she edited the anthology The Force of What’s Possible: Writers on Accessibility and the Avant-Garde. She is Director of the MFA program at New Mexico State University. She serves as Prose Editor at Puerto del Sol and Editor for Jaded Ibis Press.

DianaNormaDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. 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 recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review 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 research on Romani writers in Paris. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.

RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and the newly appointed Executive Director of Kundiman. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali (Spider Road Press), is forthcoming in October 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel and book of lyric essays.

Class Descriptions:

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.

The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing (with Heidi Pitlor)
In this course, we’ll discuss everything from how to write a query letter to what editors are seeking to the varying timelines in magazine and book publishing. We’ll talk about the importance of soliciting useful feedback to the revision process and how to know when a piece is finally finished. We’ll learn how to guard against the disappointments of rejection and will look at the struggles and rejections of ultimately successful authors. Come ready to talk about your own experiences, if you’ve got them, and with plenty of questions.

Surprise Me (with Heidi Pitlor)
How can we keep our readers– and ourselves–fully engaged in our fiction? How can we better utilize the unexpected to energize our fiction both in terms of language and story? What are the enemies of surprise– and vitality–when we are writing short stories and/or novels? In this course, we will examine surprising linguistic choices and sections from some stories that have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, and discuss ways that we might inject our own writing with more unexpected moments.

CNF Workshop: The Self on Trial; or, an experiment in forms (with Lily Hoang)
To essai is to trial, to experiment. For this workshop, students will be asked to submit essays that put the self on trial while pushing at the boundaries of what creative non-fiction can mean (e.g. lyric essay, fabulist non-fiction, etc). To put the self on trial means constant and urgent honesty, one that reveals as much terror as effulgence.

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.


What happens after I apply?

Once you apply, you can expect to hear from us within 7-10 days and know whether you were accepted into the program. Once you are accepted, you will receive a welcome packet with detailed information regarding the program.

What is the process of paying tuition?

Once you are accepted into the program, you will need to pay a 30% tuition deposit ($1,185) to hold your seat within 3-5 days of acceptance but not later than April 1, 2016.  This amount is non-refundable.  The remainder of tuition ($2,765) will be due by April 15, 2016.  Our standard and preferred method of payment is PayPal invoice.  You can also mail us a check.  The deposit is non-refundable.

What is included in tuition?

  • creative writing workshops
  • craft of writing seminars
  • manuscript consultation
  • daily breakfasts
  • lodging in Barcelona, Spain & Narbonne, France
  • train ticket from Barcelona, Spain to Narbonne, France

* Are there any scholarships or discounts for the summer program?

For writers who have inquired about scholarships and discounts for our summer programs, we are offering the following discount options. This year, writers can also enjoy the full retreat program for $2950 with a shared lodging option. Writers can also attend the program for a retreat & manuscript consultation-only option (with private room) for $2450. Both options include breakfast and one-way transportation between Barcelona and Narbonne.

How do I get to and from Barcelona?

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is here to guide you through flights and other transportation. Please feel free to contact us regarding flights departing from your location and other travel information.

Passengers may begin booking their tickets for the TGV from Narbonne, France, to Barcelona, Spain, on March 29, 2016. One way tickets from Narbonne to Barcelona typically cost between $32 and $56. Trains typically depart four times per day and take two hours to arrive in Barcelona. Trains from Narbonne depart at: 10:30 a.m., 2:38 p.m., 5:35 p.m., and 6:34 p.m. Train tickets can be purchased at

What are the accommodations like?