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

Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat Class Schedule and June 1, 2017 Deadline!

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The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Summer in Granada Writing Retreat will take place from August 2-6, 2017. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes. The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Tim Horvath, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  To apply, please submit an application at http://cww.submittable.com by June 1, 2017.

Schedule of Classes:

Character Development & the Law of Desire (with Rita Banerjee)

Femme fatales, gumshoe detectives, star-crossed lovers, wicked stepmothers, wise fools, empathetic anti-heroes: dynamic and archetypal characters can be key to making a good story or lyrical piece tick and pulling in the reader deeper into your creative work. In this workshop, we will discuss how dynamic and archetypal characters can help structure stories, propel narratives forwards, and how each character’s desire provides interesting ethical dilemmas and emotional spectrums to narratives and verse. We will learn about the building blocks of creating strong, unforgettable characters, discuss the connection between desire and plot, and learn how playing with persona can help liberate nonfictional stories and lyrical poems. 

Writing from the Senses (with Tim Horvath)

Memorable writing often engages the senses first and foremost, immersing us in a character’s perceptions and sensations, and thus allowing us to dwell inside that character’s perspective. In this class, we’ll strive to make our writing more wholly and richly embodied by engaging the senses directly, building our abilities to depict each individually like a muscle group, and eventually intertwining them in synesthesia for the fullest effect. We explore each of the senses in turn by looking at exemplary instances where a writer is able to conjure the sense effectively.  We’ll take focused walks, taste local foods, do ekphrastic writing in museums, and attempt to capture sounds from that of traffic to flamenco guitar to the idiosyncratic grain of the individual human voice in multiple languages. This class also cuts across genres, shifting seamlessly between poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, grounding each in an embodied experience of the world. When we travel abroad, our senses are generally enlivened to begin with, and so you can think of this class as a way to translate that enhanced awareness into equally vivid words on the page.

The Storyteller’s Voice (with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich)

Of all types of prose, personal narrative is perhaps the most inherently voice-driven. After all, the reader is essentially choosing to spend a lot of time with you, the author. Too often, the writer’s desire to be relatable on the page results in a watered-down, bland voice, when a distinctive voice is what’s needed to keep the reader engaged. (As V.S.Pritchett put it, in memoir, you get no credit for the living—it’s all in how the living’s told.) So how can you find—and sharpen—your narrative voice? Will it be crisp like Didion’s? Humorously exaggerated like Sedaris’s? Lyrically gritty like Ballantine’s? We’ll look at exceptional examples of voice in memoir and personal essays, and diagnose what makes them so successful. We’ll discuss ways to identify and amplify whatever yours is, working to make it even more distinctive. Come prepared with an essay or chapter draft to work on.

Leyendo Intensamente: Writers Reading Spanish/Latin American Literature in Translation (with Tim Horvath)

It is a given that writers must learn to read closely, with attention to nuance and craft, to unravel the methods by which other writers have managed to tell stories effectively and adapt them for their own purposes. In this class, we’ll focus on writers in Spanish and Portuguese, from canonical authors like Borges, Marquez, Valenzuela, Cortázar, and Lispector to contemporary luminaries and up-and-comers such as Eduardo Halfon, Valeria Luiselli, Javier Marías, and Laia Jufresa. We’ll swerve through techniques of developing metafiction and surrealism, magical realism, and philosophical fiction, and blending these with realism where suitable. We’ll also explore the fraught, infinitely rich topic of translation, discussing its complexities really and the ways that understanding the innumerable decisions involved in bringing a work into another language can shed light on the act of “translating” any experience or concept from mind or world onto the page, i.e. writing itself.

Life Isn’t A Book Structure: Strategies for Shaping Memoir (with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich)

Even the wildest life, recounted straightforwardly from memory, will suffer from what Sven Birkerts calls “the coma-inducing effect of ‘and then.’” Good memoirists know this. So they reach into literature’s bag of tricks and find other ways to keep the pages turning: they speed time up in some places and slow it down in others; they layer two or more threads; or perhaps they find a structure that helps evoke the book’s meaning. All these considerations are part of shifting from thinking about your life as a life to thinking about the book as a book. But how can aspiring memoirists ready themselves to make that leap? In this session we’ll discuss strategies and approaches, as well as break down the choices made by a few published memoirists as they turned memory into literature. Then we’ll do a few exercises to help free you to do the same with your own material, turning life into art.

Featured Faculty:

tim_horvath_authorphotoTim Horvath is the author of Understories (Bellevue Literary Press), which won the New Hampshire Literary Award, and Circulation (sunnyoutside). His stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Fiction, The Normal School, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. His story “The Understory” won the Raymond Carver Short Story Award, and “The Conversations” earned a Special Mention in the 2014 Pushcart Prize Anthology; he is also a recipient of a Yaddo Fellowship. He teaches in the BFA and low-residency MFA programs at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where he coordinates the Visiting Writers Series. He is currently at work on The Spinal Descent, a novel about contemporary classical composers, as well as a second short story collection.

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Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s first book, THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, is forthcoming from 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.

ritabanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  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 Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric 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, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 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, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

480540_535092196513183_901741364_nDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Her edited volume, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, will be released by C&R Press on March 7, 2018.  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. She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers including David Krebs (US), Robert Lemay (Canada), Claudio Gabriele (Italy), Peter James (UK), Jason Haye (UK), and Sebastian Wesman (Estonia). Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause, “Space Mothlight,” hit #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015. Her work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in VIDA: Reports from the Field, The Fiction Project, Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Boston Globe,  and elsewhere, as well as anthologized in Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering, and the International Who’s Who in Poetry 2012. She is currently at work on her next book and an album of poetry & music.

applyDeadline: June 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017! -♥️- Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

happynewyear2017-cwwHappy New Year 2017 from the directors, staff, and board of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop!  We hope you’re all as excited for 2017 as we are!  We’re planning a delightful, productive year for our writers and artists with plenty of opportunities to travel, write, practice yoga, and network, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at our retreats, workshops, readings, and literary fest events in 2017!

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop had a wonderful year in 2016.  Over the last twelve months, we’ve had a chance to hold retreats and readings across America and the world, meet exciting writers and artists, and have found new ways to inspire our own writing.  Our year began with  the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Los Angeles, California. At AWP 2016, we got a chance to promote CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing, advertise our new literary internships, and discuss our Summer Writing Retreats in Granada, Spain, Barcelona, Spain, and Narbonne, France, as well as our Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We also hosted our third AWP event at Sabor y Cultura. At our event, there were featured readings from authors such as Rita BanerjeeJess BurnquistJulialicia CaseAriana KellyGwen E. KirbyKatie KnollEllaraine LockieOndrej PazdirekHeather Aimee O’NeillBrenda Peynado, Esther Pfaff, Jessica PiazzaJonathan ShapiroEmily Skaja, and Emily Smith.

After AWP 2016, we were off to our second annual Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We were joined by award-winning and internationally-renowned authors such as Jade SylvanDiana Norma Szokolyai, and CWW yoga instructor Elissa Lewis. The event was a chance for writers to spend a long weekend in historic Newport and near the beach, participating in writing workshops (such as Sylvan’s workshops on “writing yourself naked”) and craft of writing seminars, yoga classes, and cultural tours of the historic Newport village. We live blogged the entire event as well, sharing dozens of photos from our trip while also allowing our writers to share their thoughts on the experience.

During the summer we hosted our Summer in Granada and Summer in Barcelona and Narbonne Writing Retreats. In Barcelona and Narbonne, we explored the cities and all of their historical, literary, and romantic charm. The retreat included craft of writing seminars and creative writing workshops, literary tours of the cities, and one-on-one manuscript consultations. We were also joined by writer and professor Bret Anthony Johnston and literary editor Heidi Pitlor. CWW directors Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai taught workshops on spacial poetics and world building, and also led workshops for participants to share their work and use the Liz Lerman method for critiquing writing. We live blogged our retreat on our website, so be sure to check out the sights and classes from our trip. We were really happy to experience this with all of our participants, who traveled from all over to come write and explore these cities with us.

In Granada, wrote in the city’s winding streets, absorbed its Moorish history, and were inspired by its evocative landscapes. The retreat included craft of writing seminars and writing workshops and yoga classes. We were joined by novelist Alexander Chee and poet and activist Frederick-Douglas Knowles II, who taught classes on historical fiction and hip-hop and poetry, respectively. Rita Banerjee led workshops on narrative stakes and emotion and suspense. We also live blogged this trip, so you can see all the exciting things we did on this trip.

We also hosted creative writing workshops and craft of writing seminars at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education throughout the fall. In addition to Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, we were joined by Jade Sylvan and Cambridge writer Laura van den Berg for creative writing workshops and craft of writing seminars every other weekend in Cambridge, MA. This is something we hope to repeat this year, and we hope we can bring in new faculty and participants as well.

We hosted a Brooklyn Bookend Reading at Molasses Books during The Brooklyn Book Festival. Some of the writers had emerged onto the literary scene with a bang, while others had recently published their first or second books, and had received prestigious awards in the past. The event featured Stephen AubreyRita BanerjeeMadeleine BarnesEllaraine LockieBen PeaseAnne Malin Ringwalt, Kate McMahon, Emily SmithBianca Stone, and Diana Norma Szokolyai, along with a beautiful interludes of music from accomplished songwriters Erica Buettner and Elizabeth Devlin.

We also hosted a literary crawl event during Lit Crawl NYC 2016. Our Literary Vaudeville event featured performances and readings from Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Megan Fernandes, Claire Ince, Emily Smith, Christina M. Rau, and Frederick-Douglass Knowles II.

In 2016, we welcomed our second round of interns to the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and these interns include the wonderful AM Ringwalt, Anna-Celestrya Carr, Erynn Porter, and Shannon Sawyer, all of whom have helped the CWW greatly this year. They’ve helped manage our social media and written up posts about our events, shown their talent for graphic design, grant writing, audio/visual media development and corresponding with writers and hosts in French, Spanish, and English, and have provided much valuable assistance on our retreats and literary events this year.  We’re excited to have, on our team, and we can’t wait to show you what they’ve helped us plan for 2016!

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While 2016 proved to be a very exciting year for all of us, our staff is quite ready to move on to our next round of exciting events. The CWW will once again table at AWP in Washington DC from February 8-February 10, 2017, and will be announcing our AWP Reading in downtown Los Angeles shortly!

neworleans2017posterwcThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat will take place from March 23-26, 2017, and will coincide with the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.  Known for its Spanish and French architecture, live jazz, cajun food, and street festivals, New Orleans offers an inspirational and one-of-a-kind environment for creative writers. During the retreat, we will be staying in the lovely Algiers Point neighborhood, just a short ferry ride away from the Historic French Quarter.  Our retreat features multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write.  The faculty includes award-winning writers Dipika Guha, Emily Nemens, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include playwriting, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

portland2017posterThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in Portland Writing Retreat will take place from April 22-24, 2017.  While you’re in the home of writers Cheryl Strayed and Ursula K. Le Guin, feel free to go bicycling and explore the terrain, hike, or relax at local cafes for people watching—no matter how you choose to spend your time, this city is full inspiration. We will be staying in the Alberta Arts District during the retreat, an area that is sure to inspire our participants and help them create.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Adam Reid Sexton, Kerry Cohen, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

granada2017posterAnd the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada Writing Retreat will take place from August 2-6, 2017.  Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes.  Work on your existing manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects.  During the retreat, we will be staying at the Hotel Guadalupe, just a short walk from the Alhambra.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Tim Horvath, Alexandria Marzano-LesnevichRita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

We hope you are all as excited for our 2017 events as we are. If you have any questions we may not have answered, you can email us at info@cambridgewritersworkshop.org, and for inquiries, please email the CWW Directors, Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, at directors@cambridgewritersworkshop.org.  You can also follow us on FacebookTumblr, and Twitter for more information and updates on any of these events. We look forward to making 2017 a year full of creativity, writing, and renewal, so join us as we make 2017 rock!

— Alex Carrigan, CWW Managing Intern