Apply to Barcelona & South of France & Granada, Spain Writing Retreats by May 30!

Rolling submissions for our Summer in Barcelona & South of France (July 18 – 26, 2016) & Summer in Granada, Spain (July 28 – August 5, 2016) Writing Retreats will be open until May 30, 2016 on cww.submittable.com!

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Barcelona & South of 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.  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 $2150.

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).

Join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on our summer writing retreat to the cultural oasis of Granada, Spain. 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.

The retreat offers the opportunity for writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors & editors to hone their craft and expand their writing skills, while working on new or existing projects. Our Andalucían writing retreat will take place from July 28-August 5, 2015, and the cost of the workshop is $3950, which includes lodging and breakfast, a tapas tour of Granada, craft of writing seminars, and writing workshops.  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 $2150.

The retreat will be held at the Hotel Guadalupe (Paseo de la Sabica, 30, 18009 Granada, Spain). Faculty includes David Shields (fiction, book-length essay), Alexander Chee (fiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), and Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction).

apply

Video: Learn More About Granada, Andalucía, Spain & Apply to Our Summer in Granada Writing Retreat

Join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on our summer writing retreat to the cultural oasis of Granada, Spain. 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.

The retreat offers the opportunity for writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors & editors to hone their craft and expand their writing skills, while working on new or existing projects. Our Andalucían writing retreat will take place from July 28-August 5, 2015, and the cost of the workshop is $3950, which includes lodging and breakfast, a tapas tour of Granada, craft of writing seminars, and writing workshops.

The retreat will be held at the Hotel Guadalupe (Paseo de la Sabica, 30, 18009 Granada, Spain). Faculty includes David Shields (fiction, book-length essay), Alexander Chee (fiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), and Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction).

Granada2016Schedule

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 Granada, 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).

Granada2016Poster

Featured Faculty:

David ShieldsDavid 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.

chee

Alexander 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.comOutThe Man I Might BecomeLoss Within LossMen On Men 2000His 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.

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.

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.

elissalewis.jpeg

Elissa 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.

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)

newport-2016-schedule

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)

barcelona-narbonne-2016-schedule1

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)

granada2016schedule2

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.

CWW Spring and Summer Writing Application Retreats Deadline: April 15, 2016

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is excited to be hosting three retreats in spring and summer 2016!

The first, our Spring in Newport, RI Yoga & Writing Retreat, is slated to take place April 22-24, 2016 in Newport, RI.  Participants will work on new and existing writing projects alongside award-winning authors Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction) and Jade Sylvan (fiction, nonfiction), and practice yoga with Elissa Lewis.  For more information and to apply to our Newport retreat, visit cww.submittable.com.  Applications for this retreat are due April 15, 2016.

Our Summer in Barcelona and South of France Writing Retreat is slated to take place July 18-26, 2016.  Participants will spend three days in Barcelona, Spain and four days in Narbonne, France.  They will work on new and existing writing projects alongside award-winning authors Bret Anthony Johnston (fiction), David Shields (fiction, book-length essay), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), and Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction).  For more information and to apply to our Summer in Barcelona and South of France Writing Retreat, visit cww.submittable.com.  Applications for this retreat are due April 15, 2016.

Our Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat is slated to take place July 28-August 5, 2016.  Participants will work on new and existing writing projects alongside award-winning authors David Shields (fiction, book-length essay), Alexander Chee (fiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), and Diana Norma Szokolyai (poetry, nonfiction).  For more information and to apply to our Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat, visit cww.submittable.com.  Applications for this retreat are due April 15, 2016.

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 Writing Retreats featured in Poets & Writers Magazine

1455965954_poets-writers-march-april-2016-1The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop was featured in the March/April 2016 edition of Poets & Writers magazine! The retreats were published under the Conferences & Residencies section of the magazine in the Poets & Writers 2016 Guide to Stress-Free Writers Retreats. The CWW is honored to be a part of the 2016 guide.

The feature included three of our 2016 retreats: Spring in Newport, Rhode Island Writing & Yoga Retreat (April 22-24, 2016), Summer in Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat (July 18 – July 26, 2016), and Summer in Granada Writing Retreat (July 28 – August 5, 2016).  The retreats offer the opportunity for writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors & editors to hone their craft and expand their writing skills, while working on new or existing projects.

Faculty includes Bret Anthony Johnston (Barcelona & Narbonne), David Shields (Barcelona & Narbonne, Granada), Alexander Chee (Granada), Jade Sylvan (Newport), Rita Banerjee (Barcelona & Narbonne, Granada), and Diana Norma Szokolyai (Barcelona & Narbonne, Granada, Newport).

If you’d like to join us, please apply online at cww.submittable.com by March 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).

Robin Lindley interviews David Shields on the New York Times Glamorization of War

WarisBeautiful

Bestselling author and our featured nonfiction faculty David Shields argues in his new book, War is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict (Power House Books), that The New York Times glamorized acts of war by using images that softened the terror of battle. The book grew out of Shields’ concern with the paper’s compelling front-page war photos. To better understand how the Times portrayed war, he analyzed thousands of front-page photographs, and particularly full-color photos since 2001 of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. David Shields discusses this process and topic in the following excerpt of his interview with History News Network Features Editor Robin Lindley. 

David Shields will teach during our Summer in Barcelona & South of France Writing Retreat (July 18 – 26, 2016) and during our Summer in Granada Writing Retreat (July 28 – August 5, 2016). To apply, visit cww.submittable.com by March 15, 2016.

Robin Lindley: You make a case that The New York Times is complicit with power, particularly with the wars in the Middle East. You compare some of the photos you feature to recruiting posters. How is the Times’ relationship with power revealed in its history?

David Shields: That’s a complicated argument, but I ask what is the Times doing here, and what is the context of that? A good book about the history of the Times is called The Trust, and I quote the coauthors throughout the book.

The Times was founded in 1851 by a German-Jewish family. Anti-Semitism in the U.S., which was much more virulent than it is now, was visited against The New York Times, and it was accused of being “too Jewish” a newspaper.

There’s a strong argument to be made that the Times during the Holocaust, under this German-Jewish family, deliberately underreported the full extent of the atrocities. Afterward, the Times was properly criticized for underreporting those crimes against humanity.

My argument is that the Times has wildly overcorrected. The Times always wants to be at the dead center of American culture—to be complicit with American power and American government and to be always at the center of the conversation. That’s the Times’ brand.

With only a very few exceptions, the Times has rather aggressively supported every American military misadventure since World War II, to the point of having their editorial columnists like James Reston advising John F. Kennedy and at the same time editorializing in favor of the man who he was advising. This continued with Thomas Friedman who still advises Obama. And there was William Safire who advised Bush and editorialized in favor of Bush and Reagan.

So the point is that the Times underreported the Holocaust and was widely criticized for hugely failing in that coverage. Over the last 70 years, the Times has taken a rather bellicose, American masculine, militaristic posture toward war. It supported the Korean War, to a large extent the Vietnam War, and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. LBJ said, “I can’t win this war without the support of The New York Times.” Only very late in the Vietnam War did the Times join people like Walter Cronkite and express some skepticism.

That provides a socio-historical contextfor why the Times, founded by German Jews and being the victim of a lot of anti-Semitism from say 1850 to 1950, then overcorrected after World War II, and ever since has made sure it does not stray from a complicit bargain with the powers that be. For example,they’ll bury an article on page 27 that may have a slightly negative information about the war, but that front page, A1 photo, has huge power and sets the entire argument that the war is a sacrifice worth making, that the war is noble and dignified, and in a way a beautiful cultural enterprise.

I don’t know how conscious all of this is, but it seems almost a willful visual gesture that sends an unmistakable message to the powers that be and the culture as a whole that the war is a worthy sacrifice.

Robin Lindley: Stephen Colbert called the press, like Times’ reporter Judith Miller, “stenographers” for Bush and Cheney at a White House gala.

David Shields: That’s a point I try to make in the book. The reporting of [Times’ reporter] John F. Burns was disastrously credulous on the Iraq invasion, and with Judith Miller, he carried water for Bush-Cheney. These pictures are the visual equivalent.

My beef is less with the photographers and far more with the photo editors and page A1 editor. Photographers have told me off-the-record that they’re sending hundreds if not thousands of photos every week to the Times and every other institution. These pictures are criticized often for being “too violent,” of all things. Most people know that war is violent. Or pictures may be seen as “in bad taste.” But, as Picasso said, “the enemy of great art is good taste.” What I try to point out is how ludicrously tasteful these pictures are. It’s as if they’re covering war through a thick film of Vaseline—there’s very little war here.

I think some of the photographers are struck by how predictable it is that their less revelatory pictures and their more blandly compositionally beautiful pictures are the photos that get chosen, rather than the photos that more faithfully document the actual horror of war. It seems the Times is looking for pictures that aestheticize war rather that those that show what war is like.

Robin Lindley: I’ve interviewed some combat photojournalists, such as Michael Kamber, who edited an anthology of Iraq War photos called Photojournalists on War, and Peter van Agtmael on Disco Night 9/11, his book of photos on the Middle East wars abroad and at home. They both noted that photographers were frustrated by censorship at both ends—by the military abroad and by editors at home who seem to want to shield readers from the human reality of modern war.

David Shields: Exactly. I’ve been doing readings of the book around the country, and quite a few veterans and photographers come up to me and express gratitude for the book, and say the idea that these pictures say anything about war is so ludicrous, and it’s important to point out what an absolute horror storm war is. Some of them show me photos on their phones or physical photographs.

General Sherman said, “War is Hell,” and it would be good if these pictures pointed that out. The underlying message of the photos that the Times ran is that war is a very pretty and very distant event. There’s no hell here; just a mild heck. That seems to me worth pointing out because who knows when the next run up to the next war is, and who knows what country the U.S. will invade.

It would be good if we knew by what process we get sold the next war. One of the many ways war gets sold is in prominent magazines and newspapers. The New York Times disseminates a certain image and it really matters—unlike USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, or Fox News—because the Times is understood as being in the center or center-left, and the Times carries important cultural symbolism so it seems an important task to pull out these images from the so-called “Paper of Record” that is sending out unmistakably flag-waving, cheer-leading, pro-war messages through these pictures.

You mentioned censorship. A crucial part of the censorship and self-censorship is the military’s brilliant, Machiavellian move to embed and keep journalists and photojournalists from direct battle and to get the agreement of the media to, for example, not show pictures of caskets coming back from war.

These [policies] have created censorship as well as self-censorship for journalists and photojournalists sending material back home. They don’t have access to stories or situations that are terribly revelatory.

Robin Lindley: The Times seemed particularly reluctant to show images of wounded or dead American troops, whereas such images of Iraqis or Afghanis have been run. That reluctance may be an issue in every war. In World War II, Life magazine didn’t show images of dead Americans until 1943, with a photo of dead soldiers on a beach in New Guinea. And more recently, a Seattle photographer was officially reprimanded for photographing flag-draped coffins of American dead from Iraq.

David Shields: It’s a military policy I guess not to allow the media to show caskets coming back from war. And you have the embedding of journalists and photojournalists, and then you get the censorship. And then the Times is working overtime to access the highest levels of government and to deepen its brand as a quasi-Paper of Record.

Adding up all of these things, there’s almost nothing left. There’s no war there. There’s no attempt to document reality. It’s basically the war as screen saver, as wallpaper—a very distant aesthetic experience. Certainly, part of that is not to show the American dead except in a posture of composed relief. It seems the grief is kept out of frame in any true sense of agony or viscera or blood.

Some people criticize media outlets for showing gruesome images, and then there’s the Times at the other end in which there is a highly aestheticized and “dignified” war that is fought. It’s not that I have it all figured out or have found a newspaper or magazine that has embodied a perfect duration of these photographs. Certainly, after the Paris attacks, the BBC website and the Daily Telegraph of the U.K. showed more direct images. A Danish blogger also showed strikingly more revealing images than the Times with its self-periodically and comically glamorizing photos of Paris post-bombing.

In the book, the last few images are of a dead Iraqi soldiers left behind.

I think what’s so insidious is that it’s not as if the Times is overtly disseminating the most obvious propaganda by only showing dead soldiers of the enemy. The Times is much more subtle, and that bears mentioning. These pictures are not overt propaganda, as you might have seen in World War II, but I argue they are a not too oblique propaganda with the beautifying, sanctifying photographs.

Robin Lindley: Do you believe your book may prompt a change in how the Times and other publications decide on the images of war to carry—photos that capture the human consequences of war?

David Shields: That would be interesting. I saw the book as a long letter to the editor. I don’t read the Times anymore. I had read it for more than 40 years.

I ask that the Times think about the kind of power it has. It’s not what it had 30 or 40 years ago, or even ten years ago, but it has a certain power. So on some level this is an attempt to urge the Times to rethink its role, and to urge other similar newspapers and magazines to rethink their roles. I urge them also to depend less on complicit institutional journalism and more on independent thinkers and journalists and authors who are not beholden to institutional powers.

Read the full interview on History News Network here.

Robin Lindley is a Seattle-based writer and attorney, and the features editor of the History News Network (hnn.us). His articles have appeared in HNN, Crosscut, Salon, Real Change, Documentary, Writer’s Chronicle, and others. He has a special interest in the history of conflict and human rights. His email: robinlindley@gmail.com.

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 Recommends: Here’s to 2016!

david-bowie-reading-list
Hello everyone, and a happy 2016 to all of you! We here at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop are excited to begin a new year of creative literary expression. As we prepare for our retreats to Newport, Granada, and Barcelona/Narbonne, we have asked some of our staff members to share their literature and film recommendations for the new year. These are the books and movies that they recently discovered, have enjoyed time and time again, and that they most want others to know about. Thanks to Rita Banerjee, Alex Carrigan, Alyssa Goldstein Ekstrom, Casey Lynch, David Shields, Emily Smith, Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Emily Teitsworth for their recommendations. Check out our recommendations and stay tuned to an exciting year with the CWW.

-Alex Carrigan (curator)

CWW Lit Picks:

Tipsy-KobayashiNaomi by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Naomi was the first novel I read that I literally threw across the room when I was done with it.  For those bored by Nabokov for “his style,” Naomi, written by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki in 1924, gives Lolita a run for its money and then some.  The novel focuses on the story of Jōji, a mundane, over-educated, routine-driven Japanese salary man, who one day, as he’s walking around a particularly seedy part of Tokyo, spies a beautiful young Eurasian-looking girl named Naomi. Naomi, who’s put to work as a waitress in a café by her parents, is both young (she’s only 15, while Jōji’s a healthy 28!) and exotic (her face and eyes look Western as does her foreign-sounding name). Needless to say, Jōji falls head-over-heels in lust with Naomi and has to have her. He tells Naomi’s parents that he’d like to “adopt” Naomi. He promises to raise her like a daughter–give her a “good education” and all the luxuries a young modern girl could want in life. And somehow, Naomi’s parents agree (anything for a quick buck). So Jōji lures Naomi into his home. He promises that nothing untoward will happen between them until she’s at least 18 and can give him her consent. But in the meantime, he’s happy to attend to her daily bathing rituals (I think you know where this story is heading…). But alas, it turns out that Naomi has a mind of her own. She immediately notes that Jōji hopes to transform her into a Mo-Ga (モ-ガ, modern girl), and she raises his stakes. She comes to embody everything Western, everything sexy, and everything dangerous about modern women. She takes up dancing, she takes up Jōji’s wallet (spending and partying until his cash is through), and most of all, when Jōji approaches her for sex, she uses her body against him, and parades an ever-rotating line of boyfriends under his nose. In reading Naomi, it’s hard to figure out who’s the protagonist and who’s the antagonist. Jōji and Naomi seem equally conniving and crooked. At the end of the novel, you don’t know who you’re rooting for, and you don’t know how you could care for a character so perverse. Naomi might make you want to throw the novel across the room, straight out an open window, and shout a string of expletives after it. Or, it might make you do something completely opposite. And that’s where Tanizaki’s great power lies: in making you, the reader, feel.

GlengarryGlenRossGlengarry Glen Ross
by David Mamet

(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

One of the best theatrical performances I’ve seen to date was “Stealing the Leads,” an all-female led adaptation of David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross. Mamet’s play focuses on the fall-out of late capitalism (a term that’s been hotly debated since at least 1848 ;-)). The play focuses on a crew of desperate and despairing business men in Chicago as they attempt to close deals, form alliances and mergers, and profit on real estate acquisitions before their rivals steal their leads or sabotage their careers. This is a story about businessmen and corporations in the middle of a meltdown. And it’s full of bites and stings (take those lacerating comments on the Patels and South Asian businessmen taking over finance…). But most of all, the play is an exercise in masculinity. In the world of Glengarry Glen Ross, the characters assume that in order to desire and have power, the most successful candidate has got to be an alpha-male. Mamet slightly destabilizes this notion through small sleights of hand. But the best kick to the patriarchy happens when an all female cast performs Mamet’s play. One of my favorite renditions of Mamet’s play, Stealing the Leads: Women Read Glengarry Glen Ross, was performed in Berkeley’s famed Pegasus Bookstore a few years back, and it was spooky to see these women transform into testosterone-driven business men. The play, once in the hands and voices of an all-female cast, takes on a new edge. The play’s do-or-die ethos and cast of saboteurs no longer revolve around the crisis of money and power. But what’s at stake itself is the underlying anxiety in Mamet’s writing: masculinity, itself.

DeathofaPunkDeath of a Punk by John P. Browner
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

In Munich, Germany, I teach creative writing classes at a pretty nifty little English-language bookstore called the Munich Readery. And one of the owners, John Browner, is not only an author, himself, but was part of the NYC underground punk scene in the late 70s and early 80s. His novel, Death of a Punk, combines the frenetic, no-fucks-allowed peroxide cool of CBGB’s with the beats and campy electricity of a noir thriller. The novel centers on what happens when Lenny Hornblowner, who moonlights as a private eye and is a fat middle-aged square (by his own estimation), is hired Mrs. “Call me Lisa” Perlont to find her “beloved” stepson, Blinky, a young man whose gotten himself lost in the carnival of New York’s first-wave punk scene. The result, as Browner labels it, is meant to be an “airport read” highlighting an alternative New York where the snarky ads in the Village Voice, three-chord punk spiked with cocaine, and the elegance of defending your turf with just a pair of brass knuckles reign supreme.

MFA vs. NYC, ed. Chad Harbach & Workshops of Empire by Eric Bennett
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

MFAvsNYC61Z1hhz0+FL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Anything produced by N+1 is part magic.  And the press’s 2014 collection, MFA vs. NYC is no exception.  (I remember reading this anthology in one sitting on the airplane ride back home from AWP 2014). The anthology, edited by Chad Harbach, draws a fault-line between American creative writing communities: those centered in big, commercial, cocktail-party-driven metropoles such as New York, and those produced in well-groomed, well-crafted but often myopic literary networks of the American MFA program periphery. While Harbach’s categorization of these two diametrically-opposed literary spheres and successful enclaves of American fiction veers towards essentialism, MFA vs. NYC offers an eye-opening look into what it takes to be a writer in the 21st century. Essays such as “My Parade” by Alexander Chee, in which the author wryly interrogates the racial and gender politics inscribed in the very curricula of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, are thrilling to read. As are essays such as “Seduce the Whole World” by Carla Blumenkranz, in which the author examines the-larger-than-life persona of Raymond Carver, whose minimalist aesthetics, mystique, and influence were largely crafted and set in stone by his editor Gordon Lish. Other essays such as “Into the Woods” by Emily Gould and “Money (2006)” by Keith Gessen offer unapologetically candid looks at the financial woes and socioeconomic dilemmas which haunt contemporary American authors. And one of my favorite essays in the collection, Eric Bennett’s “The Pyramid Scheme,” examines how the Iowa Writers’ Workshop rose to the top of the American MFA empire in the mid-20th century, partly due to funding from the Fairfield Foundation, a dummy corporation set-up by the CIA. Bennett examines how Paul Engle, the second director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, utilized CIA money to round-up left-leaning individuals from around the world and set the rubric for 20th century American literary tastes. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading Bennett’s new book Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle, and the American Creative Writing during the Cold War this Spring.

RobinCosteLewisVoyage of the Sable Venus
by Robin Coste Lewis

(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Robin Coste Lewis’s debut collection of poems, Voyage of the Sable Venus, just received the National Book Award for Best Poetry Book of 2015! The collection is a spiky, electric trip through confrontations of race, racism, agency, responsibility, and encountering other people and other cultures. The title of the collection takes its inspiration from the Thomas Stothard engraving, “The Voyage of the Sable Venus from Angola to the West Indies,” an infamous propaganda piece for the African slave trade. But in Lewis’s book, the fault and possibilities of history lie in all hands. In her opening poem, “Plantation,” the speaker confides, “I could tell you the black side / of my family owned slaves / I realize that perhaps / the one reason why I love you, / because I told you this / and you–still–wanted to kiss / me.  We laughed when I said plantation / fell into our chairs when I said cane.”  Discomfort, fascination, guilt, awe–these are only some of the series of emotions which weave through Lewis’s verse as she examines the ways in which images and narratives of black women, black bodies, and the black voyager have been depicted in art, propaganda, and in personal histories. Cultural and psychic ambiguity hover over Lewis’s work as the speakers of her poems reflect their own private travels and own private traps, or as the speaker of “Plantation” recalls, “You said, The bars look pretty, Baby / then rubbed your hind legs against me.”

HarariSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari

(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

I first heard of Yuval Noah Harari a few years ago when I was researching MOOCs, and took his class on the History of Humankind, which was “telecast” from the University of Jerusalem. Harari’s lectures were engaging, self-deprecating, informative, and fantastic. In 2015, his book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, was translated from Hebrew into English. The book, like Harari’s lectures, explores how Homo Sapiens came to be the dominant human species on earth and how they rose to power. Harari’s discussions on ethnicity and the genetic basis for race are eye-opening and provocative, as are his discussions of the cognitive, agricultural, and industrial revolutions. One of my most favorite sections from Harari’s text focuses on how human societies are formed: through fictive language and gossip culture. It appears that everything from our fascination with God to our fascination with Louis Vuitton and fascism derive from our very human love of myths. As Harari explains, it’s the storytelling that brings us together, and it’s the fictions of our lives and our understandings of the world that bind.

510iAdsKYdL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

This book really hurt me. The latest book by acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami follows a man whose group of friends cut off all ties with him for unknown reasons sixteen years earlier. Now middle aged, he goes on a journey to find his old friends and understand what happened back when they were teenagers. The book isn’t as weird as Murakami’s other books, but still carries much of the customary melancholy and heart. This book depressed me with its premise and the first fifty pages, but I think it was worth feeling that way if it meant I could read the rest of the story. I got to follow Tsukuru on his journey and grew to really understand how complex and sordid he and the other characters were, making it one of my favorite books in recent years.

51KwYPrCLjL._SX283_BO1,204,203,200_Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

I finally got into Neil Gaiman last year, and I found his collaboration with the late Terry Pratchett to be one of my favorite new books to read. The book follows the days leading up to the rapture, where an angel and a demon, who have both “gone native” after being on Earth since Eden, realize they’ve misplaced the Antichrist, throwing the entire prophecy out of order. The story follows them and dozens of other characters as the pieces of the end times begin to fall into place. It’s satirical, hilarious, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s one of the best interpretations of the end of days I have read, and I had a blast reading it.

51PXSCEFWZLA Separate Peace by John Knowles
(Recommended by Alyssa Goldstein Ekstrom)

Of all the books I read in high school, this one stuck with me the most, even years later. The story takes place at an all-boys boarding school right at the beginning of World War II. It is of course a time when tensions are running high, where boys who are at the very precipice of becoming men have the possibility of joining the war looming over them. But it’s also in these darkest times of uncertainty that great friendships can emerge, or at least a friendship that appears to be great. In Gene and Phineas, Knowles creates two characters who will stay with readers for a long time after the last page. They say opposites attract. Even in friendships, this proves true, for Phineas is everything Gene isn’t. He’s athletic, social, popular, extroverted. Gene is a loner and more reserved, and as the story unfolds, a boy tired of living in his best friend’s shadow. Gene’s jealousy quickly evolves into resentment and in a split second, a decision is made that has irreparable consequences. A most poignant novel about jealousy, friendship, forgiveness, and growing up.

412XH9UvpbLFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
(Recommended by Alyssa Goldstein Ekstrom)

Starting college in and of itself is a scary time, but when you add in a twin who is looking to gain a separate identity from that of her sister, a prickly roommate, a father who is frequently manic, and online fandom clamoring for the next chapter of your beloved fanfiction, that scared feeling is multiplied by one hundred. Meet Cather. Her twin sister, Wren, doesn’t want to dorm with her, and not only that, is pulling away from their obsession with Simon Snow. Think Harry Potter and you’ll understand. With Wren putting some distance between them, Cather is reluctantly left navigating the world of college as a freshman alone. Adding insult to injury, the fiction class that Cather has found herself in, the one class that should come easy to her, is proving to be much more difficult. And as if this isn’t bad enough, Cather’s goal of finishing her Simon Snow fanfiction before the last book comes out seems very unlikely. Lastly, among all of her other troubles, Cather can add falling for her roommate’s ex-boyfriend to that list. For anyone who has ever felt the pangs of growing up and struggled in finding their own voice, Fangirl is an incredibly relatable, funny book that should not be missed.

81M62hCovYLAbout a Boy by Nick Hornby
(Recommended by Alyssa Goldstein Ekstrom)

When I found out NBC was adapting Hornby’s About a Boy into a television show, I was super excited. I loved the book, adored the movie, so it seemed only natural that I would enjoy the show. And I did. But unfortunately NBC pulled the plug on it, which is a shame in my own humble opinion. However, fear not; for even without a show, About a Boy as simply a novel is good enough for me. About a Boy follows Will Freeman, a man who has never really grown up. Living off of the royalties stemming from his father’s one-hit wonder, Will lives a comfortable life. He doesn’t need to work and therefore, doesn’t. At his core, Will is a fairly shallow individual, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone when he joins a group for single parents, Single Parents Alone Together, and fabricates a son to boot, to meet women. Will’s plan is extremely flawed, seeing as he doesn’t actually have a child, but it is this lie that brings young Marcus and his mother Fiona into Will’s life.

At twelve, Marcus is having a rough time. His mother is depressed, and he doesn’t know how to help her. And her failed suicide attempt has only left him more rattled. At school he’s the awkward outcast who gets picked on. At first, Marcus intends to set Will up with Fiona, believing Will can be the person to bring her out of her depression, but when that plan backfires, Marcus decides to befriend Will. Soon Marcus is going by Will’s flat everyday after school and it seems that, finally, Will is growing up and learning to care about someone other than himself. But then it all appears to take a turn for the worst. Marcus finds Fiona crying again, and he fears she is going to attempt suicide once more. He needs Will’s help, but Will is unwilling after his own latest setback. Will meets Rachel at a dinner and leads her to believe that Marcus is his son. Rachel herself is a single mother of a twelve year old boy, and it seems Will has fallen hard for the first time. But when his lie is revealed, Rachel ends the relationship, leaving Will devastated and with the realization that he is not the person to help Marcus. But despite his best efforts, Will cannot stop caring about Marcus. In short, About a Boy is about one man’s lesson that there are connections we can’t sever and families we create for ourselves and it’s about the boy who teaches him this lesson.

51P7tPu16XL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
(Recommended by Casey Lynch)

Need some help getting back into classes/work/general productivity after the summer break?  Self-Help can help! Self-Help is not, in fact, a self-improvement manual, but New York Times bestseller Lorrie Moore’s first collection of short stories. The book includes titles like How to Be an Other Woman and (the introductory creative writing class classic!) How to Be a Writer or, Have You Earned This Cliché?. While Moore writes primarily in the second person, the ‘you’s who populate these stories are very specific people, with problems a self-help manual aimed at the general ‘you’ would be wildly insufficient to mend. The collection tightropes so many lines so artfully: it is accessible and literary, witty and tragic, quirky and universal. Self-Help is a perfect first book of fall if you are looking to ease back into serious fiction after a summer of beach reads.

51khWutZqCL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
(Recommended by Casey Lynch)

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall”—chances are, one of your Facebook friends will add this caption to a Fall-themed profile photo.  But how many will revisit the classic from which the line has been lifted?  These words are actually spoken by Jordan Baker of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Though you probably already read it for high school English, the Great American Novel is always worth another look. If not for all the gossip and glitz, or for Fitzgerald’s warm, loping prose, then to weigh in on some newer theories being applied to the classic. Some of the most colorful contentions I’ve heard: Nick is in love with Gatsby, and Gatsby is on the Autism Spectrum. Think it’s hearsay?! Then reread!

41PB9UVybpL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson

(Recommended by Casey Lynch)

A wonderful novella, with a scarier rep than it deserves, is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Though it features plenty of potions, alleys, and strangers, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is so much more than the guy-to-monster story we all know. It is a comment on industrialism and male professionalism, and an early study of bi-polar disorder. It is also chalk full of descriptions of late-nineteenth century London, written in beautiful, prim Victorian prose. If you are looking for a short, rewarding, not-too-scary classic this fall, Dr. Jekyll and Hyde is a great choice. If you want something a little scarier, I would still recommend it.  However, I would suggest that you read it under the conditions I did: from 2 to 4 AM the day the paper is due.

41KMMWCnkcL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_Speedboat by Renata Adler
(Recommended by David Shields)

D. H. Lawrence: it’s better to know a dozen books extraordinarily well than innumerable books passably. In a documentary on Derrida, when he shows the filmmaker his enormous private library, she asks him if he’s read all the books. He says, “No, just a few—but very closely.” I’ve read Speedboat easily two dozen times. I can’t read it anymore. It’s one book I’ve read so many times that I feel, absurdly, as if I’ve written it; at the very least, I feel that I know a little bit what it must have felt like to write it. In any case, I learned how to write by reading that book until the spine broke. I typed the entire book twice.

41kL+aXv5JL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The End of the Novel of Love by Vivian Gornick
(Recommended by David Shields)

The very embodiment of the critical intelligence in the imaginative position: literary analysis as farewell to feeling.

 

 

 

 

81gtv7NymgL

The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

The Isle of Youth, a short story collection by Laura van den Berg, explores the survival of women as they battle unhappy marriages, false magic, and a plethora of other dizzying scenarios. My personal favorite is “The Greatest Escape,” which follows the story of Crystal, a teenage girl, who works as an assistant for her second-rate magician mother. After years of pick pocketing her patrons and listening to her mother’s romantic illusions about magic, Crystal realizes that the greatest escape is more than a magic trick: it’s a cripple for her not so magical life in the middle of nowhere Florida. Many have compared Laura van den Berg to a young Margaret Atwood.

41cOaCCUlWLPlay It as It Lays by Joan Didion
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

Joan Didion captures the essence of ennui in Play It as It Lays, a story as scalding and brutal as the desert it takes place in. As the anti-heroine Maria notes, she is an expert on “nothing”: she’s from a town that no longer exists, is the mother of a child who’s dead, and generally exists as the bedfellow of absence. The story, which has an empty resolution, will be satisfying to anyone who’s ever felt restless without reason.

51qbFfsCU9L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Histories of the Future Perfect
by Ellen Kombiyil

(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

Ellen Kombiyil’s Histories of the Future Perfect is an enchanting collection of poetry that explores the depth of our relationships to one another and the world through examining grammar, one-ness, the nature of water, mathematical equations, and the myth of return. Water is a motif that takes many forms in the book, but always flows. The sun is an interrogator of the heart. In one of the poems that is the cradle of the book, “How I Came to Love,” Kombiyil writes, “It was a game of Chinese whispers I played / with the tarot-reading parrot. She picked / the cards like pecking crumbs, trilling Perhaps, / Perhaps, her warning note loud as a tolling bell.” Reminiscent of Poe’s raven, and his trilling call of “Nevermore,” Kombiyil’s bird spells out a different kind of fate…the frightening revelation that there are many life paths lined with the fog of “perhaps.”

415dXipj-dLThe World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic
(Recommended by Emily Teitsworth)

This short collection of prose poetry is one that leaves its readers with an impression of humor and heartache. Simic does not shy away from logical or illogical extremes. The poems themselves move seamlessly between what is extraordinary and what is not, which leaves readers puzzled and pleasantly surprised. The poems never fail to end powerfully, with lines such as: “It’s so quiet in the world. One can hear the old river, which in its confusion sometimes forgets and flows backwards.”

41+a4c0P5+LBluets by Maggie Nelson
(Recommended by Emily Teitsworth)

This book is meant to be a comprehensive encyclopedic index of the color blue. It also acts as a poetic memoir that reaches into Nelson’s memories of honesty, confession, and sadness. It is a collection of poetry that gives readers glimpses of compassion, loss, hope, desire, sex, and everything blue. While the book is about Nelson’s own experiences and the color blue, the theme that ties the poems together is the reality of life being a messy thing. Nelson writes, “And it must also be admitted that hitting the wall or wandering off in the wrong direction or tearing off the blindfold is as much a part of the game as is pinning the tail on the donkey.”

517aTl9FTjLThe Inconvenience of The Wings by Silas Dent Zobal
(Recommended by Emily Teitsworth)

This is a collection of fictional short stories from one of my professors at Susquehanna University. It is not a collection that leaves your heart pounding by the end, but rather leaves you wondering whether your life is what you really want it to be. The stories inhabit a vast landscape of imagination that falls somewhere between reality and fantasy. They show us that what seems beyond us is as much a part of the world as the ground under our shoes.

CWW Film Picks:

Me-And-Earl-And-The-Dying-Girl-PosterMe and Earl and the Dying Girl
(dir. Alfonso Gómez-Rejón)

(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

The first time I met Jesse Andrews, he was jumping out of the sky. Literally. It was about a year and a half-ago, and we were celebrating a mutual friend’s wedding. More specifically, Jesse, the groom, and their friends were celebrating the groom’s last days of bachelorhood by jumping out of a plane, flying three miles high over Newport, Rhode Island.  As you’d expect, Andrews made quite an entrance, as did his book, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  In 2015, Alfonso Gómez-Rejón’s film of the same title made it’s stellar debut and won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award.  The film follows the narratives of three mismatched characters, Greg, a loner and awkward film nerd who sits outside of all the usual social cliques in high school, Earl, his African-American fellow film buff and would-be friend, and Rachel, a girl of their acquaintance who has recently been diagnosed with leukemia.  Through the course of the story, Greg is forced by his mother to befriend Rachel who’s feeling increasingly isolated and alone due to her sickness. To cheer her up, Earl introduces Rachel to the pastiches and short fan parodies of classical art house cinema (like Rashomon, A Clockwork Orange, Breathless, etc.) that he and Greg have made in their spare time. Greg feels that showing Rachel their secret films is a betrayal of their trust, but as Rachel’s chemotherapy begins to worsen her health, he begins to change his mind (a lot). Soon Greg and Earl are commissioned to make a short film for Rachel by Madison (Greg’s crush). And as the stakes of the film are raised, the trio find themselves dancing around issues of friendship, trust, and vulnerability like particles drawn together and repelled apart. The film which Greg finally makes for Rachel is breathtaking and full of emotion.  That scene alone makes Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a film I wish I had made and a book I wish I had written.

HaiderHaider (dir. Vishal Bhardwaj)
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Haider is a gorgeous little film made by Vishal Bhardwaj, a director who has adapted other Shakespearan classics such as Othello and Macbeth for popular Hindi cinema. Haider, an adaptation of Hamlet, is not exactly Bollywood, and it’s not exactly Hamlet either. The film is set in the turbulent political era of 1990s Kashmir, a territory continuously fought over by the Indian and Pakistani army since 1948. The drama of the film evolves from the story of one family. Hilal Meer is a doctor in Kashmir who secretly tends the wounds of separatists and insurgents, who are attempting to free Kashmir from Indian rule. One day as he is nursing a pro-separatist leader in his house, the Indian army pulls up and orders all men and women to appear before their council. When it is Dr. Meer’s turn to face the council, a hooded whistle-blower calls him out, and he is lead away somewhere (presumably to a concentration camp or to death). His ancestral home (along with the separatist patients hidden there) is subsequently destroyed. When his son, Haider, returns home, he realizes that not all is what it seems. For one thing, his mother Ghazala, a “half-widow,” is dancing and singing in the arms of his uncle, Khurram Meer, a well-to-do lawyer who later decides to run for office.  Haider is also haunted by the question of whether his father is actually dead or alive, and who betrayed his father’s trust. As the story unfolds, the relationships and tensions within Haider’s family and community take on a sinister twist. The implosion of family ties and trust on screen becomes symptomatic of the violence and greed which tear the sociopolitical fabric of Kashmir apart. And watching this story of Hamlet unfold in such unexpected ways is both heart-stopping and poignant.

MV5BMTQ0MjU1ODU5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE1NzAyNDE@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_The Russian Woodpecker (dir. Chad Garcia)
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

I had a chance to see Chad Garcia’s gorgeously shot film, The Russian Woodpecker, at the Filmfest München last year.  A student of mine, inspired by our discussions on Marxism in class, recommended the film to me. The Russian Woodpecker follows the life story and quixotic hero’s quest of Fedor Alexandrovich, a painter and theatre artist, whose early childhood was nearly destroyed by the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine. Alexandrovich has a hunch that the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown is not what is seems and that somehow the history of the plant is intricately linked to Duga, a Cold War Soviet-Era signal tower near Chernobyl, which from 1976-1989 broadcasted a mysterious radio signal across the world known as “the Russian Woodpecker.” Was Duga a Cold War era spying device?  Was the Chernobyl disaster a cover-up for something more sinister?  Throughout the documentary Garcia follows Alexandrovich on his Herzogian hero’s quest as political tensions in Ukraine escalate and Putin’s army sets in motion the events that lead to the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

MV5BMTQ4NTY5NDAxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzUxMTA3MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_Ivory Tower (dir. Andrew Rossi)
(Recommended by Rita Banerjee)

Ivory Tower is an eye-opening documentary film made by Andrew Rossi about the rising cost of higher education in the United States. The film asks several hard-hitting questions such as: Why has the tuition for colleges and universities sky-rocketed when fewer and fewer academics are being hired full-time or receiving tenure? Are universities in an arms race with one another to build better and more lavish facilities at the cost of more robust academic programs? When did universities become corporations and adopt the ethos of industry? The film is incredibly revealing in terms of investigating how universities wheel and deal their money. The day I defended my doctoral thesis, there was a lecture “Humanities and the Future of the University” at Harvard. And Homi Bhabha, Drew Faust, Sheldon Pollock, and other academic leaders discussed the rising cost of higher ed and the very viability of the humanities for future generations of students. One topic under fire, of course, was the ratio of administrators to faculty (4:1) and another was how increasing university tuition was creating a class-war between incoming students. Rossi’s film interrogates both of these questions especially as it examines the recent history of Cooper Union (an institution that was free-of-charge and tuition-free by decree until 2013). The rising cost of American higher ed offers a sharp contrast to the state-funded university systems of Europe. Faced with these costs many Americans are opting to earn their degrees abroad, and at LMU Munich, for example, the university only charges students €111 to study per semester.

41iRoDZTwxLA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
(dir. Ana Lily Amanapour)
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

I spent 28 hours in an airport last July due to a canceled flight, and it took two attempts for me to watch this film. It was worth it, because this was one of my favorite films of 2015. This film is set in a dumpy Iranian town filled with drugs, prostitution, and general misery, where the residents have no idea one woman is actually a vampire who feeds on vile men. The film is creepy and atmospheric, and to get a western vampire story out of Iran by a female director in 2015 is something quite amazing, so I had a blast watching this film over two days while I battled exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and general airport misanthropy.

On_connait_la_chansonOn connaît la chanson (dir. Alain Resnais)
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

I watched this comedy/musical/drama a few days before heading to Paris, and it helped get me into the mood. The film follows six people over a few days in Paris as they deal with real estate, thesis projects, and love triangles. The main draw of the film is that, at random moments, the characters will start singing songs, with the lyrics filling in for dialogue. All the songs are classics by musicians like Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf, so the characters will be dubbed over by these songs with no warning, leading to some real great mood shifts. I began to watch the movie waiting for the next random musical number, and it helped make the film more of an experience for me.

91zWn2jJBfL._SX385_The Babadoo(dir. Jennifer Kent)
(recommended by Alex Carrigan)

I always feel like the best horror movies are the ones where, if the fantastic element is removed from the story, the film still manages to be really scary. Rosemary’s Baby without Satan is about a stressed out pregnant woman going mad from a difficult pregnancy. The Stepford Wives without robots is about misogyny and criticism of traditional gender roles. The 2014 Australian horror film The Babadook without the titular monster (who, by the way, is one of the creepiest film monsters in recent years), is even more unpleasant. The film follows a stressed single mother having difficulties raising her emotionally disturbed son, all while the two are harassed by a creepy children’s book monster. Without the monster, the film looks to be an examination of an abusive parent, her distressed child, and looks like the only possible ending for these characters is murder-suicide. The movie is atmospheric, scary as hell, and has a terrific leading role with Essie Davis as the mother. Just be warned if you start hearing ba-ba-ba-DOOK-DOOK-DOOK any time after watching the film.

81ZIWy4YZ4L._SY550_Breakfast at Tiffany’s (dir. Blake Edwards)
(recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

One weekend this fall, I was visiting my mother, and after the movie she rented from Redbox turned out to be a dud with no plot, we turned to this classic.  It goes without saying that this movie is a masterpiece.  Audrey Hepburn gives a captivating performance as Holly Golightly (just one of her many pseudonyms).  Not only entertaining to watch because of the intriguing backdrop of an older New York and Hepburn’s iconic performance of “Moon River,” it is also a film that makes the viewer examine the many masks of and veneers of identity that one wears in society.  It takes Holly confronting her true feelings for Paul Varjak, the character who plays a struggling writer in the film, to confront her true self underneath all of the masks.  The real brilliance of Hepburn’s performance is that although she is playing a character who is putting on a superficial show to the world, we also feel a deeper person, a struggling person peeking through the lighthearted outward appearances.

imgresMaster of None
(Created by Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang)

(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

A new Netflix Original Series that came out in 2015, Master of None is  exceptionally clever in its ability to make light of, yet at the same time, raise serious questions about important, yet often taboo topics. Tackling issues of the complicated contemporary dating scene, parenthood, sex, death, friendship, career, and racism, the writers have a style that will spur laughter and thoughtful reflection at once. The characters are multi-dimensional and full of surprises. Dev (Aziz Ansari) is the main character, an actor living in New York, struggling with getting roles that are not stereotypical. His friends are a multi-cultural group that include a strong-willed lesbian, black woman named Denise, a charming first generation Taiwanese-American named Brian, and Arnold, a tall, bearded white man who acts like a big kid. Dev’s girlfriend, Rachel, is a dynamic character who brings up issues surrounding vegetarianism and feminism. One of my favorite moments are when the fathers of Dev and Brian have a dramatic flashback during a brief interaction with their sons. It brilliantly highlights (in a humorous, yet compassionate way) the disparity between the immigrant parent vs. the first generation American child experience and how it effects relationships. Another favorite moment is when Dev puts a T.V. executive in his place for being outright racist. The writers use language that is very real, incorporating contemporary lingo, full of colorful expressions currently in use. One can see why The New York Times has called Master of None “the year’s best comedy straight out of the gate.”

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

HappyNewYear2016-CWW

Happy New Year 2016 from the directors, staff, and board of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop!  We hope you’re all as excited for 2016 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 2016!

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop had a wonderful year in 2015.  Over the last twelve months, we’ve had a chance to hold retreats and readings across America and the world, meet exciting writers, yoga practicioneers, and artists, and have found new ways to inspire our own writing.  Our year began with the Brooklyn Yoga, Aromatherapy, & Writing Workshop. We restored our minds with invigorating yoga, learned about Essential Oils, and inspired out writing. In February, we joined the 2015 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At AWP 2015, 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 and Paris, France, as well as our Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We also hosted our second AWP event at Boneshaker Books. At our Books & Bones event, there were featured readings from authors such as  Alex CarriganJonah KruvantDena Rash GuzmanLeah UmanskyAnca SzilagyiMicah Dean HicksMichele NereimBianca StoneJessica PiazzaJess BurnquistSheila McMullin, and Brenda Peynado.

After AWP 2015, we were off to our first annual Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We were joined by award-winning and internationally-renowned authors such as Kathleen Spivack and Stephen Aubrey, in addition to CWW directors Rita Banerjee and Diana 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 Aubrey’s workshops on theater and Spivack’s workshops on developing manuscripts) and craft of writing seminars, yoga classes, and cultural tours of the historic Newport village. We liveblogged 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 Paris Writing Retreats. In Paris, we explored the city and all of its historical, literary, and romantic charm. The retreat included craft of writing seminars and creative writing workshops, literary tours of Paris, daily yoga and meditation classes, and one-on-one manuscript consultations. We were also joined by Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and New York Times bestselling author David Shields, who taught workshops about collage, appropriation, and collaboration. CWW directors Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai taught workshops on stakes and building character, and also led workshops for participants to share their work and use the Liz Lerman method for critiquing writing. We live blogged our Paris retreat on our website, so feel free to check it out and see our workshops, as well as our excursions to Shakespeare and CompanyVersailles and Au Chat Noir. We were really happy to experience this with all of our participants, who traveled from all over the U.S, as well as England and Australia, to come write and explore Paris 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 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and Pushcart Prize winner Peter Orner, who led a workshop on Spanish literature. Diana Norma Szokolyai led workshops on voice and stakes, while Rita Banerjee led a workshop on narrative development. We also live blogged this trip, so you can see all the exciting things we did on this trip, such as seeing Poeta in Nueva York and shopping for fans.

We hosted a Brooklyn Bookend Reading at Muchmore’s 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 was moderated by Diana Norma Szokolyai and included writers Rita Banerjee, Jonah Kruvant, Brandon Lewis, Elizabeth Devlin, Lisa Marie Basile, Jessica Reidy, Gregory Crosby, Matty Marks, and Emily Smith.

In November, we also hosted our annual Pre-Thanksgiving Writing & Yoga Cleanse. The two day event kicked off with yoga lessons from Elissa Lewis, followed by creative writing workshops and craft seminars from Jessica Reidy. Our Pre-Thanksgiving Writing & Yoga Cleanse was an opportunity for the participants to cleanse themselves mentally, spiritually, and creatively before the bustling holiday season.

In 2015, we continued our work on CREDO Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing. The collection will feature personal writer manifestos, essays on writing advice, and writing exercises to help spur creativity. Our staff has greatly enjoyed critiquing and conversing with writers on this publication, and more information about publication will be announced in the upcoming year.

In 2015, we welcomed our second round of interns to the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and these interns include the wonderful Emily Smith, Casey Lynch, and Alyssa Goldstein, 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 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 Emily, Casey, and Alyssa, on our team, and we can’t wait to show you what they’ve helped us plan for 2016!

This was also a good year for our individual staff members getting published. CWW co-director Rita Banerjee had her poetry published in Quail Bell MagazineRiot Grrrl Magazine, and The Monarch Review. Her interview with CWW visiting professor and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient David Shields was published in Electric Literature. CWW co-director Diana Norma Szokolyai reported for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts on”The Defensive Male Writer.”  CWW Executive Board Member Jessica Reidy‘s “Why the Pyres are Unlit” was released in Drunken Boat’s Romani Folio and her poetry was nominated by The Poetry Blog for “Best of the Net.” Managing Intern Alex Carrigan had his work published in Strike! and Quail Bell Magazine and Managing Intern Emily Smith became a Contributing Blogger for Ploughshares.

While 2015 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 Los Angeles from March 30-April 2, 2016, and will be announcing our AWP Reading in downtown Los Angeles shortly!

Join us April 21-24, 2016 for our second annual Spring in Newport, Rhode Island Writing Retreat. Our Newport retreat offers the opportunity for writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors & editors to hone their craft and expand their writing skills, while working on new or existing projects. In the past, faculty has included internationally renowned author and writing coach Kathleen SpivackStephen Aubrey, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Rita Banerjee, and Elissa Lewis.

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Narbonne & Barcelona Writing Retreat will take place July 18-26, 2016. The retreat offers participating writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors and editors. Participating writers will hone their craft and expand their writing skills, while working on new or existing projects.  There will also be time to explore the city of Barcelona, Spain and the beaches of Narbonne, France.  Our past France retreats have included David Shields, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Rita Banerjee, Jessica Reidy, and Elissa Lewis as faculty members.

And from July 28-August 5, 2016, join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on our summer writing retreat to the cultural oasis of Granada, Spain. 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. Or, indulge in delicious Andalucían cuisine and traditional Arab baths. Work with world-renowned authors on your manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects.  In our past Granada retreat, faculty has included Peter Orner, Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Elissa Lewis.

We hope you are all as excited for our 2016 events as we are.  Information on our upcoming 2016 retreats and readings will be going live in January 2016!  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 2016 a year full of creativity, writing, and renewal, so join us as we make 2016 rock!

— Emily Smith & Alex Carrigan, CWW Managing Interns

Der Spiegel features Rita Banerjee’s “War is Beautiful: An Interview w. David Shields”

DerSpiegelOver the holidays, Germany’s Der Spiegel and Perlentaucher: Das Kulturmagazin featured Rita Banerjee’s piece from Electric Literature: “War is Beautiful: An Interview with David Shields.”  On Shields’s new book and Banerjee’s interview, Der Spiegel wrote:

“Etwas skeptisch liest Tim Parks im Blog der NYRB den neuen Essay von David Shields “War Is Beautiful”, der die New York Times anklagt, mit ihren Kriegsfotos den Krieg zu ästhetisieren. Ganz von der Hand weisen kann Parks das nicht: “Es ist beim Durchblättern dieser Fotos kaum zu leugnen, dass sie ihre Gegenstände mit voller Absicht ästhetisieren – und auf den Betrachter somit anästhesierend wirken. Das sind Glamour-Bilder, gemacht, bewundert zu werden und keine Dokumentarbilder, die der Gewalt und dem Horror Unmittelbarkeit geben… Kurz: Wir sind weit entfernt von den nüchternen Schwarzweißbildern, die den Vietnamkrieg in der selben Zeitung illustrierten.” Parks Gegeneinwand liegt in einer Frage: “Ist es uns überhaupt möglich, dieser Verwandlung der Bestie in eine Schönheit zu entkommen?” Rita Banerjee hat schon im November bei electricliterature ein Interview mit Shields zu dem Buch geführt.”

The text can be translated as:

“In the NYRB Blog, Tim Parks somewhat skeptically reads the new essay by David Shields, War is Beautiful in which [Shields] accuses the New York Times of aestheticizing war with their war-photos.  Parks cannot totally dismiss [Shields’s claim]: “When leafing through these photos, one can scarcely deny that they [NYT] with full intention aestheticize their materials and in doing so, anesthetize the viewer.  These are Glamour-photos, made to be admired and are not Documentary-photos that give immediacy to horror and violence… In short, we are far from the sobering black and white photos of the Vietnam War, which were depicted in the same newspaper.”  Parks’s counter-argument lies in the question: “In this transformation of the beast into beauty, is it possible for us to escape at all?”  Rita Banerjee already conducted an interview with Shields about [his] book via Electric Literature in November.”

Read more about Der Spiegel‘s culture and media reviews here.