Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Virtual Summer Writing Retreat * July 11 – August 1, 2020

Join us for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Virtual Summer Writing Retreat each Saturday from July 11 – August 1, 2020. Our featured faculty includes David Shields, Tim Horvath, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai.  All of our classes will be held online, and students are encouraged to register for each class by 11 am EDT on the Friday before each class meeting.

How to Register:

Students can sign-up individually for each class for $100 per class, or join a course series for $200 or $300 per class unit. To register for class, please send in a short 1-5 page writing sample, 2 professional references, and a cover letter conveying your interest and a short bio of who you are as an author and where you are with you creative writing. This information will help our writing faculty get to know you as a writer and your writing goals. Writers of all genres (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, and film) are welcome to participate in our virtual summer writing retreat.

To join our Virtual Summer Writing Retreat, you will need access to broadband internet and a working video-camera and microphone on your computer. All classes will be taught on either Google Hangouts or Zoom. Invitations to class URLS will be sent out to all registered users before our classes begin, and instructors may share reading materials for class with registered students via Dropbox or Google Drive. All classes are first-come first-serve for registration, and in case a class fills to capacity, we will refund you in full.

More information regarding our faculty, scheduling, and how to register for classes follows below.  Sign up now for each class individually or as a package at!

Class Schedule:

Featured Courses:

About David Shields:

David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (recently named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by LitHub), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice). Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention was published in 2018, The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power appeared in 2019. James Franco’s adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, which Shields co-wrote and co-stars in, was released in 2017 (available now on Amazon, iTunes/Apple TV, Vudu, Vimeo, Kanopy, and Google Play); Shields wrote, produced, and directed Lynch: A History, a 2019 documentary film about Marshawn Lynch’s use of silence, echo, and mimicry as key tools of resistance (rave reviews in the New Yorker, the Nation, and dozens of other publications; film festival awards all over the world; available now on all of the same platforms listed above). A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published fiction and nonfiction in the New York Times MagazineHarper’sEsquireYale ReviewSalonSlateTin House, A Public SpaceMcSweeney’sBelieverHuffington PostLos Angeles Review of Books, and Best American Essays. His books have been translated into two dozen languages.

Join us from 1-3 pm EDT on Saturday July 11, 18, and 25 for David Shields’s Summer Writing Retreat series Six Prison Breaks (Beyond Traditional Narrative), or How to make your work reflect what it feels like to be alive now rather than what it felt like to be alive in 1920.”

In this class we’ll investigate the following topics through a combination of brief videotaped lecture, live lecture, handouts, and class discussion, exploring the myriad ways in which you might deploy similar strategies in your own work.

1. Class 1 – Saturday, July 11, 1 -3 pm EDT online

Brevity and Journal. We’ll read and discuss flash nonfiction, mini-essays, prose-poems, poeticized journals, thematized diaries. All these forms are a way to try to lean in to the velocity and interconnectedness of contemporary existence without, in any way, sacrificing depth, rigor, complexity, nuance, sophistication.

2. Class 2 – Saturday, July 18, 1 – 3 pm EDT online

Collage, Remix, Appropriation. In our second class, we’ll build off our first class and think about how to take these fragments, these crystallized moments, and build them into an entire book. We’ll also explore how these fragments might be yours, but they might also—when transformed—come from the culture at large.

3. Class 3 – Saturday, July 25, 1-3 pm EDT onlinePhoto,

Film, and Collaboration. The fractal elements need not be written. They might still image or cinematic montage. And they might arise from your collaboration with someone else. The point of all these gestures is to free yourself up from seeing a book or essay or story or novel as a dutifully linear operation. Maybe it could be a liberatingly open-ended text.

About Diana Norma Szokolyai:

Diana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and yoga teacher. Her books are CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing, Parallel Sparrows, and Roses in the Snow. Her poetry manuscript Milk & Water, was a finalist for Hunger Mountain’s 2020 May Day Mountain chapbook series. Her poetry was also shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Prize and received honorable mention in the 87th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition. Her work has been published in MER VOX Quarterly, VIDA, Quail Bell Magazine, The Boston Globe, Luna Luna Magazineand has been anthologized in Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Teachers As Writers, and Die Morgendämmerung der Worte Moderner Poesie- Atlas der Roma und Sinti. Her poetry – music collaborations have hit the Creative Commons Hot 100 list and been featured on WFMU-FM. She is co-founder and Artistic Director of Chagall Performance Art Collaborative and the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She first learned yoga and meditation at the age of fourteen and continued to practice and learn a variety of styles of yoga over the next 24 years, until deciding to pursue her yoga teacher certification to deepen her practice. Diana Norma Szokolyai specializes in Hatha flow, Yin and meditation. Her teaching style focuses on supporting students to set intentions, find proper alignment, and engage not only with the physical, but also the philosophical and spiritual aspects of yoga. She teaches at Green Tea Yoga in Salem, MA.

Join us from 10 a.m. – 12 noon EDT on Saturday July 11 & 18 for Diana Norma Szokolyai’s Summer Writing Retreat series “YOGA MEETS WRITING: The Root & Heart Chakras”:

CLASS 1: July 11 10 a.m. – 12 noon: Yoga Meets Writing: The Root Chakra Session

10 a.m.- 10:45 a.m. Chakra Flow YogaIn Sanskrit, “chakra” means wheel or disk, and in yoga, we refer to seven chakras, or spiritual energy centers in the body. When the chakras are in balance, we feel vibrant, joyful, and serene. Chakra flow will incorporate a hatha flow, focusing on alignment and energizing asanas, as well as a calming yin flow. All Levels Welcome!  

         -break to refresh and change – 

11:00 a.m.- 12 noon Craft of Writing Seminar: ALL GENRES (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)

After having practiced yoga for the first hour, in the second hour, we will discuss how the root chakra relates to our writing practice and rituals. The root chakra governs our feelings of security, and on the flip side, fear. We will discuss how these feelings influence our writing rituals and share practical information and best practices. We will also discuss how the root chakra can be used as a metaphor to dig deeper into the roots of our narratives. Looking at character backstories, etymology, and history, we will discover what is under the earth of our narratives and what grounds our storytelling craft. This second part will be part lecture, part discussion forum, and will also include writing exercises.

CLASS 2: July 18 10 a.m. – 12 noon: Yoga Meets Writing: The Heart Chakra Session

10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Chakra Flow Yoga
In Sanskrit, “chakra” means wheel or disk, and in yoga, we refer to seven chakras, or spiritual energy centers in the body. When the chakras are in balance, we feel vibrant, joyful, and serene. Chakra flow will incorporate a hatha flow, focusing on alignment and energizing asanas, as well as a calming yin flow. All Levels Welcome! 

         -break to refresh and change – 

11:00 a.m.- 12 noon Craft of Writing Seminar: ALL GENRES (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)
After having practiced yoga for the first hour, in the second hour, we will discuss how the heart chakra governs our feelings of compassion, empathy, gratitude, but also on the flip side, jealousy and envy. We will talk about how these vulnerable feelings enter into our poems, narratives and stories through the speaker or characters. We will also discuss the question: “What is at the heart of a poem or narrative?” Sometimes, it takes a little opening up, or peeling back of our first draft to get to the heart moments of our writing. We will discuss revision strategies that can help us think more deeply about this sort of question.

CLASS 3: August 1, 2020 1-3 p.m.  Surrealist Literary Salon & Reading With Summer Writers Join us from 1 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday August 1, 2020 for Surrealist Literary Salon & Reading with Summer Writers

Come play Surrealist and OULIPO Literary Games with Diana Norma Szokolyai and Writers from the CWW Virtual Summer Retreat. After playing some fun and generative literary games, participants will be invited to read (5 min max) from any piece written during the games or over the course of the CWW Virtual Summer Writing Workshop. It is optional to read– feel free to just come for the literary games!

About Rita Banerjee:

Rita Banerjee is the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Creative Executive Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop.  She’s the author of several books including CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, 2018), the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (FLP, 2018), which was nominated for the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize at the Academy of American Poets, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (SPR, 2016), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (FLP, 2010).  She is the co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2021), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. Her work also appears in PANK, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere.

Join us from 10 am – 12 pm EDT on Saturday July 25 and August 1 for Rita Banerjee’s Summer Writing Retreat class “Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction”:

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. Whether you’re currently working on a short story, novel, screenplay, theatrical play, lyrical essay, memoir, or narrative poem this class will help you craft a unique emotional landscape

1. Session 1 – Saturday, July 25, 10 am – 12 pm EDT online
Class seminar and writing session on rasa theory.

2. Session 2 – Saturday, August 1, 10 am – 12 pm EDT online
Workshop and sharing of writing featuring students’ rasa theory exercises.

About Tim Horvath:

Tim Horvath is the author of Understories (Bellevue Literary Press), which won the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Work of Fiction, and Circulation (sunnyoutside). His fiction has appeared in ConjunctionsAGNIHarvard Review, and many other journals, and his book reviews appear in Georgia ReviewThe Brooklyn Rail, and American Book Review. His novel-in-progress focuses on the lives of contemporary classical composers and musicians. He has taught Creative Writing in the Granada, Spain, program for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and in the BFA and MFA programs at New England College, including the Institute of Art and Design.

Join us from 3:30-5:30 pm EDT on Saturday July 11, 18, 25 and August 1 for Tim Horvath’s Summer Writing Retreat series:

Class 1. Writing from the Senses in the Age of Social Distancing

We rely on our senses all the time, as humans to navigate the world, and as writers to draw readers into our characters’ lives and worlds. But what happens to writing in a time of social distancing, when we find ourselves in isolation, wary of touch, breathing into masks, longing for restaurants, and watching history unfold on screens? I’d suggest that it’s all the more important that we reconnect with our senses, both for our well-being and our creativity. In this class, we’ll aim to do so.

         Session 1 – Saturday, July 11, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EDT online

In Part One, we’ll explore the senses of sight and sound, looking at how writers use imagery and the sounds and rhythms of language to make scenes, stories, narrative essays, and poems come alive. We’ll read authors whose writing is so vivid we feel as though we can enter it, and writers whose voice is so powerful that it feels like music.

        Session 2 – Saturday, July 18, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EDT online

In Part Two, we’ll explore the senses of touch, smell, and taste, again delving into how they can enhance writing across genres. Again, we’ll read authors whose writing makes you feel the rush of a rodeo ride, or who transport you through scent and food into entire realms of association and memory.In each case, we’ll use these as springboards for our own writing, whether you’re starting from scratch or working on an ongoing project. It isn’t necessary to take both of these, as they will stand alone, although they will also fit together well.

Class 2. Hopscotching Across Languages: Drawing Inspiration from Spanish Language Literature in Translation

It is a given that writers must learn to read closely, with attention to nuance and craft, to unravel the methods by which other writers have managed to tell stories effectively and adapt them for their own purposes. In this class, we’ll focus on contemporary writers in Spanish.

         Session 1 – Saturday, July 25, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EDT online

In Part One, we’ll look at some canonical writers from the last century such as Borges,  Valenzuela, Puig, Uhart, and Cortázar, and explore how social and political conditions shaped the so-called “Latin American Boom.” Apart from an appreciation of their work on the page, what can we take away from their work? We’ll do some exercises that take the playful spirit of these writers and welcome it into our own writing.

        Session 2 – Saturday, August 1, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EDT online

In Part Two, we’ll look at how today’s Spanish language writers are both continuing and radically transforming that tradition today. In particular, we’ll examine writers such as Ariana Harwicz, Andrés Neuman, Cristina Rivera Garza, and Samanta Schweblin, each of whom bends narrative and language, and thus our understanding of reality itself. We’ll also explore the fraught, infinitely rich topic of translation, discussing its complexities and even comparing a passage or two in English and Spanish. What language choices did the translator have to make? What was lost and gained? As we look at translation, we’ll pose the further question of what we can learn from it as we seek to “translate” any event, image, idea, or experience into language. In this case, too, we will do some exercises that use these writers and concepts as points of departure. It isn’t necessary to take both of these, as they will stand alone, although they will also fit together well.