CWW Fall Harvest Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day Four

Sunday, October 15 was the last day of our Fall Harvest Retreat, and we made sure to make the most of it. We woke up to fog covering the area, which presented a great view as we made our final breakfast.

Over breakfast, we discussed what we took away from the retreat. We shared what we accomplished and what our goals from here on out would be. Some of us even shared the work we did for Rita Banerjee’s workshop.

After that, the fog had dissipated enough that we all moved out onto the deck to share our Bake Offs. We discussed whether or not we succeeded with the assignment, and if not what we had gotten done and what we had planned to finish. Some of us shared our work, showing how me managed to create work featuring lobster traps, Joan Baez, lavender, waves, pots, “stunned,” and whiskey stains.

Once we were done, some of us moved over to the nearby town of Salem, MA for a farewell lunch.  Every year, Salem hosts a month full of spooky and fun events with “Haunted Happenings” throughout the month of October.  As we roamed the town, we saw the streets turned into a Halloween carnival, with caramel apples, kettle corn, customized elvish ears, and skeleton swords.  Mixed in the crowd of humans, were also goblins, witches, and fantastic monsters just strolling around Salem’s haunts, like yarn shops, magic shops with potions and tarot cards or seaside cafés. The Peabody Essex Museum has an exhibit “It’s Alive! Classic Horror & Sci-Fi Art,” and some of us enjoyed exploring it, while others roamed the streets traveling through hundreds of Halloween & New Age/Occult-themed booths.

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CWW Fall Harvest Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day Three

On Saturday, October 14, we had our third day of workshops. While some of us were tired from working late into the night on our Bake Offs, we still convened in our meeting space for breakfast and our first workshop. Diana Norma Szokolyai led a workshop on Writing in the Lyric Register. In this workshop, we looked over studying lyricism in writing and how paying attention to lyrical structure can improve our writings.

We also had two writing exercises for this workshop. The first was to write a scene that was slowed down to just five seconds. The second was to listen to a piece of music, Edgard Varèse’s “Nocturnal,” and to write whatever came to mind. The challenge was that we were unable to stop writing during the entire piece, leading to over 10 minutes of nonstop writing.

Once we were done, we shared our work. Some of us shed tears, others were surprised by the imagery that came from listening to the piece. When were were done, we all felt we had a better understanding of writing lyrically.

After that, we all went into Rockport for the Harvestfest. We went back to the same area from our first day to look through stalls for local bakeries and restaurants, crafts, and breweries. It was a cool, cloudy day, but it was still nice to walk around and see so much local color. And it certainly helped that all the food was extremely delicious.

We then returned home for the second part of Maya Sonenberg’s Beyond the Plot Triangle workshop. We learned more about unique ways to break through plot structure, such as writing through different formats. We even played quick games of Snakes and Ladders to see how we could use a board game to make a story. This led to a short story about two men named Razzle and Dazzle trying to get beer before all the bars in Rockport closed for the winter.

After that, we broke for dinner and to continue work on our Bake Offs. We had to finish our 20 pages by the next morning, and thus, we prepared for the final day of our retreat.

CWW Fall Harvest Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day Two

On October 13th, we had the first full day of our retreat. We started by working together to make breakfast, with CWW Artistic Director Diana Norma Szokolyai serving a veggie omelet along with fresh fruit and toast.

We then gathered for our first workshop with CWW Director Rita Banerjee’s workshop on Character Development & the Law of Desire. In this workshop, we discussed how we can create rounder, more dynamic characters. The participants looked at classic character archetypes and compared them to modern archetypes they see in literature. They were then challenged to find a character and write two scenes for them: one where they were alone and the reader could see entirely who they are, and another where that same character is confronted by one of these static archetypes.

After that, we took a break for lunch and to do some writing work. Some of us walked to the nearby Wingaersheek Beach, where the tide was low enough for us to walk far out. There we took in the beauty of the New England coast and observed people playing with their dogs and looked for any interesting shells or rocks we could find on the beach.

Once break time ended, we reconvened for our next workshop. Guest faculty member Maya Sonenberg led the first part of her workshop Forbidden Forms: Beyond the Plot Triangle. Here she brought in numerous examples of poems and short stories that played with worm and encouraged us to find ways to play around with plot and action. She even shared some interesting writing exercises that can help the reader break form and discover something new about their work.

After that, we all took a walk to a nearby beach. There, we played Literary Taboo. Each of us had to pick a word that was inspired by something we’ve experienced so far on the retreat or something we experienced on our way to and on the beach. Once we knew what our words were, we had to each write a short piece based on it that the other participants had to figure out. The only catch was that we couldn’t use the chosen word at all in the piece.

Once we all shared our pieces, this led to our Bake Off portion of the retreat. In the next 48 hours, we had to create a chapbook-length piece of work (around 20 pages) using all seven words however we pleased. We could create a book of poems, a series of short stories, or one short novella in that period of time. The words that we had to use were:

  • Lobster trap
  • Waves
  • “Stunned”
  • Joan Baez
  • Pot
  • Lavender
  • Whiskey stains

After that, we went to a lovely seafood restaurant, where we enjoyed oysters and other locally-sourced dishes. We used this to share ideas and to think about what we’d do for our Bake Off, and we all got to work.

CWW Fall Harvest Writing Retreat in Rockport, MA: Day One

On Thursday, October 12, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop made its way to coastal New England for our Fall Harvest Writing Retreat. We arrived at our home in Gloucester and were immediately taken by the spacious rooms, large windows, and clean elegance offered by the space. We found plenty of places to sit and write, especially with the gorgeous view from our back deck.

In the afternoon, some of us went to Downtown Rockport and walked along Bear Skin Neck. We passed by small little shops selling tons of local merchandise and kitsch. We also stopped for lunch and enjoyed a meal of crab rolls and fish and chips. We spent time taking in all the views of the harbor, the adorable looking stores, and all the cute dogs walking around.

After that, we returned to our house and settled in for the evening. We made a meal of Chicken Alfredo together, then went around the table introducing ourselves. We each shared our backgrounds, our writing history, what projects we were working on, and what we hoped to gain from this retreat.

After dishes, we all went our separate ways; some went to bed, some stayed up to do some writing. Whatever we did, we all were excited for how the retreat began and for what was to come next, as our first workshops begin tomorrow.

CWW Presents: Fertile Ground for Celebration at the Democracy Center, Cambridge, MA – May 5, 2017 * 7-9 pm

CWW Presents: Fertile Ground – A Literary & Musical Celebration
7 p.m. – 7:45p.m. Literary Readings/Performances

– intermission & book/album signing-
8 p.m. – 9 p.m. Musical Performances

Join us for a night of creative writing & music by and for diverse voices from NYC to Boston! Our evening will feature lyrical readings and musical performances by Matthew Wallenstein, Rita BanerjeeErini S. Katopodis, Sounds in Bloom (Diana Norma SzokolyaiDennis Shafer), Fawn (Anne Malin Ringwalt and Will Johnson) and Elizabeth Devlin, and will take place at the Democracy Center in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.

Tickets are available for pre-purchase in advance on Eventbrite, and will be available for purchase at the door starting at 6:30 PM. Sliding scale: $5-10. Your ticket helps us support the artists and the Democracy Center. Please note that the Democracy Center is not wheelchair accessible.

Here’s more about our performers:

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Matthew Wallenstein‘s writing has been published by the University of Chicago, the University of Maine Farmington, Bowling Green Sate University and others. He lives in a small Rust Belt town. “Tiny Alms,” his new release, covers a range of topics from growing up in poor rural New Hampshire to mental illness to the deportation of his wife. It is his first book and was Published by Permanent Sleep Press.

 

 

ritabanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016.  Her edited volume, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, will release in March 2018.  She is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

Erini S. Katopodis is a Greek-American poetry, fiction, and music writer from Los Angeles, CA. She’s graduating from Emerson College with a BFA in Fiction this May. Erini loves her music to be dreamy, folky, and intimate, with a touch of the strange, and loves making new sounds with new people. Performing with her are Shelby Marnett and Rob Luzier.

 

 

 

Sounds in Bloom (Diana Norma Szokolyai & Dennis Shafer)

Parisian literary life and contemporary art & music laid the groundwork and inspiration for Sounds in Bloom, a poetry-music-movement-art ensemble co-founded by poet Diana Norma Szokolyai & saxophonist Dennis Shafer in 2006. The Boston Globe has called their work “avant-garde.” Originally participating in David Barne’s Spoken Word nights in Paris and featured by Paris Soirees Salons, Sounds in Bloom now performs in NY, Boston and & Paris. Some places they have performed include The Firehouse Space, Pete’s Candy Store, Barbès, The Boston Conservatory, The Outpost, Theatre Salle Edmond Michelet, and the Cité International des Arts.

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Fawn is Will Johnson and Anne Malin Ringwalt. Combining elements of banjo, guitar, ukulele, synth and poetry, the duo explores the often-ignored spaces between pre-established genres. Fawn’s debut EP, “Neither Dog Nor Car,” was released on November 5, 2016, and their first music video, for “Good Earth,” premiered on NPR’s All Songs Considered TV in January 2017.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Devlin, with her haunting combination of lilting voice and enchanting Autoharp, is a self-produced NYC singer- songwriter. Devlin defies traditional musical structure with many of her songs, building miniature narratives and magical worlds where characters, fantasies and time collide. Devlin has toured nationally, internationally, & performs in venues throughout NYC’s 5 boroughs. “Orchid Mantis,” her newest full-length album, was released in February 2017 at Sidewalk Café’s Winter Anti-folk Festival in NYC.

CWW Grant Writing & Program Development Intern AM Ringwalt’s Folk Duo Featured on Sound of Boston

wwaibGrant Writing & Programming Intern AM Ringwalt recently recorded a single and a five-song EP at The Soul Shop in Medford with her partner Will Johnson. The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop is thrilled to announce that the single, “The Good Earth,” premiered exclusively on Sound of Boston earlier this month. The song is now available for free download on Fawn’s Bandcamp page.

Fawn, Ringwalt and Johnson’s duo, combines elements of banjo, guitar, ukulele, synth and poetry in exploration of the often-ignored spaces between pre-established genres. Neither Dog Nor Car, the duo’s debut EP, will be released in early November.

From Sound of Boston:

Johnny Cash’s version of “The Good Earth” is jaunty and playful, with guitar, strings, and percussion chugging along beneath Cash’s rich, resonant vocals. Fawn takes a different approach, opening with Ringwalt’s delicate voice and Johnson plucking along a nearly stagnant bass line. Fawn adds a heaviness to “The Good Earth,” exploring the depth of the song’s lyrics. “I’ve traveled far and traveled wide/I’ve seen a lot of things./But looking back on all the years/I don’t know what they mean,” Ringwalt sings, adding pauses and drawing out the refrain Cash hurries through.

The duo adds a profundity to the lyrics by taking the time to enunciate each word, with the bass pushing back to support its weight. “This song is a prayer, a celebration of Cash, and, to the best of our knowledge, one of the few (if not the only) female-voiced versions of this song,” said Fawn in a press release.

New Poetry from CWW Intern AM Ringwalt in Banshee and Hobart

AM Ringwalt, our Grant Writing & Programming Intern, recently saw her poems “Of Your Dark” and “Apocalyptic” published in Banshee and Hobart.

Banshee, a Dublin-based literary journal, has been featured in the Irish Times due to its focus on innovative and accessible work. Edited by three women under the age of 30, Banshee is an inherently feminist and political literary force.

Hobart, an American literary journal, releases poetry, fiction and nonfiction on a daily basis, proving quantity and quality are not mutually exclusive categories.

To read Ringwalt’s “Apocalyptic,” please visit Hobart. 

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Ringwalt with her partner and bandmate, Will Johnson.

AM Ringwalt is a Boston-based writer and musician (Fawn). Her words also appear in Rogue Agent, The Grief DiariesVinylWhole Beast Rag and DUM DUM Zine: Punks and Scholars. “Like Cleopatra,” Ringwalt’s debut poetry chapbook, was published in 2014 by dancing girl press. Fawn’s first single, “The Good Earth,” will premiere this fall, and will be followed shortly thereafter by their debut EP, entitled “Neither Dog Nor Car.”