Cambridge, MA Fall 2017 Creative Writing Workshops & Craft of Writing Seminars

CCAEClasses2-2017
The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted announce that we will be hosting our second annual fall writing series at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education at 56 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA.  Our Craft of Writing Seminars and Creative Writing Workshops will take place on Saturday mornings from 10 am – 1 pm from September 23 – December 2, 2017.  Registration opens July 26, 2017 at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.  Classes are $40 each.

Location:

Cambridge Center For Adult Education
56 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

Time:

Saturdays, 10 am – 1 pm, September 23 – December 2, 2017
(Registration opens on July 26, 2017 on the CCAE Website!)

Class Schedule:

September 23: “Trance Poetry”
(with Janaka Stucky)

Many writers work in a self-induced trance state—which proves a powerful tool to access creative, free- associative, & innovative forms of consciousness. Whether you want to call it “flow,” or “meditation,” or “channeling,” there are multiple techniques artists can use to access & regulate this incredibly generative mindset. We will explore what it means to work from a trance state, ways we can safely induce trance, & look at works of writers who are known for espousing similar techniques.

September 30: “Writing Poetic Prose: Rising to the Lyric Register”
(with Diana Norma Szokolyai)

In this writing workshop, we will practice writing in the lyric register and elevate our writing into descriptive, poetic prose. We will look intensively at writing “the moment,” slowing down and unpacking a single turn of the prism. After examining some examples in literature, we will take to writing and revising our own pieces to unlock the lyrical qualities of a single moment. Our aim will be to pull our readers into the emotionally charged and poetic world of our narratives.

October 21: “Black Mountain and New York School Poetry”
(with Megan Fernandes)

In this class, we will look at different elements of the Black Mountain and New York School poetry movements. The class will analyze how the use of monosyllables, experimental syntax, stream of consciousness, prepositions, and dental consonants were employed by poets in each of these eras including Frank O’Hara and Robert Creeley. Students will be expected to draft two poems by the end of the intensive that play with the major tenets of each movement.

November 4: “Crafting Storytelling that Sticks & Compelling Characters”
(with Diana Norma Szokolyai)

When telling a story, what are the underlying structures that make people want to keep reading? We will unpack the elements of timeless stories, examining what makes them memorable. When crafting our characters, we want to inspire empathy in our readers and of course, make them believable. We will learn from the examples of bestselling authors and try our hand at several strategies to build unforgettable characters. Expect to walk away from this class with a toolkit for crafting your story.

November 11: “Me Against The World: Tupac & the Power of Hip- Hop”

(with Frederick-Douglass Knowles II)

This workshop examines the poetry and musical works of Tupac Shakur in order to delineate social responsibility in Hip-Hop culture. The seminar will explore the historical significance of Hip-Hop culture and social injustices. The class will examine Shakur’s T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. philosophy— and his identity as the progeny of a Black Panther Political Party member. Participants will devise poems on Shakur’s turbulent, dichotomous lifestyle; addressing the question: Tupac. Menace or Martyr?

November 18: “Haiku Intensive”
(with Janaka Stucky)

Often misrepresented or only partially understood, the heart of Haiku contains many lessons and silence. This intensive will survey the history and core principles while reading ancient and contemporary examples. Multiple haiku will be written and workshopped. By the end, you will be equipped to incorporate the powerful discipline of haiku into your life, using it to hone your poetic practice and increase your daily awareness.

December 2: “See Something/Say Something: Poetry in the Age of Terror”
(with Megan Fernandes)

We live in an age of terror where suspicion is elicited from us daily. We animalize immigrants and fantasize about borders that cage us into an insular nationalism. In this class, we will read poems about how discourses of terror create environmental wastelands, subhuman protagonists, and militarized kinship. What emotional landscapes are part of this era? What kind of speakers teach us how to navigate it? Students will be expected to draft two poems by the end of class.

Featured Faculty:

Janaka Stucky is an American poet, performer, and publisher. The founding editor of Black Ocean, as well as the annual poetry journal, Handsome, he is also the author of a few poetry collections. His poems have appeared in such journals as Denver Quarterly, Fence and North American Review, and his articles have been published by The Huffington Postand The Poetry Foundation. He is a two-time National Haiku Champion and in 2010 he was voted “Boston’s Best Poet” in The Boston Phoenix.  In 2015, Jack White’s Third Man Recordslaunched a new publishing imprint, Third Man Books, and chose Janaka’s full-length poetry collection, The Truth Is We Are Perfect, as their inaugural title. Janaka’s poems are at once incantatory, mystic, and epigrammatic. His esoteric & occult influences, combined with a mesmeric approach to performance, create an almost ecstatic presence on stage.

meganfernandes_newbioimage2015Megan Fernandes is an Assistant Professor of English at Lafayette College and teaches courses on poetry, feminist theory, and science and technology studies. She holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MFA in poetry from Boston University. She is the author of The Kingdom and After(Tightrope Books 2015), the poetry editor of the anthology Strangers in Paris (Tightrope Books 2011), and the author of two poetry chapbooks: Organ Speech (Corrupt Press) and Some Citrus Makes Me Blue (Dancing Girl Press). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the Boston Review, Rattle, The Adroit Journal, Pank Magazine, The Walrus Magazine, Postmodern Culture, Guernica, Memorious, the Academy of American Poets, Redivider, the California Journal of Poetics, among others.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-52-49-amFrederick-Douglass Knowles II (Yesod) is a Poet-Educator-Activist involved in Community Education and the Performing Arts. He has competed on three National Poetry Slam Teams (2x Connecticut and Brooklyn, NY). His works have featured in the Martin Luther King Jr. Anthology by Yale University Press, East Haddam Stage Company of Connecticut, The 13th Annual Acacia Group Conference at California State University, Folio– a Southern Connecticut State University literary magazine, Lefoko—a Botswana (Southern Africa) Hip-Hop magazine and Fingernails Across the Chalkboard: AIDS Anthology by Third World Press. Frederick-Douglass is currently an English Professor at Three Rivers Community College where he infuses English Composition with social injustices, such as AIDS, Poverty and War. His debut collection of autobiographical poetry, Black Rose City, was currently released by Author House.

Headshot.McCarrenPark,WillamsburgDiana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic
Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Her edited volume, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, will be released by C&R Press on March 7, 2018.  She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (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 including David Krebs (US), Robert Lemay (Canada), Claudio Gabriele (Italy), Peter James (UK), Jason Haye (UK), and Sebastian Wesman (Estonia). Diana Norma is a founding member of the performing arts groups Sounds in Bloom, ChagallPAC, and The Brooklyn Soundpainting Ensemble.  Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause, “Space Mothlight,” hit #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive. Her work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in VIDA: Reports from the Field, The Fiction Project, Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review and Up the Staircase QuarterlyThe Million Line Poem, The Cambridge Community Poem, and elsewhere, as well as anthologized in Our Last Walk, The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering, and Teachers as Writers.  She is currently at work on her next book and an album of poetry & music.  Diana Norma holds a M.A. in French (UCONN, La Sorbonne) and an Ed.M in Arts in Education (Harvard).
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Rita Banerjee’s essay, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory,” now available in Poets & Writers Magazine

Rita Banerjee‘s essay, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” now appears in the January/February 2017 Inspiration Issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.  An excerpt from the article follows below:

“Rasa theory centers on taste. Not taste in the sense of sophistication or composure or discernment. Not taste in the sense of good or bad. But taste in its most primal, animalistic, emotive, and provocative form.

Rasa is what happens to you, spectator, reader, part-time lover, when you watch or read a work of art with intensity. Rasa is the flavor of the art experience. It is the feeling produced in the viewer when a work of art is at its most potent and devastating form. Rasa is the immediate, unfettered emotional reaction produced in the spectator when a work of art has left her breathless or yearning for more. Rasa means to savor, to bring a work of art within the body, to let words linger on the tongue. Rasa is a shot to the heart, it’s a festering wound, it’s the mind at unrest, and it is nobody’s captive. It can be dangerous. It can be pleasurable. A visceral form of taste, rasa tends to resist cultivation and containment. Rasa is what happens to you when you find yourself spellbound and alone, and completely enraptured by a work of art for just a moment. It’s where the emotional, narrative, and lyrical landscape of a work washes over, prickles, or consumes you. It’s the moment where you loose yourself and loosen, and find in your body the first stirrings of emotion…”

To read the full article, please check your local bookstores for the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine or visit Poets & Writers here.

New York Premiere of Dipika Guha’s Play – Mechanics of Love – at the Paradise Factory (September 8 – 24, 2016)

DipikaGuha-MechanicsofLoveThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is proud to announce the New York premiere of Mechanics of Love, a new play by the talented playwright Dipika Guha, a CWW affiliate and dear friend.  Mechanics of Love, which is produced by To-By-Four Productions, a female-driven theatre and film production company dedicated to making work by women, for everyone, and directed by Elena Araoz, will play at the Paradise Factory in New York City from September 8 – 24, 2016.

In the play, a man who forgets everything falls in love with a ballerina who forgets nothing. That is, until she falls in love with him. And his wife. And the mechanic. This rapidly moving, madcap comedy explores how we love, who we choose, and the cost of making sense of it all.  On Mechanics of Love, Mina Morita writes:

“Written with a finely tuned and absurd lilt, wry poetry, and unnerving humor, her plays break open character stereotypes piece by piece to reveal the shared and vulnerable underbelly of our humanity. She creates worlds that exist beyond the traditional psychological realism of most American theatre, and employs the poetry of unexpected pairings and motives to capture a more truthful human experience.  Love is that intangible force that has assured the growth of humankind and our survival, driven the creation of entire industries, and caused artists to go mad trying to capture its essence. In Mechanics of Love, Guha unveils ‘a mythical European city, pressed up against a communist state’ that has recently fallen. The citizens are suddenly awakened to the possibility of being anyone, or falling in love with anyone… and everyone! It is a moment when cultural norms are being rewritten.”

Dipika Guha’s Mechanics of Love had its world premiere at the Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco, CA in February 2016.  The cast of this mad-cap love dramedy includes actors Victoria Frings, Anastasia Olowin, Eric Miler, and Sathya Sridharan.  Performances will be held at the Paradise Factory (64 E 4th St, New York, New York 10003) and will take place on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm and Friday and Saturday at 8pm with matinees on Saturday, September 17 & 24 and Sunday, September 11 & 18 at 2pm, and an opening night performance on Monday, September 12 at 7:30pm. Tickets are available online at www.tobyforproductions.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

DipikaGuhaDipika Guha was born in Calcutta and raised in India, Russia and the United Kingdom. She is the inaugural recipient of the Shakespeare’s Sister Playwriting Fellowship with The Lark Playwrights Development Center, A Room of Her Own and Hedgebrook. Her plays include I ENTER the VALLEY (Upcoming; Theatreworks New Play Festival, Finalist Ruby Prize ’15); THE ART of GAMAN (KILROY LIST 2016, Upcoming: Berkeley Rep Ground Floor), MECHANICS of LOVE (Crowded Fire Theatre) and UNRELIABLE(developed at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre). She is currently under commission from South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Playwrights Horizons Theatre School.

Her work has been developed at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, The Atlantic Theatre Company, the Drama League, Cutting Ball Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, New Georges, Roundabout Underground, Shotgun Players, Red Bull Theatre, Leviathan Theatre, Naked Angels, The Cherry Lane Theatre, One Coast Collaboration, The Sam French OOB Festival, The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway and the Tobacco Factory (UK) amongst others. She’s been awarded residencies at the Hermitage Artist Residency, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, SPACE at Ryder Farm, McCarter Theatre’s Sallie B.Goodman Residency, Ucross Artists Residency and the Rasmuson Foundation in Sitka, Alaska. She’s an alumnus of Ars Nova Playgroup, the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program, Soho Rep W/D Lab, the Women’s Project Lab & the Ma-Yi Writer’s Lab.

Dipika received her BA in English Literature from University College London, was a Frank Knox Fellow at Harvard University and received her MFA in Playwriting at the Yale School of Drama under Paula Vogel. She is currently a Visiting Artist at the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School and a Resident Playwright at The Playwrights Foundation in San Francisco. Despite a long run in the United States she still drinks tea. 

Soundtrack for Jade Sylvan’s “Spider Cult: The Musical” now available on Bandcamp!

SpiderCultSoundtrackCongratulations to CWW Instructor and talented playwright, Jade Sylvan, for a raucous performance of their play, Spider Cult: The Musical, at the American Repertory Theatre in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA this past weekend!  The play was produced by Jane Doe, choreographed and directed by Fem Bones, and featured dance performances by the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts.  Catherine Cappozi (a.k.a. AxeMunkee) played electric guitar and composed the soundtrack for Spider Cult.  We’re proud to announce that the original soundtrack for Spider Cult: The Musical is now available on Bandcamp for those who couldn’t make it out to Cambridge, MA to see the play this weekend.  And a big hurrah for Jade Sylvan and the wonderful cast and crew of Spider Cult who brought down the house at the Oberon Theatre on Sunday!

CWW Instructor Jade Sylvan’s “Spider Cult: The Musical” debuts at the Oberon Theatre in Cambridge, MA on June 24!

SPIDEROBERON

Spider Cult: The Musical, an original apocalyptic lesbian, fringe, sci-fi horror, burlesque musical, will have its debut at the American Repertory Theatre in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA on June 24th, with an additional showing on June 26th. Written and produced by CWW instructor and playwright Jade Sylvan, Spider Cult is a spin-off from a previous burlesque show called Revenge of the Robot Battle Nuns by the Boston burlesque group Slaughterhouse Sweethearts. It follows Scout, a temptress from Battle Nuns who led the heroes astray into her web of lust, and shows how she became such an evil villainess. This story stars some of Boston’s most known burlesque performers, including Fem Bones, Jane Doe, and Bella Gunz.

Spider Cult will run for four shows on June 24th (at 6:30 pm and 10 pm) and June 26th (at 5:30 pm and 8 pm) at the Oberon Theatre.  For more information on the show and how to purchase tickets, please visit check out more information here.  The musical was successfully funded via Kickstarter.  And here’s an NSFW preview of the show below:

“HOME/SICK” – a play by CWW Instructor Stephen Aubrey & the Assembly debuts in Los Angeles tonight!

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop instructor & playwright, Stephen Aubrey, has written and produced a play with The Assembly Theatre called “HOME/SICK.”  “HOME/SICK will debut tonight in Los Angeles, and will run from June 9 – July 3, 2016 at the Odyssey Theatre.  In the New York Times, Catherine Rampell has praised “HOME/SICK,” a play about the Weather Underground, for its “cutting-edge young theater collective… By the end we have witnessed a sort of sociological big bang, when this tight, angry ball of political energy suddenly bursts and disbands irreparably.”

“HOME/SICK” is the story of a handful of political activists and leaders from the 1960s student movement who seized control of Students for a Democratic Society in protest to the Vietnam War and the government’s repression of those seeking equality domestically. In doing so, these activists reshaped the society in the name of overthrowing the United States government. Believing violence to be the only means to transform American politics and society, these passionate idealists accelerated a movement to a revolutionary fervor, but left a country behind.  Tickets for the play are available now at the Odyessey Theatre in Los Angeles.

Praise for “HOME/SICK”:

“An intelligent and dynamic package…The ensemble’s connection with one another is the truest homage they could offer to the memory of the collective they have clearly, though reservedly, come to admire.”  – Jason Fitzgerald, Backstage

“Impressively researched and clear-eyed, home/sick shows us the Underground’s internal contradictions, and we see Bolshevik passion lapsing into self-delusion and then flaring up again, until we are unsure what to admire and what to deplore.”  – Helen Shaw, Time Out New York

“This is a group of brilliant artists who will, without question, make their mark in the world of theater for a long time to come.”  – Hillary Bettis, OffOffOnline

 

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 Newport faculty Jade Sylvan discusses their new play, Spider Cult: The Musical

spidercultSpider Cult: The Musical, written by Jade Sylvan, our Spring in Newport, RI Writing Retreat (April 22-24, 2015) fiction faculty member, will be playing at The Oberon Theatre in Cambridge, MA, on June 24 & June 26, 2016.  There will be two shows on the night of Friday, June 24, as well as a matinee and evening performance on Sunday, June 26.

Spider Cult is Boston’s first apocalyptic lesbian sci-fi horror burlesque musical. The musical follows Scout, an orphan stripper who over the course of the story is pursued by a “crazy” cult. To learn more about the musical and keep up to date with its production, visit: www.spidercultthemusical.com.

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.

Baba’s Ghost : A Review of Alex Mahgoub’s Baba – A New York Fringe Festival Play


In this one-person show, Baba, performer and writer Alex Mahgoub takes the audience through the story of his father’s murder when Mahgoub was only ten years old. Through piecing together the splinters of this violent event, he recognizes how his perceptions of masculinity, power, and his own identity were shaped in response. In his artist statement, Mahgoub writes that he was “haunted” by this story before he wrote it, that he still finds himself sobbing on stage with genuine emotion even after performing the well-received show so many times at various theatres and festivals. Baba was voted favorite solo show and favorite performance of the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington DC by DC Metro in July 2015, and all of his performances in the New York Fringe Festival from August 15-29th were entirely sold-out. The dramatic delivery of Mahgoub’s loss of his Baba changes his life and perception of the human experience from an early age, and births the ghost which Mahgoub must still learn from throughout his teen and adult years. Watching Mahgoub’s performance does not, however, feel like an exorcism but rather like witnessing someone learning to live with that ghost.

Mahgoub’s Baba (Arabic for father), takes the role of his primary teacher. From early childhood, Baba is larger than life–a superhero. He’s the Egyptian James Dean on a motorcycle, the immigrant who came here with nothing and built himself an empire, redolent of the Cool Water cologne scent of masculinity. He’s the leather jacket and gold medallion pinnacle of manliness, and teaches his son the reality  of money, hard work, and success. Because his father died in an act of bravado that perhaps could have been avoided, he sees his father undone by the same pride that made him appear so invincible. Mahgoub begins to question the authenticity of his father’s machismo and begins to define himself against it. He was going to be the nice guy. At the same time, both the pressure and inspiration of his father’s expectations for his son, what is is to be a man, linger.

This specter of masculine power hits home the complicated father-son dynamics that many children experience: striving to live up to a father’s expectations, viewing his father’s word as the ‘last word,’ and wondering how a ‘traditional man’ would act. That image of unquestionable masculine authority is eventually shattered when a child learns that the father figure is fallible. And still, Baba’s ghost follows his son throughout his decision-making and  the winding path of his career. Mahgoub wonders what his Baba would think of the man he’s become, and at the same time ruminates on the loss of ever knowing. It is a loss conjured in such a way that the audience feels and can connect with, knowing it’s a loss we will one day go through, if we haven’t already.

The play weaves between the stated and understated, casting the most difficult topics to the realm of memory and flashback while the easier, more quotidian details of life are expressed primarily through expository monologue, suggesting that while there is an acute awareness and acceptance of the darkest parts of his reality, he is still processing the trauma at the root of his being. Rather than addressing his concerns about what his macho father would think of his sexuality through exposition, he takes the audience through a vivid flashback to winning a sterling silver necklace for being the top saleschild in his school’s fundraiser, and coming home wearing it with pride. His father demands that he takes it off because, “Necklaces are for faggots,” and Mahgoub casts the necklace in a river, desperate to be rid of the epithet. This memory arises later in his twenties, after his first kiss with a charming man he meets at a party, and while he does not ask himself what his father would think of his bisexuality, the audience feels his concern. In this way, the harshest aspects of his life are not intellectualized–they are presented in raw fragments of memory, resurfacing as he’s triggered in the present. The performance is in many ways a trauma narrative, fluctuating between accepting and looking away from overwhelming events and experiences through text and subtext, exposition and flashback, the bare nerves of suffering and the cloak of humor.

The balance between levity and darkness is particularly striking: alternating between the starker memories of loss and fear, and then cartoonish caricatures of his sister, mother, father, and other people in his life. And while the audience did not always laugh when the script perhaps expected us to, we had the authentic experience of watching a person reconcile tragedy through humor when he is the only one who can laugh, even through the observer’s thoughtful silence, because to go on, he must laugh. And not coincidentally, the jokes that made the audience laugh loudly preceded the most scarring recollections. But this is how we live with ghosts– the ghosts of expectation, of loss, and of a past that can only be evoked through art. By the end of the show, the audience feels that Mahgoub has struck an ever-shifting reconciliation between his father and the overbearing question of what it is for him, Alex Mahgoub, to be a man. “My father lived his life with his chest out, ready for the fight. I live my life with my heart open, ready to be the nice guy.”

Keep an eye out for his upcoming book #SelfieGeneration. Find out more at http://www.babatheshow.com and http://www.alexmahgoub.com/

– Jessica Reidy & Viktor Pachas

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Newport, RI Writing Retreat feat. in Coldfront Magazine

rhode-islandThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s retreat to Newport, RI has been featured in Coldfront Magazine. The website featured details of our retreat, along with information to help interested parties register for the event.

If you’re interested in the event, you can read more details about the retreat here. You can also register for the event here. You can also check out our Facebook event post for the event. Registration for the event has been extended to March 15th and now includes tuition and a few meals.