CWW Spring in New Orleans 2018 Writing Retreat – Recap!

This spring the Cambridge Writer’s Workshop held their retreat in the vibrant city of New Orleans. The weather was amazing and felt like a breath of fresh air to all of the snow we had experienced in this unusually long winter. We stayed in a gorgeous two-story house across the river from the French Quarter in Algiers’s Point.

The retreat started with a night of games and fun during orientation which helped stir everyone’s creative side!

Classes for this retreat showcased: “Rasa: Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction” taught by Rita Banerjee; “What’s At Stake?” taught by Diana Norma; and a two-part course on both finding a literary agent and building a literary platform taught by special lecturer Natalie Kimber, a literary agent from The Rights Factory. The classes were as fun as they were informative and educational.

In our free time, we played a group game of Werewolf, sought out local food and drink, saw local sites, listened to jazz in the French Quarter, and most importantly wrote!

The 48-hour Writing Bake Off has become a staple of the CWW, and this trip produced some amazing work by our writers! As per the usual rules each writer had 48 hours to write around twenty pages of work while incorporating elements as chosen by the fellow writers. This Bake-Off needed to include:

  • Pastel Colored Houses
  • The Powdered Sugar from the Beignets
  • Gentrification
  • Trumpets
  • A “Big Easy” Attitude
  • “Widow-Maker” Trees

Here are some excerpts of what our writers came up with.

Gina Anderson “The Baby Sitter”

I kicked open the door. The creature looked like a Doris Day reject. It held the baby outstretched over the crib readying to extract its soul. “Unhand that child!” I demanded. I’m sure my command came out in a chirpy, garbled mess instead of low demonish.

The woman lowered her palm over the tiny chest of the babe, swaddled up in a blue blankie, as a threat. She opened her mouth up in an unnatural yawn and let out a low hum. The move shut the door behind me and blasted me against it.

The babe was silent. It made no moves to protect itself. This demon babe was rumored to have unimaginable powers. Did the creature stun it with some sort of ability unnatural to this realm?

Very well. If it was going to fight dirty, then the crutches and the pants were coming off. I quickly unwrapped my bandaged legs and feet, releasing my claws, but also thoroughly confusing the possessed creature. I picked up one of the crutches and detached one of the components that doubled as a stake. I only had two left and I only had two shots at getting it right.

The creature stretched the face of its possessed body in that yawn again, but this time it spewed a chemical mist. I coughed to prevent the toxic fumes from entering my lungs. Hey, I’m a birdie with delicate sensibilities. Damn it! These guys just kept upping the threats.

 

Adi Hernández “Untitled Bake-Off”

Julio had been off sleeping, reading, and doing just about god-knows-what those three weeks nobody could find him, and in-between it all, he would find himself staring out through the window hoping he would one day go back to what he thought he could remember life to be. Since the accident, since the weather that day long ago, since his brother’s death, he stayed in the upper room of a pastel house that had somehow managed to stay intact. He had been stuck there, paging through the same three books he hadn’t read in a while, but he was beginning to think, maybe a trip outside could spare him from having to read them all over again. They made him sick to remember again.

To remember his hometown in Managua, Nicaragua. To remember the days when he and his brother would simply drop the bags of groceries they carried home to run off to the beach at the sight of a glimmer of water. To remember the nights outside their home eating papaya and waving off the heat those summer days created. To remember his mama and papa spending nights together cooking for the rest of the family just before they would have “uninvited” guests over. To remember his brother’s laugh when he fell into the pond searching for the sea serpent that supposedly lived there. To remember them again, and to realize they were too far to offer any help like he knew they would.

“It’s what I get… I guess.” he thought to himself.

Deb Jannerson “Poems”

first sight 

the only track in my discman’s 56-sleeve carrier that mentioned new orleans was about hookers.

i slipped the disc into its wide plastic mouth anyway, lit a funk ribbon between my ears as
the seventh-circle seraphim perched back from the trolley window, uninterrupted by its muffled bass.

removed from blood context, i offered myself to the necklace-strewn widowmaker branches, to the creaky car film-reeling academic excuses, to the jester-drunk women embracing on quarter corners.

agnostic phantoms marbled my barrier, warmth wet as a lover, leaned through anthony kiedis to hiss there is something here for you to find.

8/28/05

with two more weeks until the
begrudging unlock of the ivory tower, i
regressed into the house of the soot eagle

where i unset through the ticking, then
shattered offscreen.

in a vertiginous spot of mirror-image cruelty:
it really will be a canal street! the
sourdough words would not mix with
her fault-ridden lips.

my brain disappeared, impotent.

i had left its dormant shadow on
the opposite end of the interstate, and
almost expected it to survive.

 

Gary Zeiss “Thank You for Riding with Jesus”

I rode with Jesus the other day. Ten glorious, spirit filled miles. They were fun-filled, too. Yes, I was touched by the son of God himself, and sitting in the back seat of his 2014 Blue Passat (7EAD313), I felt as if I were being whisked away from all my cares.

Jesus asked if I believed in him. How could I say no?  He was sitting there, in the flesh, right in front of me. He would move his hands and the car would turn. He would move his feet

and the car would accelerate or slow down. Of course, Jesus was right there with me, every moment of this journey.

Good thing I became a believer quickly. The 405 was in one of its usual crowding phases, and Jesus was pulling motorcycle like lane splits. Give him this — he could drive like hell. While I was in his holy presence, the day seemed to get brighter. It was if the darkness relented to the holy glory of dawn.

I definitely felt as if I was being touched by an angel — and not just any angel, but the big J. We got off the 405 at La Tijera.

Jesus laid on the horn at the driver in front of us.

No effect.

“No turn on red” I said, pointing to the sign.

“That’s for you folks, not the son of God!” he laughed, almost rear-ending the Explorer with Utah plates that was standing at the light.

I almost thought I heard him mutter a curse word or two at the careful driver in front of us. I knew just then, What Would Jesus Do in traffic?  He’d be just like one of us — pissed off

at the slow driver in front of him, impatient, and ready to honk and curse at a moment’s notice. I felt very close to Jesus at that moment.

Matthew Bargas “Credo: On Truth”

“What is truth,” Pontus Pilate asked. The answer may not be as simple as most would think. In

this day and age of fake news and real news the question is just as relevant as it ever was. Our digital technology can fabricate anything, creat compelling arguments supporting or condemning anything anything, and who is to decide what is real and what is fake.

Aside from science and math, are there any universal truths, or are all truths relative? We hold these truths to be self evident? Really? What does that mean. If life liberty and pursuit of happiness are self evident why is there so much death and destruction, so much oppression, so much misery in our world. How about the divine right of kings? That ‘truth’ was believed by everyone centuries ago. Who knows what everyone will believe in the future?

And there is this excerpt from the song, Wonderful from the musical Wicked:

“We believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it history. A man is called a traitor or a liberator. A rich man is a thief or a philanthropist. Is one a crusader or an invader. It’s all in which label is able to persist. There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities. So act as though they don’t exist.”

 

Rachel Kurasz “Widow Maker Trees”

I ran into my house and locked the door. I was fine, I just drank too much, I told myself. The wind howled, branches were scratching at my door. I went to my bedroom and laid down on the bed hoping to get a good night’s sleep and deal with the hangover in the morning. The scratching sounds continued and sounded as if they were right at my bedroom door.

I was scared, I was drunk, and I finally decided I needed to say the prayer, fuck it, being foolish was better than ending up like that poor woman’s corpse.

“As I lay me down to sleep I pray…” Shit. “As I lay me down to sleep I pray…” Fuck.

The scratches grew louder.

“As I lay me down to sleep I pray…” I was so drunk and scared that I had completely forgotten the damn prayer. I kept repeating the first line over and over again. And then I saw it. I saw a small branch crawling through the space in the door frame. I prayed faster.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip full of fun, food, and productivity! The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s new anthology CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing (eds. Rita Banerjee & Diana Norma Szokolyai, May 15, 2018) can be pre-ordered form C&R Press here!  Until next time, stay wonderful NOLA!

–Rachel Kurasz, CWW Media & Communications Intern

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CWW Granada 2015 Faculty Member Peter Orner Featured in New York Times’ “Modern Love” column

peter-ornerPeter Orner, a CWW Granada 2015 fiction faculty member, writes about finding love and losing love and how even the most potent memories can vanish and change with the passage of time.

In his recent New York Times “Modern Love” column, “We Were In Our 20’s and Didn’t Have A Clue,” Orner looks back at a brief, passionate relationship he had in his 20’s in order to examine, “…the way people edit the details of their lives.” Orner shows how even though the passion and the heartbreak might fade, the instinct to reclaim these emotions and revisit the past never does. Time is the true subject of Orner’s essay; how it expands and contracts, how it has the ability to turn a happy memory into a sad one.

Even in his 20’s, when he claims to “not have a clue,” Orner recognizes that time is not exactly on the side of the couple when, after a discussion about moving in together leads nowhere, he writes, “I wasn’t going to press the issue, what was obvious was obvious. It had everything to do with time.” Eventually, Orner is able to think back on this memory without sadness, observing that his impulse to reach out to this woman now feels, “more like an obligation to a defunct emotion than something I actually wanted to do.”

Read Orner’s column here.

Announcing Our New Editing and Communications Intern: Amanda Toronto

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is pleased to announce the newest member of our executive board. Amanda Toronto has officially joined the team as our newest Editing and Communications Intern. As the Editing and Communications Intern, Amanda will be aiding the CWW in our upcoming programming and communications projects. We’re so pleased to have Amanda join us and we can’t wait to see what she brings to the team.

Amanda Toronto received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University where she focused on contemporary American literature, art and religion. She lives with her family in New York City and is at work on her first novel.  You can follow her on Twitter @TorontoAmanda

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop takes on AWP 2016 LA!

AWP2016Poster2

AWP16LAThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is coming to Los Angeles for the AWP Conference (March 30 – April 2, 2016)!! We’ve got some exciting plans for AWP, so anyone who is in Los Angeles for AWP should come see us.  Last year’s AWP  was a success with our bookfair table and reading at Boneshaker Books.

This year, you’ll be able to find us at Table 1157 and find information regarding our upcoming Spring in Newport, Rhode Island (April 22-25, 2016) Summer in Narbonne & Barcelona (July 18-26, 2016), and Summer in Granada, Spain (July  28-August 5, 2016) Writing Retreats. We’ll have updates on CREDO and information for those who want to become a member of the CWW or apply for internships.  We’ll also be hosting our AWP Reading: Cambridge Writers’ Workshop takes on Los Angeles! at Sabor y Cultura (located at 5625 Hollywood BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90028) on Friday, April 1, 2016 from 4-7 pm.  Our featured writers include Rita Banerjee, Jessica BurnquistJulialicia Case,  Micah Dean HicksAriana Kelly, Gwen E. KerbyKatie KnollEllaraine LockieHeather Aimee O’Neill,  Ondrej PazdirekBrenda Peynado, Esther Pfaff, Jessica PiazzaJonathan ShapiroEmily Smith, and Emily Skaja.

We hope to see you there!

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