Esmeralda Declines an Interview: why I don’t interview for writers writing Gypsy characters

Sometimes I get requests from people to do interviews because they’re writing a Romani (Gypsy) character and want to use the life of a real live Gypsy girl to write her, and I always feel uncomfortable about the idea of divulging my life story for another writer’s creative gain. My friend, Misha Rai, urged me to turn those feelings into an essay, and because Misha’s advice is always brilliant, I did it. And now I’m honored and stunned to have “Esmeralda Declines an Interview” in The Missouri Review blog.

KickingNo offense intended to anyone who has asked me to interview with them as research for their book. It’s wonderful that you want to write well-rounded Romani characters, and I’m flattered that you thought of me. If you are struggling to include Romani characters in your work, then my advice to you is this: “If you want to be inclusive, then read and support the writers you want to include. Don’t ask to take our lives for your own gain.” I’m sure your intentions aren’t nefarious and I applaud your efforts to write mindfully. Just be mindful in your research too.

A good resource for you to find Romani writers is ‘ list of Romani Authors. I also have a list of “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading” at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. There are many more places to look, but this is a good start.

Happy reading! And thank you to The Missouri Review and Misha Rai– I love you to bits.

P.S. Check out “Housewives, Mothers” by Misha in The Indiana Review– it’s one of my favorite stories.


Support the New Wanderers: a nomadic poetry collective

“A dog who wanders finds a bone.” –Romani Proverb

They want to fund poets to travel and write, and they have 2 weeks to get their non-profit off the ground– let’s make it happen! Check out the New Wanderers Collective mission and kickstarter here:

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

As if you needed another reason to come to Granada with me this summer!

Cambridge Writers' Workshop

In this video, European travel expert Rick Steves explores Granada, Andalucía, Spain. He catches Flamenco dancing in a public park, feasts on paella, admires stunning views of the Alhambra, and travels through the history of Granada’s Gypsy (Roma) culture and Moorish roots. It’s no wonder that Granada is an international destination and the location of one of our summer writing retreats!

The Summer in Granada Writing Retreat will take place at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada, which is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith.

The retreat offers the opportunity for writers of all genres and levels to work alongside award-winning authors & editors like Peter Orner (fiction, nonfiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), Diana Norma Szkoloyai (poetry, nonfiction), and Jessica Reidy(fiction, poetry). Yoga will be led by Elissa Lewis.

The retreat will…

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Check Out Our Summer in Granada Writing Retreat Courses!

Get jazzed for Granada!

Cambridge Writers' Workshop

Apply Now! Apply Now!

Storytelling Techniques in Short Fiction & Novels (with Peter Orner)
One way to see the difference between a short story and a novel is to compare a single pang in one’s heart with the tragedy (and potential triumph) of one’s whole life. It’s all a matter of how you feel the pain (and the joy). A story is complete, not a word wasted, and therefore remorseless. Read a great story and there it is—right now—in your gut. So often stories go off the rails because they lack the immediate intensity – even if this intensity is quiet – that a good story needs. No silver bullet, as each and every story is different, but in this mini-workshop, we’ll discuss the mystery of why certain stories have such a profound impact, talking about such intangibles as compression, momentum, and tension. We’ll look at among other writers, the stories of…

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Summer in Paris Writing Retreat Courses Announced!

Get pumped for Paris!

Cambridge Writers' Workshop

Apply Now! Apply Now!

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…

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May 16th: Romani Resistance Day

“The Forgotten History of Romani Resistance,” Open Society Foundations, by Pierre Chopinaud

“On the evening of May 16, 1944, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, SS guards armed with machine guns surrounded the area of the camp designated for Roma and Sinti prisoners. Their intent was to round up the nearly 6,000 prisoners there and send them to the gas chambers. But when the guards approached the area, they were met with armed resistance from the inmates.

The prisoners had learned of the planned ‘liquidation’ and fashioned weapons from sheet metal, wood, pipes, rocks, and any other scraps of material they could get their hands on. According to the memories of survivors and witnesses to the incident, the inmates forced the guards into retreat, and though some prisoners were shot that night, the act of resistance allowed the Roma and Sinti prisoners to put off execution for several more months.

How can such an epic episode have been lost to history? Who knows about the Sonderkommandos revolt of August 1944? Who knows about Witold Pilecki, who infiltrated Auschwitz to organize its resistance network? Keeping alive the memories of these events could help prevent such crimes from happening again in the future.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article here. If you want to help spread awareness on social media, use these hashtags #RomaniResistanceDay #RomaniResistance #may16. I like to throw in #Gypsy too because that hashtag is (mis)used so much to perpetuate absurd Gypsy stereotypes that it’s helpful when something real comes up under that umbrella.

Image courtesy of ternYpe, the International Roma Youth Network

Image courtesy of ternYpe, the International Roma Youth Network


Summer 2015 Retreat Scholarship Opportunities

Cambridge Writers' Workshop

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is offering some amazing scholarship opportunities to come on one of our 2015 summer writing retreats in Paris, France (July 22-30, 2015) or Granada, Spain (August 3-10, 2015).  Scholarship Application Deadline: May 25, 2015 (midnight EST)Apply at:

Include the name of the scholarship you are applying for in your cover letter.  Scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis, and writers are encouraged to apply early!

*Diversity Scholarship
Two $500 Diversity scholarships will be offered to men and women of color who show a commitment to creative writing.  Please write a thoughtful, one-page cover letter describing how our writing retreat would make a difference in your writing life. Include a 150-200 word bio.

*Student Scholarship
Two $500 Student scholarships will be offered to students (both undergraduate and graduate, full or part time) who show a commitment to creative writing.  Please write a thoughtful, one-page cover letter…

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Baxtalo Ederlezi!

Image by Judy Paris

Image by Judy Paris

Ederlezi, the Romani (Gypsy) Spring Festival, is one of my very favorite holidays. It’s celebrated with dancing, eating, singing a hauntingly beautiful folk song, and literally throwing flowers everywhere. Flowers in your house, flowers on your lawn, flowers in the river, flowers in the sea…. How could anyone not love this?

My favorite rendition of the Ederlezi folksong is performed by Tatiana Eva Marie of the Avalon Jazz Band. I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with the very smart and talented Tatiana in Quail Bell Magazine.

Another exciting Quail Bell surprise just in time for the holiday– Rita Banjerjee’s mistranslation poems were just released, including one poem inspired by my lackluster performance of Ederlezi at our last Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Writing & Yoga Retreat in France. Speaking of which, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop summer retreat deadlines for both Paris and Granada have been extended to May 25th. So Baxtalo Ederlezi! Have a beautiful and fortune-blessed Spring– hope to see you this summer!

Apply Now!

Apply Now!

Apply now!

Apply now!