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!

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Writing & Yoga Retreat in Granada, Spain with The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

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.

Our Andalucían writing retreat will feature twice-daily lessons or workshops with both CWW faculty and famed writers who will focus on strengthening your craft.  Our lodgings in Granada have room for private as well as group writing, allowing you to take advantage of the unique atmosphere to concentrate and convene with your fellow writers.  The exclusive boutique-style accommodations with alluring rooms and expressive architecture offer a calm and relaxing environment.

In addition to workshops and lessons, daily yoga lessons help soothe the mind and body by creating opportunities for personal exploration and inspiration. Taught by CWW’s very talented yoga instructor Elissa Lewis, our yoga classes focus on both the structural and spiritual and can be personalized according to any physical demands you may have.

Our AndalucĂ­an writing retreat will take place from August 3-10, 2015, and cost of the workshop is $2950, which includes lodging, craft of writing seminars and writing workshops, yoga classes, room cleaning, and breakfast.

The retreat location places you within close distance to the best of Granada, including the majestic Alhambra and the historic Moorish quarter the AlbaicĂ­n. Granada is well-connected to the rest of AndalucĂ­a through public transportation, should you wish to explore the Costa del Sol, the Alpujarras mountains, or nearby Sevilla and CĂłrdoba. Or, soak up all that Granada has to offer and enjoy tapas bars, Moroccan tea rooms, or flamenco.

Faculty includes Peter Orner (fiction, nonfiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), Diana Norma Szkoloyai (poetry, nonfiction), Jessica Reidy (fiction, poetry) and Elissa Lewis (yoga, meditation).

FAQ

What Happens After I apply?

Once you apply, you can expect to hear from us within 7-10 days and know whether you were accepted into the program. Once you are accepted, you will receive a welcome packet with detailed information regarding the program.

What is the process of paying tuition?

Once you are accepted into the program, you will need to pay a 30% tuition deposit ($885) to hold your seat within 3-5 days of acceptance but not later than April 30, 2015.  The remainder of tuition ($2065) will be due by May 5, 2015.  Our standard and preferred method of payment is PayPal invoice.  You can also mail us a check.  Please note that the deposit is non-refundable after May 5, 2015.

What is included in tuition?

-lodging in central Granada
-daily breakfast
-creative writing workshops
-craft of writing seminars
-one-on-one manuscript consultation
-daily yoga and meditation classes
-room cleaning

Where will the program be held?

The program will be held at Gar Anat Hotel Boutique (http://hotelgaranat.com/?lang=en), Placeta de los Peregrines 1, 18009 Granada, Spain.

What if the deadline has passed?  Can I still apply?

Sometimes, we do have spaces open after our deadlines have passed.  Please apply or just email us directly at directors[at]cambridgewritersworkshop.org to check whether there is still availability.

Application Deadline: May 1, 2015

Also, bonus excitement, I’ll be offering fortune telling and energy healing (Reiki) sessions, and Diana Norma Szokolyai will be offering aromatherapy.

Writing & Yoga Retreat in Newport, RI: I’ll be the fortune teller

Can’t say how excited I am about The Great Gatsby-esque Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Newport, RI Writing and Yoga Retreat on April 2-5, 2015. Not able to make the whole weekend? Partial attendance is fine, too. Special tuition rates may also be available to students. Kathleen Spivack, Stephen Aubrey, Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Rita Banerjee will be teaching writing classes, and Elissa Lewis will be teaching yoga. I’ll be telling fortunes and offering energy healing (Reiki) sessions because that’s the kind of girl I am.

The deadline for admittance into this AMAZING retreat is February 20, 2015. There are limited seats, so apply early!

Check out the CWW Facebook page or go to http://cww.nyc for more information.

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Click to apply!

Last chance to join me in France for yoga & writing! I’ll be at the Château.

Quail Bell Magazine was so sweet to make this announcement that I’m teaching writing workshops this summer in France on the Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, France (Aug 7-20, 2014. I’m so honored to be teaching alongside Cambridge Writers’ Workshop superstars Elissa Joi Lewis, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai (recently one of VIDA’s “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading”). They are all so talented, smart, and divinely sweet. And I’m wildly excited that I’m teaching “Yearning & Character Motivation” and “Magic & Trauma– Writing from the Unconscious,” and there are a bunch more awesome writing workshops on the schedule including writing workshops, craft talks, art classes, adventures to Paris & Chantilly, and yoga twice a day. In France. A couple of spots have opened so apply ASAP or by July 15th.

Enjoying yoga with magnificent Elissa Joi Lewis. I'm the one, all in black, lounging beside the thousand year old moat.

Enjoying yoga with magnificent Elissa Joi Lewis. I’m the one, all in black, lounging beside the thousand year old moat. Image Source: Quail Bell Magazine

 

 

The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing: Retreat, Ritual, and a Chat with the Women of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

If you’re an artist or writer and you’re feeling a little tapped out, check out this Quail Bell Magazine essay/interview “The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing: Retreat, Ritual, and a Chat with the Women of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop” about the benefits of practicing yoga alongside your writing practice and the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, France. Although the CWW has marked the retreat application deadline as May 15th, admissions are rolling until filled and there are still a few spaces. Apply A.S.A.P.

 

Elissa doing yoga in front of the Château de Verderonne, Image source: Quail Bell Magazine

Elissa doing yoga in front of the Château de Verderonne, Image source: Quail Bell Magazine

Some quotes from “The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing“–

Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller Series, argues that ritual is the key to creating art. In From Where You Dream: the process of writing fiction, he explains that you must prepare for writing by entering a trance and focusing on the breath in a quiet space, much like the centering meditation of a yoga class. Once you’re there and centered, you must stay present with sensation and allow yourself to create directly and organically from that “dream space.” Like in yoga, you set an intention to stay open to all experience and at the same time, remain unattached to ideas, hence the popular mantra, “I am not my mind.” Butler writes that the best art comes from this “moment to moment sensual experience,” and “non-art” is full of summarized or intellectualized reported experience. 

Those “moment to moment sensory experience[s]” are much more nuanced than you’d think—all the available senses are involved. In my Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu, I learned that the body holds memories, a phenomenon addressed in the study of somatics, a branch of psychology that examines the mind-body connection. In certain poses, you may feel spontaneously happy, sad, angry, frightened, blissful—you may be flooded with memories, sensations, and epiphanies. You may weep or laugh without knowing why (or knowing all too well why). Stay with present if you can: breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow (or BRFWA). Your body is releasing trapped energy, memories, and emotions—parts of your past that you have been carrying unconsciously, perhaps as tension, shortness of breath, pain, or anxiety. What does the experience feel like, smell like, look like, sound like, and taste like? The information you need to have a cathartic experience is the same information you need to create one on the page. Butler argues that in order to make art, we have to dive into the unconscious mind, confront whatever pain dwells there, and use that intense awareness to write from the “white hot center.” This is just another way to access the unconscious.

 

The renovated stables

The renovated stables

Jessica: What are some of your favorite yoga poses, breathing exercises, and/or meditations for stimulating (or sustaining) creativity?

Elissa: To increase creativity and flow, hip-openers like Pigeon pose and Lizard pose (Uttan Pristhasana) are my favorite. When you release tension in your hips, you also release the emotions that come bubbling up. The hips and pelvis are related to the Svadisthana chakra and the water element which governs the area of creation and creativity. These postures help clear writer’s block by encouraging creative energy to flow without over-efforting.

Also, Nadi Shodana pranayama (also called alternate nostril breathing) is a wonderful breathing technique to begin or complete your practice and is appropriate for anyone. It stimulates a daydream-like state, where our senses draw in (called pratyahara) and we can disengage from the external world. It helps us develop the focus and concentration needed in meditation. I think any meditation that works for you is excellent. Meditation is the key to open the mind to inspired creative thought. It brings you back to yourself, to moments of truth, without mind chatter, self-criticism and self-consciousness.

 

I'm enjoying yoga with Elissa

I’m enjoying yoga with Elissa

Jessica: How does community support your yoga practice and/or artistic practice? 

Norma: The image of the solitary writer is deeply rooted in the romanticized myth of the lone, genius writer. In truth, most great writers were part of communities comprised of other writers, intellectuals, and artists that inspired each other. Many great literary movements and unforgettable manifestos came out of the collaboration of such communities of writers….In addition to encouragement, support, and critical feedback, I think one of the most powerful things a community can offer a writer is accountability. If you know that people are counting on you, then you are more likely to follow through. Whether your goals are short term or long term, a community can hold you to your word. 

Of course, the same principles apply to a community supporting one’s yoga practice.

For the rest of the essay/interview: http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-real/essay-the-symbiotic-magic-of-yoga-and-writing

Click here for more details

Applications rolling till filled

If you want to read more about the importance of cultivating a community, check out Rita and Norma’s interview with VIDA & HERKIND “Community as Catharsis: A Conversation with Rita Banerjee & Diana Norma Szokolyai”

Manifest destiny/shameless begging really works; or, I prayed to Maria Bamford, patron saint of lady writers, and she delivered

All hail “The Bammer” and her seraphic entourage of pugs, maker of dreams and angel of satire!Image

Saint Bamford & pug seraphs

If you remember my post back in December in which I made my first invocation of Saint Maria “The Bammer” Bamford and asked her to grant my manifest destiny magic wish to return to Europe and research my novel some more this summer, then congratulations and thank you, you’re one of 5 or so people who reads this and gives a flying bat shit about what I write here. (5 might even be too optimistic.) If you don’t remember but you’re still reading anyway, thank you too! Miracles do happen.

 

I’ve been waiting to write this so that I could figure out what I want to say, how can I eloquently thank the All Mighty Bammer for her inspiring and guiding light that has led me to my destiny, but I’ve delayed long enough and I’m not any wittier than before so I’m just going for it. You see, after I posted my tongue-in-cheek shameless begging for someone out there to help me get to Europe, it happened. Last year I wet on a fantastic Yoga & Writing Retreat in Verderonne, France, led by The Cambridge Writers Workshop, and it was art-changing. I learned so much, I wrote so much, I was in France, my novel is set in France, I swam in a moat, I did yoga in a garden on the chateau grounds… it was a good thing. I also spent all my money going there so it was a once-in-a-decade-or-two opportunity. But little did I know that the directors were reading my plaintive wails! They got in touch and were like, “Yo girl, you want to teach Fiction on the next retreat? Would that help?” And I was like, “Um. Yes. That’s helps a lot.” Except I was jumping up and down and screaming.

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Yoga in the garden beside the moat with wonder woman yoga teacher Elissa Lewis, photo by Rita Banerjee

So now, all I want is for wonderful people to come and do this with us. I’ll be teaching a workshop on novel-writing, the fabulous Elissa will be teaching yoga twice a day as well as an art workshop (she’s a marvelous artist too), and the fantastic Cambridge Writers Workshop co-founders and co-directors Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai are both wonderful poets, scholars, and fiction writers, will be teaching workshops on their specialties. It’s going to be magnificent.

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Getting some writing done in our private courtyard. Photo by Rita

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Getting some writing done in Paris– I was doing a character exercise on the lady behind me. Photo by Rita

There are optional field trips to Paris, Chantilly, and Versailles as well, so there’s time for work and time for adventures. In Paris, we’ll probably stop in at Spoken Word Paris for a reading.

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Spoken Word Paris, photo by Rita Banerjee

There will also be quite a bit of eating homemade delicious French food, and even though I was raw vegan at the time (I fell off the wagon since, getting back on the wagon, slowly) the spectacular chef Joelle not only accommodated me but ended up trying it herself! She is so kind, and much of the food is organically grown right there on the grounds. She even makes her own yogurt!

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With a gorgeous salad. Photo by Rita

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The dinner table. Photo by Rita

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Joelle feeding chickens. Photo by Rita

Here are the details:

Location: Château de Verderonne,
Picardy, France
Dates: August 7, 2014 – August 20, 2014
Application Deadline: May 15, 2014
Apply: cww.submittable.com

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Annual Yoga & Writing Retreat will be held from August 7 -20, 2014 at the Château de Verderonne in Picardy, France, located approximately 50 miles north of Paris. The conference features workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as craft of writing seminars, art classes, free time to write, and daily yoga and meditation classes.  Writers of all genres and levels are welcome. Yoga practitioners of all levels are also welcomed (we have experience adapting the yoga sequences to meet the level of beginner-advanced participants).  Participants are encouraged, but not required, to bring their own long-term projects to work on.  Whether writers are beginners or advanced, CWW workshops have a history of success in generating new writing.

Optional excursions to Paris and Chantilly are also available to participants.  The faculty includes Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Jessica Reidy, and Elissa Lewis. The cost of the conference is $3,200, which includes lodging, meals, writing workshops, yoga classes and transportation to and from the airport.

So, I hope you, dear reader, apply for the retreat. I’m so excited to be there. Praise the Bammer!

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Helpful links:

More info: http://cambridgewritersworkshop.org/retreats-2/

To apply: https://cww.submittable.com/submit

The Tumblr for the last retreat: http://cambridgewritersworkshop.tumblr.com/post/56372789267/day-1-france-cww-2013-writing-yoga-retreat-in

My Yelp Review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/cambridge-writers-workshop-brooklyn

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Many hats with Rita & Elissa

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All of us in Versailles. From left going clockwise: Tiffanie, Norma, Elissa, me, Rita, and Kareema. I felt so lucky to work with such brilliant and delightfully kind women!