On behalf of The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, Viktor Pachas and I went to The New York Fringe Festival to see Alex Mahgoub’s critically-acclaimed one-person show, “Baba,” chronicling the true story of his father’s murder and life after the trauma. We were so glad we attended– the play skillfully navigates the tangle of loss, identity, masculinity, and sexuality, and then we were fortunate enough to score an interview with Alex on film, thanks to Alex’s generosity and Viktor’s videography expertise. It was so great to talk about the overarching themes of his performance, and Alex was full of life and intelligent things to say. Check out our review, “Baba’s Ghost,” and the video interview with Alex here, plus some wonderful pictures of Alex and his Baba. Alex also has a book in the works, #SelfieGeneration, so be on the lookout for that.
This was my first collaborative review, and what a lovely experience. Viktor and I make a pretty good team. I feel like if you can write something with another person without killing each other, that’s a win, and if you actually enjoy the process, that’s like a kitten crossing the finish line at an ice cream marathon. If you’re not familiar with him already, here’s Viktor’s impressive bio:
Viktor Pachas is a freelance videographer, illustrator, Spanish translator, and musician. Viktor produces videos for Cambridge Writers’ Workshop retreats and workshops, and is a contributor for their blog. After finishing his studies in Molecular Cell Biology at UConn, he began producing promotional videos for Singapore General Hospital in cooperation with Duke University/NUS while working as a Circadian Research Assistant. Studying Flamenco Guitar and performing in Granada, Spain, he made videos to market a chain of hostels in Andalusia and Morocco. Recently, Viktor shot material in Paris for David Shields’ upcoming movie Black Planet produced by James Franco. He currently lives in New York City and is an instructor for Outward Bound and Global Works. He performs solo as a singer/songwriter and is a drummer for A Thousand Ships when performing in the New England region. Viktor is currently working on illustrating a comic strip based on his travels.
A late post, yes, but a few weeks ago an excerpt of my novel-in-progress, Zenith, and some poems came out in The Infoxicated Corner of The The Poetry Blog, curated by Fox Frazier-Foley, author of Exodus in X Minor. The poem “Mina the Lotus” is also from Zenith, a love poem written in the voice of the Mina, the main character Coco’s mother, to the Romani (Gypsy) goddess of Fate, Sara la Kali. Mina’s character is a poet in some ways fashioned after Papusza. The other poems, “First Exorcism” and “The Gargoyle Back Scratcher” are not part of Zenith, but they were born out of The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2014 Yoga and Writing Retreat in Verderonne. Keep an eye out for this year’s upcoming retreats in New York City; Newport, Rhode Island; Paris; and Granada. I can’t express how exciting and terrifying it is to debut the first few pages of the novel, and how much it feels like I’m tempting hubris. Much of my writing has been delayed by enormous life changes and helping to care for my Aunt and other, who are both terminally ill– but in the face of the illnesses of my loved ones and the comparatively small turbulence of my personal life, I am reminded that art and love (and all of that what makes life worth living, et al.), are the only truly present things. So I am writing through it, perhaps more slowly than I hoped, but I am writing. And I am very honored and appreciative for the space and support that The The Poetry Blog has given me. Thank you, Infoxicated Corner! Please forgive my delay– a snow storm took down the farm’s internet for quite some time, and I live in the middle of nowhere, which I actually quite like.
Dancing in the castle at the CWW Verderonne yoga and writing retreat
Surya Namaskar, The Sun Salutation, is a series or flow of asana (yoga poses) that energizes, builds strength, and increases flexibility. This flow is particularly good for the legs, back, and wrists–areas of the body that suffer from staying hunched over in the writing cave and feverishly typing. I also find that just five rounds or so of Surya Namaskar makes me feel like I’ve actually done something– I feel stretched and worked, and there’s a eat or energy that rises in my body from my feet to the crown of my head. The symbolic and literal salute to the sun feels like an ode to and a channel for solar energy, representing action, manifestation, and direction. That’s a nice way to shake off writer’s fatigue and shake-up your writerly, academic (sedentary) lifestyle.
Yoga teacher Elissa Joi Lewis practices a variation of Surya Namaskar in the video above, at The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop Yoga and Writing Retreat in Verderonne, France. Practicing yoga twice a day with Elissa blossomed my writing practice and my yoga practice– by using the ritual of meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), and asana, artists can approach their art with the same yogic reverence and mindfulness. And Elissa knows so much about meditation, breathwork, Sanskrit, and the physiological, energetic, and emotional benefits from the postures that we all ended up asking her for personal yoga-advice which she very generously gave. This year I’ll be teaching a Fiction workshop at the retreat (here’s the back-story plus pictures of last year’s retreat!). If you find that your yoga and writing practices support each other and you want to go deeper in the gorgeous French countryside, apply here. The deadline is May 15th.
All hail “The Bammer” and her seraphic entourage of pugs, maker of dreams and angel of satire!
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.
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.
Getting some writing done in our private courtyard. Photo by Rita
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.
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!
With a gorgeous salad. Photo by Rita
The dinner table. Photo by Rita
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.