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!

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Researching in Paris, Day One

Sometimes research is practical: where is my train? how do I find myself on the map of Montparnasse? How do I say, do you sell comfort shoe-inserts for my 16-year-old combat boots? in French? These things I learned, except the last one. Instead I discovered how many pharmacies are in a 2 km radius from the hotel (Answer: 6).

It’s been nice to map things out for a change: I’m not nearly as organized as most put-together tweens as I’d like to be. Len and I fell in love circling each other for a few weeks, then circling Italy, then Croatia, too giddy to concentrate on maps, too polite to make an actual suggestion. Circling is fun, let’s not kid ourselves. Who hasn’t gone an extra time around a roundabout at least once? Metaphorically or otherwise. Yet now, seven years later, I’m learning the joys of having a plan. Maybe it’s because I (finally) made myself full outline my novel during the Cambridge Writers Workshop writing and yoga retreat in Verderonne, France for the past two weeks. Such relief! Such clarity! Circling the novel became exhausting and much less inspiring, but saying what, when, where, and how was so powerful, like architecture and alchemy together. And sure, Len and I circled and it was whimsical and romantic, but then I locked that down with paperwork and wedding rings in a Roanoke, VA courthouse. So, plans are nice, too. Balance, right?

For instance, to research Romani culture in France between 1920 and circa 1952, I will go here:
Centre des études Tsiganes
Médiathèque Fnasat-Gens du voyage-Etudes Tsiganes
59 rue de l’Ourcq
75019 PARIS
France
01 40 35 12 17

and I will be very happy. I am already.This novel takes up about 70% of my brain. Sometimes that’s agonizing (I will admit this), but lately, especially when I’m in a community of writers like my MFA program, or the Writing and Yoga retreat that I just adored and finished, the novel-brain phenomenon is delightful and fulfilling .

So, some sample plans: to learn more about jazz, I could to go Le Petite Journal, and for Romani/Manouche jazz I could check out these gems compiled by Jane Parry of Paris Voice. I will go to catacombs and odd museums, cafes and gardens, I will try to catch some burlesque culture, I will go to Spoken Word Paris to met the wonderful expat writers and listen to their wonderful word-magics, and maybe read something myself. I will probably deviate from my raw-vegan lifestyle and eat a crepe. For research. The point is, I have about 6 maps of Paris, I understand the metro system, I found my comfy inserts, and I’ve had these combat boots since I was 11. I’ve got a plan.

Photo by: KareemaBee

Photo by: KareemaBee