Category Archives: Creative Writing

Women’s Writing Retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico: Take a Discount and Express Yourself

This is our 8th year to offer the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Gentle Yoga Retreat from June 22-29, 2018. We want a full-house and are offering a 10% discount off the already high-value, low price of $895 for a shared room and $1195 for a single room. It’s not too late to get on board and join us.

Who is this for? Beginning and experienced writers, those who believe they can do it and need inspiration and coaching, note-jotters and margin-scribblers. Do you have an idea for a novel, a memoir, a prose poem, a travel piece or family history? This is the place for you.

See the complete course description HERE.

Send me an email with your interest HERE.

Please share with family and friends who would like this retreat.

Feliz Fiestas and Happy Holidays from Oaxaca, Mexico

It’s a warm, sunny day here in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. Temps are in the mid-70’s Fahrenheit and there’s a breeze. It will get down to 52 degrees tonight. A perfect day to welcome Baby Jesus to the world here in the southern part of North America.

Resting on a satin pillow is Baby Jesus, taken from his church altar to the Last Posada

There’s a band playing at the December 23-24 posada house and I can hear it across the village. At unpredictable moments, a firecracker will go skyward to boom in a blast that sounds like one shot has been fired.  Tonight is La Ultima Posada, the last posada for 2017.

Procession of villagers with candles, a church official with copal incense burner

This morning I went to the market early, at 8:30 a.m. Ojala! It was a miracle, since I usually never get out of the house much before 10:00 a.m. Parking was scarce and I could hear a band on the street between the market and the church. It called to me. I hurried. Whenever a band plays here, you know there is something going on.

The band behind the moving altar plays energetic Sousa-style music

Baby Jesus had just been taken from his resting place in the church, an antique carved and gilded wooden figure. He was on a pillow held by a young woman who walked under a portable tent held upright by four stanchions and strong men to hold the posts.

The procession formed to pass through the major streets of Teotitlan del Valle on the way to place Baby Jesus in his birthplace at La Ultima Posada.

Delegation playing solemn music out front, led by wood carved Zapotec flute 

The street was perfumed by copal incense, giving off smoke and a sweet aroma of burning sap, so essential to ancient Zapotec ceremonial tradition.

As the procession descended down Avenida Constitucion from the Zocalo along a steep cobblestone incline, I said to myself that I wish I had worn sturdier shoes. Nevertheless, I was able to keep up to get these photos to share with you.

Important family members of the posada host process with candles

Then, I went back uphill to the market to do my holiday food shopping. Tonight, I’m invited to the home of Hugo and Malena. I’m holding weekly English conversation meetings with their teenage son and daughter. They asked me to join them for Christmas Eve dinner, which usually doesn’t start here until around midnight. Not sure I can stay up that late. It’s pretty quiet around here on Christmas Day.

Back up the hill to the market and church zocalo

Enjoy this time of peace, reflection, calm and tranquility. The winter solstice brings us darkness, where we want to hover close with family and friends, take stock of our year and think about longer, warmer days ahead.  I think of this as a metaphor for all the possibilities that life can bring us.

Blessings to all.

Norma Schafer, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, December 24, 2017

From the village market, a view of the church steeples

Women buy field flowers for their aroma, akin to the past

I take home a bundle of sunflowers in the spirit of joy

Women’s Creative Writing and Gentle Yoga Retreat, June 22-29, 2018, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

Lifting Your Creative Voice Writing and Yoga Retreat

  • When: Arrive Friday, June 22  and Depart Friday, June 29
  • Where: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

This is our 8th year for the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing Retreat.  We welcome new, inexperienced writers and those who are more seasoned and want to go to the next level.  Some have published and many dream about it. We may write memoir, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and fiction. The workshop-conference is a haven for exploration and encouragement. Writers of all genres and ages are invited.

Who Attends? Women with something to say.

  • You keep journals, notes, drafts of unpublished material.
  • You write on the backs of envelopes and scrap paper.
  • You dream of writing and never have. Maybe you dabble.
  • Ideas percolate, and you want to capture and develop them.
  • You want to merge the written word with photos, drawing or collage.
  • Perhaps you have written and/or published a while ago, let the writer’s life lapse, and you want renewal and encouragement.
  • You are a writer, and may want guidance and support to continue an unfinished piece or publish it.

Teotitlan del Valle church built atop Zapotec temple

Friday, June 22 to Friday, June 29, 2018 

  • $895 per person shared room with shared bath. Note: we have a limited number of shared rooms with private shared bath available. First come, first served. Otherwise, your bath will be across the courtyard and shared by several.
  • $1,195 per person single room with private bath

You arrive by Friday evening, June 22 and leave Friday morning, June 29, 2018. The comprehensive workshop fee includes 7 nights lodging, all breakfasts, all writing instruction and workshop sessions, a personal coaching/feedback session with the instructor, daily afternoon gentle yoga sessions, and a grand finale celebration reading and dinner. You might want to arrive a day early to settle in to avoid a late night arrival or missed connection.

Oaxaca Women’s Writing Retreat: Registration Open

Please Share With Friends! Thank you, Norma

Please Help Us Share With Friends

Who Made My Clothes? Digging Deeper Into Fashion and Consumption

Who Made My Clothes? is a program of the Fashion Revolution. I’ve been following them and its co-founder Carry Somers since she came to Oaxaca in February 2016 to take one of my natural dye and weaving textile excursions.

Pedal loom weaver Arturo Hernandez, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca

I introduced her to some of the weavers who make my clothes and the rugs that adorn floors and walls where I live in Teotitlan del Valle and Durham, North Carolina.

When I got notice of an online course Who Made My Clothes? produced by Exeter University and Fashion Revolution, I decided to sign up.  The first of three sessions over the next weeks went online yesterday. I’m eager to tell you about it.

But first, what also prompted me to pursue this course was the discussion we had during the WARP Conference about recognizing and naming the people who make our garments.

African indigo tie-dyed cotton that I sewed into dress and skirt

This is true here in Oaxaca, where many of us value, buy and wear beautiful locally made dresses and blouses. If we can afford it, we might buy from Remigio Mesta’s Los Baules de Juana Cata, from the Textile Museum Shop, or from Odilon Morales at Arte Amuzgos. Buying fewer pieces and choosing better quality can be one justification for paying a higher price.

This is a mantra of the Fashion Revolution: the high cost of fast fashion, disposable clothes. Who is paying the price? Our planet and the workers.  In the end, we are, too because we are contributing to a system of over-consumption.

  • 75% of garment workers are young women
  • the world purchased 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago
  • in the USA in 2012, 84% of unwanted clothes ended up in the landfill or incinerator

If we buy on the street, we have no idea who made the garment or what they were paid for their labor. Usually, it’s a reseller who takes this work, either buying outright or on consignment.

  • What are we doing to make our own clothes?
  • What are we doing to mend our own clothes?
  • What are we doing to buy at up cycle/thrift sales?
  • What are we doing to buy directly from the maker?
  • Do we read labels? Check clothes “ingredients?”

The WARP conference was also about fashion designer theft, talk of label switching by designers in the NYC fashion industry, and mainstream appropriation of indigenous cultural patterns.

A challenge in this week’s online lesson was to read about the 2013 tragic Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, when more than 1,100 people died, mostly young women. From this rubble, the Fashion Revolution was born.

The women in the building were making clothes for brands we all know: Gap, Walmart, H&M, Sears, Tommy Hilfiger and more. Questions came up: Who is ultimately responsible for worker safety? The brands, the subcontractors, the government? All of the above?  How does one person make a difference?

Family mourns death of loved one, Rana Plaza, Bangladesh

So, the course developers are asking me to look in my closet, evaluate what’s there, choose my favorite garment(s), ask whose lives are in the making of these clothes? What materials: cotton, synthetic, linen, flax? How old is the oldest thing in my closet?

The dress and skirt I made (above) last week, took me hours of labor, a total of about four days. I’m particular. I like French seams. I also made my own pattern. I appreciate good garment construction and fabric.

There may still be room in the course.  We have a week to finish the first module, and its insightful, reflective and purposeful to ask: Who made my clothes?

If we care about the food we ingest, we can also care about what we choose to say about ourselves in what we wear.