Tag Archives: creative writing

Oaxaca Men’s Creative Writing Retreat: Putting Yourself on the Page

Men think and write differently than women. We’re offering a writing workshop for men only to encourage male self-expression without constraint or judgment. Whether you already write creatively or simply have a deep-seated wish to do so , this writing workshop will meet you where you are and take you to a place where you can best express what you want to say.

Arrive Wednesday, July 29 and leave Thursday, August 6, 2015. 8 nights, 9 days. Includes all instruction, lodging, most meals, private writing/coaching sessions and market tour. Plus add-on options for a pre-workshop Guelaguetza performance. Or take a local culinary-arts class. (Guys, you don’t need to be an experienced cook to attend, but you will get to enjoy some great traditional Mexican food).

Reserve Now! Limited to 10 participants. This workshop is held concurrently with the Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat.

We cannot promise literary fame and fortune, but many of our past creative writing workshop participants have had work they wrote or had edited during a retreat published after their time here.

With the expert guidance of a university professor, prize-winning novelist and poet, Michael Colonnese, you can explore genres with which you may already be comfortable, or you can stretch yourself to experiment with others: Fiction. Non-Fiction. Personal Essay. Screenwriting. Poetry. Memoir. Michael is a versatile writer and experienced Creative Writing teacher who, to his credit, has taught and published in each of these forms.

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You may want guidance and support to continue an unfinished piece or publish it. The Men’s Creative Writing Retreat: Putting Yourself on the Page is your place to learn, to express yourself, and to develop your talent.

With expert guidance and coaching, you will engage in the art and craft of writing. You will receive writing exercises and triggers, participate in discussion and feedback sessions, and have the time to develop and refine your pieces.

  • We accommodate novices and experienced writers.
  • We limit enrollment to 10 men to guarantee personal attention in a small group.

2014LasCuevitas-19 ThreeKingsDay-17Welcome from Workshop Leader, Novelist/Poet and Professor Michael Colonnese.   I invite you to join me to explore the ways that men can express their unique voice and experiences, away from the daily distractions of family and work. The retreat is relaxed although we have daily morning workshop sessions. You are welcome to bring works in progress: journal entries, notebook ideas or nearly finished work. Or else start fresh. There is plenty of inspiration here and miles of hiking trails where you can think deeply and develop your ideas. I’ll give you prompts if you need them, offer conference time for individual coaching and feedback, and provide suggestions for marketing your work.

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Because I’m a university professor and director of a creative writing program, editor of Longleaf Press, and published writer of short stories, fiction, creative-non fiction, poetry, and an experienced documentary film maker, I can offer you the tips and tools that can really make a difference.

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I cannot promise that you will win a Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, as did a past participant who wrote the winning poem at the retreat, or be published in The Sun Magazine as did another participant after attending. I CAN promise that you will explore, develop and deepen as a writer.

You’ll have an opportunity to write on your own during open time in the schedule.  And, if you choose, there’s also plenty to do here. You might take a walk, a hike, take a hot-air balloon ride, visit archeological sites, watch birds, and meet village weavers and artists, too.

Optional daily yoga sessions: You are invited to join daily morning yoga sessions with those participating in the concurrent Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. The yoga sessions are optional and included in your workshop fee. Many believe that by practicing yoga, the writer opens up to more possibility and writing is enhanced.  We tailor the sessions to fit each person’s physical level and needs. As you flex your body, you stretch your imagination. Yoga develops core strength to find words, inspiration, and creative center.  This is a perfect combination of the physical and spiritual, say past participants.

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What Participants Say

  • I learned I am fully capable of being the writer I imagined.
  • The location, teaching and program structure creates an uplifting experience of enormous value.
  • I was challenged and that turned out to be exactly what I needed.
  • Far exceeded expectations. Got many suggestions for how to write.
  • It was wonderful!
  • Oaxaca feels safe, safer than my hometown in the USA.
  • I identified a writing project that engages and excites me.
  • The balance of intensive writing workshops, cultural excursions and yoga lead to a powerful experience on all levels.
  • The feedback was so thoughtful.  I honestly can’t think of anything I would change.

We are based in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del ValleOaxaca. The location itself is an inspiration, ringed by 9,000 foot mountain peaks, fields planted with organic corn, adobe houses covered in flowering vines, and the activity of a daily market. Here you will enjoy a rich and rewarding experience. Our all-inclusive workshop is perfect for retreat and a productive writing experience.

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What the Retreat Includes:

  • 21-hours of group workshop and feedback
  • One-hour individual coaching session
  • Focused sessions to hone your skills: grammar, reading in public, publishing
  • Morning yoga sessions (optional) tailored to your skill level
  • Guided visit to Tlacolula regional market
  • Self-guided map of village
  • 8 nights lodging
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 6 dinners

Here is In Oaxaca, Anything is Possible.

There are walking and hiking paths around the village, along the river and into the countryside near a local reservoir. You are welcome to venture out and explore on your own. Personal safety is not a concern.

About Your Workshop Leader. Michael Colonnese is professor of English and Writing, and director of the Writing Major and the Creative Writing Program at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He is the managing editor of Longleaf Press, a literary press that publishes contemporary poetry. His work is widely published in literary journals. He received the 2014 Gell Poetry Prize, the 2013 Lawrence Durell Society Poetry Award, the 2012 Bloodroot Poetry Award, and in 2009 received both the Dark Oak Mystery Novel Award and the Southern Indiana Review Nonfiction Award. In 2010 his mystery novel, Sex and Death, I Suppose was published by Oak Tree Press. His work has appeared in Connecticut River Review, Old Mountain Press Anthology, White Pelican Review, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Kakalak: An Anthology of Carolina Poets, and many other notable journals and magazines. Colonnese holds the PhD. In English from The State University of New York at Binghamton.

Our Oaxaca-based yoga instructor will offer gentle practice each morning before we begin to write.

Norma Hawthorne produces arts and educational programs in Oaxaca, Mexico, operating as Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC since 2006. A published writer and photographer, she offers textile and fiber arts, tapestry weaving, natural dyeing, creative writing, and photography workshops that people attend coming from throughout the world.   During her 30-year university career, Norma organized national award-winning programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, and George Washington University.  Before she retired, Norma raised more than $23 million for The University of North Carolina School of Nursing. She holds the B.A. from California State University at Northridge and the M.S. from the University of Notre Dame.

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What Participants Say . . .

  • “I better learned how to put together a writerly life.  The coaching session will help me stay on track.  I enjoyed listening to and evaluating each other’s work.  What a great group. –Writer from California
  • “The instruction was excellent. The personal coaching session offered me a chance to talk about my writing in a way I never had before.  The workshops are especially valuable because the feedback is so thoughtful.” –Writer from New York
  • “I discovered that my writing entertains people!  And I loved the cooking class.” –Writer from British Columbia, Canada
  • “There is amazing resonance in the teaching — vigorous, solid, and encouraging.” –Writer from North Carolina
  •    “The instructor’s knowledge impressed and guided me throughout the week. The week gave me the insight to reinvestigate life and write about it.”  –Writer from North Carolina
  •  “The week helped with my intention to write my book. There were too many valuable parts to list! This was an awesome experience.” — Writer from Ojai, California

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Preliminary Workshop Outline

  • Wednesday, July 29, travel day, arrive and check-in
  • Thursday, July 30, introductions, orientation, village walk, writing exercises, yoga
  • Friday, July 31, yoga, writing, weaving demonstrations
  • Saturday, August 1, yoga, writing, coaching
  • Sunday, August 2, yoga, market visit, writing
  • Monday, August 3, yoga, writing, coaching
  • Tuesday, August 4, writing, option to visit World Heritage archeology sites or spend afternoon/evening in Oaxaca
  • Wednesday, August 5, yoga, writing, reception and reading
  • Thursday, August 6, departure

Note: We are holding two concurrent creative writing retreats – one for women and the other for men. The two groups will join together for yoga, meals, and excursions that are included in the itinerary.

July 29-August 6 Writing Retreat Lodging/Accommodations Choices: To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations at small, family-operated guest houses.  Local cooks prepare delicious meals from scratch, including corn tortillas, with organic ingredients. Vegetarian options are available.

Cost: 

  • $1,495 per person double occupancy with shared community bathroom facilities
  • $1,795 single room with private bath (sleeps one)Guelaguetza2013Best27-12Guelaguetza2013Best27-13

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Add-On 1: Oaxaca and Guelaguetza Folkloric Performance. Arrive Saturday, July 25, check-out Wednesday, July 29. Spend 4 nights before the writing retreat in Oaxaca City at a top-rated B&B, from July 25-29. Attend the outstanding folkloric festival Guelaguetza on Monday, July 27. Days and evenings on your own to explore and discover.  Includes breakfast and best seats for Guelaguetza. $1,095 per person double occupancy.  $1,395 single occupancy.

Add-On 2: Traditional Oaxaca Cooking Class, July 29: Arrive in Teotitlan del Valle one day before the writing retreat, check in on the night of Tuesday, July 28, and take a cooking class on July 29 with a noted local teacher and chef.  Cost: $125 per person includes lodging on July 28, cooking class, breakfast and lunch.  (2 people minimum)

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The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation to and from Oaxaca city.  We will arrange taxi pick-up and return from/to the Oaxaca airport at your own expense. We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Reservations and Cancellations A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance is due (including any add-ons) on April 30, 2015. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will  send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register.  After April 30, refunds are not possible.  You may send a substitute in your place.  If you cancel before April 30, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Workshop Details and Travel Tips.  Before the workshop begins, we will email you a map, instructions to get to the workshop site from the airport, and a document that includes extensive travel tips and information.

To get your questions answered and to register, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com  We reply quickly by email.

 

This retreat is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary. 

 

Back to Oaxaca, Mexico: A Brief Personal Essay

Next Friday I will be returning to Mexico for an extended stay. At this moment it is difficult to know for how long. By the time I return to Oaxaca, I will have been gone for almost two months.

Sunset at Las Cuevitas, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

You have not heard from me in a while for many reasons. I have been in North Carolina to pack and move, and in the process sort through the collections of life — art treasures from around the world, family photographs, paintings and pottery, chef’s accoutrements acquired when I owned a gourmet cookware shop, cooking school and cafe so many years ago in South Bend, Indiana.

The accumulation of thirty plus years is daunting. There were boxes in the attic I hadn’t opened since two moves ago.  I found vintage La Grange County Amish dolls that I at once gifted to the Indiana State Museum and complete set of 1940’s Ohio-made Blair Gay Plaid pottery that I hauled to Replacements and sold.

I am the keeper of my son’s vintage Tonka trucks, infant clothes, and university diploma.  I am the keeper of copper cookware bought in Paris in 1984, every tax return since 1990, and every university program and proposal I ever developed and wrote during my career.  I made a pile in the yard and started a fire.  Friends came to help me push through, sort and eliminate. I couldn’t have done it without them. Then I drove a fourteen-foot U-Haul truck to a 5′ x 15′ storage unit and with the help of two wonderful Latino men who I picked up at the day labor gathering spot, completed my move.

Goodbyes are not easy, even as I look forward to spending most of each year in my beloved Oaxaca with friends there. I know that change is constant, nothing is forever, experiences matter, and staying open to possibility is essential.  I have closed the door to the home on the pond that I built and shared with another.  I have said goodbye to dearest friends.  North Carolina is still home, yet when I return, it will be to another place. Friends there and around the world are my constant source of caring and support.

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As all this was going on, I organized more Oaxaca workshops, wrote and published a personal essay in Minerva Rising Literary Journal, sold one of my photographs to a consulting company, had a skin cancer surgically removed and a pre-cancer treatment on my face as a result of too much youthful sun-bathing on Southern California beaches where I grew up.

Here, now, in this northern California beach town, I am with my ninety-eight year old mother who sleeps in the next room, and my dearest sister who lives just a mile away.  Each moment matters. It is a great lesson in how to live life.

See you in Oaxaca.

A Tribute to Mothers and Women Who Write

This weekend I am on the North Carolina coast with four other women who participated in our 2014 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. We have rented  a friend’s North Topsail Island beach house.  Here we look east over the Atlantic Ocean to write, share meals, tell life stories, renew friendship, drink wine and Oaxaca mezcal, and offer encouragement and gentle feedback.  This is not an organized workshop but an interlude to the next February 2015 workshop retreat (one space open), a coming together of writers and those who want to write in Oaxaca, Mexico.

In honor of the women who brought us into this world, we decided at breakfast to dedicate this morning to write about our mothers.  We will then share, listen and offer supportive feedback.  We are self-guided. There is no leader. Some of us write regularly, others less frequently. Some of us publish and others have not yet taken that next step. We all have something to say and want a place of retreat to get it on the page.

Beyond the second story balcony of my white-curtained bedroom is dune grass, their tassel tops wave in the wind.  The mid-day sun is already intense. Beyond the dunes, white caps fold over themselves. The horizon is hazy. Gulls, wings outstretched, ride the air currents.  On the floor below I hear muffled sounds of women who prepare lunch. We come together in friendship and mutual support to honor and remember our mothers, to write and to tell our stories, to renew our creative lives, and to enjoy each others’ company.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My own son is further south at Carolina Beach to attend a friend’s wedding. He will join us tomorrow night for supper and overnight before he returns to Los Angeles for his day job and creative life as a comedy writer.  Soon, I will return to Oaxaca after I continue to pack and store my belongings, move out of my North Carolina house, and prepare for a different future.

Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat 2015: Lifting Your Creative Voice

Announcing the 5th Annual Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat.  Arrive Friday, March 6, depart Saturday, March 14, 2015–8 nights, 9 days with market tour,  plus options for traditional Oaxaca cooking class, and temescal* sweat lodge.

SOLD OUT!  JOIN THE JULY 28-AUGUST 6, 2015 SESSION.

Group2 You are a woman with something to say. You keep journals, notes, drafts of unpublished material. Or, you dream of writing and never have. Ideas percolate and you want to capture and develop them. Perhaps you have written and/or published a while ago, let the writer’s life lapse and you need renewal.  You may want guidance and support to continue an unfinished piece or publish it.  The Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat: Lifting Your Creative Voice is your place to learn, express yourself, and be the woman who writes. A_WritingRetreat-29  WomenWritingReading-6 With published author/poet and university professor Robin Greene‘s guidance and coaching, you’ll gain knowledge and perspective about the art and craft of writing.   During the workshop you receive writing exercises and triggers, thoughtful discussion, caring feedback, and the simple gift of time to bring up the words and let them flow. YogaFoodWriting-12  A_WritingRetreat-5 Here, you are empowered to tell your story well. Write in the genre that best suits you:  memoir, journal, poetry, creative nonfiction, or fiction.

  • We accommodate novices and experienced writers.
  • We limit enrollment to 9 women to guarantee personal attention in a small group.
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The daily yoga with Beth Miller enhances your writing.  We tailor the sessions to fit each person’s physical level and needs. As you flex your body, you stretch your imagination.  Yoga develops core strength to find voice and creative center.  This is a perfect combination of the physical and spiritual, says past participant LeeAnn Weigold. YogaFoodWriting-35  A_WritingRetreat-22 What Participants Say

  • I learned I am fully capable of being the writer I dreamed of becoming.
  • The location, teaching and program structure creates a truly transcendent experience of enormous value.
  • I was challenged and that turned out to be exactly what I needed.
  • Far exceeded expectations. Got many suggestions for how to write healing stories.
  • It was wonderful!
  • The combination of writing, yoga, meditation and shared sisterhood is transformational.
  • Oaxaca feels safe, safer than my hometown in the USA.
  • I identified a writing project that engages and excites me.
  • The balance of intensive writing workshops, cultural excursions and yoga lead to a powerful experience on all levels.
  • The feedback was so thoughtful.  I honestly can’t think of anything I would change.
  • Beth’s yoga is the best I have ever experienced.  A perfect combo of the physical and spiritual.

We are based in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del ValleOaxaca.  Imagine a setting so beautiful that it inspires all the best within you.  Here, amid the flowering Bougainvillea and in the shade of red pomegranates, with the backdrop of 9,000 foot mountain peaks, you will enjoy a rich and rewarding experience. Our all-inclusive workshop is perfect for renewal and self-reflection.  A_WritingRetreat-27  WritingChurchTlacolula-44  A Message from Your Workshop Leader, Author/Poet and Professor Robin Greene “The writing retreat is very relaxed, and in the past four years–yes, this is our fifth!–the participants have been wonderfully supportive and open-hearted. You don’t need to bring any writing, but if you wish, you can–anything from a piece in progress, notebook ideas, some journal entries, or finished work. Oaxaca is a lovely place and finding writing topics is easy. Also, I’ll have plenty of prompts, writing exercises, and suggestions—and, of course, as women write, we energize each other. “As the writing instructor, I like to encourage women to find their individual voices so that the retreat experience is personally meaningful. In addition to one scheduled conference with each participant, I’m available for feedback and coaching throughout our time together.  And, because I teach creative writing, I have a repertoire of techniques and strategies to share with writers at all levels. “While I’m a university professor, this Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat remains my favorite teaching experience.”

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We cannot promise that you will win a poetry prize, as did one of our participants after writing her winning poem at the retreat, or be published in literary journals as several past participants have. We CAN promise that you will explore, develop and deepen as a writer. A_WritingRetreat-36  A_WritingRetreat-31 You’ll have an opportunity to write on your own during open time in the schedule.  And, if you choose, there’s also plenty to do here. We’ve scheduled options for you to take part in a cooking class, shiatsu massage, and temescal Zapotec women’s sweat lodge.  You might take a walk, a hike, watch birds, and visit village weaving and artists’ studios, too. What the Retreat Includes:

  • 21-hours of group workshop and feedback
  • One-hour individual coaching session
  • Focused sessions to hone your skills: grammar, reading in public, publishing, grammar
  • 7  yoga sessions tailored to your skill level
  • Guided visit to Tlacolula regional market
  • Self-guided map of village
  • 8 nights lodging
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 6 dinners

Optional Added Fee-based Activities:

  • Shiatsu Massage scheduled during the workshop, $50 per person
  • Zapotec/Oaxaca cooking class, arrive early, spend one additional night, includes lunch, dinner, breakfast, $125 per person  (2 person minimum)
  • Temescal women’s sweat lodge, scheduled during the workshop, $50 per person

*What is Temescal?  The pre-Hispanic temescal of Mexico was used by the Aztecs, the Zapotec, the Mixtec, and the Maya for therapeutic and purification purposes—coming-of-age rites, childbirth, the burial of a relative, and other tribal ceremonies. Temescal comes from the indigenous Nahuatl word temazcalli, meaning “bathhouse.” The temescal is a rectangular or round adobe structure with a vaulted roof. In it volcanic rocks are heated, and steam is produced by throwing herbal teas, such as rosemary and eucalyptus, on the rocks. The bather is gently whipped with ritual or medicinal plants. Curanderas, locally trained folk healers perform the ritual. They say it is important not to bathe for twenty-four hours!

The Spanish friars fought against this custom during the viceroyalty because they considered mixed-gender bathing inappropriate. Nevertheless, the temescal survived and is still used in certain parts of Mexico, mainly for bathing, for alleviating illness, or for recovery after childbirth. However, there is an increasing interest in reviving the traditional religious aspects of the temescal as part of the country’s heritage.

YogaFoodWriting-62   YogaFoodWriting-52 WomenWritingReading-2 2014 Exquisite Corpse Poem: In Oaxaca, Anything is Possible Now the eye of day closes, garlic and sapphires in the mud, the cactus flower fading, crumbling, becoming earth, the pond house evaporating like a cloud. And on the floor, still as any corpse, my spirit reaches, finds the flame, the infinite of the women around me, a workshop of distilled memory, the smell of fire I will miss, the crying mother who puts an arm around my shoulder, walks me toward the white curtain, open now, then drawn shut. It is only the Virgin de Guadeloupe, I tell you, who can quell my heart, take my pain like water from cactus. But as I prostate myself before her, explain that I only want the easy stuff, pap and pamper—not the bent knees and arms, upright and splayed, launched and launching— she focuses on the sensuous, on the lesson of emotion, on the long braided women, clunky mountain tops of stout brittle trees, on the practice that tells me: this shadow is fat, this heart is iron, this wind is voice. *Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist tradition, as Robin Greene explains, in which many create a piece of collaborative art.  The Corpse Pose in yoga is the Shivasana ending pose.  Robin asked each participant to add a favorite line or two that she wrote during the workshop. Robin collected the lines, wove them together, and created a poem in one voice to lift us and carry us forward as we leave.  Here is In Oaxaca, Anything is Possible. YogaFoodWriting-83  A_WritingRetreat-15 There are lovely walking paths around the village, along the river and into the countryside near a local reservoir. You are welcome to venture out and explore the village on your own. Personal safety is not a concern here. YogaFoodWriting-84  A_WritingRetreat-8 What Women Say . . . “I better learned how to put together a writerly life.  The coaching session will help me stay on track.  I enjoyed listening to and evaluating each others’ work.  What a great group of women.” –Leslie Larson, California “I came with the hope of being rejuvenated.  I am leaving with a lightness and grounding that is beyond comprehension.”  –Rebecca S. King, North Carolina WomenWritingReading-14 WomenWritingReading-13 WomenWritingReading-4 “The instruction was excellent and supportive. The personal coaching session offered me a chance to talk about my writing in a way I never had before.  The workshops are especially valuable because the feedback is so thoughtful.” –Susan Lesser, New York “I discovered that my writing entertains people!  Beth’s yoga is the best I have ever experienced.  A perfect combo of the physical and spiritual.  And I loved the cooking class.” –LeeAnn Weigold, British Columbia, Canada A_WritingRetreat-41 There is amazing resonance between Robin’s and Beth’s teaching — vigorous, solid, and accepting. –Deborah Morris, M.D., North Carolina A_WritingRetreat-26 A_WritingRetreat-51 “It was all perfect. You gave us a beautiful writing workshop in a beautiful village setting and you also gave us a strong community-of-women bond that will far outlast this conference. Mil gracias!” — Katie Kingston, MFA, Trinidad, Colorado “The quality of the teachers was stellar and the combination was a perfect fit for me. Robin has a clarity that is lovely, supportive, truth-telling, knowledgeable, superbly skilled. Beth is a beautiful, beautiful teacher. Combining the yoga and sound with writing was profound.” — Nancy Coleman, Portland, Maine Robin’s knowledge impressed and guided me throughout the week.  She is one of the most generous people, instructors and writers I have ever met. The week gave me the insight to reinvestigate life and write about it.”  Kathryn Salisbury, North Carolina “The week helped with my intention to write my book. There were too many valuable parts to list! We experienced an amazing time together, sweating leaves, meditation, chanting, writing, and honoring our lives. This was an awesome experience.” — Susan Florence, MFA, Ojai, California “We learned from the other women in the group, from the culture, the language and people in the village. It was magical.” –Bridget Price, Sydney, Australia and Mexico City WomenWritingReading-19  WomenWritingReading-8 Your Workshop Leaders Robin Greene is the McLean Endowed Professor of English and Writing, and Director of the Writing Center at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She is also co-founder and senior editor of Longleaf Press, a literary press that publishes contemporary poetry. Greene is the recipient of a NC Arts Council/NEA Fellowship, a university teaching award, and a visiting professorship in Romania. Her work is widely published in literary journals. Greene has led community and conference workshops, has served as a writing consultant, and has taught creative writing for over two decades. Her books include Real Birth: Women Share their Stories(nonfiction), Memories of Light and Lateral Drift(collections of poetry), and Augustus: Narrative of a Slave Woman (published in 2011). Greene holds an M.A. in English from SUNY-Binghamton and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. See Robin’s website: www.robingreene-writer.com YogaFoodWriting-32  WomenWritingReading-17 Beth Miller is our yoga instructor who combines yogic practice and philosophy with meditation, creativity and improvisation. She specializes in Vinyasa-Hatha yogic traditions and employs sonorous yoga practices as an approach to help women of all ages to give voice to their lives.

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Beth has a background in Holistic-Health Counseling, working primarily with teen girls and young women to inspire healthy lifestyle habits. In addition, Beth is a vocal artist, performer and teacher of Western classical and sacred music. She holds a B.A. in music from Westminster Choir College, is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, and completed the chef training program from the Institute for Culinary Education. A_WritingRetreat-12 A_WritingRetreat-13 Norma Hawthorne produces arts and educational programs in Oaxaca, Mexico, operating as Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC since 2006. She offers textile and fiber arts, tapestry weaving, natural dyeing, creative writing, and photography workshops that people throughout the world attend.  During her 30-year university career, Norma organized national award-winning programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, and George Washington University.  Before she retired, Norma raised more than $23 million for The University of North Carolina School of Nursing. She holds the B.A. from California State University at Northridge and the M.S. from the University of Notre Dame.   Preliminary Workshop Outline

  • Friday, March 6, travel day, arrive and check-in
  • Saturday, March 7, introductions, orientation, village walk, writing exercises, yoga
  • Sunday, March 8, regional market visit, yoga, writing
  • Monday, March 9, yoga, writing, coaching, temescal
  • Tuesday, March 10, yoga, writing, coaching, weaving demonstration
  • Wednesday, March 11, yoga at Yagul archeological site, writing, coaching
  • Thursday, March 12, yoga, writing, option to visit World Heritage archeology sites
  • Friday, March 13, yoga, writing, reception and reading
  • Saturday, March 14, departure

Add-on 1:  Come early, arrive Thursday, March 5, and take a cooking class on March 6, $125 per person, includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, lodging on March 5. Add-on 2:  Oaxaca Textile and Shopping Excursion. Stay a day later. Spend the day and night in Oaxaca city.  Norma will take you to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and her favorite shopping spots.  Includes one night lodging on March 14. Depart March Sunday, 15.  $185 per person shared occupancy with private bath.  $255 per person single occupancy with private bath. A_WritingRetreat-35 A_WritingRetreat-43 Lodging/Accommodations and Cost To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations at family operated bed and breakfast inns.  Local cooks prepare delicious meals from scratch, including corn tortillas, with organic ingredients. Vegetarian options are available. Cost: 

  • $1,195 per person double occupancy with shared community bathroom facilities
  • $1,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $1,495 single room with private bath (sleeps one)
  • $50, add-on Shiatsu massage
  • $50 add-on Temescal sweat lodge
  • $125, arrive early, add-on traditional Zapotec cooking class and learn to make mole. Includes lodging on March 6 with breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Oaxaca Walk and Shop, $185 shared/$255 single occupancy in Oaxaca city on the night of March 14.  Includes transportation and lunch. Depart Sunday, March 15.

Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much! YogaFoodWriting-46  WomenWritingReading-10 The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation to and from Oaxaca city.  We will arrange taxi pick-up and return from/to the Oaxaca airport at your own expense. We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed. A_WritingRetreat-33 A_WritingRetreat-49 Reservations and Cancellations A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance due (including any add-ons) shall be paid by January 10, 2014. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will  send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register.  After January 10, refunds are not possible.  You may send a substitute in your place.  If you cancel before January 10, we will refund 50% of your deposit. Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We required that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen! Workshop Details and Travel Tips.  Before the workshop begins, we will email you a map, instructions to get to the workshop site from the airport, and a document that includes extensive travel tips and information. To get your questions answered and to register, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com  Since we are in Oaxaca most of the year, we are happy to arrange a Skype conversation with you if you wish. A_WritingRetreat-34 This retreat is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

Market Town Sunday in Oaxaca, Mexico

Our Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat 2014 is coming to a close. We have been furiously writing this week, opening up to truth, reality, powerful voices, memories, love, comfort and despair.  Tonight, we will speak at a reading. Tomorrow, most will return home.  Today, I share this creative non-fiction piece with you as homage to life’s randomness.

Market Town Sunday in Oaxaca, Mexico 

First, getting to the bus.

The green bus they call Turtle is two blocks ahead of us. My impulse is to run after it and I start to squawk:  Stop.  Stop.  Let’s catch it, I say to the women who walk beside me, as I step out in front.  Uneven cobblestones underfoot slow me and I feel my ankle twist as my foot lands on a crevice between two stones.  I think, don’t trip and break a hip; don’t anyone else fall either. It’s a silent prayer for Suzie and one for the women who trail behind me now.  Accidents happen and I’m not ready to deal with another one.  I look back reassured they are taking it slow.  Still, I speed walk, pulling the old lady rolling shopping cart behind me, stopping every few steps to catch my breath and my footing.  The stones are slippery after years of others running before me, smooth from the beat of sun, the polish of rain, the tread of tires and tired feet.  The bus honks, hurry up. I imagine it will pull away any moment and the next one to carry us to the market town will take forever or thirty minutes.  Impatience is my cultural predisposition unlike this Oaxaca village where time drips like a leaky faucet. The driver waves. You take this as a signal and dart ahead like a bullet sprinter.  Your hair comes loose, flies away, sways like a tic tock pendulum with each leap until you reach the bus.  The rear lights flash red.   Now, I know it will wait for us.  We climb aboard, take our seats, look at each other, smile.  We made it.   There are no seat belts.

Second, woman in a gingham apron.

She boards the bus at the next stop.  All the seats are taken.  She stands in the aisle next to me, leaning tight against the seat back, an anchor.  The gingham apron she wears is brown and beige, a pattern of small checks that could be called plain, boring, undistinguished.   She is tidy.  As she turns to face forward, I see that each of the three buttons down the apron back is fastened with a matching fabric loop.  A perfect bow is tied at the back of her ample waist like a package ready to present as a gift.   Embroidered white daisies with deep yellow centers and green stems crawl across her bodice from elaborate baskets that mimic real life.  One of the two deep pockets on either side of the skirt likely contains the small purse with market money for rice, beans, chicken, roses for the empty vase on the altar room table. This is the uniform of Zapotec housewives.  The bus lurches forward as the driver lets out the clutch.  The bus sways.  Her moorings loosen. It is hot, though it’s only mid-morning.  In unison, she and I wipe our brows and our eyes meet. Her mouth opens into a wide smile.  Her fillings are gold and sparkly, reminding me of how the ancients drilled their teeth to embed precious stones and bits of gold, signs of wealth and prestige.  In that time, this was ample protection.

Third, buying tablecloths.

Do you mind? She asks, careful not to want this particular one too much.  Oh, no, says the other, I like either one.  You choose.  Both are blue, though one is the color of ocean and the other of sky.  I imagine the click, click, clack, clack of the flying shuttle loom that wove the threads into whole cloth, soon to drape a table, a bed, a comforter, all the comforts of home.  We concentrate on cloth, stroke the nubby cotton surface, admire the combinations of peach and minty green, plum and ash, rose and cream.  I am surrounded by sound:  a hurdy-gurdy accordion, a raucous laugh, screeches of children playing tag, the cheep, cheep, cheep of chicks caged, the thunder thump and beat, beat brass of salsa.  I hear Suzie’s sweet voice at lunch, excited about the trip, making plans.

How much, the shopper asks?  Doscientos pesos, says the vendor, plump, matronly, seasoned at sniffing what a buyer will pay.  The two hundred peso notes are green with the image of Sor Juana, Mexico’s high priestess of intelligence, women’s rights and devotion to study.  Just like us.  Just like Suzie.

Fourth, barrage of smells and sights.

Blue awnings, tarps spread across the sapphire sky, pillow clouds float by.  Guava, orange, apple, papaya, mango sit on tiers, altar to goodness and fulfillment to whomever worships here.  The scent of fruit mingles as if this is a secret potion mélange that will cure all.  I want some of that for Suzie, I think as I drift along the pavement inhaling the next sensation: smokey wood fires where chickens roast and red meat sears.  Do you see the red coals where fat drips? Do you hear the sizzle?  Watch the faces of women, flushed red, turning the red meat with tongs not quite long enough to keep their eyes from tearing up.   Women sing in mezzo soprano: tomates, tomates, ajo, ajo, diez por diez.   Scarves wrap their heads or carry babies, squash, flapping chickens, eggs, a bundle of kindling, dozens of lilies.   The scarves are intense turquoise, violet, magenta, black, cerulean, stamped in a Chinese factory with images of chrysanthemums, pansies, peach blossoms, lush green vines.   Perhaps, they are blue and white ikat made by a weaving machine in a far distant Mexican town where made-by-hand is only a memory.   Do you see their braids dangle down bent backs, wrapped in a tangle of red or purple or green ribbon?  Do you notice the ones whose barefoot feet are calloused or covered with worn leather huaraches, worn soles, souls seeking redemption, something to eat, shelter from intense heat?

Fifth, going home.

Together we pull the cart and carry the burden. We are overloaded with a day of waiting for money to dispense from the magic machine, then spending money, enough to make a difference in another’s life.  Buy a whistle.  Hear the police whistle direct traffic, the vroom-vroom motorcycle starting up and taking off, churning cart  wheels propelled by human feet and the grunt of the effort.  We make one last stop for art, for clay, for the hand-woven basket, for a perfectly ripe, ruby-red grapefruit. I speak a warning: Watch the speed bumps in the road, look out for that wheelbarrow filled with dripping honeycomb coming straight at us. Swerve around the gaggle of crouched women peeling nopal cactus paddles. Do you see those peddlers on bicycle carts careening toward you? The barriers are soft, not concrete.  We are not catapulted forward at sixty miles per hour.

We shift loads, trade our burdens, find a taxi driver to carry us home.  Three of us climb in the back, two of us wedge into the front alongside the driver.  No seat belts today.  I am wary, though we don’t have far to go.  Go slow, I tell him in Spanish, drive on the right shoulder.  Suddenly, up ahead smoke bellows, a vapor of grief trailing skyward.  A car on the highway is aflame surrounded by fire trucks.  An ambulance whizzes by.  Our driver downshifts into second.  His hand on the shifter pushes into my thigh.  Don’t goose me, I say, wiggling, giggling, knowing he doesn’t understand.  Then, again in Spanish, please use only first, third and fifth gear.  He laughs, reddens.  I am straddling the stick and it is almost up my ass.  My knees are jammed against the dashboard.  I tilt my head back into the space between the two front seats and know that with one stomp on the brake, my head would bounce forward, then back, forward again into the dashboard.

I think of Suzie in a coma and make a wish for life, full and unedited.  Today, I hear she briefly opened her eyes.

-Norma Hawthorne, March 3, 2014