Tag Archives: poetry

New Book of Poetry Crafted During Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat

Poet Katie Kingston has news! Lost Horse Press has just published her new book of poems, Shaking the Kaleidoscope.  It is her first complete book! Katie wrote this morning to tell me, “Two poems from the Oaxaca conference are in the book, so I was pleased to acknowledge the Oaxaca Women’s [Creative] Writing Retreat. The chapbook [instructor] Robin [Greene] reviewed with me in Teotitlan del Valle is the first section of the book, (the second section is the Mexico poems) so our week together in Oaxaca was very fruitful for me and I have to thank you again for that.”  Thank you, Katie, for making words that sing and speak to the colors, textures and beauty of our world.  Besos y abrazos y felicidades. I’m going to order Katie’s book.  I hope you do, too.   -Norma

We have space in the 2013 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat.  Come to Oaxaca to lift your creative voice and be inspired to write.  Beginners are welcome!

Third Annual Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing + Yoga Retreat: Lifting Your Creative Voice

Arrive Friday, March 8, leave Saturday, March 16, 2013–8 nights, 9 days.

Our Third Annual Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat: Lifting Your Creative Voice is a workshop based in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle.  Imagine a setting so beautiful that it inspires all the best within you to write and create. Here, amid the bougainvillea blossoms and in the shade of ripening 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. With Professor Robin Greene, MFA, guiding and coaching you in a supportive small group atmosphere, you’ll be encouraged to find your own creative center and to surprise yourself with the power of your words. You’ll have the opportunity to work with memoir, journaling, poetry, and mixed genre writing in an intimate workshop environment.

Through daily yoga sessions that are tailored to each participant’s physical level and needs, you will flex your body to stretch your imagination.  Our talented and supportive yoga teacher is Beth Miller from Boulder, Colorado, who is back with us for Year Three, too.  Beth employs movement, chanting and “vocal yoga,” using the breath to find voice and creative center.

A Message from Professor Robin Greene

“The writing retreat is very relaxed, and in the past two years–yes, this is our third!–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 the women write, they energize each other.

“The retreat is intended for both novice and experienced writers of all genres. As the writing instructor, I like to encourage women to find their individual voices so that the retreat experience is personally meaningful to all participants. In fact, although I have one scheduled conference with each participant, I’m available for feedback and coaching throughout our time together. Also, because I teach creative writing, I have a repertoire of techniques and strategies to share with writers at all levels.

“Again, this is our third year. And although I’m a university professor, the Women’s Writing Retreat remains my favorite teaching experience.”


We cannot promise that you will win a poetry prize, as one of our participants did last year after writing her award-winning poem at the retreat, or be published in a literary journal as another participant accomplished in 2012.   We CAN promise that you will explore, develop and broaden as a writer.

Congratulations to Nancy Coleman, 2011 participant and                         emerging writer, whose short story Fall was published in the                                                    April 2012 Issue 436 of  THE SUN literary magazine.

Offering 5 CEUs for 15 contact hours of instruction awarded by Methodist University. This applies to teacher’s license recertification.

If you are working on a project — bring it. If you have something in mind but haven’t yet put it to paper (or computer), this is the place to do it.


The retreat is designed to accommodate both novice and experienced writers, and it is limited to offer an especially satisfying small group experience. Through writing exercises, discussion, caring feedback, and the simple gift of time, you’ll gain knowledge and perspective about the art and craft of writing. Our goal is to empower you to tell your story well, and to lift and share your voice—widening your lyrical range and adding to the tools in your narrative toolbox.

Congratulations to Katie Kingston, past participant and                                          a 2011 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize Finalist — for the poem she wrote              during her workshop experience with us.

In addition to daily writing exercises in organized sessions, Robin will meet one-on-one with participants so that each writer feels nurtured and personally served.  During these individual coaching session, Robin will review your writing and offer gentle suggestions if improvement is needed.


You’ll have an opportunity to retreat and write on your own during open time in the schedule if you choose, but there’s also plenty to do here. We’ve scheduled daily yoga, stretching and meditation sessions, and there’s ample time for other activities such as walking, hiking, bird-watching, and visiting village weaving and artists’ studios.

What the Retreat Includes:

  • 18 hours of group writing instruction
  • One-hour individual coaching session
  • Daily workshop sessions to give/receive feedback
  • Focused coaching to hone your skills: grammar, reading in public, publishing
  • 7 daily yoga sessions, tailored to varying skill levels
  • Women’s traditional temescal sweat lodge
  • Guided visit to Tlacolula regional market
  • 8 nights lodging
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches and snacks
  • 7 dinners

Optional Added Fee-based Activities:

  • Massage with a Shiatsu massage therapist
  • Traditional cooking class on Saturday, March 16 (depart March 17) — stay one more day to participate! (2 person minimum)
  • Continuing Education Units for Teachers


Exquisite Corpse* Poem 2012Ragged and Unfolding

Across half a continent I’ve traveled to Oaxaca—

mountains, pomegranates, sacred hearts,

searching for something, but I’m not sure

what.  Is it love, sorrow, or pain that fills my heart?

Morning breeze, cool—midday sun, hard.

Don’t try to prepare for the desert mountain;

the mountain will prepare for you or for something

unexpected. And what expectations

but the ragged unfolding of our hours,

souls singing, rising upward?

So let us gaze into that blue sky, let mountain

tears be indigo, pericon—jammed against

that mountain’s face, we face the sun,

balance between here, there, and sigh.

*The Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist tradition, as Robin Greene explains, in which a piece of art is made collaboratively.  The Corpse Pose in yoga is the Shivasana ending pose.  During our workshop, each person contributed a line or two each day.  Robin pulled all our voices together to hear the collaborative voice as one.  The result was the poem above, Ragged and Unfolding.



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 and its environs on your own. Personal safety is not a concern here.

Come join us in an inspiring setting of great natural beauty for an opportunity to explore and lift your voice, enrich, and empower your world.


What Past Participants Say

“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

“This retreat is held in a really wonderful place, with a guide who knows a great deal about the town, has true relationships with people who live here. Robin and Beth were great teachers; they worked really well together.” — Morgen Van Vorst, Los Angeles, California

“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

“Deep and delicious work in a very supportive environment. I now have a focused, with understanding and direction to move forward with my writing.” –Beth Miller, Boulder, Colorado

“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

“I loved that Robin, Beth and Norma were just a part of the group. I loved going to the markets and the cooking class. I’ve always wanted to come to Oaxaca and this was the perfect opportunity.” — Sue Spirit, Boone, North Carolina

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 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 ofLight 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

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. She 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.

Norma Hawthorne has produced arts and educational programs in Oaxaca, Mexico, through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC since 2006. She has offered tapestry weaving, natural dyeing, painting, documentary filmmaking, and photography workshops that are attended by participants from throughout the U.S., Canada and from as far as Australia. During her 25-year career in higher education, Norma has organized national award-winning continuing education programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, and George Washington University, and 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 8, travel day, arrive and check-in
  • Saturday, March 9, orientation, village walk, writing, yoga
  • Sunday, March 10, regional market visit, yoga, writing
  • Monday, March 11, yoga, writing, temescal
  • Tuesday, March 12-Thursday, March 14, yoga, writing, open time, individual consultations
  • Friday, March 15, yoga, writing, reception and reading
  • Saturday, March 16, departure

Lodging/Accommodations and Cost

To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations at family operated bed and breakfast inns.  Local meals are prepared by excellent cooks from organic ingredients made from scratch. Vegetarian options are available.

Base Cost: $1,195 per person double occupancy with shared bath facilities. Single rooms are available with a single supplement. A limited number of double occupancy rooms with private bath, and single occupancy with private bath are available. Please indicate your preference below.

[ ] Option 1: I will share a room, double occupancy with shared bath, $1,195 per person.

[ ] Option 2: I prefer a single room with shared bath for a total of $1,295 per person.

[ ] Optional 3: I will share a room, double occupancy, with private bath for a total of $1,295.

[ ] Option 4: I prefer a single room with private bath for a total of $1,495.

[ ] Option A: 5-hour Zapotec cooking class on Saturday, March 16 (you will depart on Sunday March 17), includes local market shopping tour and lunch.  Add $120 (includes class, one night lodging, three meals).

[ ] Option B: One-hour massage scheduled during open times in the weekly schedule. Add: $50.

[ ] Option C: 5 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) for 18 contact hours of instruction, with certificate of completion, $75.

Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips/gratuities, 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 based on your preferred options is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance due (including any additional costs) shall be paid by January 10, 2013. Payment is requested or PayPal. We will  send you an itemized invoice when you say you are ready to register.

We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

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.

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


Tribute to International Women’s Day Through Poetry

Left to right: Giselt, Simona, Jennifer, Beth, Norma, Robin, Debbie, Kelly, Becky

Who knew there would be a full moon illuminating the courtyard at Las Granadas  Bed and Breakfast last night, March 8, when Professor Robin Greene and I planned our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat a year ago?  And, who knew that it would coincide with International Women’s Day?  Who knew that nine magnifient women would gather on this day to lift voices in poetry, song, memoir, and reflective writing?  Sometimes, the universe aligns perfectly.


We invite Zapotec women from the village of Teotitlan del Valle where our retreat was based to share our experience.  Expatriates join in.  Together we sit, hear stories and poems about mothers, loved ones, the experience of first-time travel out of the U.S., a first date.  We honor each other with applause, a wonderful meal, a toast of sweetened juice made from the hibiscus flower (agua de jamaica).  This is our local tribute to the universality of women.  We lift our voices in community.


Rebecca King, one of our retreat participants, is a writer and poet who returned to college to complete a degree in English and creative writing as an adult.  She will graduate from Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC, this spring.  This is the poem she wrote during the retreat and read last night, giving me permission to share it with you. (Above: Becky works on last minute changes before the fiesta and final reading.)


(Reyna’s mole amarillo with green beans, choyote squash and potatoes, that she dishes out from the cooking pot.)

Where I Stand by Rebecca King

I stand

on the kitchen chair,

in the white house

before the twins came.

My mother, wearing

her green dress with the

white flowers,

moves her arms

back and forth,

a slow rolling.

I am five,

clumsy, messy.

Soft, squishy dough

sticks to my fingers.

Together, my mother

and I knead, roll,

gather the dough

back to center.



almost forty years

later, I stand

on the dirt floor

of Reyna’s kitchen

in Teotitlan, Mexico.

I move my arms

back and forth

a slow rolling.

I am forty two,

clumsy, messy.

The mano de matate

heavy in my hands.

I knead, roll,

grind the onions,

peppers, tomatillas,

roasted sesame

seeds into stone.

I gather the paste

back to center,

feel the ancient

rhythm of the women

where I stand.



Photos immediately above:  we are eating a lunch of amarillo molé prepared by cooking teacher Reyna Mendoza Ruiz outside in her immaculately clean traditional dirt floor kitchen.  She prepared the luscious traditional sauce using a metate that Rebecca refers to in her poem.  Rebecca opted to also take a cooking class with Reyna, which inspired her poem.



Photo Diaries: Blending Photography and Prose

What is photojournalism?  Our workshop instructor June Finfer, Chicago documentary filmmaker/photographer/playwright explains it this way:  It is making a picture, capturing the connection, creating something out of what you are feeling as you go beyond the surface of what you see.

Our charge this week is to make photographs and then write about impressions that our photographs evoke.  The narrative accompanies the picture.  June asks us to consider each photo and what persona relationship we have to it.  Can a photo answer questions such as:  What do you expect here?  What is it about this experience that has changed you?    ”The exercise becomes like a picture story, says June. “Photography creates possibilities for a common language when language is a barrier. We all go to the same places and each of us comes back with a different feeling, experience, impression.”

Photograph #1:  Making Tamales by Norma Hawthorne

Las mujeres, the women, sit together under the palapa, ancient hands and some younger and still soft, take a fistful of soft masa paste, smear it into the cups of  tender young green corn husks.  They are comadres, sit together under starlight.  A child clings to his mother’s apron hem. Together they sing an ancient hymn of womanhood under the stars by the campfire, preparing the meal, obscured by steam from the cooking pot.  For eternity, for now, for us.

Photograph #2:  Tlacolula Child in Yellow by Norma Hawthorne

Lost underfoot or forgotten?  Which among those legs and backs is the parent who loves her and leaves her to look out at something distant, beyond her grasp.  It is a feast day.  Their attention is on the priest who gives mass and absolution.  She looks toward a future unknown.  Were she mine, I would hold her and cherish her, this small, delicate child dressed in yellow.

Photography #3:  Woman with Bundle by Norma Hawthorne

A refreshment is what she asks for.  I ask for a photo.  Perhaps, she says with lips pursed and a glint in one eye.  I am not stealing her soul.  Her hat is a bundle of grain stored in a grain sack, stamped words too blurred to read even magnified.  Here she is: proud, defiant, strong, survivor beyond what is possible to endure.  Her hat sanctifies her, a blessing.  She is my gift of the day and I return the gift with pesos for a refresco.  A dios.

Photograph #4:  Señor Secundino at Las Cuevitas by Norma Hawthorne

Rugged, etched wood, rough-hewn, the texture of life — furrowed brow, creased cheek, gnarled hand, cracked leather strap, bristled mustache, mottled goatskin pulled taut over pine drum, rough pine, watch the splinters, tiny diamond pattern in finely woven straw hat, a brim offering a bit of shade.  But now it is night.  The shadow cast by an exposed light bulb defines him: solid, durable, tenacious.

Photograph #5:  Sunset at Las Cuevitas 2012 by Norma Hawthorne

Shadowy figures, silhouettes mark time until sun sets.  Beyond are mountains, magnificent purple, black.  Sun rays spray the clouds like a crown of glory.  In the dusk muffled voices utter a universal prayer for the ages:  peace, good health, shelter and warmth.  See the distant town.  The church steeple.  The call to forgiveness.  Feliz y prospero año nuevo. 

Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat is coming up March 2-9.  Consider joining us.


Pablo Neruda 2011 Prize Finalist Inspired at Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing + Yoga Retreat

Poet Katie Kingston was selected as a 2011 Finalist for the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize for her poem written during our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat in Oaxaca.  Katie gave us permission to publish the poem and to share her workshop experience (below).

Woman Resting

Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico

 I have been waiting days to move

to the hammock, to drift

beneath the white portal into a white

dream delineated by black


Above me, the green tree

full of green grapefruit and a cluster

of yellow birds. My sky sways

with palm leaves and wingspan.

Footsteps approach

like a lullaby.

In the distance a child

wails blue syllables and the rooster

releases another qui-qui-ri-qui-qui.

I sketch their sounds on paper

alongside the corrugated bray

of burro.

The hammock swings

in the key of G. I am surrounded by tuning

forks and pomegranate blossoms.

I call this place


                     Lull is the word that comes

to mind. Lull says the wood smoke, lull

says the sheet on the line, lull says

the loom’s shuttle tapping wool strands

of indigo and cochineal

into the snug fit

of weft.

Sometimes the name for gold

dye escapes me, so I put down the pen, feel

the rhythm of my body as if I too

am a leaf lulled by breeze,

as if I too am held to the branch

by a nub of stem.


–Katie Kingston, Finalist in the 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize,

First Published in Nimrod International Journal, Vol.55 Titled What Time Is It?


What Katie Kingston says about the Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat:

Immersion in a new culture with a group of talented and inspiring women was definitely the catalyst for this poem, “Woman Resting.”  One day I found myself resting in the hammock, and while letting its hypnotic sway take over, I experienced the flooding of the five senses in this magical place, Teotitlán del Valle. I was motivated to write this poem, to try in one small way to capture the experience of this slower paced lifestyle. I haven’t experienced such a “lull” since childhood.

Teotitlán del Valle is all about weaving; indigo and cochineal dye hangs in natural wool skeins from the roof top lines. It fact, it seems that everything hangs from the sky in Teotitlan: the drying threads, the hammocks, the pomegranates, the grapefruits, the laundry, and even the sounds: birds, burros, roosters, pigs.  The experience at the Oaxaca Woman’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat was enhanced by the meditative atmosphere that allows for interpretation with a gathering of women who believe in writing as a spiritual plunge into the unknown.

When I returned to the United States, I submitted the poem to Nimrod International Journal’s 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, www.nimrod@utulsa.edu, where it placed as a finalist and was published in the Nimrod Award Issue titled, “What Time Is It?”  Other good news followed. I submitted my manuscript, What Does Lorca Own?, which had been reviewed at the conference by Professor Robin Greene, our instructor.  We discussed the manuscript in depth, and I sent out the revision to several competitions.  It placed as a finalist in the 2011 Idaho Prize for Poetry, www.losthorsepress.org, and will be published in October 2012 by Lost Horse Press (distributed by the University of Washington  Press, Seattle) under the new title Translating Clouds.

No writer ever writes alone, and I have many individuals to thank for their support including Norma Hawthorne, Robin Greene, Susan Florence, and the other talented participants of the 2011 Oaxaca Women’s Writing Retreat.  For me, the experience was a success, giving me the time to write new poems, forge new friendships, and experience a new culture, where I felt welcome and safe as I hiked the village roads and spoke to goat herders, children learning English, and women who smiled back.