Memoir and Fiction: Creative Writing Workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico: Lives in Motion

You write or have always wanted to write.  You may be experienced and published, a raw beginner or somewhere in-between.  Wherever you are, this 5-day creative writing workshop will help you become a better writer of fiction or memoir — or both!  Writing memoir and fiction can be an exploration of self that becomes integrated into the creative work.  With published authors and university professors Robin Greene and Michael Colonnese you will explore the craft by examining your own life and experiences that can be integrated into and reflected in your writing.  Your voice will gain strength and momentum through this creative process.

Arrive Friday, July 12, depart Thursday, July 18—six nights, five days.

Participants may sign up in advance for either memoir or fiction tracks or take part in both. Each day offers a mixed-genre technique seminar, followed by a breakout genre-specific workshop session. Writers—at all levels of accomplishment (including beginners) —are welcome and will benefit from the supportive, stimulating and enriching format. Topics include:

  • Setting and Context—how and where our important stories take place
  • Genre Conventions and Publishing—effectively presenting your work to readers
  • Effective Plotting—the events that move our stories forward
  • Point of View, Voice, and Narrative Reliability—understanding the teller of the tale
  • Negotiating Grammar and Tense—the nuts-and-bolts of writing and effective editing

With experienced authors and university professors Michael Colonnese and Robin Greene as your writing instructors, and Norma Hawthorne as your cultural guide, you’ll have the opportunity to write or polish your fiction or personal memoir.

We will be based in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle about thirty minutes from Oaxaca city, where we are surrounded by 9,000 foot peaks, shaded by ripening pomegranates, and scented by blossoming bougainvillea—a setting that inspires and renews creativity.  Here in this traditional Zapotec village, life and a naturally beautiful setting unfolds to stimulate your senses and creative energy.  Daily workshop sessions are tailored to each participant’s skill-level and needs.

We include a one-on-one conference with Michael or Robin to discuss your work and gain meaningful feedback that will serve your development as a writer well beyond the workshop. Participants may also choose to pay a fee and receive a manuscript review.

Although we cannot promise that you’ll win a literary prize—as one of Robin’s  retreat participants did in 2011 after writing an award-winning poem at a similar retreat, or be published in a prestigious literary journal as another participant did in 2012—we can promise that you will explore and develop yourself as a writer.

You’ll have plenty of free time to write during the workshop.  You can also choose to take part in optional activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and visiting village weaving and artists’ studios. You are welcome to venture out and explore the village and its environs on your own. Personal safety is not a concern here.

The Retreat Includes:

  • 15 hours of group writing instruction
  • One-hour individual coaching session
  • Daily workshop sessions to give/receive feedback
  • Focused coaching to hone your skills: grammar, syntax, plotting, and publishing
  • Guided visit to Tlacolula regional market
  • 6 nights lodging
  • 5 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • 5 dinners

Optional Fee-based Activities (see below):  a Zapotec cooking class, continuing education units,  2 semester hours of university credit, private manuscript review.

Meet Your Instructors: 

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 and is widely published. Greene is recipient of a NC Arts Council/NEA Fellowship, a university teaching award, and a visiting professorship in Romania. 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 (novel). Greene holds an M.A. in English from SUNY-Binghamton and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Michael Colonnese is a published novelist and poet, and the Director of the Creative Writing Program at Methodist University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from Binghamton University. His award-winning mystery novel, Sex and Death, I Suppose, won the Dark Oak Novel Award and was published in 2010 by Oak Tree Press. A poetry collection, Temporary Agency, won the prestigious Ledge Poetry Award and was published in 2009 by Ledge Press. Over his literary career, he has published widely in short fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction and is the winner of numerous literary awards in all three genres. He was also a NEH grant recipient, and he worked for years as a documentary filmmaker whose work in that medium has aired on public television.

Norma Hawthorne has produced arts and educational programs in Oaxaca, Mexico, through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC since 2006. She offers textile, arts  photography workshops that are attended by participants from around the world. During her 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, July 12, travel day—arrive and check-in

•   Saturday, July 13, village walk / seminar topic: setting and context / workshop

•   Sunday, July 14, regional market visit / seminar topic: genre conventions / workshop

•   Monday, July 15, seminar topic: effective plotting / workshop

•   Tuesday, July 16, seminar topic: POV, voice, and narrative reliability / workshop

•   Wednesday, July 17, seminar topic: negotiating grammar and tense /workshop / retreat-writers’  reading

•   Thursday, July 18, departure or stay an additional night (optional) for a cooking class today

Lodging/Accommodations and Costs:

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: $1,395 per person double occupancy with shared bath facilities.

[  ] Option 2: I prefer a single room with private bath for $1,695

[  ] Option 3: 5-hour Zapotec cooking class on Thursday, July 18.  You will depart on, Friday, July 19. This includes local market shopping tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner overnight on Thursday, July 18.  Add $145.

[  ] Option 4: 3 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) for 15 contact hours of instruction, with certificate of completion, $75 per person.

[  ] Option 5:  2 semester hours of college credit available through Methodist University for an additional summer tuition fee of $700.00

[  ]  Option 6:  Manuscript review @ $150 per manuscript

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 can pre-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 March 1, 2013 to reserve your place.  The balance is due on June 1, 2013.  Payment is requested or PayPal. We will send you an itemized invoice when 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:  Since we are in Oaxaca during many months 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.