The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat will take place from March 19-22, 2020. Known for its Spanish and French architecture, live jazz, cajun food, and street festivals, New Orleans offers an inspirational and one-of-a-kind environment for creative writers. During the retreat, we will be staying in downtown New Orleans, just a short walk away from the Historic French Quarter. The faculty includes award-winning writers & playwrights: Stephen Aubrey, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. All genres welcome. Genres include playwriting, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. The cost of the retreat includes tuition, lodging, and some meals. If you’d like to join us in New Orleans, please apply online at cww.submittable.com by March 10, 2020. Scholarships Applications are due by March 1, 2020. More info: cww.nyc
18 years and 12 hours ago, Rita Banerjee was in the middle of a generation coming of age and witnessing 9/11. Her essay “Birth of Cool” captures how a generation of young people watched 9/11 and kept their cool.
An excerpt from “Birth of Cool,” which debuts in Hunger Mountain (Issue 23: Silence & Power) follows below:
Lauren played her Gibson on the phone for me. Voodoo Child. Learning Hendrix one blistered finger at a time. Stairway to Heaven. A poster of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant hung on her bedroom wall. Plant made love to the microphone in his too-tight jeans and denim jacket. His threads hadn’t been washed in decades. Neither had he. His hair was a total mess: wastrel, lion, drunken boat. His stance suggested everything hot and sticky and full of sweat. Plant sang as if his life depended on it. As if Page were a living siren: all dark curls and velvet. Soft everywhere. And cool where it mattered. Who was the devil and who the angel here? Their hair, their dishabille, their guitar riffs, their primal screams. What were Plant and Page selling to us, neo-nostalgic teens of the ’90s? Was it sex or something else? A taste of barely contained passion or total apathy? Whatever it was, it became the object of our attraction, our envy. Could a woman ever be so decadent? So illustrious? So free?
Lauren bent over her guitar and strummed, as if she were searching for an answer, as if the metallic edge of her Gibson could vibrate to the right pitch of cool. Her mom had immigrated from Hong Kong and her dad came from nowhere Zen, New Jersey. They spoke Cantonese on the phone together when they wanted to keep their secrets secret. But Lauren, always listening when she shouldn’t have, found out that her mother was pregnant anyway. Her father played in garage bands. He was born with an electric guitar. And so was she. When our history teacher went around the class and asked what kind of music do you listen to? I said, “Garbage,” and Lauren, “Hendrix.”
At her sweet sixteen, we sang “Landslide,” in an improvised, acoustic harmony. Her living room, surrounded by turn-of-the-century Qing chests and miniature lacquered paintings, felt like a recording studio that afternoon. Red cushions, low lights, and dark walnut furniture. A makeshift cabaret for a bunch of girls, barely legal. Gillian with her dark hair and half-smile, belting out the lyrics louder than anyone else. As if she were Stevie Nicks, herself, and knew the truth about pain. Her parents had divorced. Ours just seemed to fight all the time. So Gillian held the honor of being part mystic, part witch in our tribe.
At another sweet sixteen, Maddy sang, “I Will Survive,” and we girls danced primitive, like women, as if our lives depended on it. What heartaches had we experienced? What did we know about life at sixteen? Most of us hadn’t seriously been in love yet. With a man or a woman. We were just beginning to learn what it meant to come of age. To gaze into the future. To gaze back, an old crone, towards all the mistakes and milestones of our life. And what we saw, at sixteen, frightened us. We were experienced. We sang Fleetwood Mac, Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin together in Lauren’s living room, as if classic rock could keep the future at bay. As if these staged rebels in their infinite costumes, postures, and expressions of cool could save us. Save us from becoming adults. Save us from becoming women. Save us from a million taboos and stigmas and haunting forms of socialization.
“Darling go make it happen,” Lauren’s voice picked up tempo on the phone, “take the world in a love embrace.” Her guitar kept up the song’s dirty rhythm and twanged just when it mattered. I tried to impress her by playing back Joplin, Brubeck, Bach, Beethoven, Yann Tiersen, different time signatures, and chord progressions on the piano. In the ’90s, we spent so many afternoons like that. On the second line just for us: chatterboxes, klutzes, not yet agents of our lives. Girls. Our songs fused and interrogated one another. They hardly made sense. But that’s how we were. She and me. Latchkey kids. Part-time musicians. Like a true nature’s child. Our jams short-circuited every style in history.
On Friday, September 13, from 7 pm – 10 pm, join Finishing Line Press at the Poets House (10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282 ) for a reading by FLP poets James Ragan, Rita Banerjee, Deborah Kahan Kolb, Stephanie Laterza, Danelle Lejeune, Mark A. Murphy, Dawn Marar, Katherine E. Schneider and others.
This event is free and open to the public. The reading by Finishing Line Poets will be followed by an Open Mic portion. Snacks and drinks will be provided. This event is made possible through Poets House’s Literary Partners program. Poets House is an ADA accessible facility. For more information, please visit Poets House or Finishing Line Press’s events page.
Join the MFA in Writing & Publishing program in Café Anna as Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty members Rita Banerjee, Frances Cannon, and David Shields kick off our Fall 2019 Reading Series at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, September 11, 2019!
Like all of our readings, this events is free and open to the public. Featuring deliciously catered treats and a cash bar, it’s the perfect way to unwind during your mid-week.
About Our Readers:
Rita Banerjee is the director and a faculty member of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program. She’s also the editor of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, 2018) and author of the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats(Finishing Line Press, 2018), which was named one of Book Riot’s “Must-Read Poetic Voices of Split This Rock 2018,” was nominated for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and was selected by Finishing Line Press as their 2018 nominee for the National Book Award in Poetry. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard University and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and she is a recipient of a Vermont Studio Center Artist’s Grant, the Tom and Laurel Nebel Fellowship, and South Asia Initiative and Tata Grants.
Frances Cannon is the author and illustrator of Walter Benjamin: Reimagined (MIT Press, 2019), the graphic memoir The Highs and Lows of Shapeshift Ma and Big-Little Frank(Gold Wake Press, 2017), a book of paintings and poetic translations, Tropicalia(Vagabond Press, 2016), and a book of poems and prints, Uranian Fruit (Honeybee Press, 2016). In addition to teaching with VCFA, she teaches creative writing at Champlain College and visual arts courses at the Shelburne Craft School.
David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet(finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes(NYTBR Editors’ Choice).
The film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, in which Shields co-stars, was released by First Pond Entertainment in 2017; forthcoming in 2019 are two of Shields’s documentary films: LYNCH: A HISTORY and BURNING DOWN THE LOUVRE. His most recent books are Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention (October 2018) and The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (February 2019). He is a recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions.
Learn more about our readers on VCFA’s MFA in Writing & Publishing Faculty Page.
Antidote Books in Putney, VT will be featuring writers Rita Banerjee, Emily Pettit, and Ruth Antoinette Rodriguez at their 2-year Anniversary Reading at at 8 pm on Friday, August 23. Stop by 120 Main Street in Putney, VT, and celebrate Antidote Books and these wonderful writers on August 23!
E M I L Y P E T T I T is a poet, artist, editor, and teacher from Western, MA. She is the author of Blue Flame (Carnegie Mellon University Press) and Goat In The Snow (Birds LLC). Emily is an editor for Factory Hollow Press and jubilat.
R I T A B A N E R J E E is the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and the editor of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press). She is the author of the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (Finishing Line Press).
R U T H A N T O I N E T T E R O D R I G U E Z is a Houston-born poet living in Vermont. Her poems have appeared in jubilat. She is an alumna of the Fine Arts Work Center, The Home School, and the Community of Writers. She co-founded Antidote Books in 2017 and serves as an associate chapbook editor at BOAAT Press.
Rita Banerjee has selected the winner of the 2019 Spider Road Press’s Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize!
Congratulations to Melissa Huckabay, winner of the 2019 Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize for her moving, well-crafted piece, “The Playground!” Melissa is a Houston-area teacher, poet, fiction writer and playwright. Her poetry has been featured in Remembered Arts Journal and The Inkling, and her short plays have appeared on several stages in Houston. A University of Texas at Austin honors graduate, Melissa has taught high-school and middle-school English and also worked as a writer in residence for Writers in the Schools. Before becoming a teacher, Melissa was an award-winning journalist and public-relations writer. When she’s not writing, Melissa is a mom, an actress and a musician who believes in the power of the arts to change the world. Look for her piece in the bonus section of the next SRP e-collection, coming in 2020.
SRP is also pleased to award honorable mentions to four writers of outstanding flash fiction pieces: Angélique Jamail, Renee Lake, Charissa Beukema, and Lucy Shapiro. Look for their stories on our website in the coming months.
We thank all of the talented writers from the US, Canada, and the UK who entered this year!
Entries for the are now open and writers can find out more about the prize here.
The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Paris Writing Retreat will take place from July 17-22, 2019. Situated in heart of Paris’ Montparnasse neighborhood, amongst the fresh and popular open air markets and charming boutiques, the hotel stay is full of Parisian charm and our classes will take place in a beautiful Moroccan themed room that opens to a courtyard that can also be used by our writers. Retreat activities will include craft of writing seminars and creative writing workshops, literary tours of Paris. If you’re serious about writing and want to soak in some exquisite French culture this summer, join our retreat in Paris! The faculty includes award-winning writers Kazim Ali, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. If you’d like to join us in Paris, France, please apply online at cww.submittable.com by June 15, 2019. More info: cww.nyc