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General Events

A Weekend Writers’ Retreat with A Public Space


Thursday, September 12 - Sunday, September 15 Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, 120 Broadway, Tivoli, NY

Nurture new work and expand and explore technique with A Public Space at the Weekend Writers' Retreat: a long weekend of workshops, literary talks, and evening events at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, New York.

The retreat will include morning workshops with limited participants (5 to 7 per workshop); afternoon literary talks; and an array of evening events, including readings and a Saturday BBQ. There will also be opportunities for informal conversations with authors and editors and independent generative exercises, as well as complimentary tickets to events at Kaatsbaan's Annual Festival.

The retreat will take place at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park. Tivoli is in New York's Hudson Valley, about two hours from New York City and one hour from Albany. Participants have the option of staying on-site at Kaatsbaan, or off-site. There are several inns and hotels in the area. On-site participants will stay in Kaatsbaan's Dancers' Inn, which provides motel-style accommodations, bucolic views and private baths.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. There is no fee to apply. Applicants must be 21 years of age by September 1, 2024, to apply. Capacity is limited, and applying early is recommended. The application can be found here.

Questions? Write for more information.

Thursday, September 12 - Sunday, September 15
in person

Kaatsbaan Cultural Park
120 Broadway Tivoli, NY 12583 

On-site (room and board): $1,250
Off-site (includes daily lunch, and Saturday dinner): $1,000

Jo Ann Beard: Interpreting Memory
In order to write meaningfully about the world, we must be fully engaged with it, through deliberate thought and focused exploration; the same is true of writing about ourselves. In this workshop, we will practice the art of thinking, observing, and of self-examination—each involving silence and separation from distraction, and the ongoing work of developing a relationship with one’s own intellect, and one’s own story. Good personal writing requires both self-discovery and discovery of something outside the self, but to begin all that’s needed is a willingness to follow an idea to its fruition. Come to class prepared to read and discuss some short examples of brilliant essays and to write freely, based on short, open-ended prompts. This is a workshop aimed at generating work and ideas, without judgment or criticism.

Jo Ann Beard’s books include the essay collections The Boys of My Youth and Festival Days, which was a New York Times Notable Book and Boston Globe Best Book of the Year; and the novel In Zanesville. The Collected Works of Jo Ann Beard was published last year by Serpent’s Tail. The recipient of a Whiting Award and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, she teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

Jai Chakrabarti: Poetic Forms in Fiction
The rational mind can feel like the enemy of fiction, trapping us in patterns that feel too well-worn, lacking some essential mystery. How do we allow the unexpected beauty of the subconscious to find us on the page? In this weekend workshop we’ll experiment with applying the structures and patterns we find in poetry to our fiction, to see what we might discover. We’ll look at forms such as the haibun, the ghazal, the zuihitsu, and the golden shovel to understand how the art of these constraints can influence short stories and novels. Most importantly, we’ll make space for generative exercises, allowing us to tap into the creative core of the lyric element to discover the shapes of new stories.

Jai Chakrabarti is the author of the novel A Play for the End of the World, which won the National Jewish Book Award, and was short-listed for the Rabindranath Tagore Prize and long-listed for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and the story collection A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness. His short fiction has been anthologized in the O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories, and awarded a Pushcart Prize.

Mary-Beth Hughes: The Next New Dance
“They’re all wondering about the new dance… I don’t have ideas exactly, a feeling it will be a fairly long work and quite complex.” —Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham describes gathering his dancers for a first rehearsal with only a few scraps of movement formed. The rest would be discovered. This weekend workshop will offer an opportunity to lay a few foundation pieces for the discovery (or re-discovery) of a long-form work of fiction—a novella, a novel, or interconnected stories. We’ll engage in a variety of in-class exercises and experiments together. Every day we’ll begin again. There will be homework. This workshop is for writers with “a feeling” for a longer work and for writers already deep in the sticky middle. Valuable touchstones might be Alice Munro’s trio of Juliet stories in the collection Runaways (and the film they inspired, Pedro Almodóvar’s Julietta). Also, the Hattie chapters and the powerful through-line they offer in Ayana Mathis’s novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. Or trace a concept: justice, fixed and murderous, then almost miraculously, fluid and transformative in the three short plays of Aeschylus’s Oresteia. Lewis Hyde’s A Primer for Forgetting, and Merce Cunningham’s Changes: Notes on Choreography, are highly recommended. Perhaps a stack of essential reading (film, music, dance…) is already forming around your intended project?

Mary-Beth Hughes is a novelist and story writer. Her recent work includes the interconnected stories of The Ocean House.

Samantha Hunt: The Atlas of Everything
Many narratives function like sportscars or a hunter’s heart-seeking arrow. They move swiftly, without meandering, to their target: the end. Ursula K. LeGuin wrote, “I'm not telling that story. We've heard it, we've all heard all about all the sticks, spears, and swords…but we have not heard about the thing to put things in, the container for the thing contained. That is a new story. A novel is a medicine bundle. That is why I like novels: instead of heroes they have people in them.” In this generative weekend workshop, we will consider mapmaking and atlas building as a model for creating container narratives. An atlas holds thousands of routes that interlace and cross, some of them, are even non-heroic. When we write in a cartographic model, there is even the possibility that we might get lost (from los, a disbanding of our armies.) We will focus on one thing. We will question borders, boundaries, and the plurality of personhood. Fernando Pessoa wrote, “I know myself only as a symphony.” We will look at gorgeous maps, stories, and essays as we begin writing our own atlases, considering macro and miniature worlds; the simultaneity of history, memory, the present, and the future. We will get lost and know time’s relative speeds, walking the world as psychogeographists, reawakened to wonder.

Samantha Hunt’s books include the novels The Seas, The Invention of Everything Else, and Mr. Splitfoot; the story collection The Dark Dark and The Unwritten Book, a collection of essays. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bard Fiction Prize, and the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Prize. Her work has been translated into twelve languages.

Robert Sullivan: Writing with Water—Reading Landscapes
In this weekend workshop we will use poetry and prose alongside weather maps and tide charts to help us think about where we live when we are writing—and how to write about where we live. We will read work that touches New York Harbor and the Hudson Valley in order to jump-start our own re-surveys of the places we see every day.

Robert Sullivan is the author of several nonfiction books, including Rats, The Meadowlands, My American Revolution, and most recently Double Exposure: Re-surveying the West with Timothy O'Sullivan, America's Most Mysterious War Photographer. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, New York, Vogue, and elsewhere. He was born in New York City and now lives in Philadelphia, after living for many years in Portland, Oregon.

Please note: There will be instructor feedback to class exercises and work read aloud during the workshop. However, instructors will not be able to provide additional critiques or reviews of manuscripts.

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