Summer Study Abroad

Once back when I was a young writing student I wanted a little more than my own college experience was offering, and so I signed up for and took a summer writing workshop at Bennington College between my junior and senior years.

It was one of the best adventures I ever had.

I had no idea what to expect. I found a beautiful, slightly haunted Vermont college town with melancholy war memorials and a beautiful river with white stones where I soon learned to pass the time, drinking a beer and cooling off in the water. I had signed up to study first with Toby Olson and then with Mary Robison. I remember Mary Robison and James Robison sitting on the stage like rock stars, wearing sunglasses indoors due to the stage lights. Mary’s hair was crimped, and it made her my hero right away.

This was my first time experiencing the joys of, say, standing in line for beer behind Joy Williams, or watching Joyce Carol Oates write all the way through someone else’s reading.

This summer, if you are up for it, I’m teaching in two summer programs, two very different experiences, and both have a few spots left. The first, June 1-12, the Mont Blanc workshops, is in the French Alps, in Chamonix, and promises to be a quieter more retreat-like experience, with classes for a few hours each day during the week (weekends off), and of course, the stunning mountain scenery.

Annecy, a beautiful lake village near Chamonix.

In this one, for the hardy crew there, I’ll be functioning a bit more as a mentor, the teaching will be more direct, and I’ll be offering writing prompts, and writing professional tips in addition to craft instruction, ranging from how to pitch editors and agents to social media for writers. It’ll be more of a mentoring experience. It won’t be solemn but it will be a good getaway. Other faculty for that session includes Ann Hood, Michael Dahlie, and Erin Belieu.

The second, June 28- July 10, in Lisbon, Disquiet International, will be a larger group and has fewer class meetings, but includes some guest stars like the amazing Mary Gaitskill, who will visit my class and talk to us about the writing of “The Other Place”, a favorite story for me of hers. This program has a secondary focus that includes learning about Portuguese literature and Portuguese writers in Lisbon, and while a little more urban as a result, promises to be an adventure.

The Torre de Belem in Lisbon, which I fully intend to explore.

I can’t say we will sneak into some Portuguese historical site, but I can’t say we won’t either. Other faculty here includes Leslie Jamison, Stefan Kiesbye, and Eileen Myles.

If you’re interested and afraid of last minute summer airfare costs, consider booking a roundtrip through Dublin–flights round trip right now are about 600 dollars through Dublin–and then book your own connecting flights on low-cost local carriers like easyjet or Aer Lingus or Ryanair on to Geneva for Chamonix, or Lisbon for Disquiet. That’s what I did. And for those of you who are already in Europe, well, it is cheaper than traveling to the US to study with me. I hope to see you there.

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