The 2019 Kolkata Writers’ Retreat

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April 21-27, 2019
Facilitators: Ananya Sarkar; Jordan Hartt
Registration: please contact
2020: Registration for the 2020 Kolkata Writers’ Retreat will open on September 19, 2019.

This retreat takes place at the Oberai Grand hotel; we will also spend time at local bookshops and restaurants. 

The Kolkata Writers’ Retreat is designed to get you to a completed short-short story in one week in one of the most inspirational places for writers in the world. This experience also includes a private, two-hour one-on-one discussion of your work.

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Intensive morning discussions are followed by leisurely afternoons to write, explore, and be

Workshop Description: “The Garden and the Wild”

Some of literature’s richest stories and poems find inspiration from such settings and metaphors as the “garden”–the planned, the ordered, the seemingly protected–and the “wild”: the unplanned, the unordered, the seemingly unprotected.

How do our characters move in the earth that surrounds them? What kind of place(s)–sculpted/gardened or “wild”–do they move in, and how do these different environments affect both their internal and external lives?

Some writers locate within parks or gardens elements and insights into human nature. Consider the work of Rabindranath Tagore, or instance, or Jane Austen or Hafez-e Shirãzi. Other writers, including Toni Morrison (“Paradise” and “Tar Baby”), Virginia Woolf (“Kew Gardens”), Katherine Mansfield (“The Garden Party”) and John Milton (“Paradise Lost”) have explored the concept of the garden as exclusionary: in order to wall a place in,  what and who are kept out

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Kahini programs focus on craft, community, and inspiration

Exploring the concept of natural “wildness” also yields rich setting and metaphor: consider the work of Barry Lopez, Robert Michael Pyle, Terry Tempest Williams, Edward Abbey, John Haines, Ken Kesey, and Jourdan Imani Keith, among many others–including William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” and its many contemporary responses.

How do our characters respond to metaphorical or literal “wild” settings? What does it mean to have one’s external setting or interior life disordered, in some fashion? Is there more order in wildness/wilderness than in human-sculpted “order”? Further: in what ways are cities “ordered”? In what ways are they “wild”? How does this affect–or not–our characters?

As you can see, we are less interested in answering these questions in any kind of definitive way, and more interested in posing these questions to our characters. 

Live and write steps from the largest library in India
Live and write only steps from the largest library in India

We’ll begin the workshop by sharing true or fictional stories from our own lives involving our experiences with both “ordered” and “unordered” outdoor spaces–in whatever sense that means–and we’ll explore how the natural or cultivated world influence our characters in their own stories. Short readings–and long discussions–will be provided in the workshop.

For this workshop, we will specifically look at five short stories: one each by Ashapoorna Devi, Mahasweta Devi, Katherine Mansfield, Rabindranath Tagore, and Virginia Woolf. These stories will provide the inspiration and the fuel to begin the workshop.

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Write and connect, all over the world

Much discussion and freewriting will comprise the first half of the week. Then we’ll switch focus to our own writing: we’ll each write a short piece of up to 1,000 words (a complete piece or excerpt from a longer work) and do a full, half-hour discussion on your new, raw draft.

Kahini’s leisurely discussions of each piece are famous not only for how quickly they advance each individual piece, but for the richness of the craft discussion that comes along with the workshop of the piece itself.

Very short fictions are nearly always experimental, exquisitely calibrated, reminiscent of Frost’s definition of a poem—a structure of words that consumes itself as it unfolds, like ice melting on a stove.
~Joyce Carol Oates

You’ll leave the workshop with a completed and workshopped piece ready for advanced revision, with new connections and community as a writer, and with great memories to last a lifetime.

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Our retreat location is central to parks, libraries, and all the energy and inspiration of Kolkata


Sunday, April 21
7-8 pm: welcoming
Monday, April 22
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop.
Tuesday, April 23
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop.
Wednesday, April 24
Writing day
Thursday, April 25
10 am-1 pm: workshop sessions
Friday, April 26
10 am-1 pm: workshop sessions
Saturday, April 27
Departure by 11 am


asAnanya Sarkar is a short-story writer, book reviewer, and poet from Kolkata. Her work has been published in such magazines as The Times of India, Woman’s Era, New Woman, 4indianwoman, Children’s World, KidsWorldFun, Muse India, Induswomanwriting, Conversations Across Borders, Indian Ruminations, Earthen Lamp Journal, Spark and The Madras Mag. Ananya won the first prize in both the Story Writing Contest by the American Library, Kolkata, as part of the Fiction Festival 2008 and the Induswomanwriting Poetry Contest, 2012. She was also a prize winner in the LoudReview Review Writing Competition, 2012 and Writers’ HQ Story Competition, 2016. Reading books, watching sitcoms and going for long walks are her favourite hobbies.

jordan copyJordan Hartt is the author of the short-story collections “Leap” and “Drifting,” available from Tebot Bach Press. He facilitates the creative-writing program Studies in Short Fiction; hosts four annual writing residencies in Po’ipū, Kaua’i; and gives philanthropically to artists and visionaries around the world.