Laura’s Mexica Writing Fiestas!

Laura’s Mexican Writing Fiestas are dedicated to the notion that writing can be a pleasure as well as a serious craft. Immerse yourself in your writing and be inspired by the beauty of San Miguel– its art, food, and culture.
Next Writing Fiestas: July 24-30–Travel writing and photography; Oct. 23-29 2011–non-fiction, including memoir and personal essay.
Laura’s Mexican Writing Fiesta is much more than a writing workshop–it’s an immersion in Mexican culture, a chance to relax and pamper yourself in a luxurious environment, an opportunity to eat great Mexican food, meet some of the interesting local artistsshop for some beautiful jewelry and pottery, and have a few margaritas along the way. You’ll have the advantage of seeing the beautiful colonial town of San Miguel de Allende with someone who knows its secrets well. The writing workshop is small–limited to nine–so that you will get very individualized attention from Laura. She’ll start with a private conference to talk about your writing goals, and finish up with another one-on-one writing session. The workshop is held in a luxurious park villa in a very central location, with gated security and easy access to the park and the jardin in the center of town. Three luxurious private rooms with baths are available in the villa.
The July workshop focuses on  travel and photography, featuring Laura and Cristina Taccone, a widely-published photographer whose photographs of Mayan women and their costumes are in the Mexican Museum of Art. Laura and Cristina will teach you how to tell compelling stories about place using words and photos. Whether you don’t know how to hold your camera, or just need some tips from a pro, Cristina will help you take the photos that can help sell your story–and there’s no more photogenic place than San Miguel de Allende.
Let me know if you’re interested in signing up! Email laura@laurafraser.com for rates and hotel packages.
Dates: July 24-30 2011, October 23-29, 2011 (Day of the Dead extension available). $1200 for the July workshop includes photography instruction; $995 for the October workshop; hotel packages are available (including in the villa).
All workshops include an evening margarita reception, coffee and pastries each day for breakfast, a daily morning writing workshop, a guided tour of San Miguel, two afternoon photography or writing workshops, an excursion to local folk artists, a cooking class in the country, one lunch at the villa, and a celebratory dinner and reading.

Some testimonials:

Laura Fraser is as gifted as a writing instructor as she is a NYT best-selling author.  Not every great writer can teach writing, but Laura excels at both.  With enthusiasm and compassion, she breaks down each aspect of personal writing and invites her students to be honest, bold and daring on the page.  Under her guidance the words easily flow and what seemed challenging and confusing before, takes shape with new structure and voice. Her “Writing From Experience” workshop in San Miguel is much more than a workshop – it’s a cultural fiesta!   While the writing classes are incredibly constructive and informative, the excursions into San Miguel’s colorful lifestyle, food, music and history make the whole experience one I’ll never forget.

Gwen Mayes,  Lawyer, Freelance Health Policy Writer

“Laura’s workshop was a pleasure and more importantly, the structure of the sessions and her facilitation allowed for very practical feedback.   I do not think that every writer can create an environment where the workshop portion is actually useful, that is, where the participants can be constructive, not too nice and not too mean.  But that is exactly what happened.  The format allowed for a lot of learning (for me, especially on structure), a lot of re-writes and a lot of fun.  And of course, San Miguel!  What can you say?  Beauty, charm and friendly people – a perfect spot for a workshop.”

Carol Merchasin, lawyer and San Miguel de Allende resident

Laura Fraser’s writer’s workshop in San Miguel was everything I’d hoped it would be and much, much more.  The accommodations were not just comfortable, they were absolutely luxurious and very secure.  Our classes were enlightening and constructive with feedback given in a very positive manner. Sometimes it can be beyond intimidating to bare your soul in a writing group, but Laura made it a wonderful experience.  She is an intelligent,  experienced and very skillful writer who understands and embraces the craft of writing.  She’s able to get that across easily in her classes.  I left with renewed enthusiasm to see my writing project through to completion.

Fran Tunno.  Copywriter and voiceover actress

We learned to make Chiles en Nogada at Patsy’s cooking class

Workingshopping every morning; plenty of time to relax, explore, and write in the afternoon.

Some local color, and the gardens at the villa.

About the workshop: This workshop is for experienced (though not necessarily published) writers who would like an unhurried, relaxing, but serious atmosphere to write stories from their life experiences–whether travel, memoir, personal essay, or family history. We will work on loosening up your writing, paring it down, finding themes, structuring your piece, and polishing your prose into something you might publish. While the workshop will mainly focus on writing, I will also discuss the practicalities of publishing, finding an agent, editor, and publisher, as well as self-publishing. During the week, you’ll write about your experiences with the food, art, and culture of San Miguel de Allende.

I will have an individual conference with each student at the beginning and the end of the week to tailor the workshop to your writing needs, and to talk about your progress. Each student should come prepared with a piece of writing of up to 1500 words to workshop. During the week, you can revise your work, discuss a larger structure for a memoir or book, or write a new piece. Each student should bring a laptop computer to email their work to other students (email Laura if that is a problem). Between workshop sessions, there will be plenty of time to explore the colonial artists’ town of San Miguel de Allende, to wander its cobblestone streets, and visit its galleries, restaurants, and live music venues. We will have several meals and excursions planned, but plenty of free time for writing or sitting in the sun on one of Villa Clara Bella’s many terraces, or right next door in the Parque Juarez.

PLEASE NOTE THAT SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE IS A VERY SAFE DESTINATION WITH NO PROBLEMS WITH NARCOTRAFFICANTES, KIDNAPPING, ETC. REGISTER NOW (Contact Laura if San Miguel de Allende resident for discount)

About Villa Clara Bella: This luxurious villa is inside a gated community right next to San Miguel de Allende’s lovely Parque Juarez, and just four blocks from the central jardin and Parroquia church. The villa has sumptuous gardens and terraces, with all kinds of private nooks for writing or dreaming. The workshop sessions will be held in the formal, Spanish-style dining room, or outdoors on a terrace. The rooftop terrace is planted with olive trees, herbs, and flowers, and has a stunning 360-degree view of San Miguel de Allende. The villa has wireless internet, a Vonage phone line (free calls to the US for all students), and loads of amenities.There are three bedrooms with private baths in the villa for those who are first to register; otherwise, there are plenty of nearby accommodations.

The Writing Fiesta can also arrange your transportation and reservations at other hotels, and Laura will make suggestions or reservations at her favorite local restaurants. It’s never a bad idea to book an extra day or two to become acquainted with the town before the workshop.

Andale!

My not-so-unhappy childhood

“If you knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, the least you could’ve done was give me an unhappy childhood!”

Denver

Denver’s my home town, so it was great to do a reading at the Tattered Cover’s new, cavernous Highlands Ranch bookstore, which many of my parents’ friends attended. They appreciated the affectionate part I wrote about my parents, and I was glad that my parents were adventuresome enough to give me something to write about. Mom was sort of notorious among her suburban friends for doing things like hopping a freight train across Colorado (and my dad, appreciating the romance and adventure of it all, drove her to the station). Here’s a little excerpt from All Over the Map:

In 1971, Mom got the idea to take us four daughters to Mexico for the summer. This was before her Outward Bound trip, but she was already on her adventure streak. She wanted us to see something of the world outside of Littleton, a suburb where most dads worked for aerospace companies and almost everyone voted Republican.

But mom could only venture so far outside of Littleton. Since we weren’t going to move out of the suburbs—dad, a pediatrician, had an established practice in town, and they both enjoyed the sprawling lawn and proximity to the mountains–she brought other cultures into our home. Or, as we kids saw it, she brought home strays. Every few months, new people would take up residence in the guest room: Navajo children, a Cuban family, Swiss exchange students, and visiting Greeks. During the Vietnam War, she opened the door to several anti-war students who were participating in a program called “ATSIV,” which is “VISTA” spelled backwards, where instead of going into poor neighborhoods to work, post-college kids went into wealthier homes to “raise the consciousness” of the suburbs, and to have a nice free place to stay and meals to eat between demonstrations. June, my favorite of these ATSIV students, splashed around naked in a fountain in downtown Denver just to see what would happen (she got arrested–then eventually went on to drive a cab, join a cult, adopt a guru-bestowed name, and settle in a communal house in Northern California with both her boyfriend and ex-husband, practicing visualization and taking esoteric workshops in self-improvement).

My father wasn’t exactly thrilled with this parade of visitors, though he’d go along with the invasions cheerfully enough as long as he could occasionally shut the door to his den, light a pipe, and read in peace. Dad sometimes lost his affable composure when a hippie student crashed his motorcycle trying to put it in reverse or played Frank Zappa really loud when he came home from seeing wailing babies and fretting mothers all day long, and then he’d decide his consciousness had been raised quite enough. He was more interested in the foreign students than the political ones, and eager to inflict his Spanish, French, or German on whomever was passing through. Now and then he went off to work on a reservation with the Native American public health services, and is proud to say he’s the only white guy you’ll ever meet who can do a complete physical in Navajo.

When Mom brought up the idea of moving to Mexico for the summer, Dad was initially reluctant. It’s not as if you could trust the hippie students to mow the lawn in perfectly even stripes, the way he does. But as with most things—voting Democrat, getting a toy poodle, hosting radical prison activists for cocktails—he eventually went along with Mom’s idea. She’d heard about San Miguel de Allende from her friend Janet MacKenzie, another of the dozen Democrats in Littleton, whose artistic and worldly tastes far transcended the avocado green, shag-rug ambience of the neighborhood. Jan MacKenzie had recently returned from several weeks in San Miguel de Allende, tanned and resplendent in colorful woven shawls and oversized pieces of silver jewelry, her four children effortlessly chattering in Spanish. The MacKenzies had studied at an art school, the Institute de Allende, and stayed at a boarding house in the center of town.

Mom started planning our trip.

After the reading, though, I got to thinking that for a memoirist, I’m really at a disadvantage. It’s much easier to write a memoir when your parents were savage alcoholics or crazy single mothers who drove you around the country in an Airstream and dressed up on Sundays to go to open houses for places they couldn’t afford.

My parents, on the other hand, had a stable and loving relationship, took us off on wilderness trips and car camping in Canyonlands, signed us up for piano and skating lessons, and went out of their way to take us to Mexico to experience a different culture and language–which is what ended up making me a traveler who loves languages. At least I have my parents to blame for that.

My parents posted a New Yorker cartoon on their fridge for awhile: “If you knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, the least you could’ve done was give me an unhappy childhood!”

It was wonderful to see all my parents’ friends at a party that my brother-in-law Roy catered, with beautiful food, Colorado sunny and blooming. Dolores Curran was there, my parents’ friend who is a freelance writer. When I was young, visiting the Currans’ house, it dawned on me that writing stories was actually a career choice, and I never considered another. My parents, perhaps never realizing that they’d have to sit through a reading where I read about my childhood, were supportive all the way, never once mentioning law school. Bless them.