Passage to India inspires writers: 2016 trip set for Jan. 16-25

Alice-Catherine Jennings wrote poems, A.L.A. Covington wrote a short story, Skye Wallin produced a music video — and that was just the beginning.

Writers found a flood of inspiration when they trekked to India with Spalding MFA in Writing faculty member Helena Kriel in January 2015 for a writing trip that included the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Inspired by the literature festival and the deep immersion in the sights and sounds of India, Janet Schneider went on a reading binge of women Indian authors, then started incorporating references to India in a short story. Now, she is toying with a story about an encounter she had with someone while on the trip.

Since the trip, Angela Elles has written poems and started a creative nonfiction piece about the events leading up to the trip, when she experienced a mysterious illness that was behaving suspiciously like leukemia. “Which made me even more determined to make the trip happen,” she writes in an email interview. “I ended up being fine, and writing about it has been fun, actually, because it was so intense and now I can focus that intensity into the writing.”

Registration open for 2016 trip

In 2016, Kriel will lead another trip, which wraps a writing workshop around one of the world’s largest literature festivals. Kriel’s trip is Jan. 16-25, 2016, with the festival falling at the end of the excursion. The trip includes wildlife safaris in Ranthambore to find tigers; visiting the magnificent Taj Mahal; wandering around ancient palaces; experiencing rural India and the peace of village life; being a guest at a sumptuous wedding; seeing a Bollywood movie in an old cinema; riding rickshaws through one of the world’s greatest waterbird sanctuaries, and more.


Creative momentum

For last year’s participants,  momentum from the trip has continued well into 2015, as Jennings and two other writers on the trip are collaborating on a chapbook. Two of Jennings’ poems are published online on the trip website at

india-jaipurfestivalWhat hooked Katerina Stoykova-Klemer on taking the trip in early 2015 was Kriel’s missive that “”Before you sit down to write, you have to stand up to live.”

“So, I’ve taken this to heart,” she writes in an email.

Since returning home, the Bulgarian-born poet says India has influenced her writing more indirectly than directly. “I am writing about the same things (I was writing before), but I often drink masala chai while writing.”

Stoykova-Klemer says she found the country enthralling. It’s “the immediacy of every experience, and the unpredictability of living there,” she writes.

Gritty, sensual, and familiar

india-henna handsMany of those interviewed agree there is no such thing as a typical day. “What’s not to love about a country where people greet each other with ‘namaste?’ ” writes Schneider in an email interview. “India felt both familiar (humans living their lives) and other worldly (living their lives on an entirely different plane of existence both more spiritual and more gritty).”

Schneider says her writing is definitely more sensual since returning, and Elles says Kriel’s strength in screenwriting influenced her to focus on the dramatic moment in her poems.

“I am surprised how much is still flowing out of me nine months later. I must have stored it all in my giant “belly” just like I had hoped: to be like Ganesha was our goal–always taking it in,” Elles writes, referring to the elephant-headed Hindu god of beginnings. Ganesha is known as the patron of letters, who favors the writer.

What surprised Jennings most about the trip was discovering that there is order in chaos. Stoykova-Klemer was most surprised that women were rarely seen in the streets.

Jennings said she had been wanting to go to India for a long time. The big draws were wrapping the trip around the Jaipur writing festival, the fact that it would be a small group and the knowledge that Kriel offered. Though Kriel is South African-born and lives in America, she has immersed herself in Indian culture for more than 20 years, working and traveling there on projects.

How to register

The registration of $2,699 for twin occupancy ($3,084 for single occupancy) includes the workshop, the literature festival, accommodations and meals. Air travel to India and incidentals such as camera charges, tips and personal expenditures are not included. A deposit of $500 secures your spot.

Growing as an individual and a writer

india-tigerElles says Kriel’s writing trip can’t compare to any other. “It’s not about relaxing, and sipping a hot drink and putting down a few words,” she writes. “It is about getting outside your comfort zone, where you can really grow as an individual, and it’s about adding intensity to the writing process.”

Toward the end of the 2015 trip, Stoykova-Klemer experienced a magical moment. “We woke up in the most beautiful desert camp, and I took a stroll by myself in the desert, where I found a shed snake skin, which I consider a symbol of growth.”

To sign up, see photos, read poems, watch the music video or otherwise get inspired, go to

Greece Summer 2015


(Fiction, Spring 2013)

Greece has always been on my bucket list. Imagine how thrilling, then, to learn that I could go with not only my husband, Barry Drudge, (a current Spalding MFA candidate) but with our Spalding family.

From the Byron poetry reading at the Temple of Poseidon in front of the block that Byron carved his name into, to our magical visit to the Acropolis in Athens, the trip did not disappoint.

Being there during the historical economic Referendum was also something we will never forget.

Even the tourist areas offered treasures beyond the expected. When we were taken by a hand painted plaque of Apollo, the artist rushed out and offered to touch it up for us and to sign her name on the back. She also invited us in to see the rest of her work, though we didn’t have time to take advantage of it. We think of her every time we glance at her Grecian blue art.

Greek salad for breakfast every day, souvlaki on a stick, Greek honey and croissants, a multitude of olives…the food was amazing and never ending, it seemed.

At Fodele, the all-inclusive resort in Crete, we found time to relax with alums and students in the evenings. The traditional Spalding abroad sing-along was held on the beach this time, the waves competing with the music led by Barry and Atul until the setting sun had long since disappeared.

Surprises popped up as if Greece had been preparing them just for us: I found a highly decorated, ancient chapel on a morning walk hiding on a hillside, just out of sight. I ran back to get Barry and insisted that he and the camera accompany me to it before breakfast.

Even when we weren’t being tourists or students, every time we looked up there was someone who would “get” our obscure joke about the Bloomsbury group or who would gladly accompany us to dinner. Or rescue us when we had been abandoned at the wrong site by our taxi driver. (True story.)

All of this was only sweetened by the insightful, instructive lectures and the impressive readings by both students and staff. We discussed books we had all read (always a luxury) and were even able to ask the authors who were there questions (definitely a luxury) about them.

My journal is overflowing with publishing tidbits, websites and books to check out, traveling ephemera, and page after page of inspiration, ideas, and gratitude for this experience that has not – could not – leave me unchanged. A traditional tour booked through an agency could get you to Greece, but it couldn’t hope to offer all the rest.


For 2016, write like a Roman

MFA alums invited to travel to summer residency, June 29-July 11, 2016

Join the MFA program and our Alumni Association director, Terry Price, as we explore the literature, art, and culture of Rome during our summer residency, June 29-July 11, 2016.

As an alum, you’re included in group meals as well as guided tours to the Forum and Colosseum, the Galleria Borghese, and the ancient Roman city of Ostia Antica. You can also opt to visit to the Vatican, take a walking tour of Rome’s Baroque and Catholic architecture, or enjoy a motorcoach ride along the Appian Way to the charming lake country outside Rome, complete with a stop for wine tasting. Spend your days journaling in a café, sitting in on MFA lectures, or exploring the city with like-minded alums. It’s your trip–dare we say your Roman holiday?

This year we’re partnering with WorldStrides, an acknowledged leader in quality educational travel, to make this the best possible summer residency and alumni trip. For complete details and to register, visit

Registration opens for SpaldingCon 2015: A way to make your writing sparkle post-graduation!

Check out our plans for our second SpaldingCon, November 19-21. SpaldingCon is our post-graduate writers’ conference.


Of particular interest to fiction folks is the workshop by Sena Jeter Naslund.

FICTION: Getting at the Heart, led by Sena Jeter Naslund
This workshop is a classic fiction workshop focusing on either short stories or excerpts from novels–not more than 16 pages in either case. We start by discussing what is best about each work. What most needs improvement is next on our agenda. As always, a Spalding workshop promises to be intellectually stimulating and emotionally supportive. Novel excerpts should be identified as such and introduced by a paragraph summarizing what has come before. A novel excerpt may by followed by a paragraph about where the book may go. If a short story manuscript is intended as part of a unified collection, the writer may wish to follow the story with a paragraph about the collection. (minimum 3, maximum 5 students; if this fills, our plan is to add another fiction workshop)

Also, we have some publishing sessions planned

Agents & Editors: When, Why & How to Connect, with Leslie Daniels
 Join Leslie Daniels, a veteran of publishing and a three hat wearer (agent/editor/writer) with insight and strategy on getting your work out there, for a 2-hour seminar on agents and editors. Open to the first 15 SpaldingCon participants who sign up for the session. This session will take place Friday morning and participants may also sign up for a workshop. (This session will be concurrent with other sessions.)

The Personal (Narrative) Is Political (and Cultural): Using the News to Frame Your Essays for Publication, by Erin Keane
The personal essay is a useful calling card and platform-builder for any writer, not only memoirists and essayists, and there are more online outlets than ever publishing high-quality first-person writing. As the culture editor for, one of the first successful online-only culture and politics magazines, I’m particularly interested in publishing compelling narratives that personalize our wider cultural conversations. In this session, we’ll discuss why you should consider submitting to online magazines like ours in addition to your literary journal submissions, best practices for pitching editors, and why you should pay attention to pop culture and politics (even if you’re allergic to one or both).

Panel on Submitting to Literary Journals and Small Presses: how to find places to submit and tips on writing query letters.

Book Reviewing: how to write a book review and how to find outlets for book reviews

And if you’ve got a novel manuscript completed, you might be interested in a Novel Manuscript Review. Up to five alumni may submit novel manuscripts for critique by Karen Mann. Karen will make margin notes, give you a 3-4 page letter of comments, and have a 30 minute conference with you while other participants are in workshop. You can use your free time at SpaldingCon (while others are in workshop) to write. All SpaldingCon sessions are open to you except workshop. All manuscripts due by August 1. (Once participants have registered, instructions about how to submit the manuscript will be emailed.)

All of this included just for registering for SpaldingCon!

Poetry Discussion Lecture Series set for June 19-21

The second poetry lecture in the Spalding MFA Alumni Association’s Lecture Discussion Series is Greg Pape’s Spring 2007 lecture Shaping the Poem-Notes on Analogue Form, Origins, Connections & Juxtapositions.

This is an online, peer-based discussion. All Spalding MFA graduates are welcome and invited to participate in any of the discussions regardless of their genre.

You must have a Google account in order to participate. The discussions will take place using a private blog on Google Blogger. Therefore, you must have a Google account in order to participate, because only those Google accounts who have also been invited will be able to view and comment on the blog.

Registration is required. To sign up, send an email to Include your name, the year you graduated from Spalding, and your graduation genre(s). After you register, you will receive a confirmation email within three days that will contain additional information such as how to access the discussion blog and instructions on creating a Google account if needed.

Access to Materials

A blog post has been created on the Alumni Association Poetry Discussion private blog for this lecture. It contains links to the audio of the lecture, handouts, and other supplemental materials. You’ll have access to the blog post with these materials prior to the discussion period so that you have time to delve into the discussion materials.

Discussion Period

The discussion takes place online over a three-day period, Friday through Sunday, June 19-21. Please feel free to enter the discussion at any point during this time. While there will be three or four discussions questions to prime the pump, you don’t have to address those questions. You may discuss any topic you wish from the lecture, handout, or supplemental materials. Comments will be disabled after the discussion period ends.

Poetry-lecture dates for 2015: Feb 20-22, Jun 19-21, and Oct 23-25.

What is the Lecture Discussion Series?

The Lecture Discussion Series is a service offered by the Spalding MFA Alumni Association in support of our writing lives. The lecture discussions feature lectures by one of Spalding’s faculty that were recorded during a previous residency. Participants will have access to the lecture audio and other materials in advance of a three-day discussion period. Discussions take place online, at the convenience of the participant. While there will be a series for each genre, the pilot genre is POETRY. Each series might run a bit differently from the others.

Discussion moderator

The moderator for the Poetry Lecture Discussions is Nancy Chen Long, 2012 graduate in poetry. She handles registration, preparing the discussion blog post, ensuring the faculty-member’s lecture materials are available, finding supplemental materials, offering starter-questions that you are welcome to address if they interest you, and moderating the discussion as needed.

Register for alumni workshop by March 31

The Spalding MFA in Writing Alumni Association is pleased to announce that workshops will be offered at Homecoming 2015 (May 27 to May 31). All participants must sign up for workshops no later than March 31, 2015. These free workshops will have no more than four or five participants.

Homecoming Workshops have been assigned to the dates and times below: (Room Assignments will be posted later)

Fri. May 29 – 9 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Sat. May 30 – 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

As we did last year, writers must submit their piece at the time they commit to the workshop. We are also recruiting workshop leaders.

 If you’d like to participate in a workshop kindly read the directions below and submit your work along with:

1.      YOUR NAME

2.      EMAIL


4.      GENRE:

A.    Fiction short story (up to 20 pages)

B.     Short CNF (up to 20 pages)

C.     Partial book length Fiction (up to 100 pages)

D.    Partial book length CNF (up to 100 pages)

E.      W4C&YA

F.       Poetry (3 to 5 poems no more than 10 pages)

G.    Screenwriting

H.     Playwriting

5. Would you consider leading a workshop?

Please send the above information to me at: No later than March 31, 2015. I will make every effort to get materials to participants by April 15, 2015.

If you are interested in workshop participation, please keep in mind the following:

1.       You must read all materials and come prepared to give verbal and written feedback to participants in your workshop. Participants must submit 1-3 type written pages of critique to each workshop participant as well as verbal feedback. All written feedback must be distributed at the time of the workshop.

2.      Once you commit to a workshop please keep in mind that some participants purchase airline tickets and pay for hotel stays in advance. Only commit if you are sure you can attend.

3.      Each workshop will be assigned a leader. The leader will review all workshop materials in advance of the workshop for suitability.

4.      During workshop we will follow the rules set forth by the MFA program. Verbal critiques should be focused on the strength of the submission followed by weaknesses and suggestions for improvement.

5.      Though the purpose of the workshop is to provide critique, conversation about craft points and craft books is encouraged, keeping in mind time allotments.


Register for Homecoming 2015 on The Spalding Alumni MFA in Writing website pages and the Homecoming 2015 schedule.   

We look forward to seeing you at Homecoming 2015.

Homecoming 2015 – May 27-31

Here’s the information about the Spalding MFA in Writing homecoming celebration May 27-31, 2015. Register here.
Below is the schedule, which will be updated when the program announces the writer in residence.
5:15-6:30 p.m. Diana M. Raab Distinguished Writer in Residence (Brown Hotel, 16th floor, Gallery Ballroom)


1:00-1:30 p.m. Registration.  (Brown Hotel, 2nd floor, Bluegrass Room) 

• Pick up short reading for Literary Chat

1:30 – 2:00 p.m. Alumni Gathering, Brown Hotel, 2nd floor, Bluegrass Room
Gather, say hello to old friends, and receive an official “Welcome Home”  from Sena Jeter Naslund 

2:00 p.m. Afternoon programming

• Urban Bourbon trail, led by Marjetta Geerling

Catch up with us at any point on the trail between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Text Marjetta at 305-695-9619 for the group’s current location.

• Another option, to be determined

5:15-6:15 p.m. Spalding’s Festival of Contemporary Writing. Readings by MFA Faculty, including program directors Sena Jeter Naslund and Kathleen Driskell (Brown Hotel, 16th floor, Gallery Ballroom) 

7:30-9:30 p.m.  Alumni Film Festival (hosted by Laura Morton Mattingly) and Alumni Play Festival (hosted by Justin Dobring) (Brown Hotel, Secretariat B)


9 a.m.-11:15. Alumni Workshops.

11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. A Literary Chat. Alumni gather to discuss a close reading of short pieces of work. Facilitated by Nancy Long. Readings to be distributed at Homecoming Registration. 

12:15- 1: 15 p.m. Lunch. (The ELC deli now serves subs, pizza, and salads.)

1:30-2:15 p.m. Alumni Faculty Lecture. (ELC Lectorium) Silas House. The Transformation of Beauty Into Action

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken…even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood,” Audre Lorde once wrote.  This lecture will expand on that notion and explore the ways that writing must seek to transform and be activist in its many ways, by telling one’s truth, by standing up for what one believes in, by observing and preserving. We will look at examples from writers like Marilynne Robinson, Larry Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

2:30-3:15 p.m. Cathy Medwick, magazine publishing. (ELC Lectorium) 

3:45-5:00 p.m. Celebration of Recently Published Books by Alumni. All students, alumni, and faculty welcome. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation Room) Book signing with Celebration authors to follow at SPLoveFest book expo. 

5:00-6:00 p.m. SPLoveFest. Alumni and students display their books, journals, and anthologies and/or bring promotional material regarding any artistic endeavor such as plays, movies, podcasts, literary services, blogs, websites, and more. Hors d’oeuvres and cash bar. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Secretariat)

6:00-7:00 p.m. MFA Moth: oral storytelling by students (cross-genre follow-up session). Alumni welcome. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation)

9:00 p.m. Alumni After-Party Literary Reading (hosted by Teneice Durrant) A slate of alumni will be reading from their work. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation)


9:00-10:15 a.m. Breakfast Mixer for alumni, Spring 2015/Fall 2015 graduates, faculty and staff. (Mansion Drawing/Dining Room)

10:30-11:30 a.m.  Regional Alumni Breakout Sessions. Alumni meet together, then breakout by region to discuss possible regional events. 3rd floor, Library 

11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.  Concurrent Panel, Presentation, and Agent Pitch 

• Living the Writing Life Alumni Panel with Teneice Durrant, Katrina Kittle, Terry Price, Julie Stewart, Justin Dobring, and Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. Alumni reflect on the many ways they keep writing alive in their day-to-day lives, including: inspiration and caring for your art in the midst of “real life,” ways that writing intersects with your life and other endeavors, and ways to use your MFA in addition to teaching. Each panelist will speak briefly then there will be a time for questions and lots of discussion.
• Dan Distasio: Creature from the E-lagoon: Navigating the Murky Science and Fiction of Online Teaching

According to the Babson Survey Research Group, about 7.1 million college students take online classes (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2015).  Good news for writers seeking faculty positions that offer flexibility, income and time to write. Sounds great? Not so fast.  Online schools are big business, and traditional schools are following the money trail.  Whether you teach for a private liberal arts school, or a mega for-profit institution, online teaching is a demanding, challenging and frustrating endeavor.   This session will examine the different schools and options available to potential online instructors, and the expectations, exaggerations, and exasperations related to online teaching.  Welcome to the E-lagoon!

• Agent Pitches with Vickie Weaver – If you’re ready to pitch your work to an agent, Vickie will give you a one-on-one opportunity to present to her and then she will give you feedback and ideas to improve your chances of getting an agent that’s right for you. This opportunity must be scheduled in advance of Homecoming with Vickie personally so that you can be prepared and there will be time for each presentation. Spots are limited and it’s first come, first serve. Email Vickie at

2:15-3:15 p.m. Spalding’s Festival of Contemporary Writing. PGRAs read from works-in-progress. (ELC Lectorium)

3:30-5:30 p.m. Alumni Workshops.

6:00 p.m. Graduation. (Brown Hotel, 16th floor, Gallery)

After-graduation reception. All welcome. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation)

7:30 p.m. Champagne Toast and Farewell Dinner. (Purchase ticket from Katy to attend.) (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Secretariat Room.


Have a safe trip! Put the next Homecoming on your calendar now. June 2-5, 2016.

Sign up for alumni trip to Greece by Feb. 1

Join the MFA in Writing Program as we travel to Greece this summer! The deadline to sign up is Feb. 1.

This year, the MFA in Writing Program will travel to Athens and Crete from June 24 through July 6.The sign-up period to go with us ends Feb. 1! If you’re interested, check out the link here. Or you can email either Katy Yocom or Terry Price if you have questions or need more details!

Also, check out the “essential information” for the trip. Remember…the deadline to sign up is Sunday! And if you can’t make it this year, then plan to join us for Rome in 2016 and Barcelona for 2017.

Here’s to seeing you in Greece!

All about Greece: An invitation from Katy Yocom




Hi there!

Fall residency is over, the holidays are approaching, and it’s mighty quiet here in the MFA office. In this little moment of lull, I’m thinking of you all, my fellow and sister alums.

Nostos is the Greek word for homecoming, as in, returning home from a long journey. It can also mean “Welcome home”–a phrase we’ve all heard many times from Sena on the first day of residency. Nostos is the root word for “nostalgia.”

So consider this an invitation home, since home is where your tribe is, even if that’s in Greece. You’re invited to join the MFA tribe and Alumni Association director Terry Price (and me) on our exploration of Greek literature, art and culture.

We’ll be staying in Athens and on the island of Crete, June 24-July 6. Alums are included in all the residency activities: group meals, guided tours, visits to the Acropolis and the Palace of Knossos, and more. There are options for a day trip to Delphi and a sunset excursion to Cape Sounion, overlooking the Aegean Sea. With no lecture reports to fill out and no critiques to write up, you can choose to spend your days journaling in a taverna, sitting in on MFA lectures, hanging out poolside at our all-inclusive resort in Crete, or exploring the local sights with like-minded alums.

Did I mention there are no lecture reports?

I hope you’ll join us on this little adventure. For a day-by-day itinerary, pricing information (including a $200 alum discount), and comments from travelers on previous alumni trips, visit . Enrollment is open until Feb. 1.

Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions. I’m always, always happy to hear from you, and we’d love to have you as part of the fun!

Before we travel, I’m going to teach Sena how to say “Nostos.” Wait–what am I saying; I’m sure she already knows.



2014: Snapshots of Prague and Berlin

By Cindy Corpier

Vacláv Havel Airport Prague: After a painless stop at immigration, met our EF Tour guides, Matt and Ildiko, British and Hungarian, respectively. Made a necessary purchase with Czech koruna: cappuccino. Too tired to try out my only Czech phrase, děkuji (thank you).

Opening dinner at the Café Imperial: Stunning dining room with pillars and walls covered in ceramic tile mosaics. My first (and last) traditional Czech dumpling. Toasts, hellos, hugs and laughter with 70+ writers & guests.

Walking Tour of The Castle Quarter: Perfect summer day. St. Vitus Cathedral, built between 1344 and 1929, contains a carved-wood relief of Prague, circa 1620 and an Art Nouveau window by Alfons Mucha. Learned the story of St. Ludmila, grandmother of St. Wenceslas, murdered in 921 AD. Choked with her own veil by her daughter-in-law’s henchmen—then canonized shortly thereafter. Among other things, she is patron saint of “troubles with in-laws.” Made our way past Starbuck’s to the Golden Lane, a narrow street of shops and reconstructions portraying medieval life. Franz Kafka lived for a time in #22, now painted lavender with green trim. The cannon tower at the bottom of the street, formerly a prison, holds grisly examples of torture equipment that make water boarding seem humane.
Charles Bridge & Old Town Square: Thronged with visitors, vendors and pigeons. The Vltava River busy with tourist boats curls around the city. Onward toward Old Town Square and the hourly chiming of Prague’s 15th century astronomical clock that begins with Death (white skeleton) ringing the bell and ends with the crow of the golden rooster. The skyline is a feast of architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Art Nouveau. A memorial to Jan Hus, the 14th century Czech priest and church reformer who was burned as a heretic, commands the square’s center. Crossing the square we dodged food stands, snake charmers, two 6-foot tall furry blue sharks and a gold ballerina holding third position.

Spalding Publishing Panel: Sena Jeter Naslund, Rebecca Walker, Maureen Morehead and Katy Yocom. Sena told us how she analyzed the journals she wanted to publish in and found they were taking stories with a “zany” voice. By writing against her grain, outside her comfort zone, she found something new and got published. Maureen advised us to aim high and not to take rejection personally. She looks for poems showing the writer has knowledge of history and literature and that move the reader. Rebecca spoke about editing creative nonfiction anthologies and advised writers to collaborate with editors whose goal is to help them write the best possible story. Katy gave us the inside view of fiction editing at The Louisville Review. She chose writing that was fresh and original with a strong voice and heart, stories that kept giving.

The Jewish Quarter (Josefov): Our group met at the Jan Hus Memorial and wound toward this compact quarter for a two-hour tour that should have lasted two days. Heartbreak and inspiration intertwined.

Last night in Prague: We signed on for the Prague By Night tour that left at 8:30 pm, well before sunset. The bus took us outside the city’s center to the mostly abandoned grounds of the 1891 World Exposition for an outdoor performance of “Swan Lake.” The dancing Krizikova Fountain, a 19th century precursor to the Bellagio fountains, was not only backdrop but another character in the ballet. Perfect for the city of Kafka.

Goodbye Prague, hello Dresden: The “Florence of the Elbe” is another place deserving more than two hours. Rebuilt after the horrendous firebombing of 1945 in an approximation of its former glory, the city is pristine. A 305 ft Meissen porcelain mural, “Procession of the Princes,” covers a building with the rulers of Saxony. A golden butterfly posed with tourists outside the Dresden Cathedral.

Drive from Dresden to Berlin: Thanks to Katy Yocum both coaches became theaters showing “The Lives of Others,” 2006 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Language film. Set in East Germany during the 1980s, this riveting film shows the lives of the Stasi and those they monitored and was timed perfectly for our introduction to Berlin.

Berlin: Where Prague is compressed, Berlin sprawls. We arrived during unusually warm weather to be reminded that Berlin is German for swamp. Our hotel is a ten-minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. The first night we witness a small political protest of Senegalese immigrants that garnered a large Polizei response. Around the corner a banner congratulating Germany on the World Cup win hung from the U. S. Embassy. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe honors the dead through light, geometry and silence, while the East Side Wall Gallery celebrates freedom through exuberant color.

Timewitnesses: The climax of this trip. An East German and West German, moderated by our guide Ildiko, discussed life before and after the Wall fell in 1989.
East German: “We could see West Berlin, but it was as unreal as the moon.” The people were consumed with thinking about consumer items—chocolate, pens. The morning after the announcement he went to the closest checkpoint and told the guard he wanted to cross. “You’re not the first,” the guard said. Over the bridge, the smell changed. Beautiful gardens. Modern buses like art. His first purchase: Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.”
West German: The news was incredible, the “notions of two worlds smashed.” Remembered “their faces” and their amazement at having oranges. Resentment remains in the West with some saying the Wall shouldn’t have come down. Surprised by the emancipation of East German women who worked and were fully equal. The dream for the future is a Germany that embraces the weakness and horror of the Third Reich, but is lighter and more open.

Pergamon Museum and Neues Museum: The Pergamon was built to house the cobalt blue Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Alter with its mythological frieze, both huge relics of antiquity. Worth the 40-minute wait on a hot day. Islamic prayer niches of mind-blowing geometric complexity, tablets of the earliest writing from Uruk in Mesopotamia—from the 4th millennium BC. Next door at the Neues Museum, Nefertiti’s head is the big draw, but far from the only amazement.

Cabaret: In German, at a cabaret on the edge of the Tiergarten. Fabelhaft. That’s German for fabulous. Midnight dinner with my husband at a restaurant close to our hotel where an Indian waiter asked in German for our order of Mexican food.

Berlin Architectural Tour: Culminated in a 10 pm visit to the Reichstag and its modern glass dome with interior walkway spiraling up to the peak. An art installation in film and colored light visible from the terrace. Cool air blew as we watched film clips of German history, including, yes, images from the visits of JFK and Ronald Reagan.

Spalding Summer Graduation 2014: Clear afternoon light filled the room as our Spalding faculty and friends marched in. My heart felt full remembering last May’s joy and gratitude. Congratulations Joe Baillargeon, Karen Chronister, Alice Jennings, Christi Kelly, April Larson, Liza Mattison, Amy Miller, Nikki-Nicole Peoples, and Nicole Underwood. To quote Neil Gaiman, “Make good art.”