Embark on a writing trip that awakens the senses
Many have followed in the tradition of Henry Miller, Paul Theroux or Marguerite Duras, and so it is for the Passage to India writing trip with Helena Kriel set for Jan. 19–28, 2015.
“So many extremely well-known iconic writers really lived by that whole ethic, which is leave your ordinary life behind, go on a journey. Embark,” says Kriel, faculty member of the Spalding MFA in Writing program.
The 10-day trip especially for writers is a tailor-made creative journey that includes being a VIP delegate at the Jaipur Literature Festival, called “the greatest literary show on earth” by noted magazine editor Tina Brown.
Jaipur is just one part of a journey that will include Taj Mahal at sunset, riding camels into the desert to a pristine dune and an overnight stay in a tented camp, being guests at a sumptuous wedding, doing yoga, learning how to cook Indian food, attending a temple “puja” and being up close with elephants.
It’s an extraordinary immersion that combines being active with being receptive. On any journey, she says, “you have to embark, which is really pure action. Then you head out, and you become receptive to anything that happens to you. That’s what interesting journeys do. They insist.”
The global writer
Paul Theroux once said, “You can’t sit down to write until you’ve stood up to live,” and he is one of the hundreds of writers from all over the globe who will be at the Jaipur Literary Festival at the heart of the Passage to India trip.
The global perspective is vital to what it means to be a writer writing today, Kriel says, quoting Spalding MFA in Writing director and co-founder Sena Jeter Naslund.
“It’s a world out there, and it’s asking for us to go and play with it and witness it and engage with it, and bring it back to the desk,” Kriel says.
Falling in love with India
In the 1990s, Kriel was working on a movie set in 15th century India, “Kama Sutra,” trying to imagine a place to which she’d never been, when she finally convinced director Mira Nair to send her to India.
Ever since, she’s returned as often as she can.
“All of my work now has India in it,” she says. “It’s a very exciting place on every single level imaginable. There’s probably no other place that will open your senses to that extent.”
It’s the vibrancy that enthralls her, what you smell, what you hear, what you touch, what you taste. “The street food calls to you,” she says. “The poetry is happening in front of you.”
She says she loves the way India welcomes you into life, to the point that wedding-crashing is just a thing there. “Nothing’s really held from you in India,” adding that writers on the Passage to India trip will get to crash a wedding or two.
When Kriel was in India one time with her mother, they crashed a wedding every night. “We were welcomed, like honored guests,” she says. It’s not like the West, where you have to be invited; it’s the custom, and during the Jaipur festival, many weddings take place.
“I know India extremely well,” Kriel says, from the Himalayas to the southernmost tip. She’s stayed in luxury hotels as much as she’s stayed in $1 a night rooms with stained mattresses and geckos on the walls. She’s stayed with families. She’s been to the banks of the Ganges. She knows the mountains and the sea. “I love the generosity of the place.”
Perfect for writers
Like no other place on earth, India offers an abundance of stories, threads in a tapestry. “In India, you follow a thread. Before you know it, you will find something fascinating.”
Adventure is built into the fabric of the country, and Kriel has built that into the way she has structured the schedule for writers. It’s her intent that every writer will come away with new, polished work.
“Exercises are going to specially chosen to encourage the people on the trip to come to the best of who they can be,” she says. “I’m going to ask people frankly, let’s discuss where do you think you’re good as a writer, where do you struggle? Let’s get better.”
Her intention is that many friendships will form out of the experience, because writing is a lonely business.
“It’s the potential for a new creative family to emerge out of the honesty and adventure that will happen,” Kriel says.
About the festival
When asked why Tina Brown (of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and The Daily Beast fame) calls the Jaipur Literature Festival “the greatest show on earth,” Kriel says, “because the whole thing is an extravaganza.”
Writers from all over the world — Indians, Americans, British, Europeans, South African, Southeast Asia, Pacific Rim — descend on the Diggi Palace, 100-year-old palace. The place is bedecked with streamers and balloons, and booths are set up in tents. “It has a circus feel to it,” Kriel says.
By benefit of being VIPs, writers on Kriel’s “Passage to India” trip get access to a little sanctuary set off from the hubbub, where they will be able to meet some of the literati on the festival lineup.
The VIP pass “gives you the inner track of the festival,” she says. “We’ll be invited to all of the parties, eat meals with visiting writers, have a chance to hobnob with Pulitzer and Booker winners, as well as bestselling authors.”
Who the writing trip is for
It’s for any writer, she says. “The truth is, any writer is welcome, and any writer should come. Because at which point do you not need this infusion and color? At which point do you not need to be engaged?”
She bears in mind, as she’s creating the experience, that writers need this kind of infusion and immersion. “Writing is not an easy thing to have taken on as a mode of life,” she says. This trip “gives you freedom to be adventurer and an explorer.”
Passage to India with Helena Kriel
Jan. 19–28, 2015
Early bird special of $2,699 if booked before Aug. 31.
$2,799 if booked after
The trip cost covers all meals, accommodations, VIP passes to the Jaipur Literature Festival, yoga class, cooking class, all special experiences, the camel safari, all tours, a luxury bus, English-speaking guides and Helena Kriel’s stewardship.
The price does not include international airfare.
For questions or to book: HKriel@aol.com.
About Helena Kriel
Helena Kriel (screenwriting, playwriting faculty, Spalding MFA in Writing program). Helena Kriel was raised and educated in Johannesburg South Africa. After graduating with a Dramatic Art and Literature degree from University of Witwatersrand she worked in Television, directing and writing. Her plays Pigs on Passion, Arachnid and I Can’t Wait To Tie You To The Sofa premiered at the National Arts Festival and were all produced a number of times. She was nominated for playwright of the year. She immigrated to America and won the Steven Spielberg Dianne Thomas Award for her first screenplay Virtuoso. She has been a working screenwriter in Los Angeles writing for the studios and independent producers. The adaptations of Ahab’s Wife, The Good Soldier, The Arabian Nights, Tsotsi, Valley Song, and Wuthering Heights are a few of her adaptations. Heated and The Other Woman are amongst her original screenplays. Kama Sutra was produced with Academy nominated director Mira Nair directing and released in 1996. Skin was produced by Elysian Films and released in 2009. Skin has won over eight festival awards and was named in the best ten independent films of 2009. She has finished her first novel: The Burning Ground. She is completing her first memoir: Heart and Stone.