Tag Archive for writing workshop

More Assisi, and a little Bastia

I had the best of intentions of blogging often. I was thinking Ah, I’ll be lounging about, drinking a little cappuccino, laptop on my lap… My tenth year here at Art Workshop International in Assisi and I still haven’t figured it out. Between teaching and hanging with my buddies, between walks and art and my local friends I only see once or twice a year, all that lounging time doesn’t exist.

So here I am, belatedly, back again, with some photos. Most of them are from Assisi, though we took a little trip — and I mean little, literally 4 minutes on the train (though of course you have to walk down to Santa Maria degli Angeli to get the train, and then wait for the train, so from the hotel the trip is about an hour and 4 minutes) — to Bastia, and strolled around.

View from our favorite cafe


Breakfast at the Hotel Giotto (plus a little fruit for lunch…)


The hard-working guys holding up the rose window at San Rufino


Below street-level plantings. Don’t show this to Grow Dammit, he’ll feel insecure.


Flower pot on the wall


Sunflowers, almost ready for harvest


Bastia: the market’s over


Bastia: painted wall


Filipina nuns in habits and identical straw hats waiting for the bus.


Bastia: I don’t think this is the police station any more…


…or else some cop has a very green thumb.


Dragon sings karaoke

A great idea! In fact, two.

I’m just loving this: ice stupas!

To bring water to drought-stricken areas.

Photo by Sonam Wangchuk.

And speaking of the Himalayas, come to Kathmandu!  Click the link for details. (Not the photo, the link.) See you there!



Horses, too

The Cedar Valley Retreat Center has rolling grounds, many outdoor spaces for sitting and thinking, hills to climb, woods to stroll through, plus of course a couple of buildings for residence, meetings and classes. The place has another mission, too, carried out in a few buildings and fields at the front of the property. Besides hosting retreats like the the Wisconsin Writers’ Association Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp, they also do horse rescue. The first year I was here a couple of retired goats were also in residence, and their climbing structure remains though they seem to be gone. But at least two horses are living out their twilight years here. One of them plodded out of the barn yesterday to post picturesquely for both a long shot and a close-up.



Chapel on the hill

Cedar Valley Retreat Center, where I’m teaching right now, is a non-denominational (but Christian-leaning) religious retreat a group like this one can rent. One of the buildings on the grounds is a chapel. This is its interior in the morning light.


4 Storytellers/4 Friends redux

In case you needed to know what we looked like. My stage debut! Or as close as I’ll get. I have no problem with the idea of reading my work, or of speaking to a crowd. No problema. But acting? Doing someone else’s words justice? Arrggh. My buddies made it easy, though.


Greetings, earthlings

SJR coming to you from the Newark Airport United Club, my home away from home in Terminal C. I seem to spend half my airport life in Terminal A, where the short hops go from, and I expected this flight to Cleveland to leave from there, too. Terminal C in my mind has always been for international adventure — the flight I take to Rome (for the Assisi program you’re all going to come study with me in this year) leaves from here, as well as flights to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul (which is for Mongolia as well), Tokyo. And such non-short-hop US destinations as Portland and San Francisco. Love me some Terminal C.

But lo, Cleveland takes off from here, too. This is a good thing, because this is where the Club is — no such comforts in down-market Terminal A — and I need a nice place to sit and drink a nice cup of tea, because I’m 2 1/2 hours early. Which is about an hour longer than the flight. (Remember, I went to Oberlin, I know this trip.) I heard a horror-story report on the news last night about hour-plus waits at security even for TSA Pre-check passengers, and I figured it’s Friday so lots of people would be traveling. So I cleverly left very early. Here’s the thing, though: TSA workers denied it, but the news story smelled to me like an unauthorized work slowdown to protest understaffing. (Apparently TSA has stopped paying overtime, which means fewer workers per security station.) I guess they got their point across, because I breezed through that Pre-check line like grass through a goose and now here I sit.

And by now you’re asking, “That’s all very well, but why are you going to Cleveland?” For this: Sisters in Crime Northeast Chapter’s Death March Conference. I’m giving the keynote, on “Categorization and Its Discontents.” Hope to see some of you there! The rest of you, as the poem has it:

Write right
Right wrong
Sing song
Long gone

I’ll report from beautiful Ohio.

Atlantic Center for the Arts

Three of the happiest weeks of my life were the ones I spent as a Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

It’s one of the best-kept secrets in the art/literature world, a retreat where you can go to study with people whose work interests you.  Each Master Artist has 8-12 Associate Artists in workshops, in a beautiful, secluded setting hidden on the coast of central Florida.  (Birdwatching! Manatees! The beach!)  There’s an application deadline coming up soon, and if these aren’t people you want to study with, keep checking back.

I won’t be teaching there; this isn’t a promo for me, it’s just because of how much I loved my time there.  (If you insist on studying with me, check my website).



A short course in the short story

Some of you have asked whether I teach workshops in NYC.  Well, this winter I will.  I’m teaching a six-week course in The Crime Fiction Short Story, Saturday mornings starting Jan. 23.  Details on the CFA website, so check it out and come on down.

Hot days, long walks

Huge heat wave in this part of Italy, a good 10-15 degrees F higher than usual. Meaning, 90-100 instead of 75-90.  Ah, well.  Does it stop me?

I write in the morning and teach in the early afternoon.  In the early early morning, when it’s cool; in the mid-to-late afternoon, when it’s ridiculously hot; and in the late evening, when it’s thinking about cooling down again, I’ve been taking long walks.  Sometimes alone, sometimes with my buddy Barb.  The ones in the evening are classic post-dinner strolls and are usually with a group of about half-a-dozen people.

These are photos from the first three days’ worth of walks.



evening from the hotel terrace during the blackout





flowers in town



gold tiles on the Basilica rose window



convent at San Damiano




grate on convent door



Assisi, Day One

No sooner had we arrived than, in the middle of a pizza lunch in a basement place a few streets away, the lights went out. Blew their transformer, thought I. They brought candles and we continued devouring our pizza (mine was arugula and shrimp) because we were starving because the food on the plane was awwwwwful. We finished up and went back to the Hotel Giotto, where we found I was right but I was wrong. It was the transformer, but not the restaurant’s. The entire towns of Assisi and Santa Maria degli Angeli were without power.


The reason and the problem are the same: this is a major-league heat wave, 99F-102F every day. More and more homes and businesses are getting a/c, which no one around here used to have. So the draw on the power grid is more and more enormous on days like this. And of course, it’s on days like this when you care whether or not you have power.


Everywhere was out for a few hours. Then the power slowly started coming back, first in Santa Maria degli Angeli, then up at the top of Assisi, then creeping uphill and creeping downhill toward us. Creep, creep. No power meant no water, either, because the Giotto uses pumps. The hotel staff did a monumental job making and serving dinner by candlelight. We ate on the terrace and watched the lights come back on in this street and that street and the other street… Ours was the last, the very last, and our segment of it was the last segment. Around 11:30 the hotel manager and a lovely young man from the maintenance staff were suddenly knocking on room doors to come in and throw breakers and bring the rooms back on line. The a/c in my room still doesn’t work; I may have to move tomorrow. But water! We have water!


Still, the churches are here, and the streets, and the Umbrian plain. Now that there’s cappuccino in the cafés again, I can deal.