Monthly Archives: July 2013

Roving Romaniacs: Arte Umbria, Italy

Roving Romaniacs: Arte Umbria, Italy.

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What do you get from a writing course? Part 2

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

I promised to blog about my week leading a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy. So here it is.

I was on the same flight as four of the participants and we either travelled together or met at Perugia airport, where we were met by one of our hosts and driven through Umbria to the fabulous Tenuta di Poggialame, a 200-acre estate of woodland and olive groves. Greeted by the rest of the household, an amazing view and several glasses of ice-cold prosecco, I felt instantly at home!

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

A residential course at Arte Umbria is like being at a select, luxurious hotel, where all the guests have been specially chosen for their appealing qualities (they’re writers).

The house from below the terrace

The house from below the terrace

The house is a Sixteenth Century hunting lodge, built of stone and wood, that was renovated only a few years ago. There’s a mixture of rooms/small apartments to choose from but, though I loved my room, I used it only for sleeping or changing. I spent most of my time, whether leading the course or snatching a few minutes at my WIP, on the terrace or somewhere in the fantastic grounds. Whether I was in a sun-loving moment or needing a little shade, there was an appropriate spot.

We spent a lot of time working:

– workshops on the story arc, analysing your novel, interviewing your characters etc, before focusing in on various writing techniques

– writing exercises and group feedback

– works in progress and group feedback

A welcome break in the day

A welcome break in the day

– one-to-ones

Between times, we swam, or just chilled out.

And we had some great trips. In nearby Orvieto,  we admired the cathedral (duomo), ate gelato and wandered around the shops in the pretty streets. We also saw a wedding where the groom trod on the train of the bride’s dress, prompting a hissed argument between broad smiles for the photographer. Most of the hissing came from the bride, while the groom just waved his hands and said, ‘Scusi! Scusi!’

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

We also went to La Scarzuola where Francis of Assissi hung out in the Thirteenth Century and built a pretty church. Gorgeously restored, it’s decorated with paintings on plaster of martyrs having knives thrust through their necks. And I learned the difference between painted plasterwork (painted on dry plaster) and frescoes (painted on wet plaster so the colour is absorbed, which is why

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

frescoes can last for centuries).

In the Twentieth Century La Scazuola was bought by an eccentric architect, Tomaso Buzzi, who had an interesting take on garden

ornaments and built a collection of mini theatres in his back garden. These take the form of a pile of buildings replicating various monuments and wonders of the world. Captivating. And a little mad.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can't think how that happend.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can’t think how that happend.

Lunch on the terrace

Lunch on the terrace

Our final trip, one evening, was to Castello di Montegiove, where Lorenzo, the Marquesi, talked us through their wine-making process. For hand-picked, first pressings wine, ten or fifteen euros a bottle was a snip, but current security measures wouldn’t allow me to take it home so, sadly, a few sips and I had to leave it there.

To complete the post, I’m just going to post a few pix that appeal to me. Oh, yes, and say that I’m delighted to be returning to Arte Umbria next year, 2-9 July, and we’ve already had our first booking.

And I’m not going to say anything about the singing on the final evening – except that my suspicions have been confirmed. I dance better than I sing.

The terrace leads around to an apartment

The terrace leads around to an apartment

Olive grove

Olive grove

Fab scenery

Fab scenery

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

Laura, working hard

Laura, working hard

Photo 05-07-2013 15 27 03

Mother Earth. One of the, erm, displays at La Scarzuola.

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The Duomo

The Duomo

The salon, Poggiolame

The salon, Poggiolame

Dinner on the terrace

Dinner on the terrace

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Write to Win! With Sue Moorcroft

Here’s a great blog by Sally Jenkins, who participated in my recent ‘Write to Win!’ one-day workshop at Mackworth Library, Derby. As the workshop was a sell out, there’s a plan to run it again in the autumn – November 16th, but yet to be confirmed.

Sally Jenkins

The other week I attended Write to Win! at Mackworth library in Derby.

Mackworth signpost on Ashbourne Road (A52), Ma...

It was a workshop on winning short story competitions with the Writers’ Forum head judge, Sue Moorcroft. There were 12 of us (a sell-out apparently) around the table waiting to hear Sue’s pearls of wisdom and she didn’t disappoint.

I’ve tried to condense the whole day into the few bullet points listed below. Some of it you may have heard before but the fact that judges, like Sue, keep giving the same advice means that most of us aren’t following it – so take heed!

  • Have a great title and first sentence
  • Avoid putting flashback on the first page. The first page is an ‘access corridor’ to the rest of the story and flashback hampers this. If it must be there, put it in dialogue form to keep the story moving forward
  • Bring in the conflict on the…

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