Sunday, May 28, 2017 Writing Retreat in Tuscany

I knew I would love it, and I did.
9 days of writing to prompts by Cary guided by the Pat Schneider book: Writing alone and with others

8 people sitting around a circle, writing, then reading, then reacting. I feel so enriched after this experience. If living means receiving sustenance and getting exercise, my mind has been fully alive this week. It is rare, if ever, in our day to day lives that we get to receive such insights into the inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences of a diverse group of people. I heard those thoughts, feelings, and experiences through well-crafted written pieces. We even discussed submitting our pieces for Cary to put into a book. One of my pieces is published in this blog post: What you would see if you were here.

The purpose of the workshop is for writers to "find their voice." Each writer necessarily gets to be part of the process of the others finding theirs. I just can't conceive of anything more enriching than that: finding my voice and helping others find theirs. 
Here is a sampling of the prompts that would get us started writing:
  • The truth is ...
  • Why reading?
  • Is this the right room?
  • Write a love letter, letter of complaint, or letter of resignation using only one syllable words
  • Looking thru the keyhole ...
  • Describe a time you escaped ...
  • What do I want?
We wrote for 15 to 20 minutes on each prompt, then whoever wanted to read aloud did so and we would all discuss their piece. Usually everyone read, but you were free to "pass" and we all took advantage of that at least once.

Residence Le Santucce, in Castiglion Fiorentino, Tuscany, Italy

Reflection of the view from our workshop space

Our workshop space
The setting was like in a dream world. Outdoors overlooking a view of Tuscany. The weather was perfect. Cool enough for a sweater much of the time, afternoon sun making you shed that sweater. We had morning sessions from 9:30 to 12:30, then free time until 4, when we met again for 2 hours. During our free time we usually got together at a local restaurant for a meal.

One day we all piled in a van, driven by Alfeo, the owner of the Residence Le Santucce where we all were staying and where the retreat is held. Alfeo joyfully shows us around. This is his neighborhood. His family has been living here for so many generations that he can't count them - he just says "forever." We skipped the afternoon session and took a road trip to Assisi, immersing ourselves in beauty. That trip needed a separate blog post: More beauty per minute than is safe ... Assisi

The next day it was back to writing. It felt really good. I wrote a lot. It almost tired me out. At the end of each day, Jim was waiting ...
Jim and I would share some wine on our private terrace at the end of the day.

Then we would join the group for wonderful meals at local restaurants.
While I wrote, I didn't worry about Jim. He enjoyed just being in this delightful place. I think he appreciated having me out of the way so much of the time so he could just relax and do whatever he wanted, including making plans for the rest of our trip. We planned a month here in Italy and Croatia. The writing retreat is just the first week. And, of course, we were together for meals. 
Louisella and Jim at breakfast. Louisella is the daughter in the family that owns Le Santucce. 
The rest of the breakfast room. Louisella always brewed American coffee, but she would also make you a capuccino or expresso. She laid out a full table of goodies every morning: pastries, fruit, yogurt, meats and cheeses. 

I rarely refer to myself as a writer, so why did I come to a writer's retreat? Because I can. Because I like to write. Because I know Cary Tennis (we graduated in the same class at Nova High School in Fort Lauderdale), Because it's in Tuscany! Because I respect and admire Cary's writing so much. Because I had been to a short workshop with Cary in Florida and knew how non-threatening the process is. Because maybe, just maybe, I am a writer.

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