Writer retreat comment

About our Writer retreat in October 2008

Tuscan hills: inspiring

Even now, eight months later, I can be in the middle of something and some flash of memory from Italy fills me.  My senses somehow transport me to that world, that country, that time…and for a moment or two I am there again.  I might rest my hand on the cool of my leather couch and suddenly it is no longer my couch, but the damp, solidly-packed dirt wall of an underground wine cellar.  Don’t ask me how, but, like magic, I inhale deeply and the muskiness and moisture of that cavern surrounds me.  The back of my tongue anticipates the sip of deep, red nectar.  When no wine fulfills that expectation I open my eyes and smile to find I am in my living room.

There are so many memories that flood me unexpectedly.  Not a day has gone by that I don’t marvel at how magically that workshop transformed me.  More importantly, the Inkwell International Writer’s Retreat in Italy transformed my writing.  I had the beginnings of a novel when I left for Italy, but by the end of the workshop I had the whole book done in my head, and ideas for several more.

It wasn’t just the actual workshop that I loved (and I did love it), it was the wonderfully relaxed way in which our hosts, Teresa Cutler and  Paolo Nascimbieni, opened up all of Italy for us.  Yes, of course, we saw Rome.  But we didn’t just see it the way a tourist sees it.  We were provided opportunities to sit and absorb Rome from a perch high on a hill where we sat and just wrote in journals.  We spent an afternoon zooming in on the detail of ancient statues on the Bridge of Angels through the lenses of cameras provided by photojournalist Pasquale Comegna.

Teresa Cutler was the consummate professional.  Her ability to provide writing opportunities that tossed aside our fears and doubts and drew out our best was as magical as Italy itself.  She skillfully removed obstacles we did not even realize had been occluding our vision. Her feedback was darned near therapeutic and, even tender.

I loved waking every morning to the sounds of the little medieval village in which we were housed.  The bells of the church were my alarm clock.  When days wound down we had the choice of slipping just outside and crossing cobblestones to the local grocer, whose produce was his own, and coming back to the house to create our own pasta dinners, or walking down to what became our favorite restaurant (the one with the underground wine cellar).

From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the 5000 year old Etruscan ruins of Bolsena, our time in Italy passed slowly enough, allowing us to appreciate the landscape, connect to the people, savor the wines and foods and create new stories to tell; new stories connecting us to an ancient world of incredibly rich wonders and people.  And yet, as slowly as our days seemed to pass, the time to return home came much too quickly.

Home.  As my fingers slip into cool water of my backyard pool I feel the slap of water against the sailboat on Lago di Bolsena where we sailed toward the Isla Bisentina.  A white feather floats on water so clear I can see the pebbles lying on the bottom of the lake, several feet down.  If home is where our hearts reside, my change of address cards are in the mail.

Inkwell International/LifeInItaly.com/TLC Writing Workshop/October 2008

by Maggi Petton