Lake Como, Italy June 21 – 28, 2014


Como, Italy

In June 2014, we’re holding our Abroad Writers’ Conference at a 18th century Villa on the shores of Lake Como.


We are holding our conference at Villa La Gallietta at Lake Como, Villa La Gallietta was one of seven eighteenth-century villas built along the western shores of Lake Como, near the church of Saint George and Villa Olmo.

Originally built by Pietro Antonio Fossani from Milan, who in 1772 bought the Villa Gallia and the surroundingn land. Gallietta means “little Gallia”, with relation to the larger building Villa Gallia.

In 1830, the Villa was renovated by Melchiorre Nosetti. Nosetti adapted the facade to a neoclassical style.
It should be mentioned that Count Giambattista, the writer from the Gallia family, created a selection of works in this very house which he loved for its seclusion, peace and silence.

The building’s current appearance dates back to the renovation of 1830, commissioned by the physician Dr. Giuseppe Frank, professor at the University of Pavia, who purchased it in 1825 and hired the architect Melchiorre Nosetti who not only adapted to the facade to a basic Neoclassical style, but also refurbished the interiors. Upon his death, Giuseppe Frank named the University of Pavia as his sole heir, which a short time later sold the villa to the Marquis Brivio Sforza, in 1866.
Since 1985 Villa Gallietta has been protected by the “Belle Arti” fine arts commission both for its architectural value and for the fresco and the elliptical vault of the atrium.

The villa was also the subject of a novel written in 1856 by the French author Nathalie Comtesse.

Authors teaching workshops and giving readings at Lake Como are:

RAE ARMANTROUT–Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

NIKKY FINNEY–National Book Award in Poetry

PAUL HARDING–Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

EDWARD HUMES–Pulitzer Prize in Journalism

JACQUELYN MITCHARD–Orange Prize finalist, Editor-in-chief Merrit Books

ALEX SHOUMATOFF–Contributing editor, Vanity Fair & staff writer, New Yorker

JANE SMILEY–Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

SUSAN WHEELER–National Book Award finalist in Poetry



BARRY GREEN–Principal Bassist for the Cincinnati Symphony

MARINA PACOWSKI–Pianist and vocal coach at the Music Conservatory Maurice Ravel in Bayonne, France






Pulitzer Prize winner in Poetry

Rae Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California, in 1947, and grew up in San Diego. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied with Denise Levertov, and a master’s degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University.

She has published numerous books of poetry, including Just Saying (Wesleyan University Press, 2013); Money Shot (2011); Versed (2009), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010; Next Life (2007), selected by the New York Times as one of the most notable books of 2007; Up to Speed (2004), a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award in Poetry; Veil: New and Selected Poems (2001), also a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award; The Pretext (2001); Made To Seem (1995); and The Invention of Hunger (1979).

Part of the first generation of Language poets on the West Coast, her work has been praised for syntax that borders on everyday speech while grappling with questions of deception and distortion in both language and consciousness. About her poems, Robert Creeley has described “a quiet and enabling signature,” adding, “I don’t think there’s another poet writing who is so consummate in authority and yet so generous to her readers and company alike.”

In the preface to her selected poems, Veil, Ron Silliman describes her work as: “the literature of the anti-lyric, those poems that at first glance appear contained and perhaps even simple, but which upon the slightest examination rapidly provoke a sort of vertigo effect as element after element begins to spin wildly toward more radical…possibilities.”

Armantrout’s poetry has been widely anthologized, appearing in Language Poetries, (New Directions), In The American Tree, (National Poetry Foundation), Postmodern American Poetry (Norton), Poems for the Millennium, Vol. 2 (University of California), American Women Poets of the 21st Century (Wesleyan), and several editions of Best American Poetry. She is also the author of a prose memoir, True, which was published by Atelos in 1998.

She has taught writing for almost twenty years at the University of California, San Diego.


nikky-finneyNIKKY FINNEY

National Book Award Winner in Poetry

Nikky Finney was born in South Carolina, within listening
distance of the sea. A child of activists, she came of age during the civil rights and Black Arts Movements. At Talladega College, nurtured by Hale Woodruff’s Amistad murals, Finney began to understand the powerful synergy between art and history. Finney has authored four books of poetry: Head Off & Split (2011); The World Is Round (2003); Rice (1995); and On Wings Made of Gauze (1985). The John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Southern Letters and Literature at the University of South Carolina, Finney also authored Heartwood (1997) edited The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (2007), and co- founded the Affrilachian Poets. Finney’s fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry.

Learn more about Nikky on her website.

“Finney’s wondrous acceptance speech is an acknowledgement to being alive while being inextricably bound to the past. It is now appropriately included in the new edition ofHead Off & Split. Like the speech, the book is a manifold act of acknowledgement. ‘If my name is ever called out, I promised my girl-poet self, so too would I call out theirs.’ The history we begin with is rooted in acknowledgement, in witness, and, as Finney shows us, in collaboration. Her poems are duets and choruses. We hear the italicized voices of Rosa Parks, Mayree Monroe, Robert F. Williams—even the titles are peopled acknowledgements: ‘Shaker: Wilma Rudolph Appears While Riding the Althea Gibson Highway Home,’ ‘Dancing with Strom,’ ‘Alice Butler,’ ‘The Condoleezza Suite.’ The poems braid the immediacy of the weather channel, the NBC Nightly News, Discover Magazine, politics, and catastrophes to the enduring struggle against forces “devoted to quelling freedom and insurgency, imagination, all hope.” In short, all that is breathtaking in this poet’s acceptance speech is breathtaking in her poems.”

– Terrance Hayes, author of Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award

Watch Nikky’s 2011 National Book Award acceptance speech.

“Beginning with the sweepingly inclusive and powerful ‘Red Velvet,’ a Middle Passage poem for our times, Nikky Finney takes the reader to a wonderfully alive world where the musical possibilities of language overflow with surprise and innovation. Finney has an ear to go along with the wildness of her imagination, which sweeps through history like a pair of wings. Her carefully modulated free verse is always purposeful in its desire to move the reader in a way that allows us to imitate access to necessary observations about ourselves. These poems, in other words, have the power to save us.”

– Bruce Weigl, author of What Saves Us


Find Nikky’s books, including new editions of Rice & The World is Round, here.



Paul Harding (born 1967) is an American musician and author, best known for his debut novel Tinkers(2009), which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2010 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize among other honors. Harding was drummer in the band Cold Water Flat throughout its existence from 1990 to 1996.

Harding grew up on the north shore of Boston in the town of Wenham, Massachusetts. As a youth he spent a lot of time “knocking about in the woods” which he attributes to his love of nature. His grandfather fixed clocks and he apprenticed under him, an experience that found its way into his novel Tinkers. Harding has a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at Harvard University and the University of Iowa.

After graduating from UMass, he spent time touring with his band Cold Water Flat in the US and Europe. He had always been a heavy reader and recalls reading Carlos Fuentes‘ Terra Nostra and thinking “this is what I want to do”. In that book Harding “saw the entire world, all of history”. When he next had time off from touring with the band he signed up for a summer writing class at Skidmore College in New York. His teacher was Marilynne Robinson and through her he learned about the Iowa Writers’ Workshop writing program. There he studied with Barry Unsworth, Elizabeth McCracken and later Robinson. At some point he realized some of the people he admired most were “profoundly religious” and so he spent years reading theology, and was “deeply” influenced by Karl Barthand John Calvin. He considers himself a “self-taught modern New England transcendentalist“.

Musically, he admires jazz drummers and considers Coltrane‘s drummer, Elvin Jones, the greatest Harding lives near Boston with his wife and two sons.

Harding’s second novel, Enon (2013), concerns characters from his first novel, Tinkers, looking at the lives of George Crosby’s grandson, Charlie Crosby, and his daughter Kate.

Pulitzer Prize winner in Journalism


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Edward Humes has written thirteen narrative nonfiction books, ranging from the true-crime bestseller Mississippi Mud to the critically acclaimed enviro-chronicle Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, to the PEN Award-winning No Matter How Loud I Shout, a narrative account of life and death inside Los Angeles Juvenile Court.

His latest book will be published in October 2013, a biography entitle, A Man His Mountain: The Everyman Who Created Kendall-Jackson and Became America’s Greatest Wine Entrepreneur.

Humes has taught for the graduate program in literary nonfiction at the University of Oregon; in the University of California-Irvine’s literary journalism department; and at Chapman University, where he taught feature writing. He has written for a number of print and online publications, including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Readers Digest, the Oxfor American, Glamour and Sierra. His narrative account of a troubled shelter for foster children for Los Angeles Magazine, “The Forgotten,” received the Casey Medal for Public Service.

Humes’s books rely on narrative story-telling and immersion journalism to bring the feel and style of a novel to nonfiction, and his work has covered a broad range of subjects that include justice, crime, historical nonfiction, the environment, science, medicine and biography. For Baby ER, he spent a year as a author in residence at a leading neonatal intensive care unit. For School of Dreams, he joined the Class of 2001 at a California high school that had moved from worst to first–in both grades and stress. Monkey Girl spins the tale of a later-day Scopes Trial that tore apart a Pennsylvania community on questions of science and faith. Eco Barons and Over Here were Humes’s first forays into biographical narrative: Eco Barons tells the intertwined stories of a band of dreamers, schemers and billionaires working to save the planet from environmental destruction; Over Here is a anecdotal history of the World War II GI Bill, using the lives of a some of the extraordinary men and women who helped transform post-war America with the opportunities that unique legislation once offered.

His writing career began in newspapers, leading in 1989 to his Pulitzer Prize for specialized reporting for coverage of the military, which that year included dispatches from Panama; a narrative account of the unjust execution of a World War II army private and his nephew’s quest for exoneration; and a yearlong investigation of fatal military helicopter crashes linked to flawed night-vision devices. The latter revealed a Pentagon cover-up of the cause of more than sixty crashes and 120 deaths, leading to a congressional investigation and life-saving reforms.

Selected Reviews

“Reminiscent of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood….Reads as smoothly as a finely crafted suspense novel.” Chicago Tribune on Mississippi Mud

“Gripping…An important episode in the country’s ongoing struggle to reconcile faith, science, and culture. Humes’s book is a compelling account of that struggle.” Washington Post on Monkey Girl

“A finely etched, powerfully upsetting portrait.” New York Times on No Matter How Loud I Shout

“This is the same seamless, honest and also lyrical writing that earned Humes a Pulitzer Prize.” Los Angeles Times on Mean Justice

“Unlike most dirty books, this one is novel and fresh on every page. You will be amazed.” Bill McKibben, on Garbology

“Told with the drama and beauty of a novel…Humes succeeds where many would have failed because he is working out of the best American tradition of nonfiction narrative, of literary journalism, by paying homage to practitioners of the craft such as John McPhee, Joan Didion, Richard Rhodes and Tom Wolfe.” Los Angeles Times, on No Matter How Loud I Shout

Radio Interview: Edward Humes on Garbology on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, National Public Radio, April 26, 2012.


TV Interview: “Turning Trash to Treasure,” CNN – The Road to Rio, April 19, 2012.

Article, Slideshow, Video: “Inside America’s Largest Landfill,” CNN, April 26, 2012.

Slate, The Afterword, with June Thomas: America’s Love Affair with Garbage, May 24, 2012.

AOL TV: Edward Humes in You’ve Got…. 90 seconds on Garbology, June 2012.

Review: “Edward Humes Enjoys Digging Through Rubbish,” Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2012.

“Blood and Oil,” by Edward Humes, Sierra Magazine article on why the US military is making renewable power and sustainability part of their 21st century defense strategy, July/August 2011.

“The Ranch at the End of the World,” NPR column by Edward Humes, March 2009.

“The Many Lives of Jerry Brown,” California Lawyer profile by Edward Humes, Oct. 2008.

“Where the Wild Things Are… Still,” Sierra Magazine article on the controversial Tejon Ranch conservancy (part of the Eco Barons story), by Edward Humes. Jan/Feb 2010.

“Earth Day Analysis: How Waste Hurts the Economy,” by Edward Humes,Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2012.



Orange Prize Finalist

Editor-in-chef for Merrit Books

Jacquelyn Mitchard has written nine novels for adults, including several New York Times bestsellers and several that have enjoyed critical acclaim, recently winning Great Britain’s People Are Talking prize and, in 2002, named to the short list for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. She has written seven novels for Young Adults as well, and five children’s books, a memoir, Mother Less Child and a collection of essays, The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship. Her essays also have been published in newspapers and magazines worldwide, widely anthologized, and incorporated into school curricula. Her reportage on educational issues facing American Indian children won the Hampton and Maggie Awards for Public Service Journalism. Mitchard’s work as part of Shadow Show, the anthology of short stories honoring her mentor, Ray Bradbury, currently is nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Audie Awards. She served on the Fiction jury for the 2003 National Book Awards, and her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, later adapted for a feature film by Michelle Pfeiffer. Mitchard is the editor in chief and co-creator of Merit Press, a new realistic YA Fiction imprint. A Chicago native, Mitchard grew up the daughter of a plumber and a hardware store clerk who met as rodeo riders. A member of the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa tribe, she is a Distinguished Fellow at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. Mitchard taught Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction at Fairfield University and was the first Faculty Fellow at Southern New Hampshire University. Her upcoming YA novel, What We Lost in the Dark, will be published in January by Soho Teen. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and their nine children.



Contributing editor; Vanity Fair, Outside and Conde Nast Traveler:

Staff Writer, New Yorker

In l986 he started writing for newly resurrected Vanity Fair with a piece on the Murder of Dian Fosseythat was made into the movie, “Gorillas in the Mist,” and the magazine has been his main outlet ever since. He has written dozens of memorable pieces in the ten thousand word range for them, a few even policy-changing like his seminal “The Silent Killing of Tibet” and his exposee of the illegal logging of the ancient redwoods in the Bohemian Grove Club. His most three pieces, “Agony and Ivory,” “Positively 44th Street,” and “The Last of Eden,” will give an idea of his wide range of subject matter and writing style, and the genres of literary journalism he is going to be teaching and talking about. Environmental writing, nature writing, ethnography, travelogue, science writing, family history, memoir, advocacy journalism, writing to effect positive change. He will impart tips of the trade that may spell the difference between getting published or not, and on how to interview celebrities and hostile subjects.

Shoumatoff has published ten books : Florida Ramble (Postcards from Florida in its most recent edition), Westchester : Portrait of a County, The Rivers Amazon, Russian Blood, The Capital of Hope, In Southern Light, The Mountain of Names, African Madness, The World is Burning, and Legends of the American Desert : Sojourns in the Great Southwest. The last one was glowingly front-paged by the New York Times book review and both Time magazine and the New York Post’s number two non-fiction book of the year. He is at present 600 pages into his autobiography, Suitcase on the Loose, and writing a book about his recent trip into the rainforest of Borneo with a boyhood friend he’d been out of contact with for 55 years.

He is also coming out with a docuseries, Suitcase on the Loose, the first episode of which was just shot among the last Penan hunter-gatherers in Sarawak. The mission of the show is the same as what he writes about and of the Web site he started in 2001,, now read by people from 90 countries a month, to make people realize the endless fascination of what is out there and the rapidity with which the planet’s biocultural diversity is being destroyed. All the big carnivores and the last hunter-gatherers on every continent are in their endgame, not to mention the songsbirds, bees, frogs, freshwater clams, and many other forms of life. This is what Shoumatoff’s career has mainly been devoted to, and will be from here on out : getting the word out, doing what he can to stem the damage, getting people to value and care about our vulnerable and precious fellow beings. He has put his literary chops at the service of the planet, and is now transitioning to the audiovisual. How we can make the Big Shift to a more empathetic civilization will be a big topic in his workshops and lectures.

“one of our greatest storytellers”– Graydon Carter, editor Vanity Fair magazine

“one of the great prose stylists of this or any other century”– Michael Hogan, Huffington Post

“Shoumatoff is a genuine citizen of the world, at home with people everywhere, and his example serves as an inspiration to all who cherish the ties that unite humankind… In my opinion, he ranks among the very best nature writers of our or any other time”– Timothy Ferris, science writer

“I never realized anybody could write about Westchester with so much love.”– William Shawn, editor The New Yorker


5932_1222863048532_4702384_nJANE SMILEY

Pulitzer Prize Winner

F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature

Born in Los Angeles, California , Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained an BA in literature at Vassar College (1971), then earned an MA at the University of Iowa (1975), Moughs .F.A. (1976) andPh.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1996 she was a professor of English at Iowa State University, teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops, and continuing to teach there even after relocating to California.

Smiley published her first novel, Barn Blind, in 1980, and won a 1985 O. Henry Award for her short story “Lily”, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. Her best-selling A Thousand Acres, a story based on William Shakespeare‘s King Lear, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992. It was adapted into a film of the same title in 1997. In 1995 she wrote her sole television script, produced for an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. Her novella The Age of Grief was made into the 2002 film The Secret Lives of Dentists. Her essay “Feminism Meets the Free Market” was included in the 2006 anthology Mommy Wars by Washington Post writer Leslie Morgan Steiner.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (2005), is a non-fiction meditation on the history and the nature of the novel, somewhat in the tradition of E. M. Forster‘s seminal Aspects of the Novel, that roams from eleventh century Japan’s Murasaki Shikibu‘s The Tale of Genji to 21st-century American women’s literature.

In 2001, Smiley was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. She participates in the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in association with UCLA. Smiley chaired the judges’ panel for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize in 2009.


Susan_Wheeler___Ruby_Andrew_Wilkinson-330SUSAN WHEELER

National Book Award finalist in Poetry

Susan Wheeler grew up in Minnesota and New England. She is the author of several books of poetry and the novel Record Palace (Graywolf, 2005).

Her first collection, Bag ‘o’ Diamonds (University of Georgia Press, 1993), was chosen by James Tate to receive the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Her other collections are Smokes (Four Way Books, 1998), Source Codes (Salt, 2001), Ledger (Iowa, 2005), and Assorted Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), which includes poems from her first four books.

Her poems have appeared in eight editions of the The Best American Poetry series, as well as The Paris Review, New American Writing, Talisman, The New Yorker and many other journals.

About her work, John Ashbery writes: “Susan Wheeler’s narrative glamour finds occasions in unlikely places: hardware stores, Herodotus, Hollywood Squares, Flemish paintings, green stamps, and echoes of archaic and cyber speech. What at first seems cacophonous comes in the end to seem invested with a mournful dignity.”

Wheeler’s awards include the Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Wheeler has taught at the University of Iowa, NYU, Rutgers, and Columbia University, and is currently on the creative writing faculty at Princeton University. She has lived in the New York area for twenty years.

A Selected Bibliography


Bag ‘o’ Diamonds (University of Georgia Press, 1993)
Smokes (Four Way Books, 1998)
Source Codes (Salt, 2001)
Ledger (Iowa, 2005)
Assorted Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)


Record Palace (Graywolf, 2005)




Marina Pacowski is a professor at the Music Conservatory Maurice Ravel Bayonne Cote Basque (France) where she teaches piano accompaniment and vocal coaching. She studied piano successively with Ada Labeque, Alain Motard and Bruno Rigutto. Then she specialize in accompaniment under the tutelage of Angeline Pondepayre with whom she studied at the conservatory of Rueil-Malmaison.

She obtained an unaniimous First Prize in accompaniment a Gold Medal in Composition and Music Analysis as well as the SACEM Prize in Composition. Marina came in first place in Belvedere International competition in Vienna, in the vocal coast category. She also came in first at the competiton organized by the Opera National du Rhin where she worked for a year as a pianist and vocal coach within the Jeune Voix du Rhin program.

As a vocal coach she collaborated with the following conductors. Friedrich Pleyer, with the Royal Opera of Wallonia in Belgium, Marc Tardue in the Colliseu of Oporto in Portugal, Dejan Savio with the Opera National du Rhin, Alexander Martin at the Filature de Mulhouse.

As a concert pianist she performed as the principal soloist in the Concerto for piano by Peo Cabalette, “La Chambre d’amour”, in the Kursal in San Sebastian, Spain; and in the Grand Theatre de Saint-Quentin, France. She was also invited by L’Ensemble Fa, for a concert at the Salle Gaveau; and she played first piano in the Camina Burana, conducted by Didier Benetti, with the Grand Choeur Orpheo Pamplones at the Atrium of Dax.

Marina is an eclectic artist, she performs solo recitals and performs n a jazz group as a singer.