Knowle Manor, England–May 29 – June 5, 2015



We’re going to KNOWLE MANOR in Dunster, England. Knowle Manor is a historic estate situated on 100 acres of spacious gardens and lakes. The house is located in the medieval town of Dunster, two miles from the coast.

Dunster is one of the most popular places on Exmoor for visitors. It is a medieval village with an ancient castle, priory, dovecote, yarn market, inns, packhorse bridge and a mill. Since the decline of the woollen industry in the eighteenth century the village has been locked in a time warp.

Dunster Castle, once the home of the Luttrell family, is now owned by the National Trust. The Luttrell family arrived in England in 1066, with William the Conqueror’s army at the battle of Hastings. There is a plethora of tea shops and gifts shops and several excellent restaurants and places to stay. The National Park Centre here provides information on the whole area and there is a large car park on the edge of the village.

With over 200 listed buildings Dunster is preserved so that generations to come can enjoy the historic qualities of this unique village. Situated in the sweeping hills of Exmoor National park Dunster provides the ideal base for your holiday in the South West of England.





The town of Dunster.



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, Dispatchesfromthevanishingworld.com, 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.


Como, Italy

Como is situated at the head of the lake and is an ancient town over 400 years old with magnificent churches and historic monuments.

The largest and southernmost town on the lake isn’t likely to charm you quite as much as some of the other towns and villages, but the historic center is lovely if you take the time to stroll it and pop into its little churches and cafes.

A center of silk making for a very long time, this city traces its roots to the Gauls, and, after them, the Romans, and bustles with commerce and industry. You’ll probably want to stay in one of the more peaceful settings farther up the lake, but Como amply rewards a day’s visit, with some fine Renaissance churches and palaces and a nice lake front promenade. For visitor information the regional tourist office has extensive details on hotels, restaurants, and camping grounds around the lake, from its offices at Piazza Cavour 17 (tel. 031-269-712 or 031-264-215; or on www.lakecomo.org). The tourist office opens daily 9am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm (sometimes closed Sun in winter). There is also a city tourist office in a little trailer that has moved around a bit since it opened in 2000, but stays near Piazza del Duomo, and seems to have settled on a spot along Via Maestri Comacini around the right side of the cathedral (tel. 031-337-1063). It’s open Monday to Friday 10am to 12:30pm and 2:30 to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm. Trains run between 1 to 3 times per hour connecting Milan and Como’s Station San Giovanni on Piazzale San Gottardo. Also from Milan’s Piazza Garibaldi station, 55-60 min and high speed from Milan’s Stazione Centrale station, 40 min.). At the heart of Como’s walled Old Town, Piazza San Fedele has many 400-year-old buildings, and the basilica, one of the masterpieces of the maestri comacini (masters of Como). At the top of Via Cantù you’ll see the old wall’s most spectacular standing tower, the Porta Vittoria. Nearby is the very austere church of San Abbondio. Rest awhile in its cloisters, then climb the hill behind it and go to the top of the Baradello Tower, for a lovely view of the entire lake. Next, walk back down the hill and visit Como’s third great basilica, the early romanesque San Corpoforo.

Chef Alison Negrin will be joining us at Lake Como


Alison Negrin’s career as a chef spans 30 years. She lived in Scandinavia and travelled throughout Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, Mexico, Peru and North America. Exploration of her Jewish Mediterranean roots brought a labyrinth of flavors and cultural understanding to her cuisine repertoire.

Her professional training from the SF Culinary Academy and Bauman College in holistic nutrition helped her advancement to Executive Chef at some of the San Francisco Bay Area top restaurants, such as: Chez Panisse, Mesa, Ginger Island, Poulet and Bridges. Her years of experience as both chef and culinary instructor makes her an excellent teacher. Alison loves sharing her knowledge and passion for seasonal cuisine and all things natural.

Alison and Abroad Writer’s Conference founder, Nancy Gerbault, first met at UC Berkeley in the 70’s when they were both art students. Nancy was the painter and Alison a sculptor. As young women they spent many hours over steaming cups of cappuccino at Cafe Mediterranean on Telegraph Avenue, sharing their ideas and dreams for the future.

It was Nancy, whom Alison credits as her first forays into the seductive pleasures of cooking Indian and French food, fresh herbs, eggplant and ratatouille. Nancy was a fabulously creative cook. Sometimes dinner would start at 9 pm and last until midnight. Alison couldn’t get enough and she came back for more and more. Nancy was also an International Flight Attendant for TWA and she shared her worldly travels with Alison, who was an open appreciative student. She was hungry for adventure, sensual flavors and wisdom.

Fast forward 40 years. Now, these two best friends have a chance to fulfill their dreams of traveling together and preparing fabulous dinners for Abroad Writers’ Conference authors and participants.

Experience Alison’s food, stemming from her original interest in sculpture, love of process and truth to the materials transformed in the kitchen. Alison, Alex Forsythe and Nancy will bring their culinary wizardry and zest for adventure to the table every night.




ALEX will be doing a workshop at Lake Como on memoir and travel memoir, voyages of self-discovery, what he calls “accidental journalism” : how the most transformative experiences that happen when you put yourself out there are usually things you hadn’t planned for, the chance encounters and whiffs of the uncanny. One of our consummate travel memoirists, he will explain how the art of travel is orchestrating the unpredictable, and the art of travel memoir is bringing the journey back to life so vividly the reader feels he is the one on the trip. For fifty years, Shoumatoff has been like Everyman going to the ends of the earth to experience the Other, and discovering that they are one and the same, visiting the bushmen of the Kalahari and finding out that he is 75,000 years old.

From Alex, ”  I’m returning in my head to where I was in November-December in the highlands of sarawak with the penan. going through my notebooks which have notes I took as things were happening and acting on me. So what I’m doing now is travel memoir, but the notes were letting whatever was happening act on me, letting the words to describe the life forms and activities I am witnessing come, to recreate and become them. in a sort of impressionistic telegraphese, as one of my editors call it. the way mavis gallant wrote her travel impressions in the fifties for the new yorker

that’s what we’ll be doing on these outings. like artists going out with our easels to paint in the grand tradition. except our pigments will be words and phrases. my books and magazine pieces are replete with this kind of writing. a black stripper named Miss Mustang Salley in miami beach l973 working down to her g-string and running her fingers over the only body she had, while the retirees puffing cigars in the audience, her entire audience,  send up appreciative billows of smoke. Florida Ramble, my first books (Postcards From Florida in its latest edition, which uses the original title) is full of this kind of writing. The technique of getting the sound and flow and rhythm of the words to reproduce what they are talking about is basically poetic. I learned it when I was studying with Robert Lowell and taking ancient Greek and thinking I was going to be the next great poet in the English literary tradition and when i switched to prose I kept using it. “

Read Alex’s latest Vanity Fair Story, The Awa Indians of Amazonian Brazil: The Most Endangered Tribe on Earth http://www.vanityfair.com/contributors/alex-shoumatoff

You’ll be scouting four of the most beautiful towns around Lake Como.
Day 1
1:00 – 4:30
In a cafe, the workshop will begin with Alex discussing his memoir piece “Positively 44th Street” and the concept of Accidental Journalism.
Afterwards you’ll be scouting the town of Como.
Day 2
12:00 – 4:30
Ferry to Bellagio from Como
Workshop on the hydrofoil, discussing writings from the previous day.
Scouting the town of Bellagio

Bellagio is often called one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Nestled amid cypress groves and verdant gardens, its earth-toned old buildings climb from the lakefront promenade along stepped cobbled lanes. While Bellagio is a popular retreat for everyone from Milanese out for a day of relaxation to British and Americans who come to relax for a week or two, the town has, for the most part, managed to keep its dignity despite the crush of tourists that arrive in the summer months.

One of Bellagio’s famed gardens surrounds the Villa Melzi built by Francesco Melzi, a friend of Napoleon and an official of his Republic. The villa was the retreat of Franz Liszt and is now the home of a distinguished Lombardian family; they allow the public to stroll through their acres of manicured lawns and fountains and to visit a pavilion where a collection of Egyptian sculpture is on display.

Day 3
12:00 – 4:30
Ferry to Menaggio from Como
Workshop on the hydrofoil, discussing writings from the previous day.
Scouting the town of Menaggio
This lively resort town hugs the western shore of the lake, across from Bellagio on its peninsula and Varenna on the distant shore.
A short walk along Menaggio’s lakeside promenade is like a fairytale from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Spotted with ornate villas and houses, you can also get amazing views of Bellagio and Varenna from a distance. However, the upper part of the town is entirely different still, preserving the remains of medieval ruins with the original castle walls still viewable to the public.

Day 4

12:00 – 4:30

Ferry to Varenna from Como.

Workshop on the hydrofoil, discussing writings from the previous day.

Scouting the town of Varenna

You can happily spend some time clambering up and down the steep steps that substitute for streets in this charming village (on the eastern shore of the lake, about 10 min. by ferry from Bellagio) that, until not too long ago, made its living by fishing. The main attractions, though, are outside town.

The hilltop ruins of the Castello di Vezio  are about a 20-minute walk above the town on a gradually ascending path. The main reason for a visit is to enjoy the stunning views of the lake, its shoreline villages, and the backdrop of mountains at the northern end.

The gardens of the Villa Monastero  are more easily accessible, at the southern edge of town along Via 4 Novembre, and you can reach them by following the series of lakeside promenades through the Old Town from the ferry landing. This villa and the terraced gardens that rise up from the lakeshore were once a not-so-spartan monastery — until it was dissolved in the late 17th century when the nuns in residence began bearing living proof that they were on too-friendly terms with the priests across the way. If you find it hard to tear yourself from the bowers of citrus trees and rhododendrons clinging to terraces, you’ll find equally enchanting surroundings in the adjoining gardens of the Villa Cipressi

Day 5

1:00 – 4:00


Workshopping 20 page stories that were previously submitted.

Words from Paul Harding about his workshop


“In our workshop we will gladly ponder whatever kind of prose you write, from the most photorealistic fiction to unlineated poetry, from the most heavily plotted story to stream-of-consciousness lyric. We will allow each piece its own terms and judge its effectiveness at embodying them, rather than any we might impose upon it from the outside. We will consider genre as a description applied subsequently to the composition of a piece of writing, not a received premise that might constrain it in its making.”  Paul Harding

Patricia Smith was just awarded the Lenore Marshall Poetry Award



“Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah” has just been awarded the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States last year.

Patricia will be teaching a poetry workshop at Lismore Castle, December 9th – 16th in Ireland.

The Art of Being There: Immersion and Narrative in Nonfiction and Biography by EDWARD HUMES

Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Humes workshop.

The Art of Being There: Immersion and Narrative in Nonfiction and Biography



A principal method for accomplishing this feat of turning life into narrative is immersion – the art of insinuating oneself inside a place, process, institution or person’s life, then using first-hand storytelling to reveal character, drama and import. Immersion nonfiction is about getting inside a story, in search of the insights, depth and detail that can imbue nonfiction prose with the same richness seen in great novels, and that can illustrate and expose important issues of culture, society, justice and government through highly dramatic and human narratives. Immersion writing has a storied history in America, dating back to such turn-of-the-century muckrakers as Nellie Bly and her classic “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” and continuing with such modern masters of the craft as Tracy Kidder and John McPhee. Whether your goal is short-form writing or long, 500 words or 50,000, the same approach and skills will serve a writer well.


This course will serve as a mini-boot camp for immersion research and narrative building. We’ll use the landscape and rich resources of our workshop setting as fodder for a series of “quick fire” research and writing exercises including:


— the sense of a place (treating setting as character)


— bringing characters to life

— interviewing 101

— using the historical to inform the present

In class we’ll analyze a series of short readings in a variety of narrative nonfiction genres, including crime, biography, environmental/nature and other specialized topics of interest to the group. We’ll explore in-depth the research methods and techniques for “getting inside,” for developing setting and character, and for building coherent narratives with strong beginnings, middles and ends while remaining true to your source material.

A Full Manuscript Critique from New York Times Bestseller Jacquelyn MItchard



Open only to six students, #1 New York Times Bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard (‘The Deep End of the Ocean’) will host a full-manuscript intensive critique. Each student will receive advance digital copies of the other writers’ manuscripts and, at Lismore Castle, Mitchard will lead a full half-day session on each completed book of fiction or creative non-fiction. Admission to this class is based on individual manuscript potential, and application must be made well in advance of the conference in order to assure that the extra demands of a full-book seminar can be met. Mitchard also will provide a written critique with editing and revision suggestions to each participant. Contact conference organizer Nancy Gerbault for guidelines and specifics.

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.