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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

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

Karen Joy Fowler, Fantasy best describes our modern Bizarre World


Karen Joy Fowler, author of five novels and two short story collections. Her short story collection, Black Glass, won The World Fantasy Award.  Fowler spent over an hour sharing her wisdom about what makes good sci fi/fantasy.

According to Fowler, many students haven’t read much contemporary sci fi or fantasy, so that when they go to write it, they rely on old tropes and standards to tell their stories.

Fowler is clear that when writing fantasy and science fiction for our contemporary world, it is important, first and foremost, to write good fiction. All standards of fiction writing need to be applied to genre fiction. Genre writers need to be able to do it all: plot, character development, setting, scene, symbolism, as well as create an original new world.

Karen Joy Fowler is very interested in fantasy and sci fi as explored through the short story. She offered several places to read quality work of this variety including: “Eclipse,” an anthology out of Australia, “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazines, Best Of collections (but she warns, these publications can be agenda driven), “Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet,”, and “Turkey City Lexicon,” which discusses in length the pitfalls to avoid when writing sci fi/fantasy.

Fowler says,  fantasy and sci fi do nothing but discuss contemporary issues. Fantasy is a stronger vehicle than ‘realism’ to portray “reality” because the real world is becoming more and more bizarre every day.

Fantasy and science fiction are genres of setting, first and foremost, Fowler asserts. Karen Joy Fowler offered more advice for those of us who work in these genres. When creating ‘evil people,’ keep in mind that most people who do bad things think they are doing something good. Do not promote stereotypes and prejudice. And, possibly most importantly, Fowler urges us to be creative. The future of fantasy and science fiction needs more imagination and fewer world-weary immortals.

Karen will be teaching a workshop that covers Fiction/Historical Fiction and Fantasy at Lismore Castle, December 9 – 16, 2013.

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.

AWC Short Short Story competition results


First we would like to thank everyone who entered our writing competition.

Our winners are:

1st Darothy Durkac — “What He Did With The Insides”

2nd Kelly Creighton — “Until They’ve Hatched”

3rd Hugh McQuillan — “Music To Drive By”


Soojin Kim — “You Sound Well”

Ellen McCarthy — “In The Rain”


From Robert Olen Butler:

I have to say that I was truly impressed with the high quality of submissions in this contest.  The decision process was arduous and nuanced.  The top twenty or so would have been among the winners of more than few flash fictions contests I’ve judged.  And I saw real potential in virtually all of them.  Ireland must have been a powerful lure for nascent talent.  That I might have a chance to work with some of these writers is very exciting for me as a teacher.


The three winners are:  First place, “What He Did with the Insides.”  Second place, “Until They’ve Hatched.” Third place, “Music to Drive By.”


As you know, I took pains to judge these anonymously.


And please send all the submitters my warmest regards.  There’s not a one of them I wouldn’t be sincerely delighted to work with.  Honestly, given my years of experience judging contests, that surprises the hell out of me.




Bob Butler

Short-Short Story Contest, judged by ROBERT OLEN BUTLER




Judge: ROBERT OLEN BUTLER–Pulitzer Prize Winner & F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature


Three Winning Stories will be published in the 2014 February edition  of:



How deep can you dive into your imagination? How breathless can you make readers feel? How brief can you make your best stories? Dazzle us with your brilliant brevity and you might just win a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience during that magical month of December with Abroad Writers’ Conference at Ireland’s historic and awe-inspiring Lismore Castle in County Waterford.


In 500 words or less write a standout story that seduces us, sings to us, shakes us, grabs us by the throat, or that’s so quiet we have to strain to hear. Any subject and any genre, but whatever you do be interesting and make us care. Take the leap, you just might be about to lose and re-find yourself inside a twelfth-century castle in picturesque, hospitable, and literary-loaded Ireland.


1st Prize: Free Admission to award-winning author Ethel Rohan’s 3 Day “Brilliance of Brevity” Workshop*. single room for seven nights, conference & a Celebratory dinner in the castle with Judge, Robert Olen Butler.  Value $1, 085.


2nd Prize: A scrumptious full banquet dinner at Lismore Castle with conference luminaries: Robert Olen Butler, Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Gristwood, Mariel Hemingway, Edward Humes, Claire Keegan, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Anne Perry, Michelle Roberts, Ethel Rohan, Alex Shoumatoff, Patricia Smith, Jane Smiley, and Lily Tuck.


3rd Prize: A complimentary pass to conference events at Lismore Castle.

Entries Accepted June 1st through July 15th,   Winners Announced August 15th, 2013

$10 Entry Fee:

For Full Contest Details Visit:

For Full Conference Details & Registration Visit:

*A $500 value to be used in full payment for Ethel Rohan’s “Brilliance of Brevity” 3 day/15 hr. workshop or can be applied as a $500 discount toward a conference package purchase

Michele Roberts will be teaching a workshop at Lismore Castle

Michèle Roberts
(Hertfordshire, England, May 20, 1949)

Michèle Roberts

Michèle Roberts

Michele Roberts is an English writer of mixed French-English background, the author of numerous highly acclaimed novels, dramas, poems, short stories and essays. She examines the nature of love and the female identity, based on her experience as a woman, of two cultures – French and English, and, later, comparing women through history blurring time, paces, and identities. This way she attempts to re-write the history and to imagine what the future might have been in the light of different historical events. Inspired by the Feminist Movement, she is deeply concerned with the identity of women, but not only the way society view it. She pictures the women as a productive and successful member of society, but also as an individual in search for true self, regardless of social restrains. Her heroines are “whole”, individuals who recognize and live in peace with their own contradictions and differences. They love, interrogate the nature of love, sexuality and explore the possibility of sharing the experience in more than one-way, symbolically representing a conflict between the public and the private, and modes associated with masculinity and femininity.
One of the most significant themes in her work is the mother-daughter relationship. Her style uniquely combines fantasies and myths, described in classical and religious language.
She was Poetry Editor for Spare Rib (1974) and City Limits magazine (1981), formed a writers’ collective (with Sara Maitland, Michelene Wandor and Zoe Fairbairns) as a feminist activist with the Women’s Liberation Movement, serves as a Chair of the British Council literature advisory panel, and is a regular book reviewer and broadcaster (contributor to “Night Waves” and “Woman’s Hour”), as well as a strong literary translation supporter.
She won the Gay News Literary Award 1978 for “Piece of the Night”, the W.H.Smith Literary Award 1993 for “Daughters of the House.” Michele Roberts is Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Major works:

A Piece of the Night, 1978
The Visitation, 1978
Tales I Tell My Mother, 1978
Touch Papers, 1982
The Wild Girl, 1984
The Mirror of the Mother, 1986
The Book of Mrs Noah, 1987
More Tales I Tell My Mother, 1987
The Seven Deadly Sins   (contributor), 1987
The Journeywoman, 1987
Food, Sex & God: on Inspiration and Writing, 1988
In the Red Kitchen, 1990
The Seven Cardinal Virtues   (contributor), 1990
Psyche and the Hurricane, 1991
Daughters of the House, 1992
During Mother’s Absence, 1992
The Heavenly Twins, 1993
Flesh & Blood, 1994
All the Selves I Was, 1995
Child-Lover, 1995
Impossible Saints, 1998
Fair Exchange, 1999
The Looking Glass, 2000
Playing Sardines, 2001
The Mistressclass, 2002
Reader, I Married Him, 2006
Paper Houses, 2007
The Secret Gospel of Mary Magdalene, 2007                                     The Heretic’s Feast, 2012                                                   Ignorance, 2012