Writing workshops and writing classes in San Felice Circeo, Italy with author and journalist Anthony Weller
Anthony Weller is a genius of a teacher: perceptive, encouraging, and precise. His patient tutelage and astute editing have been invaluable to my craft, career, and confidence. I feel outrageously fortunate to be his student. – Lavinia Spalding, author of Writing Away and With A Measure of Grace
The Writing Workshop – San Felice Circeo, Italy
The Italy Writing Workshop offers expert small-group and individual guidance amid the concentration offered by the tranquil beauty along the coast south of Rome. Writers stay for 8 days / 8 nights in May or November. Accommodations are individual rooms in a self-catering private villa, within a mountainside national park beside the Mediterranean.
Writers will enjoy one-on-one tutelage as well as group classes (limited to 9) to explore the skills necessary for both fiction and memoir: dialogue, point of view, plot vs. story, length, description, flashback, exposition, character development, and relations with agents / editors.
People come to writing at different stages of their lives, and bring different levels of experience to the process of self-discovery. Part of what makes writing a challenge is being able to judge when you’ve found something, or when you have not gone deep enough; when a scene succeeds, or when it doesn’t; being able to see what’s wrong, then repair it.
The paramount aim is to help participants assess their own work accurately. Though it’s fashionable to say that creative writing cannot be taught, it certainly can be learned, and the vision behind it encouraged, strengthened, and refined.
Although most workshops rely mainly on a kind of group therapy, writing is at heart a craft of words chosen in solitude. To improve a manuscript, a writer must learn to grapple with each sentence, paragraph, and page. A month prior to the workshop, participants should submit a story or chapter which Anthony will edit, and discuss in a private conference on the first day. One of the week’s goals is to polish this manuscript, and submit a successful rewrite to him for another edit. The last day will consist of private conferences to discuss it.
During the week participants may want to offer the rewrite-in-progress for group discussion. This is optional. Or participants may offer an entirely different manuscript, if they prefer.
Though all this sounds directed at more experienced writers, the workshop welcomes and heartily encourages those who are just getting started—or who dream of getting started. A fine teacher can not only save you years by helping you begin in the most fruitful way, he can also make possible what always felt out of reach or even impossible. There are specific approaches and exercises to melt the frozen sea within us (as one writer put it, facing the blank page), and no participant should feel out of his or her depth here. Indeed, part of the problem every writer faces is deciding what to write about at any given moment, which can make beginners of us all.
If you don’t yet have a manuscript to send Anthony before the workshop, he can provide you a healthy list of one-paragraph “assignment” ideas to choose from and try—no matter what the results may be—so the two of you have something to talk about in your initial conference.
An ability crucial to all first-rate writing is the craft of rewriting. One class, for example, will analyze a few drafts of the same scene by a professional writer. Thus, students can hone the self-editing process through impersonal observation, and develop their own clear-eyed skills.
Group classes last from eight-thirty until noon, at a spacious villa built by a modernist architect a half-century ago. The villa has a contemplative serenity that has nurtured two generations of writers, set in a garden of agave, cactus, palm, and olive trees. Classes are held at the dining table, or outside on terraces with views across an immense sea to the Pontine Islands.
From your villa, swimming coves and caves of early man are minutes’ walk away. The nearby resort town of San Felice Circeo is named for the goddess Circe from Homer’s Odyssey; local wisdom relates that in ancient times the mountain was her island. The small hilltop Centro Storico (Historic Center) has a medieval piazza of intimate restaurants, cafés, and stylish shops.
Since the 1950s San Felice Circeo has been known to Italians but kept secret from most foreigners. In summer, well-to-do Romans rent villas and frequent the diverse beaches. Near your villa is one of Italy’s luxury hotels, the Punta Rossa, with a chic bar and restaurant, cove beach, seaside pool, and health spa (all open, for a fee, to non-guests).
Besides beaches and coves in Circeo itself, twenty minutes’ drive away just around the headland stretch the 20-km sands of Sabaudia, one of Europe’s finest beaches. Among its dunes, in the 1960s and 1970s novelist Alberto Moravia, director-writer Pier Paolo Pasolini, and actress Anita Ekberg were neighbors. Signora Fendi is still tweaking her property, down the spiaggia from director Bernardo Bertolucci. Actress Anna Magnani kept a villa and is buried in Circeo.
Poised high above the Mediterranean on a forested mountainside in a national park, Villa Rosmarina was designed by architect Antonio Valente and embodies influences from Italy’s arts-and-crafts tradition to art deco ironwork and North Africa’s whiteness. Its organic lines and the warm flow of its living spaces offer a handmade welcome while ensuring plenty of private calm.
Built in 1961 for a renowned actress of the wartime cinema who achieved her greatest fame as a writer, the villa often played host to celebrated figures like Pasolini, Moravia, and Alberti. After a half-century it still remains within her family, and retains a bygone sense of artistic sanctuary and casual summers by the seaside. (There is wireless internet access.)
For intimate sunbathing, the entire roof is a terrace reached by spiral staircase, with stunning views to the Pontine Islands, and back to the sweep of mountains and coast. In the distance are Naples, Mt. Vesuvius, and Ischia. On the main level, a terrace wraps around two sides of the villa, with plenty of lounge chairs, inset tiled seats, and a barbecue.
The 3000-square-meter property has been deliberately kept wild, enclosed by oak, rosemary, myrtle, pine, and strawberry trees. Near the villa, in the back garden, is a picnic area. Carved and tiled stone benches line the long path sloping down to the coast road. The property is securely gated.
Writers come for 8 days / 8 nights, in May or November.
It is highly recommended that writers rent cars for enjoying the region, which is very special. Circeo is less than two hours’ drive from Leonardo da Vinci Airport, Rome (Fiumicino).
For those who prefer not to drive, taxi transfers from the airport can be arranged for 85 Euros each way, or shared car rental may be coordinated with other participants.
Writers are expected to bring their own computers, adapter plugs, and a ream of printer paper. So long as they can email text in MS Word, they can use Anthony’s printer, or internet cafés in the town of Circeo.
1400 Euros for the 8 days / 8 nights. All instruction, room, and instructional materials included. Not included: air fare to Rome, car rental, meals, drinks.
A 400 Euros deposit is required to secure your place. The balance of payment is due on or before one month prior to the workshop’s start. (Please make a note of this date.) Cancellations before then are refundable less the 400 Euros deposit. Cancellations after that date (less the 400 Euros deposit) are refundable only if your place is filled. Payments should be made by wire transfer to an Italian bank.
Accommodations are private rooms on a self-catering basis in Villa Rosmarina. It is about a ten-minute walk to Villa Agave, where the workshop is held. Non-writing partners are welcome for the week at a 400 Euro surcharge. Rooms are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
Private accommodations are also available nearby, in two lovely hotels beside the Mediterranean, with full seaside amenities. Prices on demand.