"Sensing Italy" with Lisa Clifford and Jan Cornall

by: Jennifer Richardson on


Creativity flowed and some dark history explored.

Our little writers group had a wonderful bespoke experience in May working with two brilliant teachers in two gorgeous Palazzo's in two very different locations. They were totally spoiled!

The writers came together to unlock their writing talents and be inspired in the birthplace of modern literature. An aside to this was a wish to discover a little about the connection of a nasty ancient relative from 1300’s of our host in Mercatello and the great author of medieval times, Dante Algheri! Don’t worry the family has grown to be hugely supportive of the arts in more recent times. 

Thankfully before we left home our author and teacher from Australia, Jan Cornall had sent out some suggestions to get the creative juices flowing on the journey to Italy.

Then our writing retreat began in earnest in the sumptuous surrounds of Palazzo San Niccoló in Florence with local author and teacher, Lisa Clifford. Lisa has lived and worked in Florence for the past 25 years and she guided us smoothly and humorously through our shy and somewhat reserved start and walked us through some fascinating backstreets and some of her secret locations where we were inspired to get on and write.

Following on from Florence we took a 2.5 hour drive with our italian partner and host Luisa Donati to her family Palazzo in Mercatello sul Metuaro. Over very warm hospitality and a glass of prosecco and delicious dinner in the delightful home she shared more nasty stories about what the distant relative of the Donati’s did to poor old Dante! To learn more about this story… well you’ll have to come with us on our next journey to Tuscany.

After delicious leisurely breakfasts in the Palazzo we had sessions with Jan, beginning with her soothing writing meditations and expert skills and tips, words and emotions flowed out in buckets and later in the day so did the vino!!

This picture was taken in a little room off the kitchen in Palazzo Donati straight after a morning session with Jan Cornall. These sessions were like gold; the words were pouring out and the emotions and all the senses were charged.

The only problem we faced at the end of our journey in Palazzo Donati was that no-one wanted to leave.. we wanted to stay on, keep writing, and keep exploring this magical medieval village, the food and the warm hospitality of the people.  We will factor in an add period to do just that next time ;-)

Would you like to do this event ? Do let us know.


Writing with all the Senses

by: Jennifer Richardson on

That is just one of the fun things we will be doing on our upcoming Come to your Senses retreat with Shelley Kenigsberg in Italy this year.

The dates are confirmed for the 17th -29th September, 2018

Beginning the journey in Florence, we'll be workshopping with Shelley and spending time writing each day. We'll be exploring the fascinating literary sub culture and meeting with some local authors; there will be evenings spent enjoying aperitivo in a building which has been through many ‘edits’. First it was a monastery, then a prison, and then — the most important for us this tour — into a Literary Cafe. 

After a few days in Florence, we will go on to Mercatello sul Metauro, a little village in Le Marche. We’ve selected this region for its connection to the master writer, Dante Aligheiri who was inspired here to compose his most recognised work: Dante’s Divine Comedy  — a superb introduction to new thinking coming out of the Middle Ages, and was a significant contribution to Italian poetry of the Late Middle Ages/Early Renaissance.

Luisa Donati is opening the doors of her delightful family Palazzo (Palazzo Donati) for our guests and introducing us to her friends in the village. Can you imagine getting a banquet cooked and served to you by 9 passionate foodies from the village? Yes it's true, you will get that!

You can read a little about what Barbara Weible has to say about this little village in her blog 'Hole in the Donut' or what Annette White from 'Bucket List' says about the village and Palazzo Donati by clicking on the links here. 'Hole in the Donut' and 'Bucket List'

More about Shelley Kenigsberg here>> editinginparadise.com/

Contact us for more information >> contact

Richard Fidler and Liz Gilbert on facing fear and finding creativity

by: Jennifer Richardson on

This is a little rave about a recorded conversation from 2015 with Richard Fidler from the ABC's Conversation series and Liz Gilbert. 

Conversations with Richard Fidler are lengthy enough to draw you deep into the lives of extraordinary people. And this episode not only drew me deeper into part of what makes Liz Gilbert tick but it could be a game changer for me. She articulated exactly what I feel so passionate about and the very essence of the thinking behind The Create Escape.

Listen to the recording here>>

I hope you enjoy it and get as much out of it as I have.

Wordstruck - Claire Scobie, Why successful authors write into a structure

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Are you a planner or a pantser — a fly-by-the-pants writer? Either way if you write your stories or books into a structure you’re more likely to finish them.
People often worry about structure. They worry that it will hamper their plot or stifle their style. Actually structure does the opposite. It gives you a framework in which to write. It stops a story becoming unwieldy.

Imagine trying to build a house without a plan? Or without a foundation. It wouldn’t hold up.

Structure gives you the form and then you can play with the content. There’s a rule of thumb. Anything over about 2 – 3,000 words requires storytelling craft in order to keep the reader reading. So for those short blog posts, you can be a pantser. But doing long form, planning and structure are your best friends.

Here are 5 structures to make your writing more compelling

Chronological — the most straightforward for a memoir piece or a life story (fiction or non-fiction). Also works for a history of a place or an autbiography. If you’re new to writing, start chronologically and then you can always move scenes around later.

Thematic— often evolves as you are writing. Or you can decide on the themes as a way to tie loose strands together. In Sarah Macdonald’s Holy Cow she used the many faiths of India as way to organise her narrative.

Three act structure — follows a traditional formula that dates back to the Greeks and has been adapted to Hollywood by Syd Field. You have the set up, an inciting incident or catalyst that leads to the first major turning point. This pushes the story to the second act and the climax, a second major turning point and ultimately a resolution.

Hero’s Journey — another version of the ‘three act’ based around the work of mythologist Josesph Campbell, author of A Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell studied 100s of myths from around the world and realised that they follow the same pattern. Now widely used in Hollywood following Christopher Vogler’s The Writers Journey, you can simplify it and adapt for fiction. It can also be applicable to memoir if any of the stages of the Hero’s Journey — often a form of coming of age story — are applicable to your life.

Collage – takes its cue from visual art. This structure works well for disparate subjects that you are weaving together. It’s not right for a story with a beginning, middle and end. The entries are often short – separated by a ‘#’ or a gap or in numbered sections. Michael Ondaatje does collage very well in Running in the Family.

There are others… but that’s a post for later.

If you’re planning ahead and the idea of a writing retreat in Italy sounds utterly gorgeous, my dates for Writing in a Palace are now confirmed: 19 – 26 September, 2015.  

Best, Claire Scobie

What can I do to better capture emotion in writing? Aman Anand, Writer

by: Jennifer Richardson on

1. Read your writing out loud - do not underestimate the importance of how your sentences sound. Reading your writing out loud will help you develop an understanding of the rhythm your sentences take on, which in turn will improve the flow of your writing. This will also help you listen to how the emotions you are conveying sound.

2. Practise specific elements of writing - for example, if you feel you are particularly weak at constructing metaphors, set yourself exercises that allow you to develop your metaphors gradually (e.g. take a stock situation and write ten metaphors for it). Do not underestimate the importance of using such devices to express emotions within your writing, they can transform a singular feeling into something more complex and intense.

3. Develop your vocabulary - a writer's primary tool is his words. If you are struggling with expressing your feelings and conveying emotions, perhaps you do not have the necessary tools to convey yourself as a writer. Reading alone will not do this, you need to make sure you read outside your comfort zone, so that you can pick up new and exciting words.

4. Read some poetry
- many of the great poets were forced to not only convey their idea in words, but they had to do so in metre and verse; as always though, limitation bred innovation. Watch how they exploit the confines of metre to express complex emotions and profound feelings. It should help inspire you to think of new ways to tackle the issue of translating your thoughts into articulate writing.

5. Show your writing to someone you trust - it can be very hard to work out what is 'wrong' with our own writing. All too often, we are our own biggest critics and go overboard on criticising our own work. Give your work to someone you trust and you might be surprised at the observations they make, they will help you understand your work in a fresh light on the way you are portraying emotions in your writing.

About the author

Aman Anand is a 30 year old indie author who says he checks his Twitter and Quora feeds a little too often! His books can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/A.S.-Anand...

10 ways to complete your writing goals. By Claire Scobie

by: Jennifer Richardson on

1. Put together a plan on what you still want to achieve. Doesn’t matter if it’s handwritten or a spreadsheet, a mindmap or a bunch of sticky post-its. Goals are much more achievable if they’re written down.

2. Prioritise. Realistically you probably aren’t going to complete the final draft of your novel, write the synopsis AND get a publishing deal before the clock strikes midnight on December 31. But there’s time to add another 15,000 words to your manuscript if you aim to write 1,500 words a week for the next 10 weeks (c'mon that’s do-able).

3. Make a date to meet up with your writing buddy or writing group. Do this now before everyone’s diaries get filled up. Ensure that you give each other a task. Then celebrate afterwards and schedule your next meet-up in the new year.

4. Spring clean your desk. Honestly, clearing your physical space helps remove psychic clutter. Take 2 hours to sift through your stack of papers, chuck out obsolete drafts & make space for the new. Wipe down your desk, pick some flowers, make it a pleasant place to sit.

5. Go through all the work you have done this year. You’ve probably forgotten that short story you wrote on the train to work. Compile it – either in print-outs or digitally – and feel good about what you’ve already achieved. See where the gaps are and what you want to plug before the end of 2014.

6. Block out a writing day (half-a-day if that’s all you have) between now and Christmas. Diarise this. Make it yours. Give yourself one thing to complete and when you’ve done that, send it to a writing buddy you trust.

7. Book yourself in for a writing workshop. This is especially for those of you who made it a 2014 New Year Resolution and haven’t yet signed up. Join us in Italy for 'Writing in a Palace'. It’s amazing how in the presence of others (and a great teacher!) you can re-focus on your writing.

8. Start reading that book you keep promising yourself you’ll read… and never do. Start tonight. I find that reading is a great way to re-invigorate my writing.

9. And lastly… Map out your writing strategy for the last quarter AND for the next quarter. It’s important to end the year on a high so you start 2015 with a bang.

10. Contact us to tell us how you going with your writing and what support you need.

If you’re taking a break over Christmas, make sure you end your current writing project at a suitable juncture – and before you finish up, write a list of what you’re going to do next. That way, when you come back after your holiday, you have an instant starting point & waste less time.
Let us know how you go!

The gift of writing

by: Jennifer Richardson on

When you make a book you are making a gift for the world. A gift is a talking point, a gesture, the beginning of a conversation, an opening. When you doubt yourself, you close down, you contract, the light can’t get in. Plenty of doubt and fear goes into writing a book, a poem, a song; the biggest being that you will make a complete fool of yourself, and believe me, along the way you will. Yes, there will be moments when you feel so foolish you want to crawl back in your hole and never come out AND there will be moments of total euphoria, as you revel in your audacity and daring to reach for the heights only you know you are capable of.

I’m a bit of a cliff leaper so I’m used to landing flat on my face. It comes with the territory.


You can join Jan on Moroccan Caravan, a 14 day writing journey on the 1st November, 2014 <Read more>

Check out a recent interview with Jan by Georgie Walsh on the style journal <Wearona.com>

Jan was guest blogger last month on Lee Kofmans blog.To read this great article <click here>

Why you need writing allies

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Claire Scobie shares why allies are so important in helping us keep on track with our writing.

When my new novel was launched at Gleebooks in Sydney I had the chance to thank and acknowledge some of those people who’ve helped me along the way. Even though it’s just my name on the cover, when you write and complete a big project like a book, it’s always a team effort.

So who are your writing allies and friends? Here’s a list of mine:

A mentor: when I started out in journalism I worked alongside the brilliant writer Mick Brown. He coached, coaxed and inspired me in those early years.

A writing group: if you can find a group that encourages and supports your writing, all the better. Joining a writing retreat will instantly help you connect with a group. Singabout has several writing retreats on the upcoming events list.

A writing buddy: this subject is a favourite of mine. A writing buddy usually isn’t your partner or spouse, nor your best friend. It’s someone you can trust to give you critical feedback and who’ll tell you to keep going during the dreary and sludge times.

Writers’ centres: you can never stop learning. I regularly attend courses to hone my craft.

Writers’ festivals or conferences: whatever genre you write, there’s always an event you can attend, mingle with fellow writers and hobnob among editors and publishers.

Writing tweeps: I’m new to the twitter world but there is a very supportive group of writers out there. It’s a great way to access writers who you wouldn’t normally connect with. Check out these writing hashtags: #authors, #fictionfriday #pubtip (publication tips) #writegoal #wrotetoday #writetip (writing advice), #writeabout

My family & close friends: support me and keep writing in perspective.

Scrivener: this software makes the job easier.

Mindmaps: I use Novamind to create colourful mindmaps when I am mapping out a new project.

Favourite books of the moment: to remind me why I do it.

My blog followers: all of you help too! Every time I get a comment from a post, it encourages me to keep blogging.

So share who and what helps keep you writing …

Add hashtag #writeabout and it will help to find our allies.

Claire Scobie gives us 5 ways to be accountable in writing a story

by: Jennifer Richardson on

As a journalist I’m used to deadlines. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t always finish stories. Or even start them.

When you’re working on a book or a bigger writing project you need to create your own deadlines. If you know you won’t stick to them, find someone you can be accountable to.

Here are 5 ways to be accountable

  1. Find a friend you trust or a writing buddy or a group of writers. Tell them to give you a deadline.
  2. Write out your goals – research suggests you’re more likely to succeed if you do so.
  3. Be time specific with your goals – so set a realistic date to finish your story or first draft.
  4. If you’re writing book, break down your goals. Make a commitment to write 5,000 words every month or whatever.
  5. Email all of this to your friend / buddy / group. You are now accountable to them and if you don’t meet your goals you need a VERY good excuse. (Or you may set yourself a fine.)

This works better if there is an exchange. So if you say you’re going to finish your first chapter and your friend is an artist, she needs to have done the first sketch of her watercolour.

How do you ensure you finish your stories?

Claire Scobie will be teaching at our Writing in a Palace in 2015, held at Palazzo Donati in Marche, Italy. Details to be updated soon.

Jan Cornall's Ten Top Tips

by: Jennifer Richardson on

From the revised edition of Jan’s best seller – Write Your Book On A Weekend   -  coming soon in the Online Shop

  1. Read, Read, Read! Everything and anything all the time – feed on the classics, modern literature, experimental writing.  Devour it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep yourself in a state of perpetual inspiration.
  2. Write, Write, Write! Everyday as much as you can. Copy, imitate, beg, borrow, steal until you find your writers’ voice. If you only write for ten minutes a day, that’s 300 words which over a year adds up to 109,500 words. That’s a book!
  3. Write as if your life depended on it. If your idea doesn’t involve daring, forget it and come up with one that does. If you feel scared to write what you want to write, you know you are on the right track.
  4. Make a Commitment. If you are not committed to your idea forget it! It has to be something you would trade your life for – well almost! Sell your house, hock your dog. Make a list of the things you are willing to give up for your writing.
  5. Trust You Can. To write a book you have to trust in yourself, in the process, in the unknown. It’s another reason we don’t do it. It’s too scary! What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? What if I succeed? Then what? You have to trust that your every bit of scribbling will one day all add up to something.
  6. Have Faith. It’s like trust, but is more about believing you really can do it – that you have what it takes to be a writer, that you believe you really will do it. In the times when you don’t have faith just act ‘as if.’ Tell people you are writing a book and then you will have to do it! Don’t give them too much information, just enough to keep them intrigued.
  7. Cultivate the Art of Dreaming. You can do it anywhere, any time. Suddenly your favorite (antisocial) pastime becomes useful. Cultivate the art of dreaming on your bed, in an armchair, in the garden, in the traffic jam, but always make sure you have your notebook close by to catch the ideas as they start to fall.
  8. Marry Creativity! People, partnerships, marriages may come and go but the creative process will never abandon you. From the moment you wake ‘til the moment you go to sleep if you give yourself over to creativity you will never be unhappy again.
  9. Write From a Place of Emotional Truth. It doesn’t mean you have to tell all your secrets but if you can harness the power of your unique emotional truth your writing will have a powerful impact.
  10. Always Come Back To The Writing. There’s no need to get impatient or rush to the end product. As in meditation when we simply come back to the breath, each day all you have to do is come back to the writing and watch the writing will write itself.

One of the best ways to  get your writing flowing is to join a writers retreat. Check out Moroccan Caravan with Jan Cornall