Below is a description of the program for the 2014 Writer’s Renaissance. Sign up here to get information on the 2015 program as it becomes available.

Prosecco is waiting for you!

Prosecco is waiting for you!

Sunday Evening, April 6: Welcome Reception

We will gather on the breathtaking terrace at the hotel. The one facing the Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria. We’ll get to know each other and hear more about our week while sipping Prosecco (Italian champagne) and munching on antipasti.

Monday, April 7: Writing from a Sense of Place

Writing from the Boboli Gardens

Place is much more than setting. Place is written on our hearts and whispers in our ears. Place is hope and regret and longing. Author Lisa Clifford knows this better than anyone. She spent 18 years torn between Australia and Florence – a career and a man. Luckily, she ended up having both!

After breakfast, we will meet Lisa at the gates of the Boboli gardens, where she will lead us in a discussion about how to use place in writing. We’ll have writing time in the gardens, and then free time for you to explore the gardens further, continue your writing, or do whatever else your heart might desire. Lunch is on your own.

Evening: Reconvene on terrace for sharing time and Aperitivo

Group Dinner

Don’t miss Lisa on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast. In this hugely inspiring episode, Lisa discusses Becoming a Writer at a Writing Workshop in Italy. She shares her real-life love story that became a book that inspired a movie, how a murder in her husband’s family shaped her writing, and what she’ll be teaching on-location in the Boboli Gardens at the retreat. She calls the chance to spend a week in the company of other writers in such a beautiful location, “Heaven on a stick.”

Tuesday, April 8: What is Your Block of Marble?

Writer’s block is never about a lack of ideas. It’s always about fear. Imagine what Michelangelo felt right before he struck the first blow into that huge block of marble that become the David. Author Julie Hedlund will spend some time after breakfast discussing Michelangelo and the lessons we can learn from him and apply in our writing. Then we will go the Accademia Gallery to see Mr. David himself. Author Mary Hoffman, who published a book told from the perspective of the fictional model for David, will accompany us. You’ll be given writing instruction and exercises to work on in your free time aimed toward striking blows at your own blocks of fear. Lunch is on your own.

Evening: Reconvene on terrace for sharing time and Aperitivo

Group Dinner

Wednesday, April 9: On Location

Annunciation - Fra Angelico

Annunciation – Fra Angelico

How do authors, who are setting their stories in places other than where they live, use their time when they are “on location” doing research? What are the best onsite and offsite tactics for evoking the sensory, logistical and emotional details of a place? If the time-period is historic, how can visiting a place in modern time help uncover the “bones” of the era in question?

Almost every novel author Mary Hoffman has written has taken place in a city and/or a time period “foreign” to her. After breakfast, she will reveal her secrets to us. Mary will take us to the Convent of San Marco where we will Fra Angelico’s huge Annunciation Ghirlandaio’s Last Supper. We will also visit the “Mad Monk” Savanarola’s cell and consider how Mary used these places in David as opposed to how a Guidebook would describe them. Mary will also reference talking about the same fresco (Noli mi Tangere) in The Italian for Love).write a “scene” together. As we walk, we will look at the city from the eyes of a protagonist. Participants will be challenged to take details from the site and incorporate them into their own writing. After our visit we will refresh ourselves at a typical Florentine trattoria for lunch.

The afternoon, evening and dinner is on your own.

Thursday, April 10: Secrets, Scandals, and Building Character from the Stones of Place

History abounds no matter where we find ourselves, but in some places it whispers more loudly than others. In Florence, it’s the

Renaissance that shouts from every corner of every churchyard and palace, from under every cobblestone in every public

Much of Florence's history has occurred here at the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza Signoria

Much of Florence’s history has occurred here at the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza Signoria

square. Creative nonfiction author Sarah Towle, will guide us through her process for teasing out the characters worthy of channelling the scandals and breakthroughs of the ages. She will do this by leading us on a researcher’s treasure hunt through time.

Using Florence as a blank canvas, Sarah will engage Writers Renaissance participants – first hand and in little ways throughout the week – to add their own color, voice, place, and scene to a written picture depicting the past with characters who once walked the Florence streets…or may have. On our final day, she will aid us in contributing our own unique stamp to a work of collective discovery. Sarah will be just steps ahead of us as we all time travel to the world of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, of the de Medici and their political rivals led by Fra Savonarola.

Evening: Reconvene on terrace for sharing and Aperitivo. Optional: We’ll also practice performing a “group poem” for recording on Friday morning.

Group Dinner

Friday, April 11: Creativity and Cooking

Badia IngredientsAfter the breakfast, the rest of the morning is on your own. Grab a quick panini for lunch and meet back at the hotel for our last adventure together.

Badia Dinner Table

Our dinner table

We’ve spent the week sharing recipes for good writing. Now we are going to head out to the countryside to put our cooking to the test. Specifically, we are going to Badia a Coltibuono (Abbey of the Good Harvest). It’s a former twelfth century monastery and vineyard that’s been converted into a guest estate. They make their own wines, grow much of their own food, and boast a top-rated cooking school. When we arrive, we’ll have time to take a tour of the grounds, or relax and write. Then we’ll test our chops in the kitchen while we sip wine whose grapes have ancestry going back to the twelfth century. We’ll cap it off with a gala dinner to celebrate our week. Our transportation will then arrive to take our weary and happy selves back to the hotel. Want a sneak peek into what this trip was like for 2013 participants? Here’s a short video with highlights from the cooking class! :-)

Saturday, April 12: Goodbyes

We’ll meet for breakfast one last time and make our goodbyes, with hopes of keeping in touch and sharing more adventures in the future.

True Renaissance Women of 2013!!

True Renaissance Women of 2013!!




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  3. WOW! What an amazing event! I’ll have to check my schedule but Florence is on my bucket list!!!


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  6. I would love to do this but at that time I’ll be gypsying around the south with my husband for March and April. I hope you do this again.


  7. Is there only room for 8 people each year?


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