Tag Archives: Italy

A few photos from Italy

I have returned to Austin from Tuscany, where I taught a crime writing workshop. While I sit on the kitchen floor eating coffee beans from the bag to recover from jet lag, have a few photos from Fivizzano and Pisa. And yes, when you’re on foot in a foreign city, it helps to spot a landmark. Right there: PIZZERIA.

I’m teaching fiction, but Fivizzano really exists


Buongiorno from Italy. The writing workshop I’m teaching is run here, at the Watermill at Posara. I’m tutoring students on story structure, plot twists, character development, suspense, dialogue, and, generally, how to create worlds out of whole cloth. When I told a friend I was offering this course in an Italian town called Fivizzano, she said, “You’re making that up.”

Nope. Here’s proof. Above: the town, with the Apennines rising behind it. Below: Posara, the little neighborhood where the Watermill perches above the river.


Yesterday before dinner I hiked up a winding mountain road to get these photos. Coming around a switchback, I spotted something unexpected: a wrecked blue Ford station wagon halfway down the ravine.


It looked empty, and nobody was moaning from the nearby trees. I quickly returned to the Watermill and asked if anybody had heard screeching brakes, or a crash, or sirens. Nobody had, anytime in the past few days. At the local pizzeria the night before, the fire brigade had been jovially enjoying dinner — they didn’t look like they’d been on any tough rescues. One of my students said she’d gone running up the ravine earlier in the week, and the car was there then. So I don’t know any more about the crash, or how long the car has been there.

It’s a mystery. Maybe I’ll try to integrate it into my writing course.

It’s a tough job


But you know what they say.

Austin-Houston-Munich-Pisa sounds like a relay team. It’s the route I took to get to the Watermill at Posara, near Fivizzano, Italy. And when the last leg of the journey takes you over the Alps, you don’t complain.


Now I’m getting ready to spend the week teaching a writing workshop, and helping the students rassle all their words into shape. Here’s the 17th century Italian setting where we’re going to work. Pity us.

Italian mysteries solved

Leaning Tower of Pisa

In case you were wondering about the answers to the questions raised in my last post:

1. “Scremato” milk is skimmed, not screaming.

2. The Baptistry is in the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, along with its more famous leaning neighbor.

Two Italian mysteries



Mystery number one: Guess where the photo above was taken. Hint: there’s another even more tilty white marble building just out of sight.

Mystery number two: If I drink “scremato” milk, will I start shrieking?


Doing research in Italy


I’m working like a dog here in Italy this week. Today I led my students on an expedition to the walled city of Lucca, where they all planned their historical/religio-political/timeslip/world-spanning thrillers.


Among the places we visited was the Cathedral of San Martino. This labyrinth is part of the wall outside the church. I don’t know what the words carved in the stone mean, but when I said them aloud, the skies darkened, bats flew screaming from the belfry, and a demonic choir began to sing. Then I got gelato.

Someone’s gotta do it


This week I’m teaching a writing course. Just down the hill from this charming village. In Italy. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

More news, and more answers to your writing questions, once I’ve given the students more devilish writing assignments. Or eaten some more gelato. Something like that.