As some of you may know, I discovered the story for Three Gold Coins while I was on writing retreat in Tuscany in 2016, with fellow writer and friend Vanessa Carnevale. Vanessa is once again running writing retreats in Tuscany this year and you have the chance to go! I asked Vanessa to tell us a bit about her, her work and the value of writing retreats.
Can you tell us a bit about your connections to Italy and what you love most about Italy?
I met my husband in Florence while holidaying over there in the late 90s and ended up living there for several years in my early twenties. I had a job in the city centre and started doing some freelance writing in addition to that. I’m enamoured by the history, the art, the culture, the food, the people! There’s always so much to learn and see over there and one of the things I love most, is the relaxed and much slower paced lifestyle. I’m very lucky that having family over there allows us to travel back as often as we can.
Your first book was set in Italy and your second in Australia. Would you like to share a little about the books and the research for both?
My debut novel, The Florentine Bridge, is set in Florence, and is about an artist by the name of Mia, who travels to Tuscany to find her passion for life again after experiencing a life-changing illness. The setting and its characters were informed by my time living in Italy. So I knew the Tuscan setting very intimately and while the characters, love story and storyline are completely fictional, writing the book was like taking a trip back down memory lane as I wrote about the places I had visited. I spent quite a bit of time researching renaissance art and painting which I love.
The Memories That Make Us, my latest novel, is set on a fictional flower farm in Victoria and is about Gracie, who after an accident, is left unable to recall most of the elements of her life, including her late mother and her fiance, Blake. It’s a story of self-discovery which follows Gracie’s journey as she rediscovers who she is after this big moment which turns her life upside down. For this book I did lots of lovely research into flower cultivation and the way flowers have a positive impact on emotion. Bonus for me is that I now have a beautiful flower garden and can enjoy freshly cut blooms any time I want!
What do you love most about writing retreats and how do you think they help writers?
Writing retreats are a wonderful way to nurture creativity. Getting away from the daily grind, and into an environment where you’re spending time alongside other writers who understand you is so refreshing and re-energising. For me personally, I find that supporting other writers gives me a deeper sense of purpose and in helping others I find my passion for writing amplifies. It’s a total joy and I am so proud of the writers who come along. I love being part of their cheer squad as they go on to make progress with their writing. For some writers, coming to a retreat might be a way of prioritising and taking action on a lifelong dream to write, and for others it might be a way of stepping away to fully immerse oneself in writing without interruption in order to make significant progress on a project.
Can you share a bit about your upcoming retreat(s) and how people can find out more?
I’m leading another two writing retreats in Tuscany this September and have availability for the second week which is from the 24th Sep – 1st Oct. They’re week-long retreats and we stay in a gorgeous 17th century villa not too far from the centre of Florence. Anyone who reads Three Gold Coins will be able to experience some armchair travel there! 😉
[Jo: This is true! The pictures here in this blog post come from the very villa I stayed in and used as inspiration for the setting of Three Gold Coins!]
Writers can come along and attend the workshops on offer and largely spend uninterrupted writing time against a gorgeous backdrop of olive trees and undulating hills. There’s also the opportunity for sightseeing and Chianti tours for those who would like to do that. We also have a swimming pool. It’s gorgeous! It’s a beautiful week away that does wonders for our creativity!Anyone interested can find out more on my website: www.yourbeautifulwritinglife.com
Quick five: Favourite Italian word? Where do you want to travel next? One thing from your bucket list? Last meal? Favourite childhood book?
1. L’amore – love
2. New York. I’ve always said I want to travel to NY in 2019 for my 40th!
3. I would love to renovate a cottage in the country and use it for writing weekends away. THE DREAM.
4. Yoghurt and muesli for breakfast
5. The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
Vanessa Carnevale is a freelance writer and novelist who has contributed to The Green Parent, The Huffington Post, Muse, and Italy magazine, among others. Her debut novel, The Florentine Bridge, was published by MIRA in Australia in 2017. She was a finalist in the Best New Author category for the AusRom Today Readers Choice Awards 2017. She lives in Australia with her husband and two children.
When not writing, Vanessa loves to travel and often finds inspiration for her stories in locations outside her hometown of Melbourne. She is also the creator and host of Your Beautiful Writing Life retreats held in Australia and Tuscany, Italy. She loves tea, and flowers, and often dreams of escaping to the country.