Fiction Writers Explore Umbria's Hill Towns

July 15, 2011 Purnell Cropper

In the land of delicious food, 13 graduate students are exploring the art of fiction writing while enjoying the sites of Italy as part of the Umbrian Fiction Writers’ Workshop. Already inspired by Umbria’s hill towns, students are busy writing and learning the importance of developing a writing community.

“I’m enjoying the ability to hang out with a diverse group and to learn from them,” says Jenna Reim, a student in the Master of Arts in English program. “I’m with a team of fellow writers who are here to support each other every step of the way.”

“Out here, we’re still in an academic atmosphere, but I don’t feel like we’re simply classmates,” says David Dill, a Master of Arts in Education student. “Instead, we’re a group of friends all interested in writing and helping each other improve as writers.”

Led by Dr. Richard Wertime, Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies in English and the Humanities,  and accompanied by Michelle Tooker’07,’10M, the group is engaged in an enriching experience.

“During our residency in Italy, students are absorbing, experiencing and responding to a range of stimuli they don’t have access to back in the United States,” says Wertime. “They are in the presence of an enriching landscape, immersed in a different culture, and are exposed to a language not their own.”

Utilizing a 180-page workbook Wertime created specifically for this course, student are improving their craft and learning how to navigate their fiction-writing process. Students are working in cohorts of four to five people to collaborate and assist one another in the creative-writing process.

Residing at the B&B San Marco, students also are experiencing domestic life with an Italian family, enjoying authentic Italian cuisine and a laid-back lifestyle. During full- and half-day trips, the group visited Bevagna, Assisi and Spello, learning the history and culture of these hill towns.

Many students have discovered newfound interests. Monique Clark ’10M, who is entering Arcadia’s new M.F.A. in Creative Writing program, notes that she admires how the poetry students in the course possess an ease in creating metaphors and vivid imagery in their fiction. This is something she wants to explore herself.

“The poetry students in the group are really inspirational in helping me to learn the art,” she says. “For the first time, I really want to take a poetry class. Everyone is really encouraging and motivating me to confront my fear of poetry.”

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