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Memories of Isola Maggiore

2015 Retreat Participant Biddy Unsworth tells us why Isola Maggiore is the perfect place for a writing retreat.

Our first glimpse of the island from the ferry and a growing excitement after the journey to Italy.

A taxi, a plane, a coach, a train, a taxi and then the ferry and our journey’s end in sight. As we came in to the jetty we saw Glynis waving from the shore. A week later and the same in reverse, waving to those who were to catch a later ferry, wiping away a tear.  The magic of this wonderful place, which in just a week had got right under my skin; I did not want to leave.

So, what is it about Isola Maggiore that is so special? Yes, it is quiet (except for the pheasants), yes it is small and old and Italian, yes the food is wonderful, yes, the people are welcoming but there is something else. A deep seated sense of history and of place, the olive trees on the hills, the pathways that all lead to the church, the water all around and a slow, slow pace of life.

Then, of course, there were the workshops. I had never done anything like this before so I was a little apprehensive – would I be brave enough to share anything I wrote? I relaxed quickly as Glynis led us gently through well planned activities that got us writing straight away and I did find it easy to read out what I had written as everyone was so open and supportive. I looked forward to each workshop – what would it be today? A pair of lace gloves, some old postcards, a description of a walk in a garden, a piece of writing by a brilliant author, all served as starting points for our writing about characters, place, dialogue. We discussed where we wrote and where we got our inspiration from. We tried our hands at styles well away from our own. By lunchtime each day I was buzzing with ideas.

The afternoon walks and the evening meals (with a large glass of wine) complemented the workshops and there was time to reflect and write as well. Sitting in a garden, under a medlar tree, surrounded by yellow autumn flowers and looking out across the lake, how could one not be inspired?

As the week progressed, my ideas developed and I think my writing did too. There was something about the slow, quiet pace of the island that settled into me more and more and this helped me develop my ideas. This was a retreat in the real sense of the word, time away from my busy city life, time to take stock, time to think, time to write.

I will go back and I will always carry the memory with me.

About Glynis

“A terrific portrayal of family life” – Jimmy McGovern

“Your poem was just astonishing” – Jackie Kay

Glynis has many years’ experience of running workshops, both in Italy and in the UK.  She has a First Class BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and her work has been published both in print and on screen.  Most recently, it was Highly Commended in the Bridport Poetry Prize 2016.

Glynis’ workshops are always friendly and informal, using plenty of varied prompts for inspiration, and her Italian retreats nurture the supportive setting.  She is passionate about words and about helping and encouraging people in how best to use them creatively.

“Inspirational sessions led by Glynis and the added bonus of a wonderful camaraderie with the other writers.  Sharing ideas, experiences, and I loved every minute.” – Tony, 2016