ALMA — In the spirit of powerful authors such as Lord Byron, Henry James and Daphne du Maurier, the Alma College Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program is going to Italy.
A residency at the Veneto region of Italy, including the historic city of Venice and its surrounding countryside, is scheduled for Jan. 4-14, 2024, program director Sophfronia Scott announced this week. In Venice, Scott said, graduate student writers of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction will learn what it means for their work to be influenced by a setting.
“I think writing about a place, which is something almost every writer does, is about more than just describing the setting,” said Scott, an award-winning author and essayist. “In order to truly write well about a place, you have to feel it. It has to get inside you. Writers tend to arrive to a point in their development where a place calls them — and not just for research, but to feel influenced by this place.
“It can take a writer to another level. So, while students in this program may not choose to write about Venice specifically, they will learn what that idea means to them, and how they can tap into that experience when they write about places.”
Venice is one of the most perfectly preserved historic cities in Europe, with a sparkling literary reputation. Among the most famous works set in Venice are du Maurier’s “Don’t Look Now,” James’s “The Aspern Papers,” and William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” The city was extremely influential to the works of American author Ernest Hemingway and was considered his home away from home.
Students will be joined not only by Scott and the MFA program’s renowned faculty, but also by Janet Simmonds, a travel guide and art historian. They will stay at the five-star Villa Franceschi Hotel, a family-owned resort located on a waterway that flows out to the Venetian Lagoon.
“Wandering the alleys and streets of Venice is a feast for the senses,” Simmonds said. “Shouting porters, fresh-baked pizza, the salty air of the sea, jostling crowds at Rialto, the smell of fresh paint at the Biennale and more. Life is here being lived in Venice as it has been for centuries. I can’t wait for students to see it.”
The itinerary is intentionally being left flexible for now, but among the activities students can expect to take part in are hearing from Italian authors and publishers, exploring the islands surrounding Venice and visiting the small towns of Asolo, Padova and Trieste to understand how they have influenced other writers.
The deadline to register for the upcoming Winter 2023 residency, which takes place Jan. 3-13, 2023, at the Ralph A. MacMullan Center in Roscommon, Michigan, has been extended to Nov. 30. The Summer 2023 residency is scheduled to take place June 15-25 at Alma College.
Tentative plans are in place to hold a Summer 2025 residency at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, Scott said.
Learn more about the Alma College MFA in Creative Writing program and sign up to participate at alma.edu/mfa.