Eat; Write; Love
A workshop for artists in “a dream place” as author John Steinbeck famously declared while living in Positano, Italy. With bestselling writer and award-winner journalist Michele McPhee.
All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. (Federico Fellini, famed Italian movie director)
Everyone is a writer, all it takes to be successful is audacity supported by other artists. That’s exactly what launched the career of best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and Emmy-nominated television producer Michele McPhee: audacity. That and the energy of other writers is what gave her the audacity to write her first book, her second, her third, fourth and fifth.
Cooking Vacations Writer’s Studio is an opportunity to tap into the writer in everyone, to make your pages come alive, to obtain feedback in an intimate community of writers about developing character, dialogue and a real sense of place in a setting that is unforgettable.
There’s something about being away from home that can allow us to tap into our creativity in ways we never have before. But the Eat, Write, Love Writing Workshop is much more than expressing artistry on the page; it’s also an opportunity to learn how to seduce with the plate.
Cooking Vacations has an international reputation for offering not just culinary classes, but a unique Italian experience culled over kitchen tables for centuries in unspeakably beautiful towns along the Amalfi Coast. So after four days structured around writing exercises and group feedback, there will be a last-night cooking class offered by the Italian characters that writer and chef Lauren Birmingham-Piscitelli has invited into her adventurous life. A native of New England who fell in love, physically and spiritually, with Positano the “dream place” where she met her husband, Lauren is the perfect teacher when it comes to food and anam cara, which is what the Irish call the soul friend found on travels.
You will return home from your magical trip with a finished piece of work, either a short story or a chapter or a narrative for your novel. It is impossible to come to Positano and not be inspired so this is the perfect opportunity for someone who wants to recommit to their writing, or nurture the still small voice of the writer you know dwells inside you.
My Positano: Michele McPhee
His voice was as sweet as the summer night. His hand grabbed mine and pulled me just enough so my eyes met his. “In bocca al lupo,’’ the stranger whispered as his lips brushed my cheek.
The stranger’s whisper is one of my greatest memories of Positano, Italy, the remarkably romantic city with so much to remember – clams in spaghetti vongole sweet as plums, people living their lives as passionately as play actors, views so luscious I fear a blink might make it all disappear – its amazing that I could recall his words at all. Especially considering I never saw him again. I didn’t know his name or why he chose my ear to whisper that oh-so-famous Italian cliché.
Perhaps the words stayed with me because of the splendid setting in which the phrase was uttered. But the writer in me believes it was the translation that left the brief encounter emblazoned in my mind.
In bocca al lupo literally means go into the mouth of the wolf.
You want me to go into the mouth of the wolf? Get my head eaten by a beast? What?
Who is the writer who used such potentially dangerous, dramatic imagery like that? Even now every time I hear an American say “break a leg” I wince at its lack of beauty.
These are the questions that help make me a writer, an investigative journalist, a poet, an artist. It is visiting places like Positano that give me inspiration. It is the company of other writers that sparks the real magic.
I got my first book published by accident.
I was stuck in my identity as a crime reporter. Just a crime reporter.
Sure, I was dogged, willing to go anywhere and do almost anything for a scoop, and have built up an impressive slew of cocktail party stories like when I snuck into John Gotti’s wake in Queens, New York. I got whacked by a woman wielding a patent leather purse in London after Princess Diana’s untimely death and posed as a mob moll with an undercover NYPD detective targeting fight fixing in Las Vegas. I was at the scene of the largest mass murder in our country’s history: the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers that killed 2,996 people and wrote about the 343 firefighters; 23 NYPD cops and 37 Port Authority police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while rescuing the tens of thousands who survived that terrible day.
But it was the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace that helped me get that accidental book deal. I was sent to South Beach, Miami by the New York Daily News hours after Versace was killed going into his beachfront home. His blood still stained his marble steps when I arrived; his killer still on the loose. When spree killer Andrew Cunanan was finally found dead in a Miami houseboat, I interviewed the owner of a nightclub where Versace had spent his last hours. That club owner was Chris Paciello. And his name would cross my desk years later on an indictment that listed mobsters charged with racketeering, extortion, assault, and murder.
It turned out that Paciello, who had dated Madonna and Sofia Vergara of Modern family, was in fact a killer on the run from his past. My coverage in the Daily News led to a magazine story in Maxim. That Maxim piece got me a call from an agent. The agent asked me to write a book proposal. I had no idea how. So I bought a book, “How To Write A Book Proposal” and followed the directions.
To my amazement, I got a deal. The four other crime books I have written were not as easy, believe me, but the experiences have given me insight into the secret world of publishing. And my Writers’ Studio will reveal those secrets to save you a lot of heartache.
So, brave fellow writers, I urge you all to go into the mouth of the wolf…to take a chance, invest in yourself and your inner artist, to write every day in the most beautiful place on the planet. You can be an accidental author too.
Every morning, the participants will meet with Michele at 10am for about an hour over breakfast in order to have questions answered, and to discuss the assignment of the day.
- Four / 3-hour Writers’ Studios with Michele, one each day from 4-7pm.
- Participants will have free time to prepare their finished pieces to be read aloud to Michele and the group on the fourth day.
This workshop will teach you about what techniques work best for you as a writer. You will also have a chance to see how others respond to your work, through kind but honest critiquing. Best of all, you will be given tools that you can continue to use at home.
There’s something about being away from home that allows us to tap into our creativity in ways we never have before. Come to Italy and see what you discover about yourself.
*No pre-written work or manuscripts can be read by Michele outside of the group or sent on to publishers during the Writer’s Studio. Michele will read manuscripts by appointment outside of the Writer’s Studio. Not included in program price.
The attractive 3-Star property accommodations include rooms with a town and sea view balcony, ensuite private bath, in-room safe, mini-bar, hair dryers and air conditioning. Each room offers a Mediterranean atmosphere decorated with pastel frescoes and Amalfi coast ceramic tiles in azzurra blue and the natural cool colors of the region. There is a concierge, daily continental breakfast served in the common breakfast room is included, and free internet in the common area is also included. This property is just by the piazza and has an elevator.
Each morning a tasty International buffet breakfast is served with cappuccino, caffè, tea, fresh Italian croissants, assorted seasonal pastries and breads, cakes and fruits to satisfy any palate. The knowledgeable staff is available 24 hours to answer questions, give advice and offer every comfort you might imagine.
Michele loves to cook and eat Italian! Tie on your aprons for a hands-on cooking class that will bring you into the kitchen with our Executive Chef who guides each guest in hands-on cooking while sharing his knowledge on local regional cuisine. Discover how to create authentic southern Italian foods, learning the important cooking techniques for each recipe. In each hands-on cooking class you will prepare an antipasto, pasta or risotto, fish or meat or vegetarian main course, and a delicious dessert. Our Chef advocates the healthy Mediterranean diet using only fresh organic vegetables from the garden and locally produced extra virgin first-cold-pressed olive oil. Dinner follows as everyone joins together at the table to enjoy the foods that were made in class. A toast of local red or white wine is included.
The warm sun and rich soil of southern Italy, along with the sea, provide the perfect climate for healthy vegetables and fruits to grow 12 months per year. After each class, everyone enjoys eating the food that was prepared in class accompanied with a glass of local red or white wine.
Positano~“It’s A Dream Place,” John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck lived in Positano in 1953 and wrote, “Positano bites deep, it’s a dream place, that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” Positano is a little Moorish-style village, discovered by American and British troops at the end of World War II. Its small winding streets are filled with tiny cafés, terraces, and artisan shops selling ceramics, limoncello and antiques.
In the 10th century, Positano was part of Amalfi’s Maritime Republic and rivaled Venice as an important mercantile power. It was an important center during the 16th and 17th centuries, when its ships traded in the Near and Middle East, carrying spices, silks and precious woods. The majolica dome, Positano’s landmark, is that of the Chiesa Madre, or the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta. It has a green and yellow majolica dome, topped by a cupola. It was built on the site of a former Benedictine Abbey of Saint Vito, a 13th-century Romanesque structure, and was almost completely rebuilt in 1700. Through the years it has been a magnet for writers, artists, musicians and artists during the Grand Tour.
Writing & Cooking In Positano
October 11 to 16, 2014
6 Days / 5 Nights
Saturday: Welcome To The Writer’s Studio~ Meet Michele & Journal Exercise~ Chef’s Tasting Dinner
- Pick-up and transfer from Naples airport or train station to the property.
- Arrival, check in, refresh and relax.
- Welcome snacks and aperitivo drinks upon arrival: then get it all out…on the page. Detox the negativity, the naysayer in your head that tells you it’s too late to write, that you are not an artist. Yogis call it “chita” the monkey in your brain that is full of chatter to distract you from your creativity. We are going to expel chita with a three-page journaling exercise about the most important quality a writer must have. Audacity.
- Read over the contents of your Welcome Bag including helpful information that will acquaint you with the area and outline your Writing program. Also included are your Chef’s apron, general information on landmarks, and our “Positano Hot Pick list.”
- Chef’s Tasting Dinner at our favorite local restaurant. Dine on award-winning southern regional Italian food set in charming surroundings that overlook the panoramic Amalfi Coast. (Wine, drinks, grappa and an assortment of after dinner digestives are not included, and are available at a surcharge).
Sunday: Morning Meeting With Michele & The Writer’s Studio
- Breakfast is served.
- Meet with Michele for briefing, questions & answers, and intro of writing assignment. The rest of the morning is free to explore town and start writing. Lunch on your own.
- Writer’s Studio: In the afternoon at 4pm, meet with Michele for your writing workshop that will explore “character”. 3 hours with Michele.
- Dinner on your own. Your Welcome bag has a Restaurant Hot Pick with suggestions.
Monday: Morning Meeting With Michele & The Writer’s Studio
- Breakfast is served.
- Meet with Michele for briefing, questions & answers, and introduction of writing assignment.
- Writer’s Studio: In the afternoon at 4pm, meet with Michele for your writing workshop that will explore “place“. 3 hours with Michele.
- Dinner on your own. Your Welcome bag has a Restaurant Hot Pick with suggestions.
Tuesday: Morning Meeting With Michele & The Writer’s Studio
- Breakfast is served.
- Meet with Michele for briefing, questions & answers and writing assignment.
- Rest of the morning is free & lunch on your own. Suggestion: Amalfi & Ravello. Getting there is easy and fun, as you will see the amazing panoramic Amalfi Coast, passing Sophia Loren’s home along the way. Time out along the way for some photo snapping, and a visit to the famed-artisan ceramic makers noted for their volcanic hand-painted tables. The town of Amalfi is rich in culture and history. The small town, perched on the coastline, is dominated by Amalfi’s Cathedral and noted for its handmade Amalfi paper. Writers came from all over Italy for the special carta. Inspired by your surroundings, take a café chair at the oldest and most famous pastry shop in southern Italy- dating back to the 1800′s. These sweets will inspire any food lover’s mind. A local tradition is eggplant layered with chocolate, with pine nuts, liqueur and orange served with a steamy espresso!
- Ravello, hailed the ‘International City of Music’ and known for its precious panoramic view from the gardens of Villa Cimbrone, was and remains a hideaway for literati greats. Virginia Woolf, Gore Vidal, André Paul Guillaume Gide, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Henry & Graham Greene lived in this small town perched 350 meters above the Amalfi Coast.
- If you want to see Ravello with a local, there is Angela! Angela our literati local leads our Ravello Writer’s Walk to the Villa Cimbrone, once the residence of Greta Garbo, through the lush gardens and the Terrazza Della Rosa, and continue to the Terrazzo dell’Infinito (Terrace of Infinity) sure to inspire any writer’s mind. This natural balcony is adorned with weathered marble busts and an infinite blue of sea and sky. One can almost reach out and touch the vertical cliffs that fall to the sea. Angela tells about the famous writers who lived in hidden villas as she takes you through the passageways and walks along the tour. (Make sure to reserve in advance; this tour is a suggestion and not included.)
- In the afternoon, Olive Oil Tasting. Join us for a tasting of our locally produced Extra Virgin Olive Oil. At Cooking Vacations we make our own first-cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from healthy olives that have been tended and cared for all summer long. We use only the first cold press Virgin olive oil. It means that the oil we bottle is pressed only one time giving it a clean fresh taste. Virgin means it is pure and not mixed with anything else. It is DOP-Denominazione di Origine Protetta, ‘origin protected’ domain of production-and “made on site in Italy.” Grown under the warm Mediterranean sun, in rich volcanic soil, and with salt sea winds, our olives make perfect olive oil. We respect the old world process of picking just at the right time, just in October and not too late in the season. Always organic. Our olive oil it is made without chemicals or preservatives, we promise. The informal tasting provides a bit of insight into tasting, buying and using olive oil.
- Writer’s Studio: At 4pm, meet with Michele for your writing workshop that will explore “dialogue”. 3 hours with Michele.
- Dinner on your own. Your Welcome bag has a Restaurant Hot Pick with suggestions.
Wednesday: Morning Meeting With Michele & The Writer’s Studio & Cooking Class ~ Farewell Dinner
- Breakfast is served. Meet with Michele for briefing, questions & answers and writing assignment.
- Writer’s Studio: Meet with Michele for your final writing workshop devoted to reading the completed stories of participants based on the assignments of character, place and dialogue during the week.
- Cooking Class: Traditional Neapolitan: Join our Chef in the kitchen in our hands-on cooking class featuring seasonal ingredients in regional recipes. We will prepare an appetizer, pasta, fish, meat or vegetarian main course and a sweet dessert. Everyone joins together at the table to enjoy the foods made in class for our farewell dinner. Toast with a glass of local red or white wine, included. Raise your glass and salute to all!
Thursday: Departure! Ciao!
- Breakfast & departure. Ciao e a presto!
- Additional nights available for those wishing to extend their stay.
- Group add-on excursions to Capri, Ravello, Amalfi and Pompeii also available.
- Transfer to Naples airport or train station.
- 6 days, 5 nights at villa-style hotel with private bathroom and panoramic or sea view. Click to View!
- Welcome Prosecco aperitivo and journal exercise with Michele.
- Chef’s Tasting Dinner on first night arrival, Prosecco toast. (Wine & beverages at a surcharge)
- The Writer’s Studio with Michele, each morning includes a briefing with assignments for an hour at 10am.
- 4 Writer’s Studio workshops each day at 4pm for 3 hours with Michele.
- 1 hands-on cooking class featuring a full-course Neapolitan menu and dinner following. A toast of local wine included (Additional wines and beverages available at a surcharge).
- Olive Oil tasting with informal discussion and tastings.
- Welcome gift bag with Cooking Vacations Chef’s apron, recipe booklet & writer’s journal.
- Round trip transfers from Naples Airport or Naples Train station to Positano.*
- * Wi-Fi internet connection available.
Dates: October 11 to 16, 2014
This small intimate group will be limited to 10 participants. Please call for more details.
$2,695 per person, based on double occupancy in deluxe room with panoramic or sea view. Includes all taxes and Italian VAT.
$2,195 price for non-writer companions, based on double occupancy in deluxe room with panoramic or sea view, including all elements of the program except the Writer’s Studio. While your co-traveler is writing, there are many add-on activities to choose from.
$200 Single Supplement for petite room with garden view (no sea view). Only two of these rooms are available. Early booking is advised to secure these rooms.
$695 Single Supplement for deluxe room with panoramic or sea view.
2014 Dates: October 11-16, 2014. Additional nights are available for those who wish to extend their stay. Rates are subject to change based on currency exchange. Call for updated rates. Airfare not included.
ROUND TRIP TRANSFERS
*Round trip transfers from Naples Airport/Train to Positano and from Positano to Naples Airport/Train are included in your program. ARRIVAL-Arrival transfers from Naples Airport going to Positano are at scheduled 1:00pm and 4:00pm; and from Naples train station to Positano at 3:00pm, in consideration of international arrivals. Departures leave promptly at the scheduled time. Please call us if you have any questions about your airline and train itinerary.
If you cannot make the scheduled group transfer time, a special transfer can be reserved and the cost is 110€ per car; 150€ if after 6pm. All transfer fees are payable directly to the car service. Please call us if you have any questions.
DEPARTURE-Departure from the property in Positano to Naples Airport/Train are at 4am and 10am (in heavy traffic conditions, departures may start 30 minutes prior). 10am is the official property check out time on the morning of your departure. If you would like an earlier or later departure transfer, a special transfer departure can be reserved and the cost is 110€ per car; 150€ if before 8:00am. All extra add on transfer fees are payable directly to the car service. Please call us if you have any questions.
Program is set in an attractive 3-Star property which includes rooms with a town and sea view balcony, ensuite private bath, in-room safe, mini-bar, hair dryers and air conditioning. There is a concierge, daily continental breakfast served in the common breakfast room is included, and free internet in the common area are included. Daily maid service is included for your convenience. This property is just by the piazza and has an elevator.
People who do not like to walk or have health problems should take note regarding the vertical terrain of Positano, and are advised to read up and view photos of the landscape. Your hotel does, however, have an elevator. We suggest walking shoes, sun block, and a hat for Capri and Pompeii.
*Cooking classes are held in private off-site kitchens in Positano and not on the property. Classes are in Positano and easily accessible by walking the footpath. Classes outside the center of Positano include round trip transfers. Transportation is not included for any 1 Day Cooking Class/Market Tour Add Ons.