Never in my wildest dreams, as I watched my step on the suicidally thin strips of footpath, did I think that one day I would marry one of the Florentine boys on the Vespas that shot up and down the tiny, medieval streets of Florence.
But one year after arriving in Florence to study Italian, I did fall in love. I was seventeen years old. There followed eighteen years of going back and forth between Italy and Sydney, trying to decide where to live. During these early years of oscillation, I applied for a scholarship at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. After winning it, I became a radio journalist and work at 2GB and Mix FM followed. Then I moved into television and while reporting on murders, stabbings and stalkers for Channel 10 I wrote my first book - Walking Sydney, A Guide to 25 of Sydney's Best Walks. Always I went back to Florence to see my gorgeous Italian boyfriend who never seemed to tire of my inability to settle down.
After I finally plucked up the courage to move permanently to Italy and marry my Italian, we had two beautiful babies. But there was no way I could write and report for Italian radio or television stations, as my Australian accent would always hold me back. So I started writing articles for magazines and newspapers. Two books followed - The Promise - the story of those eighteen years of indecision, when Bondi Beach and the Duomo teased me into an endless cycle of uncertainty. Then Death in the Mountains - the story of the murder of my mother-in-law's grandfather. Set in 1906 amongst the poor Tuscan farming community, Death in the Mountains began my passion for telling the stories passed onto me over roasted chestnuts in front of the fireplace at our mountain farm. That farm is now mine, given to me by my Italian mother-in-law who is too old now to care for it.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given a window into the real lives of the Tuscans. The opportunity to tell their true tales and delve into their historical culture, helps me understand who the Italians are and where they've come from. Up until one generation ago my Italian family's grinding poverty was the normal way of life for almost all of rural Tuscany. Till now, the old farmers in my books have had no voice in the English world. It is an honour to translate for them and it is a joy to record their words.
So writing is my first love and now after more than thirty-three years living in and writing about Italy I have established several events a year to help writers with their projects. The Art of Writing is a retreat for emerging and established writers. I hold the retreats always in the second week of June and the second week of September and take only ten people. I'd love to take more but I think ten is the perfect number for genuine personal attention. The Art of Writing is held in my beloved Casentino, in a small, beautiful, family run farm hotel in the middle of an ancient forest. For one week our writers immerse themselves in their projects. I bring published authors and guest speakers to Casentino to teach, share their journeys and appraise manuscripts. Maybe one day you can join us. I'd love to meet you and help you take your idea to novel, in what I think is the perfect environment for creativity.
The Art of Writing retreat for 2013 is fully booked but I'd love to hear from you about 2014.
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The Promise becomes a film
March 10, 2009
Soon after its launch, The Promise was optioned to become a movie. An international co-production between Italy and Australia, adapting a book to film is never easy, especially when half of the cast cannot speak English!