Your First Page: My Free Online First Page Critique Seminar
How it works: Submit the first page of a story or novel manuscript to me by email with attachmentonly the first page, including title, but without your name (unless you want it seen). I will post the page (anonymously or not, as you prefer) in my blog (http://yourfirstpage.blogspot.com/) along with my critique comments. In return, I ask only for your permission to post the page, and to possibly include your page along with my comments in my book project, The First Page: An In-Depth Look at the Most Important Page in a Work of Fiction. NOW A BI-MONTHLY COLUMN FEATURE IN THE WRITER MAGAZINE.
Annual Writing Workshop: Vitorchiano, Italy
Workshops are held in Vitorchiano, a walled medieval village built above a deep gorge carved through the hills of the Lazio district, an hour's drive north of Rome (two hours by car from Florence). The town is divided into two areas, the old city center, where workshops are held and which overlooks the stunningly verdant gorge, and the new village, located just outside the medieval walls. The historic center is a maze of cobbled streets, porticoes, archways, towers and turrets, all carved from the same grey-flecked volcanic stone (called peperino and quarried nearby). Being closed off to most vehicular traffic, the old village retains much of its medieval charm, while offering several restaurants, a cafe with tables by a fountain, and shops for sundries.
The surrounding landscape is one of beech forests, volcanic lakes, sulfur springs, chestnut groves and rolling hills laced with vineyards, olive and hazelnut groves. It's also the heart of Etruscan culturea landscape steeped in the history of that fabulous and mysterious civilization, studded with dazzling painted tombs and other archeological sites, with the Mediterranean's pristine beaches only an hour's drive from Vitorchiano. Despite all this and its proximity to Rome, the region remains relatively unspoiled by tourism.
The Centro Pokkoli Conference Center
The inspiration of author and translator Linda Lappin, the Centro Pokkoli is a pleasant workspace, located in a recently restored medieval structure, but with all modern comforts, designed for classes of up to 13 people. Within five minutes' walk from the Centro Pokkoli one finds quaint cafes, excellent restaurants, food shops, an ATM machine, bank, newsstand, gas station, tobacco shop, bakeries, pastry shops, gelaterie, pizzerie, and shops to meet all of your needs. 8 minutes away you will find a small supermarket, more cafes, a post office, a gym and a public outdoor pool.
Hotel Accommodations & Meals
Workshop participants stay at the Hotel Piccola Opera, just outside Vitorchiano, ten minutes away by car or bus. Set on the slopes of the Monti Cimini, the hotel is surrounded by a lovely park and a peony plantation. Unless a double room is requested, single rooms with private bath are offered to each participant.
The hotel is renowned for its home-cooked meals, served trattoria style and prepared with fresh local products. The workshop fee includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with wine and spring water. Extras, like before and after-dinner drinks and espresso, may be bought at the hotel bar. Participants are also required to pay for any phone calls made at the hotel. Though gratuities are included, you will find the hotel staff extremely accommodating, and may wish to provide additional tips.
Within five minutes' walking distance of the hotel there is a shopping center with a small supermarket, hairdresser, various shops, a pizzeria, as well as a cafe, a gelateria, and a wine bar. The hotel provides free transportation to and from the Centro Pokkoli.
Workshops are held in the mornings, from 9:30 to 12:30 at the Centro Pokkoli. But really the workshop begins before we arrive in Italy, with students exchanging manuscripts of works-in-progress (usually by email) two weeks before departure time, allowing ample time for thoughtful reading and reflection. When the actual workshop starts, students are well-prepared, and discussions are constructive and lively. The aim of the workshop is to set a course for revision through a deep and detailed analysis of the text, with honest, practical feedback. Although the workshop does not shy away from theoretical discussion, its aim is to help each participant achieve his or her assumed goal of producing a publishable story or novel, and so practical advice is emphasized. The workshop is rigorous but high-spirited, and dominated by a sense of serious play. Egos are left at the door, and all that matters, ultimately, is the work.
In addition to the workshop, participants will be scheduled to meet one-on-one with me to discuss any topic of their choicewhether it's their work-in-progress, or some other work, books to read, or plans for their writing future. These sessions last a half hour. But any participant requiring more time should have no trouble getting it, and I am always glad to sit down and talk shop with my students.
The are several excursions, chosen by participants, with visits to some of the following sites:
The Day Off
There will be one free day during which you may wish to go to Rome. The hotel will arrange a shuttle bus to the train station in Orte early in the morning, and a return bus in the evening before dinner at no extra cost.
Or you may wish to arrange for transportation and visit other destinationslike the sea, an hour away at Capalbio, andon your wayvisit the Etruscan tombs at Tarquinia. There are many things to see nearby, from medieval and Renaissance towns to Etruscan and Roman archeological sites.
Or stay in Vitorchiano and get some writing done: all excursions and events other than the workshop itself are optional, and your time is yours. Participants are encouraged avail themselves of activities as they wish.
There will be two evenings of readings after dinner, one in which the workshop leader and a guest author will read and discuss their work, and a second in which participants will read their work for the entire group and any guests who wish to attend. This affords participating writers an opportunity to improve reading skills while getting a sense of where their work stands, as few things tell us more about our words than reading them aloud.
The week culminates with a Saturday night gala dinner at an elegant local restaurant.
Schedule and Costs
Participants arrive at the hotel in time for dinner on Sunday, June 18, and depart on Sunday morning, June 25. The workshop starts on Monday morning.
Full tuition, room and board (airfare not included): $2,100 (discounted to $1,850 for those who sign up on or before December 1.)
A nonrefundable deposit of $200 is required for sign-up, with the balance payable by March 10, 2011.
Checks should be made payable to:
About the Workshop:
"The classroom setting was comfortable; the instructor was excellent. The town was beautiful. The hotel personnel were attentive and helpful. Meals, classroom, town, transportationfor the individual price of the Pokkoli Workshopwere all outstanding. Too much pasta, maybe, but, heck, I was in Italy. My thanks to you, Peter, for taking the time to organize the journey." Mary Walsh
"The classroom was pleasant (great view out the window). Instructor's and participants' critiques were sophisticated, creative, practical and to the point. Hotel was pleasant; staff were attentive and generous with their time and energy. The town was awesome. All in all, the workshop far exceeded my expectations. I've never had a better workshop experience." Jane Conly, children's book author
"Everything about the morning workshops, instruction, evaluations, was perfect. The excursions were well-chosen, peaceful, off the beaten path, visually stunning." Jamie Rudolph
"The workshop was a rich experience. The insight of the participants provided valuable comments about our worksubstantial, detailed, specific suggestions delivered with kindness and concern. Peter was excellent, providing direction for the meetings, authority about the process of writing, and insightful comments about the pieces being workshopped. Every member of the 'class' was dealt with on an equal basis; no favoritism was shown. I thought the excursions were perfectvery interesting with a good dose of beauty thrown in. The general organization and schedule of activities was perfectly planned." Nan Shear
"The quality of the critiques was excellent. The idea of individual conferences was an excellent compliment. I thoroughly enjoyed the excursions. The student reading at the end was a great opportunity to have the experience of reading and also to gain perspective on the work of the other workshop participants. [The] gala dinner at the end was a fantastic conclusion." Lisa Kunick
"The number and quality of the excursions was perfect. My favorite outings included Villa Lante and the day trip to Bolsena and Orvieto. I enjoyed the instructor's readings and the student readings tremendously." Jill Sammak
About the Instructor:
"Stimulating, engaged, exciting, erudite, astute, insightful."
"Enthusiastic, honest, passionate." Charles Carroll, Professor of English
"[The course was] very well structured. [Selgin] takes his time with each student, giving each very detailed direction and guidance." Marc Lindeman, Marketing Analyst
"Excellent critiques. Very useful insights, particularly on the process of revision." Jeffrey Rubin, Editor, New York Times
"This was a valuable learning experience for me as an evolving writer. Peter made learning easy and interesting. His dedication to his art is inspirational." Linda Snowman, Human Resources Manager
"[Selgin has a] tremendous ability to explain and clarify approaches to fiction writing. Very passionate/articulate/accessible as an instructor. Outstanding in his presentation style and openness/frankness." Elaine Givner, Vice President, Human Resources
"Peter is very effective and efficient in getting to the heart of each piece and its flaws." Michael Coughlan, I.T.
"I gained a lot of good insight. I would not have changed anything." Amanda Coppola, Public Relations
"Peter clearly loves writing. He is able to convey this energy to his students, which is a rare quality in a teacher. He is inspiring." Jennine Meyer, Communications Consultant
"Mr. Selgin knows his material. He is a class-A editor, and really understands how to focus the writer on the subject at hand. Best of all, he practices what he preaches." Randall T. Rothey, Author
copyright © 2006 by Peter Selgin. All rights reserved.