Posted by: main street writers | November 21, 2012

Apartment for Rent, Ancient Underground Cave Included

Orvieto, Italy crowns the top of a steep-sided hill forced up long ago through the vent of an ancient volcano. (Imagine a giant Play-Doh extruder.)  The Etruscans arrived at this lofty site some 3,000 years ago, and built their homes and their temple on its flat summit.  They also created a network of caves in the volcanic stone beneath – for water, for storage, and for protection.

Across the centuries, other civilizations arrived and built their own homes and places of worship atop the remnants of their predecessors.  They expanded the caves, and created areas to store wines, house olive presses, and shelter livestock.

Today, you can visit these caves – and apparently it is possible to own one, as well.  While searching the internet for pictures of Orvieto’s caves, I stumbled upon the following statement:

“Ancient Caves Come with Houses in Orvieto, Italy:

In Orvieto, Italy, when you purchase a house, you gain all the rights to the caves below your land.  Since the 9th century, the natural Orvieto caves have been expanded for many different uses… leaving a treasure trove for archaeologists today.”

This means that homeowners in Orvieto own not only their dwelling and the skirt of land around it, but also the layers of history that lie beneath it.  3,000 years of layers, running all the way back to the Etruscans.

I suppose this is true for homeowners everywhere, to whatever depth the local laws allow.  Still, I find myself imagining how it would feel to descend a series of carved stone steps into a cool, quiet keeping-room, and slide a bottle of wine into a rounded niche worn smooth by other hands and other bottles across hundreds and thousands of years.

You can find photos and information about owning a cave at: “Ancient Caves Come with Houses in Orvieto Italy”

And if you’ve ever wondered where the term “pigeon-hole” comes from, you can find at least one answer, along with many more pictures of the Orvieto caves, here.

Join us in Orvieto, Italy

Visit, Explore, Discover, Enjoy

May 12 – 18, 2013


Join us for a week in Italy, next May.  Visit Etruscan caves, explore new approaches to writing,  sample olive oils, taste wines, and enjoy slow lunches.  To learn more about Pathways to Discovery,  click here.




Posted by: main street writers | November 16, 2012



– Exploration. Reflection. Bigger questions and quieter, simpler answers.

I want to stand at the entrance of a cave carved into volcanic rock by Etruscans, 3,000 years ago.  Caves for protection; for storing grains and wine and water; for housing doves and olive presses.  I want to know how it feels to stand in that doorway.

I want to meet local people, over wine and conversation…  or in a kitchen that serves up fresh, local specialties to local patrons.

I want timeless time for a little while.  To explore. To discover. To reflect on where I’ve been, and where I might go from here.

– Options for writing around the edges.

I want to rekindle the urge to create. I want to write.  Not necessarily the formal, official kind – more the meandering, wondering kind. 

Writing – that wondering kind – is a lot like travel: it offers up surprises and new perceptions.  It’s sometimes confounding, usually better than planned … and always nourishing somewhere deep inside.


– No pressures required:

No promptness, rushing, or otherwise quietly hollering, “go faster, quicker, better…!”

– Room for the unexpected:

Delight, discovery, company, and the occasional nap.


Slow Travel:  Orvieto, Italy  

May 12-18, 2013


Olive groves, vineyards, art

– Frà Angelico, Luca Signorelli, Greco  –

Cobblestone streets. Thursday open market.  Perspective.  


“A good thought, like a good donkey, is something

to be nurtured.  Neither likes to be rushed.”

–Slow Travel Europe




Orvieto, writing, and donkey-pace



– Further temptation and information:

our hosts:  Adventures in Italy

details and registration: Pathways to Discovery



Orvieto Doorways … Rest, Relax and Reflect … Pigeon Holes … Giovanni’s Vineyard



Posted by: main street writers | June 10, 2012

Slow Travel in Western Massacusetts

Outdoor Voice  –  June 23 !


Slow Travel goes local…

While we’re doing the ground work to for next spring’s trip to Orvieto Italy, we’re also enjoying a more local form of Slow Travel, here in Massachusetts.

This summer, I’m hosting Outdoor Voice – a series of retreats to unique, local settings for a day of exploration and creative writing.  Every site is within 20 miles of Amherst – and worlds away from every day life.

Our first retreat will be held on June 23, at a site that was created with the help of  a thousand volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.

A little bit of history…


After the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, a Buddhist monk named Nichidatsu Fujii built a pagoda on a nearby mountain, reviving a 2,500 year old tradition begun in India.  He consecrated the pagoda as a shrine to world peace and enlightenment.


Before he died at the age of 100, Fujii had helped to establish more than 80 peace pagodas around the world.  And one of them happens to be within 10 miles of Amherst.


10 miles from Amherst, worlds away from everyday.

Join us for a day of writing, reflection, and exploration on June 23 at the Leverett Peace Pagoda.  Tap stories of the everyday and the extraordinary in open green fields, alongside a quiet pond, to the rhythm of the occasional bullfrog song.

– Beginners and seasoned writers welcome –


Find your Outdoor Voice.

Discover strengths you already bring to writing, and experiment with new approaches in the company of fellow writers.  Enjoy a day of open air writing using the Amherst Writers & Artists method, at one of the most beautiful sites in New England.


Saturday June 23

Leverett Peace Pagoda

8:30 – 4:30



Questions – Registration:

      Contact Kathy at

     (413) 221-4652



– For more information about creative writing retreats in the Pioneer Valley, click here.

– To read about Creative Writing as a form of Slow Travel, click here.

– And to learn more about the Amherst Writers & Artists method, click  here.



Outdoor Voice: Creative Writing Retreats

in the Pioneer Valley

with Kathy Dunn, Main Street Writers



Posted by: main street writers | January 1, 2012

Hello – and Happy New Year!

Hello – and Happy New Year!

Someone wise suggested that rituals are all about transformation. If January First marks the transition into a new year, perhaps New Years resolutions are the rituals that invite  transformation.

The Cart and the Horse

Over the years, I’ve made all kinds of resolutions.  Some stuck, some didn’t.  If I’m going to get the best out of it, though, I think I need to see resolutions as the “cart” – and understand that the “horse,” the driving force, lies in reflection.  It’s not so much about losing 10 pounds or drawing more often – it’s about the desire that underlies those ideas: having more energy, experiencing more joy.

So I’m off for the day.  Reflecting.  In the mean time, for everyone who’s considered blogging but hasn’t taken the leap, here’s the annual data for this blog.  I started it last March, as a way to reach out to a handful of new and familiar writers.  This morning, I find I’ve had readers from six continents – who knew?  This could be you….!

Happy reflections, happy New Year. May you find new opportunities to meander, dream, and create. 


WordPress Stats

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.



Posted by: main street writers | November 13, 2011

Comments on the Writing Life – a Trilogy: Part Three:

 Comments on the Writing Life … Part Three

–  Making life a little bit better, a little more often  –


In the weekly workshops, I try to carve out 5 or 6 minutes for Comments on the Writing Life.  These conversations often center around the writing practice: what starts, what stops – and what helps us return to – writing. 

Over time, I’ve come to think of the Writing Life in three spheres:

(1)  the Internal Desire to write;

(2)  habits and structures that support this desire – which is to say a Writing Practice; and

(3)  a community of people – writers and others – who help us sustain this practice: a Community of Practice.

It’s kind of like Russian nesting dolls. That first sphere, the one in the middle,  is a person.  You.  The second and third spheres are the people and resources that surround and support your writing. 

You can find posts about first two spheres here:

Part One: Creativity is a Gift. Everyone Has It.

Part Two: Practicing Trust

And you can read about the third sphere …right here.   There’s a question at the end – fictional and improbable answers highly encouraged.    Enjoy!     — Kathy

Who Cares?

Who cares about your writing? That’s an important question. If life with writing in it is better than life without it, then you care, for one.

And people who like to write tend to cross paths with other people who like to write. If you’re sharing your writing with someone, it’s a good bet they care about your writing, as well.

In fact, as you build a habit of writing, you will probably discover a number of people who are happy to see you learning and growing and writing.

But Wait…

As for discouragers… well, there are plenty.  And as quick as they are to pile new doubts atop the mountain you’ve already heard – they also serve to deepen your appreciation for the kind souls who offer you encouragement and  support.

Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map…

Who encourages you to write? A friend, another writer…? Perhaps you’ve found a workshop, or a mentor. Maybe you’ve found a librarian whose love of books extends to writers. What about that neighbor who likes to carve – he understands the creative urge.  Or the cousin who asks about your writing whenever you cross paths.

Imagine a map that looks like a bulls-eye target.  Put yourself at the center.  In the expanding circles, write the names of people and situations that incline you to write.  Place the biggest influences close to the center, and, further out, those that help indirectly.

Who would be in the first circle, encouraging and helping you?  Who would be in the second circle, inspiring you or showing you new possibilities?

Who or what might be in the outer circles…? Are there programs at your library; is there a writers guild in your area? Does a local bookstore offer workshops or readings? Who is the Poet Laureate in your region or state – or country – and what are they doing to encourage writers and writing? There’s always the radio, with programs like Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.

How about retreat centers… conferences? We are surrounded by authors and artists and films. Which ones do you like? They belong on your map.

A Community of Practice

Think of the resources in these circles as points of light.  They form the constellation of people who like to see you writing.  They are your Community of Practice.

What do you do with this Community?

1. Map it out, so you can see who’s in it.

2. Enjoy their help.

3. Thank them.


Turn around and help someone else. It doesn’t take much to nurture a kindred spirit.  Who could you encourage?

A child, a friend, the cashier at the grocery story who likes to write poetry.  Writer, artist, dancer, cook, teacher: anyone who is doing something they love to do, for pay or for love alone, is following that creative urge.

Encourage someone. Ask them what they love to do: listen deeply and respond generously.  When you help someone else, you become part of their Community of Practice.

Now imagine a whole network of Communities of Practice.   – That’s something to write home about…!


If you could add one person, place, or event to your Community of Practice… who or what would it be?

And, as I said at the start – fictional and improbable answers highly encouraged…!


Comments on the Writing Life:

Part One – Creativity is a Gift. Everyone Has It.

Part Two – Practicing Trust

Posted by: main street writers | October 26, 2011

Comments on the Writing Life – a Trilogy: Part Two

Comments on the Writing Life … Part Two

This is Part Two of a Three-Part posting on the Writing Life.  If you haven’t read Part One, you can find it here.  When you’re done, come on back and have a look at this one. 

There’s another question at the close of this post – I hope you’ll add your ideas and experiences to the conversation.   — Kathy

Practice Trust

Is life with writing in it …better than life without writing in it?

If so, then it follows that writing frequently will create a life that is more frequently …better.

Find ways to write on a regular basis, and you are creating a writing practice.

Writing as a practice isn’t about production – though it will likely generate writing that is deep and strong. It isn’t about success – though you may feel at times satisfied and fulfilled. And it’s not about earning money – though you may indeed use it in making a living.

Writing is simply…a practice. It’s the habit of taking time to write.

It’s trusting that if you carve out the time and move the pen,

something new will come.

Writing isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s a mystery to be explored… Likewise, a writing practice isn’t a discipline to be met, it’s a trust that something new and interesting awaits you.  Whether it’s serious or silly, fierce or confused, joyful or wailing: writing can be counted on to tap the imagination, offer new perspectives, and reveal aspects of the world – and ourselves – we hadn’t fully understood.

Carve out time for your writing practice. Creativity is a deep human calling, and commitments to your self – and your creativity – need to hold the same weight as commitments to work, family and friends.


Start a journal. On the side. Don’t agonize over how or when to write, or even what use it will ever have – just do it.  Journaling is like composting: allowed to ferment, today’s random leftovers become a rich soil that supports something new and unexpected.  Jungle flowers, heart songs, dirt roads with broken bridges… you never know what will emerge.  Just trust.

Find a workshop; find a mentor; find another writer and exchange your work.  Share your writing life.

Read. Find an author you like and read their work: novels, short stories, poetry, editorials. Do a Google search and you’ll likely find them. If they’re alive, write to them, tell them how their writing moves you. If they’re not alive, write to them, tell them how their writing moves you.

Explore literary journals. Find one you like and subscribe to it. Orion, The Sun, Peregrine, Exquisite Corpse – there are thousands out there, and you can read many of them for free at your local library.  Several journals post online as well.

Keep Going

Over time, you’ll build up a number of ways to share your writing.  This is good.  Why?  Because:

(a) You’ll have company on the journey – someone who hears you!

(b) You’ll learn through their writing as well as your own.  …And

(c) You’ll be building the habit of doing something you like – something that satisfies your soul and expands your life – more often.

In the process, you’ll also help others strengthen and deepen their writing practice. Your quiet, humble practice will take root – and your writing will grow.


When my children were young and there were precious few hours for sleeping, I spent one morning a month with a friend and mother who happened to write.  Between love and desire, we managed to make a batch of popovers, tend to our children, and talk writing while we passed the apple-buttered treats around the table.  The company, commitment, and ritual all served to support our hit-and-miss writing lives – and at least two great poems about popovers came out of that kitchen.

How about you: If life with writing in it is better than life without writing …how do you make your life better more often? What gets in the way of your writing? How have you intentionally made time to write, and when have you tricked yourself into it?



Comments on the Writing Life:

Part One – Creativity is a Gift. Everyone Has It.

Part Three – A Community of Practice

Posted by: main street writers | October 19, 2011

Comments on the Writing Life – A Trilogy: Part One

Comments on the Writing Life … Part One

This turned out to be a very long post. I have a tendency to expand, given the slightest opportunity; and while blogging wisdom calls for posts that are short and shiny, well… this one just wouldn’t condense into bullets.

So I’ve herded my thoughts on the Writing Life into three sections.  Here is Part One, with a question at the end. I hope you’ll lend your thoughts and experiences to the conversation.    — Kathy

Creativity is a Gift.  Everyone has It.

At some very basic level, creativity is a gift that each of us carries. Some people express their creativity through music. Some dance. For some, it’s raising children, or building an organization, or cooking a nourishing meal. Creativity is a living force. It’s everywhere – and it’s ours to tap, in whatever ways most move us.

Telling Stories

Telling stories – placing words together in ways that convey an experience or idea – is an act of creativity.

Stories are everywhere. We share them on the phone, at work, over the dinner table, in brief outbursts and long, slow conversations. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking to strangers or people we know, to pets or a higher self: the stuff of our talk is …stories.

Writer and political activist Muriel Rukeyser said,

“The Universe is made of stories, not atoms.”

I have to agree: even the concept of atoms is a story.  And whether our stories are simple or complex, long or brief: when we put words together in ways that have meaning for us, we are participating in the creative process.

Telling stories onto paper or word doc is likewise a creative act. Creativity lives at the heart of writing; it draws us into a process that is challenging, inviting, confusing, surprising, and occasionally just plain fun.

So …Why Write?

Why write? I guess it boils down to a simple question:

Is life with writing in it…better than life without writing in it?

It is for me.

And what about you? What moves you to write – what moves you to want to write when other responsibilities claim your time?  What is the ‘tipping point’ that moves you to say “I like to write…I am a writer”?



Comments on the Writing Life:

Part Two – Practicing Trust

Part Three – A Community of Practice

Posted by: main street writers | July 14, 2011

No Place for Hierarchies in the Heart

On Writing…

“There is no place for hierarchies in the heart, and the making of art is a matter of the heart.

Art is the creative expression of the human spirit, and it cannot – it must not for the sake of the human community – be limited to those few who achieve critical acclaim or financial reward.

…Genius is hidden everywhere; it is in every person, waiting to be evoked, enabled, supported, celebrated.  It is in you.  It is in me.”

  — Pat Schneider: Writing Alone and With Others


Pat Schneider is the Founder of Amherst Writers & Artists, and  creator of the AWA method.  Author of nine books, including “Writing Alone and With Others” (Oxford University Press), Pat has mentored writers and workshop leaders from all walks of life for more than 30 years.


Pat and Nellie

“Many of us talk around the supper table, tell stories, jokes, repeat what happened as we went through our day, and never know we are creating fictions, dialog, suspense, climax.

…Not being able to write is a learned disability. It is almost always the result of scar tissue, of disbelief in yourself accumulated as a result of unhelpful responses to your writing.

…Those wounds can be healed, those blocks can be removed. Even if you don’t talk easily to others but spin stories out in your own head – if you talk to yourself – you can write.  You are already an artist.”


You can learn more about Pat,

her writing, and the AWA method here.


And you can write with Kathy Dunn

using the AWA method…

In Western Mass:  Outdoor Voice: Day-long Retreats in the Pioneer Valley

In Orvieto Italy: Pathways to Discovery

Registration Deadline: July 18

Posted by: main street writers | June 17, 2011

The Tufa Absorbs You

The Slow Road to Italy

The road to Italy began, for me, three years ago. I was a partner in a local company, handling some part of everything and working overtime. I spent too little time with my family, too much time on my cell phone, and somehow eked out enough time to keep the writing workshops vital.

An accident took me off that train. I spent six weeks in a recliner, with a broken jaw – sipping protein shakes through a straw, googling everything I could think of on a laptop, and watching the sun move across the yard.  I had plenty of time to reflect, and enough pain to keep me from diving back into old routines.

Long Story Short…

The rest of the journey is a book unto itself.  The short version is: I thought long and hard about what I should and should not be doing.  I was pretty clear about the roads to not-take anymore – but the road to take was much more elusive.  The only compass I had was a deep desire to heal, to write, and to continue the writing workshops.  And to cook really good food.

It’s the Journey

Friends of Quabbin: Richard Johnson

So here I am, on the road to Italy.  Along the way I have discovered the Slow Travel movement; met Bill and Kristi Steiner; and co-developed a creative writing adventure in Orvieto. This spurred conversations with a workshop member, and led to the creation of Outdoor Voice: day-long retreats in local settings that are worlds away from the everyday. All in all, it’s a slower and richer journey.

Why am I going to Italy?  For me there is no other path.  By guessing and wondering and risking and trying and learning and trying again, I have come to a path that restores and challenges me. It offers new perspectives, new answers, and new opportunities.  I want to share this with others – and that’s how my road leads to Italy.

What Calls You to Orvieto?

I asked our host, Bill Steiner this question – he was quick to respond:

Giovanni shares his wisdom

“There is so much that calls us to Orvieto.  As we return for our 9th year, we are drawn by the relationships we have built with people in Orvieto.  This translates into more personal, insightful interactions – which in turn make it a more meaningful trip for everyone.

“Beyond that, Orvieto is a beautiful setting. The city’s physical character is embodied in its medieval streets and Renaissance Cathedral; it is flat and high up – set apart from the more modern world that sits at its base. The food is superb, they have fabulous wine, and their olive oil is fantastic. What’s not to like!!”

And Why Writing…?

Again, host Bill Steiner:

“We’ve always felt there is a certain contemplative nature about being in Italy – and particularly at the peaceful, quiet convent B&B in which we stay.

“We’ve enjoyed sharing this experience with others – and believe that writing, which is contemplative in nature, is equally inspiring and moving.  It deepens the experience for everyone.”

The Tufa Stays in the Soul

Further reflections from Bill:

“There is something about Italy that gets into your system, your psyche, your soul. Giovanna, at our B&B says, ‘the tufa absorbs you’ – tufa being the porous volcanic rock on which Orvieto sits.

“I agree. Slowly, imperceptibly, gently, deliciously one becomes a part of the place. There are few visitors who are not touched by the magic of Orvieto.

“We are just back, and as always, I am changed. The bottom line feeling of being absorbed by the tufa is that all is right with the world. Why? I think because Italy impels you to live life, to live it fully with passion and joy and gusto.”

Art, history, wine, community, market day, Etruscan caves, stunning works of art, nap time, olive groves – truly: what is not to love?


Experiment, Explore, Discover

Register Here for Pathways to Discovery




Settembre a Orvieto!


Posted by: main street writers | June 7, 2011

Art and Soul

Many Hands, Many Arts

Gothic to a "T"

Art is huge in Orvieto.  At the heart of the city lies the Cathedral, or Duomo.  Constructed on the site of an earlier, more humble cathedral, the first stone for the new Duomo was set in place in 1290.

Across nearly 300 years of construction,  the hands, hearts and souls of generations of workers, artists, and architects shaped and re-shaped the building – blending and evolving it in style from Romanesque to Gothic. The façade of the Duomo, Gothic to a T, is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Late Middle Ages.

Carving Stone, Shaping People

Creation of Eve


In the early Renaissance world, only the few and the privileged knew how to read. The vast majority learned the great lessons and stories of their time through spoken word – and art.

The sculpted panels that frame the main doors of the Duomo served its 15th century visitors as both creations of beauty and tellers of stories.


It’s the 1,000 Words Thing

Luca Signorelli

Inside the Duomo is a treasure trove of stained-glass and frescoes – including works created in the mid-1400’s by Frà Angelico (Frà Giovanni from Fiesole), and completed 50 years later by Luca Signorelli – whose personal masterpiece also graces these walls.

Stories within stories abound, as Signorelli went on to fresco every inch of the San Brizio Chapel. His Biblical scenes reflect fellow Florentine Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and among Signorelli’s many characters one can find a young Raphael and Dante, himself – along with striking resemblances to explorer Christopher Columbus and Renaissance Humanists Boccaccio and Petrarch.

Art Through Time

Right next door, art predating the Duomo masterpieces can be found at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale.  Lives and lessons from earlier times can be found in frescoes dating as far back as the 2nd century BC, along with items from pre-Christian tombs.

Emilio Greco

And a few steps from there, the Museo Emilio Greco  is home to 32 bronze sculptures and other works donated to the city by contemporary Sicilian artist Emilio Greco. The bronze door that graces the Duomo is also the work of this gifted sculptor and printmaker.

Today, artists and craftspeople thrive in this community of 8,974 families.  Age-old gestures are repeated as local people work with clay, metal, leather, wood, and lace unique to Orvieto.

Creativity Changes Lives

In creating art – in tapping one’s gift – the artist is changed.  The world is also changed.  And in witnessing these gifts, observers are often transformed as well.  Gifts multiply.

Simona loves to teach cooking

Creativity comes in many forms.  Whether it’s art or writing, dance or music, raising children or teaching or playing baseball – doing whatever moves you deeply is an act of creativity.

The process can be challenging, frustrating, or exhilarating – it doesn’t matter: when you tap into your own creativity, you can sense that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing….It’s that timeless feeling.

You can learn more about Orvieto’s deep history in art here and here.

And you can explore Creative Writing, art, wine, food, history, olive groves and the Slow Life in Orvieto here.


Register Now for Adventures in Orvieto, May 12-18, 2013

Settembre a Orvieto!





Posted by: main street writers | May 27, 2011

Something More than Just Staring

What Draws You to Orvieto?

“What drew me to sign up for Orvieto was the allure of Italy – what’s not to like? – and the chance to visit it purposefully, with the opportunity for self-development and cultural edification…something more than just staring.”

Orvieto Draws Maureen; Maureen Draws Orvieto

Maureen Moore is a gifted writer, artist, and  book publisher.  She is also very patient with me – so when I pestered her to tell me all about her experience with Bill and Kristi Steiner’s  Journeys of Discovery, she was kind enough to share her insights, along with some of her Orvieto watercolors.

What were your reservations when it was time to plunk down money?  “I didn’t have any reservations; the tour costs were so reasonable and fair, I had no doubts.”

the market has it all: books, bags, bikinis, cheese... and more

When you arrived in Orvieto, what surprised you?   “I was surprised to find Orvieto so literally ‘in the air’ – it had a dream-like appearance, flying above the valley floor.  We took a cog rail car up the near vertical cliff side.

“I was delighted by the pace – and the beauty of the language: overhearing it rippling all around and wishing I could make sounds like that and wishing more that I could understand it, as well.”

What confounded you? “I was confounded by the money, trying to figure out how to calculate it and distinguish one coin from another.”

When you returned, what did you leave behind – and what did you bring with you?   “I left my heart behind – no surprise there – and I took away a greater, deeper appreciation of the true value of a slower-paced life.

“I also took away the conviction that I would never have meals as savory again until I get back there.”

…And would you be willing to share an excerpt of the piece you wrote when you returned?   “I would gladly post an excerpt, except I don’t know where that piece might be!!   I do recall how pleasant it was to watch the people gathering in the square, chatting and watching each other – kind of like the flocks of pigeons do!  Very quiet… peaceful.  Nice.” ;



Something More than Just Staring

Simona shares her secrets

Under the tutelage of  Simona, local chef extraordinaire, recent participants in the Orvieto adventure learned to make appetizers, eggplant parmigiana, their own tomato sauce, and a divine panna cotta – using fresh, local ingredients.

Giovanni shares his vineyard

Later in the week, they visited Giovanni’s vineyard.  He shared his philosophy for creating wines with character, while participants sipped several of his favorites.

Want more?  You can find additional pictures and narratives about recent Adventures in Italy here.


Taking the Leap: Register now for Adventures in Orvieto, September 23-29

“There is something special about being in Orvieto, pursuing an art you love….Part of it is taking the leap, making the commitment to do such a trip. It is a reaffirmation of who you are and that a robust, fulfilling, exciting life is possible.”

Hosts Bill and Kristi Steiner sum up the Orvieto experience with these words. You can join us in Journeys of Discovery and this year’s Creative Writing Retreat by registering here.



Settembre a Orvieto!



Posted by: main street writers | May 5, 2011

The Fire’s Voice

Armed with Sticks and Chocolate

Remember sitting with friends around a campfire, on hard benches – or harder stones – mesmerized by the dance of the flames,  the snap of sparks, the voices circling and drifting off into the darkness?

Marshmallows were likely involved, and if you were really lucky, while you warmed your feet you savored charred burgers and blackened hot dogs – neither of which would have been deemed edible in the bright light of the kitchen table…and all of which carried the immediate and unforgettable taste of a wood fire.

The Ancestor’s Breath

On a beach in France, you can see the remains of stone hearths built 300,000 years ago.  Fire was our ancestors’ sole means of cooking until the 1890’s, when the warm hearth gave way to gas and electric stoves.

Consider the numbers: 299,880 years of cooking with fire; 120 years with stoves.  We have been fire-cookers for 99.996% of our entire history.

Which is why, when we burn brush in the yard, or sit around a fire on a summer night, or set kindling and wood into the fireplace, we are communing with our ancestors.  And when we taste food that has been cooked over fire, our senses recognize something deep and familiar.

Those who have died  have never, ever left; the dead are not under the earth….  Tis’ the ancestors’ breath when the fire’s voice is heard; ’tis the ancestor’s breath in the voice of the waters.   — Breaths: Birago Diop

Beyond Sustenance

“The firelight…infuses everything cooked on the hearth with a touch of magic.” In The Magic of Fire, William Rubel celebrates the ancient craft of hearth cooking.  With every recipe, he evokes the  soul-stirring experience of cooking and eating in a room lit only by fire and candlelight.  Fire, he suggests, “casts a spell that stops time and bends space.”

Slow can be as simple as cooking burgers over a fire.   It can mean traveling in a meandering, donkey kind of way.  It can mean carving out time and space to write whatever wants to emerge.

Always it means getting close to what matters,  taking time to connect with what lies at the core – of a community, a family, oneself.  That’s what Slow is all about.


To see Birago Diop’s poem in its entirety, click on Breaths here .

To sign up for week-long Creative Writing retreats in Orvieto, the heart of the Slow City movement, click here.


Older Posts »