Lisa’s Blog on Writing

Organise your drafts by filling up that coat rack.

Ever wonder how writers keep track of their chapters, as their books start to gather momentum? How do writers organise their drafts? How do they manage their hard copies? Should you keep everything you print off?

For me, it’s the magic of a simple coat rack. This is how I build my books. I hang the chapters in chronological order, starting at the right hand side of the coat rack.

Organise your drafts by filling up that coat rack.

Watching that coat rack fill up with chapters and fragments is fabulous! It is enormously satisfying to see those sheets of paper pile up as I edit hard copies. This is the fourth book I have written using this method. I bought this coat rack at the Santo Spirito market years ago. It was originally attached to the corridor walls of a nearby primary school.

By the time I’ve finished this novel there will be about 200,000 words hanging along this coat rack. The average contract for a novel is for 80,000 words. But after I’ve ‘killed my darlings’ (deleted what I thought was precious) and tossed unusable drafts, there will be at least 200,000 words of text hanging along that rack.

Organise your drafts by filling up that coat rack.

My office is on the top floor of my house in Florence. Under the rafters. So this couch keeps me sane when reading through either my own drafts or text from the writers I mentor through the Art of Writing.

Organise your drafts by filling up that coat rack.

As the winter months enclose us here in Italy, I look forward to keeping in touch with you. Sorry I’ve been out of touch but am going into my ‘cave’ (office) to hibernate and write now, so you can expect to hear quite a lot from me.

Organise your drafts by filling up that coat rack.

What’s your system? How do you keep your chapters in order? Do you print them off and have a filing system that could give us an organisational idea?

Thank you too to Birgitte Brondsted at the Dusty Green Olive who wrote this lovely story on me and my office a while ago. Check it out here.

Organise your drafts by filling up that coat rack.

It wasn’t Harvey Weinstein who abused me but a well-known Florentine fashion manufacturer.

As the world points its collective finger at the culture of silence around one of Hollywood’s most prominent producers, my mind goes back to the Florence modelling scene of the 1980’s. There was a sexual predator just like Harvey Weinstein in Florence, yet no one protected or warned young models. I believe many people knew Franco Susini was molesting young girls, but the model agency (now out of business) still sent me to see him.

In those days girls were trying to get jobs modelling his clothes on the runway. How many people knew he was abusing young, innocent, often foreign girls in his office? Many. How come you only find out about dangerous, abusive reputations after the abuse? Because rather than protect you, people would rather protect themselves.

I wrote about Susini’s disgusting behavior in The Promise. I ridiculed him, changed his name and infused comedy into the scene. I knew if I didn’t inject some laughs into this seriously disturbing scene, it would have been too serious for people to read. But it was no laughing matter. I was a 17 year old naive, trusting and above all, powerless girl. My heart went out to those women, trying to talk seriously with Weinstein about acting, only to be molested. We have to stop this silence. Susini made me feel like an idiot. Just like Weinstein – same modus operandi, different man.

From The Promise, a cut and paste of the Susini story from my original draft.

He led the way down a hallway and into a dressing room. In a brusque, business-like manner he asked how much experience I’d had.

“Not much, though I’ve been around models all my life because my mother has model agencies in Australia. I’ve also done several model courses.”

“No, no, courses dey make you stiff. Dey are no good, no good at all. You will now forget all dat dey teach you,” he scoffed with a voice that dripped thick with Italian accent. He glanced around the dressing room and went to a rack full of hanging garments. He seemed to know exactly which dress he wanted because he rummaged with quick, determined purpose.

“I need to see you in an evening gown, ‘ere put dis on”. It was a long silky number, shiny slate grey, sleeveless with a deep neckline, plunging back and slits up to the waist. After he left the room, I examined the dress. It felt shimmery and slippery in my hands. I held it up by what I hoped were the shoulders in an effort to work out whether the front was the back, or maybe the back was the front. It didn’t seem to be a dress, but rather the top half of a cocktail outfit. Had he forgotten to give me the pants, as surely my underpants will show? The slits were so high they reached the top of my hipbones, so what was a girl to do about the sides of her panties showing?

I slipped off my Fiorucci gold threaded pink gingham, my Berlei trainer bra and pulled the sheath (for want of a better word) over my head.

I’d never worn anything like it in my life and puffed with pleasure when I saw that the fall of the garment was superb, it draped well on my long, thin body. On one hand I felt elegant and mature.

But it also made me feel exposed and uncomfortable with so much flesh showing. The grey shimmered and shone in an uninterrupted flow till it hit my waist, where the sides parted to reveal my underpants. Like white lightening they flashed every time I moved.

Any good aspiring model knows that a panty line wrecks the look of a garment so I was sure to wear my full brief cottontails. It just wouldn’t do to have a pair of bikini briefs create the rubber band affect by pinching the fat at my hips. My trusty Bonds Cottontails had half an inch of thick banding around the leg, a solid cotton gusset and a waist that almost reached my ribs. But there was no way I could hitch those cottontails higher than the slits in that dress. I wrestled and writhed and wiggled and tried to get those underpants a little further up my bottom so they wouldn’t show. No success. Those cottontails were like cast-iron around my hips.

As I tried to figure out a way out of this unprofessional predicament, Mr Susini strode unannounced back into the dressing room.

“Now model it for me” he said with a commanding wave of his hand.

No problem. I’d seen this done a thousand times and knew just what to do. Stride down here, little half turn there, make sure the feet always look pretty, the head doesn’t bob, a perfectly executed full turn with hands on hips to show how the dress moves in motion.

“You aren’t wearing a dong”.

“A what?”

“A dong. A DONG!” He said aggressively, like I didn’t understand English. He pointed his finger at the region of my cottontails. I stopped mid-glide and felt my brains scramble in confusion till I remembered that Italians often can’t pronounce the “th” so say “d” instead. If so, he meant thong. If so, he meant, in Australian, G-String. If so, my cottontails had blown it. My big opportunity at making it in the big time sabotaged by Bonds.

I was disappointed and he sensed it.

In a softer tone “all the good models wear dongs. But let’s work on anoder technique”. Mr Susini walked over to a full-length mirror and like a patient schoolteacher with a slow but potentially good student, explained to me that he wanted to unveil my hidden sexuality. He had developed his very own personal model training process aimed at revealing the sensual side of my nature. His series of exercises would help me become one of those sexy models that strutted the catwalks of Milan. He settled his serious brown eyes on mine and told me to stand in front of the mirror. I did what I was told.

“Do you know what an orgasm is?”

Now here was my shot at modelling with the big boys and already I’d botched badly. Something as simple as a bad choice of underwear had almost wrecked my burgeoning career. Not wanting to confirm his suspicions that I was a provincial girl with convent modesty, I said of course I knew what an orgasm was.

“OK, den touch yourself in the mirror like you’re going to have an orgasm”. There’s a moment in one-on-one conversations when people connect and know that an understanding has been reached. It can be a moment of recognition, agreement or perception of the other’s intentions. This wasn’t that moment. I had no idea what he was talking about so I stood there blankly and rubbed my arms.

“Come on, you must be sexy, feel sexy. Touch your breasts.”

I ran my hands numbly across my chest, touched my neck with my fingertips, then opened my palms and ran my hands down my hips.

Though I did what he asked, I felt disconnected from my body, like someone else was at the controls and I was just a robot. I could hear a phone ringing in an office somewhere down the corridor but no one was there to answer it. The neon light above us buzzed monotonously as we stood silently in its hard white light. My senses were alert, but my movements were mechanical.

“But you don’t look like you’re about to have an orgasm.”

Something was wrong and I couldn’t figure out what.

I was far too well-mannered and in awe of this man’s power to reject his teaching methods. I barely understood the concept of ‘exploiting an innocent young girl’ and just didn’t think of myself as green. I thought I had enough worldly experience behind me to identify a tricky situation. I respected Mr Susini because he was a successful fashion manufacturer. He’d taken time out at the end of a busy day to try and teach me how to model like the supermodels in Milan and initially I was grateful. But a sick feeling of discomfort was growing in my stomach. I had trusted him implicitly, because he was Lauren’s friend, but I now felt invaded, compromised. I was also acutely embarrassed because he was persuasive in a matter of fact professional way that made me feel like I was the one acting improperly. The force of his authority seemed unquestionable so the strength of spirit to rebuff this man was slow.

I looked in the mirror, saw the reflection of his face peering over my shoulder, the look of barely disguised lust in his eyes and everything fell into place. My stranger danger alarm bells exploded and I stepped away from the mirror. We looked at each other – this was the moment of understanding. After hours, no staff, no interruptions. He had wanted to get me alone.

“I’d like to model the dress again properly.” Not knowing what else to say or how to escape the mirror, parading seemed the only way to get away from his hands. But his eyebrows narrowed and his expression showed determination, he knew that he wasn’t yet finished with me.

“Come here, let me guide your hands. You must feel sexy to be a model. I will show you.” He took my shoulders, stood behind me and angled me towards the mirror. With his hands covering mine he rubbed my palms over my body. Fear robbed me of strength, I couldn’t resist, I felt powerless and utterly unable to physically fight back. He had the power and I had to be submissive. But I wasn’t a willing puppet and he could feel that. My hands were limp and my body motionless. Mr Susini could see that this little modelling technique was not working. I was far from turned on.

“Bah, we try somding else”, he said impatiently. “Put your clodes back on. Come into my office drew dis door,” he said pointing to a door that I hadn’t noticed off the side of the dressing room.

When he strode from the room, I almost fell prostrate on the floor with relief. Snatching up my dress, I ripped off Mr Susini’s silver sheath and threw it over the back of a chair. Like a snake, it slithered onto the floor and I didn’t bother to pick it up. Pulling my gingham on over my head and buckling up my shoes my mind raced. Bloody hell, I bet he’s moving on to Plan B.

“Maybe I should go now,” I said timidly opening the door afraid of what I’d find. But he was fully clothed, in front of his big mahogany desk, jauntily leaning back with his arms folded. He flicked his wrist and motioned for me to stand in front of him.

“We dry anoder ding. I am master of meditation. I will go into a trance. I do not know where I am when in dis trance, I do not even know who I am wid. And I CANNOT remember what ‘appens. You can touch me; feel me all over, anywhere you like. When you finish, clap your hands dree times and I will come out of de trance. Dis exercise will make you feel like a beautiful model. Den when you are finished we will talk about your modelling career.” He then proceeded to close his eyes, lean back further against his desk and hum.

He has got to be kidding I thought as he ohm-ed his way into a self-induced state of make-believe oblivion. He really expects me to believe this crap? The ridiculousness of the scene and his farcical behaviour was bringing out an angry scepticism in my attitude. But I was also too scared to turn on my heels and run. He still had the authority, the power and I was still his junior, in his office. So I stood in front of him and sent him powerful thought messages, “you are such a thoroughly demented, desperate old man.” and “you make me sick, you kinky old scum bag.” I sent him all the thoughts that I would never, ever have had the courage to actually say. I wanted the messages to smash into his pretend transcendental plane, so that he would know of the disappointment and humiliation that he’d made me suffer. We stood there face to face, his aftershave nauseatingly strong, for about sixty seconds and I never lifted a finger to touch him. When I clapped my hands three times he shook his head as though he was clearing cobwebs, looked at me and said, “I don’t dink you ‘ave a future in modelling.”

I flew down the steps and out onto the pavement beside the Arno River. He was right, I would never have a future in modelling.

Like a rape victim that feels guilty, as though she brought the attack on herself, I never told anyone about Franco Susini. I was too embarrassed to vocalise what had happened. I spent my time wandering the streets of Florence, exploring the piazzas and markets, mostly checking out the picnic food that could be eaten on my bed.


Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

Don’t go to the opening of Harrods in Florence.

If you’re planning on going to the highly anticipated opening of Harrods in Florence next week, don’t. It’s not on. Not only is it not on, Harrods in Florence doesn’t exist and won’t exist.

The idea that Harrods would establish a store in Florence had traction about a year ago when several digital mags ran stories claiming that Qatar Holding was apparently interested in Florence Real Estate. No ‘sources’ were supplied in any of the Harrods articles.

Then a flurry of dedicated Facebook pages by various Florentine travel companies opened. The travel/tourism companies created a fictional Harrods Grand Opening and subsequently generated excellent promotion and Search Engine Optimization.

Don’t go to the opening of Harrods in Florence.

But there is no Grand Harrods Opening on September 30th at 4pm. On one ‘Harrods’ Facebook page almost 6K people have RSVP’ed even though no address is supplied. 27K are ‘interested’ in attending. On another shonky Harrods Facebook page apparently 3.7K people are going to attend the Grand Opening and another 29K are interested.

After seven phone calls and several emails to the London Harrods Press Office to verify a proposed Harrods, PR Manager Denise Higgins has confirmed there was a lot of fake news going around Florence.

I suppose that’s what I have found so fascinating. How fast and far the gossip spread in Florence that Harrods was going to open. How the expat and tourist community became so excited over a big British department store. The alleged opening of Harrods seemed to strike  a chord in everyone.

Don’t go to the opening of Harrods in Florence.

Expats who live in Florence were thrilled to have a Harrods in town. Woohoo! Finally, good tea without having to go to England to get it! Lamb sausages too! As the only kind of sausages available in Italy are pork (and very, very fatty pork) the idea of a caramelized onion lamb sausage had most Florentine Anglo Saxon expats in ecstasy. A steak pie? Bring it!

Yet, regular visitors and Italiaphiles were outraged at the very thought of Harrods opening in Florence. A Food Hall? Yet another erosion of Italian culture! Don’t let them do it, many said. Harrods is like McDonald’s, they will consume and destroy Italy’s traditional cuisine. Yet, Eataly and countless other Italian food shops flourish in London and throughout the UK. Can’t we have an English Food Hall here? It’ll take more than Harrods to destroy the Italian obsession with good food, and slow food.

Don’t go to the opening of Harrods in Florence.

As far as Italians go, it seems that few local Florentines had heard the gossip, or fake news. The false information is spreading a little now, but mostly Italians had no idea.

A further Florentine Real Estate update. The chatter flew that Harrods was considering an Apple store location in Piazza della Repubblica. Nope, not true. Or down the side of the Hard Rock Café in Via dei Corsi. Nope, not true either – the big fit-out in Via dei Corsi will be Zara Home, not Harrods.

I was duped by this scam too. It seems a possible Harrods in Florence did not leave anyone without an opinion. What is everyone afraid of?

Overcoming Your Fear of Writing

Overcoming Your Fear of WritingWhy do we build so many obstacles to our creativity? Why do we let inner barriers grow and stop us from writing? We listen to our Bully Voice, we let fear win. Then we avoid writing. So often being with other writers helps us to break through the negative voice that lives inside us. Simply being with like-minded creatives helps us to believe that we are writers. We only have to write.

When away on retreat every voice, every writer’s voice, touches me. But this year one voice made me cry. In this Blog, writer Nancy Storie shares with us the story of how she broke free from her fear of writing. Here Nancy tells us how she has always dreamed of writing. How she has bought every book ever published on how to write, yet she has dreaded actually putting pen to paper. From a small farm in Texas, is a big new voice.

They have no idea how brave I believe them to be – nor how much I feel like a poser among them.  Some suspect by this point.  I see the bubble over their heads – why is she here?  Does she write or just talk about writing?

Overcoming Your Fear of Writing
Lisa Clifford and Guest Martha Ashby, Director of HarperCollins Commercial Women’s Fiction UK

Well no, I don’t talk about writing.  Hardly ever speak the word – writer.  I am not at a writing retreat, I am on vacation in Italy and just happened to be at the same agritourism where a writing retreat was taking place.  You will not find writer on my fb page. The word alone, whispered in the night, can almost send me into respiratory arrest. It is permissible today to have fears and voice them so I didn’t want the writing world to be left out.  I have adopted it as the object of my fear. 

I am an equal opportunity fearist. I fear not writing well, I fear not writing at all, I fear someone reading my writing.  I fear not being in control. I fear feeling stupid.

Overcoming Your Fear of Writing
Martyn Bedford

I have dreamed of being a writer and I have made great success out of researching How to Write.  If you want to know who’s written a book on writing, I can tell you.  In order to avoid taking any of their wisdom and actually applying it, I then read these writers novels to see if I believe they can really write.  Or if their writing career stalled and they wrote about writing to keep the publication deal alive.  And yes, I read the novels of writers who put on workshops before I sign up for the workshop. Sometimes, I have to read more than one work, just in case the first one was a fluke of success and the second or third one is a bomb.

I now have so many books from my research on how to write, and samples of the writing of those I have researched, that I had to buy a special cabinet to store them in.  The Writer’s Cabinet otherwise known as the “Vault of Knowledge Not Yet Applied.” I might mention that in addition to all the research on how to write and the samples of how to write, I also own a new pc, a new smartphone, a new tablet and a nifty wireless keyboard, all to assist in the writing that I am afraid to do.

Overcoming Your Fear of Writing
The Art of Writing September 2017 – Nurture and Replenish Your Writing Skills

FEAR, my four letter word, has paralyzed my ability to put pen to page or fingers to keyboard. It has stalked me for years, moving to each new place I went, intruding on my solitude, haunting my sleep and robbing me of peace. It followed me to Tuscany. 

“Leave me be, I’m on vacation.”

“No you’re not, you are trying to write.”

“OK, I am, but this time is different. I have found a tribe of amazing women who have struggled with you too. These courageous women have silenced your hissing voice, defied your doubt throwing insults and ignored your multitude of distractions. They write. In spite of you.”

“Ahhh, yes, but I’ll be back to visit you some day.”

“Probably, but we will be waiting. And we have found Courage, which beats fear every time.”

Overcoming Your Fear of Writing

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

How I balanced my children’s grandmothers’ very different approaches to parenting

As seen in the Sydney Morning Herald. 

My mother is the doyenne of Australian etiquette, June Dally-Watkins. My mother-in-law is an almost illiterate farmer from the mountains of eastern Tuscany. Both are formidable, wise women.

But their mothering styles are biting opposites. One is a successful Australian businesswoman whose life’s work has been her career, the other a humble Italian woman who has dedicated her life to her family. Trying to glean child-raising tips from both has pretty much done my head in.

It might even be time to give up trying to be a good mum – or as my kids would say, mom. Or maybe mamma. Now 18 and 16, my children are half-Australian and half-Italian. They speak English with American accents and Italian with Florentine accents, and they flow easily between one and the other depending on their company. 

With such inherent cultural diversity, they don’t seem to suffer too much identity confusion. Whereas my maternal compass – born and raised in Australia, with one culture and one language – is frazzled. For 20 years I’ve been travelling between Sydney and my home in Florence, trying to work out which culture has the best parenting principles for my polyglots. 

Striving to be a good mum, mom and mamma by reconciling my birth culture with my new culture, I’ve naturally looked to my mother as a role model. But while navigating the choppy waters of my children’s teenage years, I observed my mother-in-law, too.  

Nonna Gemma on daily life:  “Never let your husband see you idle. When the working males return home, the women must not be seen relaxing. Men must believe their women are constantly on the move, cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, keeping house with rigour and determination. You are a signora. Ideally, you won’t have to work outside the home.” 

My mother: “Work. Get a job. He might leave you so you must have a career to fall back on. Look fabulous at all times. When at home, wear casual clothes and look even more fabulous.”

Nonna Gemma on cooking: “Always make something the grandchildren love, something they’ve eaten many times so that your food will not fail to disappoint, a reliable, heart-warming dish using a well-worn recipe of lasagne, or roast chicken with roast potatoes. Pasta should be home-made, chicken hand-reared and potatoes home-grown. 

My mother: “Cook something no one has ever tasted or heard of. Use a new recipe adapted to what’s in the fridge.” 

Nonna Gemma on raising children: “Never let the children do sleep-overs. One never knows what other families do when they’re in their own homes.”

My mother: “Let your children go. Trust them to make their own decisions, and the right decisions.” 

Nonna Gemma on raising teenagers: “Give them lots of cash. Buy them clothes because they are the family’s mascot, our representatives when out and about. Repair their clothes with a fully kitted-out sewing box.”

My mother: “Make children get a job to learn the value of hard work and money. Clothes are birthday and Christmas presents. There might be a hotel sewing kit in my cabin luggage bag.” 

Nonna Gemma on school lunches: “Nothing beats a container of pasta with a tomato sauce made from scratch with garlic, basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese. In a second container add chargrilled chicken with salad.”

My mother: “A sandwich made with white sliced bread and last night’s chicken and lettuce should do it.” 

Nonna Gemma on university education for their grandchildren: “Why should they leave home for university? Why have babies if you’re only going to send them away? At 18, they’re still children.”

My mother: “The world is their oyster. Make them international people. Let them stand on their own two feet. Send them away.” 

Nonna Gemma on table manners: “There are none.”

My mother: “Put your knife and fork together to show you’ve finished. No. Not like that, the blade must be facing inwards towards the fork. No. The plate is like a clock and the handles must be at six o’clock.” 

The only way to tackle such opposing child-rearing advice is to try to mix and match their guidelines until the balance between Italian “smother love” and Australian “tough love” is just right, like one of my mother-in-law’s recipes. 

Anglo-Saxons show their children they love them by teaching them how to do everything for themselves. Italians show they love their children by doing everything for them. Trying to be a good mum, for me, is about harmonising that while focusing on how I feel. Most people in bicultural families live in the present, look to our children’s future and try to honour the past. Finding the best child-rearing process in the middle of all that cultural identity can be hard, especially with such wildly different matriarchs. 

Both women are contradictory in every way, but hearing their opinions opens up different worlds for me as a mother. Neither way is right, just as neither way is wrong. There are two lifetimes of insight in their approaches, and there is value in learning from both. If only I could fathom how. 

Maybe it’s time to stop trying so hard, to stop judging, comparing, choosing and balancing. Perhaps if I keep my kids close, while trusting them to make the right decisions, I’ll succeed in being a good mum as well as bringing their grandmothers’ attitudes into alignment. There is only one thing I know for sure about motherhood, and it applies regardless of where you come from: children thrive on love, no matter what the language. 

How I balanced my children's grandmothers' very different approaches to parenting

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

We had a 10 day holiday, just enough time to really taste the area around Nice, Cannes and Antibes. I chose Vence for our Air B and B home with a pool because it is only a 5 hour drive from Florence. My mother is 90 years old and I am always scared to lose airport access in case I have to leave Europe at a moment’s notice. So south eastern France seemed like a good choice. Easy to get back home if I needed to fly out quickly, yet we were in another country on holiday.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.Our Air B and B house was 2 minutes above Vence, which has a higher altitude than the lower lying coastal towns. The traffic to get in and out of Nice to Vence was appalling and took us way longer than anticipated. On a map it says 20 minutes but in reality there were road works and crazy holiday traffic. So a day at the beach in Nice involved a lot of traffic.

I couldn’t recommend staying in the Col de Vence (mountains of Vence) area highly enough. This time of year it is so hot in the southern beach resorts of Europe and Vence, and though not the most picturesque village in the region, it is COOL! It also has everything you’ll need. When travelling with five teenagers it’s good to be near a chemist, supermarket, medical centre, takeaway, news agency, thriving piazza with cafes and the odd pub/bar for the older teens to ‘go out’ to.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.From Vence we did day trips to:

  • Gourdon
  • Bar dur Loup
  • Tourrettes
  • Coursegoules
  • Saint Paul de Vence

The favourite for everyone ended up being Saint Paul de Vence.

A South of France, Provence Food Tour is essential and was probably the highlight of my trip. This tour by The French Way was fantastic – tailor made for the likes of me or any food nut. Marion, a lovely young lady, owns and runs the business herself and is passionate about everything to do with cuisine, wine and oil. I would drive 5 hours right now to be with Marion and her food again.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

We had a Provence olive oil tasting at Maison Bremond but unfortunately I had a wee tussle with the French ‘manager olive oil teacher’ because she was treating us like we were utter idiots so I told her. Marion had to intervene when I went on to say she was making me feel very uncomfortable. Anyway, the ‘manager olive oil teacher’ and I made up and became friends (sort of) but still, I would tread warily in that shop on 15, rue du Pont Vieux, Nice. Especially when she called out ‘Bonjour’ to a perusing American client who responded ‘I’m just looking.’ To which our French manager olive oil teacher indignantly replied ‘I am only saying Good Day, I’m not asking you to buy,’ with a roll of her eyes.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.A Wine Tasting was also necessary. The wines are so different from our normally quaffed Italian wines. I thought it a good idea to also go as ecologically sound as possible and chose A Taste of Nice: Tour de France of Organic Wines. Sublime! And seemingly without a headache – does it get better than that?

A day on the water was also a good idea – to see the French Riviera from the sea is beautiful. Book early on this boating idea – it was really hard to find a place for 9 people with 2 weeks to go to arrival time.

By far the best food we had was in Mar sur Loup. If you want a gorgeous lunch in a leafy garden go to L’Ecole des Filles – set in the old village school. 380 av Amiral de Grasse, telephone: 04 93094020

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

I rather liked all those French beaches but my Italian husband was not enamoured. Frankly, I didn’t know what he was grumbling about as I couldn’t see any difference between the Italian way of beaching and the French way of beaching. Both require loads of umbrellas, lined up row after row with easy access to a café/bar, shower and any other kind of soothing beach amenity. Comfort being the name of the game at the seaside in both France and Italy. Probably the French recliners were shoved closer together, that would be the only real difference I could see.

If you have any tips to add to these, please comment below – I am going back to this area so would love to try your ideas. Thank you in advance!

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

Meeting people who inspire you to learn and grow.

Meeting people who inspire you to learn and grow.One of the glorious things about living in Florence is meeting the most interesting people. I meet travelers, inventors, creators, inspirers, reporters and sometimes I meet someone who
is all of those things. Like Girl in Florence, Georgette Jupe. I am lucky enough to officially announce that Girl in Florence, Georgette Jupe, will join us for the September 10-16 Art of
Writing retreat.

Meeting people who inspire you to learn and grow.It’s a treat to announce this because it means that not only will our September writers have the opportunity to meet one of the loveliest girls but also to chat, drink, dine, bushwalk and generally hang out with Georgette too. She has much to tell us, Georgette. Every time I meet up with her I learn so much. Love that! Don’t you? When you chat with someone and find that you are learning and growing? Am feeling particularly blessed about this amazing group of women (and men!) that will join me this year in Casentino.

Meeting people who inspire you to learn and grow.Who would have thought? All those years ago, when I was 17 years old and a barmaid at the Red Garter in Florence. Who could possibly have known that gorgeous Florentine medical student would become my husband and the father of my two gorgeous babies? That 38 years and four books later, I’d still be here!

Life is a surprise. You never know what your journey is going to be.

I am eternally grateful to Florence and all that she has given me. And thanks to you too for being on this journey with me.

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

Why I need to talk my stories through.

Why I need to talk my stories through.Fascinating how some writers need to talk their stories through, while others need to keep their stories quiet. Every writer is different. One creative process may work for you but be completely wrong for me.

Talking recently with Martyn Bedford, author of eight books for Bantam, Penguin and Bloomsbury publishers, I found we had entirely different approaches to getting our stories down.

Why I need to talk my stories through.I like to talk my story through. Tell it to a friend. This approach has always worked incredibly well for me with friends often adding some fabulous twist or idea to the story. But more than anything, explaining the plotline helps me sort the story out, find the parts that don’t work. I’ll even go to writer friends with a character or plot problem and ask for their help.

Why I need to talk my stories through.For me, talking a story through helps me find the right words. Helps organize structure. Which is the most exciting angle to start with? Is this the most engaging idea? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been running through a storyline when I’ve been hit by the perfect phrase, a better approach, a lightbulb change of direction moment.

But for Martyn talking the story through doesn’t work. He is forty thousand words into the first draft of his new novel for teenagers and young adults, The House that Jacaranda Built. He dislikes talking about his novels-in-Why I need to talk my stories through.progress before at least one draft is completed. For Martyn his idea can go stale after being “explained” too many times before it’s written. Martyn will however give a sort of precis.

“I’ll just say that it’s the tale of a family that offers refuge to a homeless teenager who they find asleep in the doorway of their café, and the consequences arising from their decision.” That’s it. That’s all Martyn will say.

Different writing processes are intriguing. I love looking at how different methods work for different people.

One thing is for sure. There is always the risk that if you talk too much about your book you’ll never end up writing it. Make sure any talk is matched with words on the page!

Why I need to talk my stories through.

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

Is Italy for everyone? Getting past the honeymoon phase in a new country.

Such a fun week, being featured in Locals I Love by my favorite Girl in Florence, Georgette Jupe. Hearing again from women around the globe who’ve fallen in love with Italians and are in long distance love dilemmas reminded me of writing The Promise. Though that period of my life was a tortuous time of indecision, it was also a long phase of deep romantic love. So I have no regrets about moving to Italy for love.

I was a starry eyed 17 year old Aussie traveler when I first met my Italian husband. However, for 18 years I went back and forth from Sydney to Florence before I was convinced I should stay in Florence. And ever since, during my subsequent 20 year marriage, I have felt a many-colored range of emotions.

When you fall in love with an Italian, in Italy, there are so many special and unique moments. I’ve always maintained that Italian men love differently to Australian men (as a generalization). Italian men love fully, uncompromisingly and often unconditionally.

But I know many bicultural couples that haven’t made it. The relationship between the one who leaves home (often but not always the woman) and the one who stays home collapses for many reasons – some of which I have outlined in Locals I Love. But going deeper, bicultural couples often don’t make it because of resentment. Bitterness over his one dimensional view of her is often why the relationship can’t survive. He can only see her as the person he knows here in Italy. He can’t see her as the daughter of a mother. Or the sister of a man. Often he cannot see that his girlfriend was never able to reach her full potential because she left opportunities behind in her home land. He can only see her in the here and now.

For success, your Italian has to really see your history. He must understand, respect and acknowledge your past, your traditions and your family so that they are a part of your present.

Most importantly, he has to hold your hand tightly when, as time goes by, you begin to lose the people you never had enough time with, because ultimately you chose him over them.

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

Check out what our writers are reading this summer.

We have the most wonderful group of professional writers on the Art of Writing team. From New York best sellers to UK literary award winners, our teachers make a living from their writing. That’s our dream job, no? To become a career writer. It’s such an honour to have the wonderful writers listed below on our teachers’ lineup.

So what are The Art of Writing creative writing teachers reading and writing this summer?

New York best sellers list author, Jane Corry, is reading The Breakdown by B. A. Paris. Having just read Jane’s My Husband’s Wife, I was thrilled to see her new book Blood Sisters with Penguin is also out this summer. But what is Jane writing now? “This European summer will be a busy few months. I am writing next year’s book for Penguin, The Dead Ex.” What a gift to have Jane’s advice and guidance next year. After her three book Penguin deal, Jane will have much to teach us from June 3-9, 2018.

Out wonderful Manuscript Reader and teacher, Emma Fraser told me yesterday that she has just finished reading His Bloody Project by Roderick Macrae. Emma has just picked up The Client by John Grisham (apparently she put it aside for a while) and when that’s finished Emma will read The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding.

Every time I speak to Emma she is on a tight publishing contract deadline, this time it’s a three book deal with Little Brown. “I’m currently writing a multi-generational novel about love, betrayal and atonement set against the background of the Fall of Singapore and Scotland. It’s called Greyfriars and is due out in January 2018!” And away she went to get on with revisions!  

From September 10-16, 2017, multiple award-winning and internationally renowned British author of five novels for adults and three for young adults, Martyn Bedford will join us in Tuscany. Martyn’s book Flip managed to keep my 15 year old son’s interest from beginning to end. No small feat.

Chatting to Martyn this week he said he was just back to the UK after three days in Italy. “I was taking part in the Mare di Libri (Sea of Books) Festival of writing for children and young adults. When I go abroad I always try to read a book from that country, so I took Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. It’s the first of her highly acclaimed Neapolitan quartet. Okay, the novel is set in Naples rather than Rimini, where I’ve been staying, but it’s a literary flavour of Italy nonetheless. As many readers and critics before me have been, I am absolutely engrossed by the tale of Lenu’s and Lila’s turbulent friendship during childhood and adolescence. No doubt, I will take the second book with me when I visit Tuscany for my week’s tutoring with the Art of Writing from September 10-16!”

Having read the Elena Ferrante books I am looking forward to talking to Martyn about them.

So what is Martyn writing right now? “I’m forty thousand words into the first draft of my new novel for teenagers and young adults, The House that Jacaranda Built. I don’t like to talk about novels-in-progress before at least a draft is completed, in case the idea goes stale on me for being “explained” before it’s written. So I’ll just say that it’s the tale of a family that offers refuge to a homeless teenager who they find asleep in the doorway of their café, and the consequences arising from their decision.”

Am always fascinated to hear what writers are working on and also what they’re reading. This Blog makes for a good Summer Reading List! Thanks so much to The Art of Writing writers for their thoughts and best wishes to everyone for a productive summer of writing.

Hugs from Florence!


Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

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