USA | 2000
Michael Carroll was born in Memphis and grew up in the South of the United States. His stories and critical pieces have appeared in the journals “The Chattahoochee Review” and “The Reading Room”, and the anthologies “Boys Like Us” and “Men on Men 7″. He is finishing a collection about growing up in northern Florida, entitled “Palmettoes”.
I’m writing in praise of Santa Maddalena, the international writer’s colony in Donnini.
As a beginning writer with only modest publications in America and Britain, I enjoyed my stay at Santa Maddalena for a number of reasons. First, Santa Maddalena gave me time as well as space, in the form of the famous “tower” (where I understand writers no less than Bruce Chatwin and Michael Ondaatje have been inspired and productive). Occupying the top floor of the tower I was able to count on solitude, sunlight and work space any time of the day and night. I cannot emphasize enough the absolute boon to the work–I worked on a short story which is also to serve as a chapter in my first novel–while I paced the different floors of the tower, making coffee, drinking wine, sitting at an enormous desk with the most breathtaking view I’ve ever worked in front of….
Secondly, the quality of my work was quite high. Santa Maddalena allowed me the occasional and not at all intrusive social and cultural benefits of the Tuscan region. On a number of evenings I dined with locals who are themselves interested in the arts. It was a nice respite from the day’s rigors, but if I did have some creative energy left over at the end of the day I could always find the tower completely abandoned to me and work well into the night unmolested. There I performed the very delicate, indeed frustrating task of re-drafting the above-mentioned story, “The Lauderdale”, in this atmosphere. I can’t overstate the trickiness of turning 11,000 words of prose into serviceable, believable and polished narrative–but this I was able to do during the four weeks of my stay with time left over for a few days touring.
I’m grateful to Santa Maddalena for not crowding me into small spaces with dreadful weather; for giving me beauty and inspiration in the form of natural scenery and a library for refilling my creative reserves; for a flexible sleeping schedule and wonderful food and convenient service that freed me to work and concentrate; for understanding…. Beatrice Monti has organized an important retreat where writers can disappear into their work and challenge themselves without restraint. She has insisted upon completely liberating us without chaining us to a dreary solitude. I recommend sponsorship and the continuation of Santa Maddalena’s mercies to would-be supporters unreservedly.