This week, a writerly round-up related to geography, working spaces, and literary retreats, with an emphasis on the idyllic.

We begin in Sirenland, an exclusive annual writers’ retreat founded by American author Dani Shapiro and conducted in the absurdly photogenic seaside village of Positano, Italy.  From a profile by Maria Shollenbarger in The Financial Times:

It started, like so many good Italian things do, over dinner—even if in this case the dinner in question was a small gathering in Litchfield County, Connecticut, roughly 4,000 miles from the Italian peninsula.  The Sirenland writers’ conference was born in 2006, when the novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro, whose books Slow Motion and Devotion are national bestsellers, happened to be seated next to Antonio Sersale, the owner of Le Sireneuse, the hotel in Positano that is one of the most gorgeously situated and impeccably run places to lay one’s head in Italy (which, arguably, means the world).



An excellent tumblr called Write Place, Write Time profiles the working spaces of working writers, including Nicholson Baker.

I work all over the house, and in the yard when it’s warm—and often at restaurants and coffee shops.  But my favorite place is to write is at our kitchen table, especially when the sun comes angling in. The refrigerator turns on and off, the wall clock ticks, the cat jingles her food in the saucer as she crunches it, and there’s a nice shine to whatever fruit is in the bowl.



Over at Apartment Therapy, a survey of 15 writers’ bedrooms, including Truman Capote, William Faulkner, and Emily Dickinson.

We feel a kinship, with their experiences or with their characters, and we begin to imagine what their lives must be like. We read biographies about them, tour their homes and visit their graves, all in an effort to gain insight into their own particular genius. And nowhere is the essence of the artist more present than in the bedroom. It’s here that one can intuit much about a writer’s process. Is it a hermit’s lair? A sanctuary? A work space? Is it the place where they do all of their best work, or the place that allows them to leave that work behind?



Antonya Nelson and her husband, Robert, own a ghost town (or most of it, anyway), an abandoned mining village in Colorado with a population of, um, 12.  Elevation:  9,400 feet.

I wish I could reveal the name of this town, but a longstanding family policy that forbids the naming of idyllic mountain villages, lest they turn into tourist enclaves, prevents me. My family bought a miner’s shack in Telluride, Colo., in 1961, and you see what happened there. On this matter, I must quote my father: “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” Let’s call this little ghostly hamlet Eureka, for the purposes of this article, and leave it at that.



And if all of this makes you sick with envy, perhaps it might soothe you to consider a month at the Berton House writers’ retreat in Dawson City, Yukon, in the northerly reaches of Canada.  Ontario author Lawrence Hill just spent a month up there, revising his latest novel.

While there [Hill] revised The Illegal (publication date not set), his new novel about an African refugee living illegally in a developed nation.

He also researched a next project, about U.S. African-American soldiers sent north from southern military bases in 1942 to build the Alaska Highway.

Busy enough? Apparently not. The former Free Press reporter went dogsledding, and took on frigid -30 C temperatures, placing third in an outdoor chili-making contest. Not bad at all, considering the winner “shot the moose that provided the meat that made it into his own homemade chili,” Hill said.

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BALLOON BOY is your friend. He is also the official mascot and spiritual leader of The Nervous Breakdown.

4 responses to “Sirenland, the Write Place, Apartment Therapy, and the Yukon Territory”

  1. Rachel Pollon says:

    Killing me.

  2. Quenby Moone says:

    I’ve stayed in Le Sirenuse; I couldn’t write there to save my life because I’d be so content. It’s hard to rail against the world when you’re in paradise.

  3. Quenby Moone says:

    I retract my statement. I only stayed in a four star–not five–hotel next door.

    Cry me a river, I know.

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