Guest Post from Sharyn Lonsdale
For more than a decade, I defined myself as a writer. That’s because I earned my living writing, as a reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and then as a feature writer for magazines. I have edited memoirs and bodice rippers, written restaurant reviews and brochures. I got paid to blog about beauty products (boy, do I miss that gig) and wrote a tight 5-minute stand-up set.
But, for the past 10 years writing has been an “and I.” I’m a director of marketing “and I” write a little. I work full-time in the arts “and I” write a movie review every two weeks.
I had people in my life who believed in my writing and still saw me as a writer. That included my relatives who couldn’t wait to receive my holiday newsletter and Mimi Herman, a REAL writer, whom I met during my non-writing job at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. (She was the artist, I was the one who picked up stuff at the grocery for the artists.)
Mimi and her partner John Yewell, also a writer, created Writeaways workshops, retreats and getaways to help writers of all levels find the time to write. Mimi and John had suggested I attend before, but I was always too busy, too broke or too scared. This year, I had the frequent flyer miles and blessing from my boss. When they offered me the chance to attend the workshop in Italy at a reduced rate in exchange for helping with the meals and blogging, I was in.
I would be working on my own writing too. I told Mimi that all I had in the works was a picture book for preschoolers. Was that writing workshop material or did I need to start a novel? Mimi and John insisted that my 750-word book about a shelter cat was Writeaways worthy.
After three days of getting lost in the streets of Florence, eating my weight in gelato and seeing a lifetime’s worth of stained glass windows, I got on a train to the town of Bucine in Chianti, home of Writeaways, Italy. John packed four of us and our luggage into a Ford Focus, drove up the winding country roads to a bumpy gravel path and deposited me in front of Villa Cini, a 15th century stone mini-castle that would be my home for the week. My room was filled with ornate wood furniture I normally wouldn’t be allowed to touch, brocade curtains, a red iron bedpost and a huge armoire that I wish I could fit in the Focus on the way back.
There are seven of us here, nine with Mimi and John. Three attended the Writeaway in France, held just before Italy. We are here to write and rewrite, think and rethink, reflect, talk, eat and drink local wine. For seven days I am a writer first. Not an “and I.”