Writers making scenes:
master the art & science of story
Puglia, Italy 17 - 23 March 2024
Picture yourself in this scene:
You’re sitting at your large oak desk in the luxury palazzo, writing as quickly as your hands can type about a noble family. The idea came to you while touring a grand, ancient seaside villa with the other writers earlier in the day.
You felt chills as you walked the rooms of the centuries-old mansion - you could hear the characters in your mind, especially the matriarch who ruled her family and its vast estate.
After a heady espresso in the town’s main piazza, you meander through ancient, marble-stoned alleyways, soaking in the history of thousands of years. Each corner holds a surprise and a revelation.
You pass a large cathedral you haven’t seen before. Baroque sculptures of laughing monkeys, growling gryphons and snarling lions adorn the entrance. You take a photo and make a note to add a scene to the novel that takes place before the church.
As you make your way back to the hotel, the evening has descended. Yellow street lamps throw the pastel-coloured palazzi into sharp relief.
"I really enjoyed the experience! I gained perspective on character. Recommend to others." - ME Rothwell, author of best-selling The Books that Made Us and Cosmographia on Substack.
The week has brought many breakthroughs:
You’ve learned to create compelling characters fully realised as people and craft scenes that grab your readers and won’t let them go.
During your stay at the monastery, time has slowed for you. The distractions of your life back home have fallen away, giving you the space, energy and inspiration you need to tap fully into your creativity.
Over long dinners at the local trattoria, you’ve bonded with other writers and made friends for life. You’ve found your tribe.
You now have a list of scenes for the novel you've always wanted to write and the confidence and concrete plan to finish them!
Wouldn't you feel a sense of accomplishment when the characters you’ve dreamed of writing come alive on the page?
How fulfilling would it be to have a clear plan of attack on your story plot, removing the confusion and frustration of what to do next in your writing?
How rejuvenated would you feel after spending a week dedicated to nurturing your creative side, focusing only on YOU and YOUR writing?
Imagine the sense of community you'll feel once you've found your tribe amongst a global network of writers who support and cheer each other on!
"I learned a lot about how to improve my writing... colour, context, background, senses...The feedback was really useful! The exercises were really well thought out and writing examples were really high quality. I found them motivating and challenging. 100% recommend to others." - Clare, France
Where you'll stay
Our home away from home is Relais Monastero Santa Teresa Palace, a 900-year-old monastery turned luxury hotel, in the heart of the Nardò’s historic centre. There’s enough history to inspire a novel (or two). A destination in its own right, the hotel has been lovingly restored to the highest standards,
You’ll enter through large wooden doors where kings and queens once arrived with their entourages. The courtyard is a peaceful oasis - centred by a large fountain full of floating lilypads and flowers.
Each spacious, private room is named after a noble family and you’ll feel like royalty staying here. The mosaic floors are works of art, with intricate, geometrical patterns.
The beds are large and luxurious, with high-quality linen. All rooms have views, either of the old city or the courtyard. The rooms all have their own ensuite, with designer fixtures. You’ll have no issues finding your writing rhythm at the desk.
Staying here will inspire you while providing a restful atmosphere to create and dream and write.
You may even discover centuries-old secret passageways used centuries ago by the nobility to avoid the common folk!
What about the food?
Puglia is where Italians go to eat! Blessed with fertile soil, more than 300 days of sunshine per year and on a peninsula, the region is globally recognised for its fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood.
You haven’t had a tomato until you’ve tasted one in Italy. You’ll be amazed at the flavour packed into vegetables grown, harvested and prepared with deep respect and care for the land.
You’ll dine on traditional, regional dishes like silky roasted chickpeas and handmade orecchiette with thin slices of fried parmesan cheese, whose every crunch crackles with flavour. There’s also grilled melanzane with sprinkles of sea salt and a splash of lemon.
Regardless of your dietary requirements, you’ll eat fabulously here. Light on meat, Puglia’s cuisine is heavy on seasonality and vegetables.
Meals are the highlight of the day, and Italians (especially in this region) take their time – dinners here can, and should, last for hours.
Our journey together
Day 1: Buongiourno
As you descend the grand stone staircase in the morning, you take in the beauty and craftsmanship of the hotel. The warm staff will make you feel right at home with their Southern Italian hospitality. You’ll start the day with breakfast of typical Italian croissants, brioche, fresh fruit and coffee with the group in the monastery’s garden.
Today is about getting to know Nardò and each other. You will set your writing intention for the retreat.
You’ll tour ancient alleyways with a local expert, and learn about the magical myth of the town’s founding and how it’s been an important place of power for thousands of years.
We’ll close the day with an aperitivo at a local bar on the main square followed by a dinner full of fresh, regional dishes, leaving you filled and eager to retire to your luxury digs for the night.
Day 2: Getting into character
After another breakfast, we’ll jump into the work.
Character is the foundation of every story, so we dedicate today to them.
We’ll build characters so real, you’ll think you’ve actually met them. We'll do interactive activities that use all the senses and exercises genius actors use to craft their performances. You’ll inhabit your character like a pro, learning everything about them. By the end, you’ll know them better than you know your family!
You’ll work on the characters for the rest of the day and have enough time to explore the town and surroundings on your own.
Day 3: Making a scene
After breakfast together, we’ll reflect on the previous day’s exercise and review the characters you’ve developed.
Today’s theme is scene and we’ll make one together based on your characters. We’ll focus on scene beginnings, middles and ends as well as twists and turns.
We’ll use examples from established authors, films and plays to show you what a great scene looks like. Breaking down the sample texts, you’ll see how the great masters work, unpacking and demystifying their techniques and learning how to adapt them for your own work.
Together, we’ll sketch out the architecture for your scene and work collaboratively to ensure it’s organised for maximal impact.
Later in the day, we’ll tour seaside villas and a famous village, learning about all history (and juicy gossip) of noble families in the area. Over lunch by the sea, we’ll discuss what we’ve worked on so far.
Day 4: Bring the drama!
Fuelled by Italian deliciousness, you’ll be more than ready to bring the drama.
Today we take characters and the scenes they find themselves in and ratchet up the conflict. We’ll focus on dialogue, subtext and the art of persuasion.
Extending what we’ve accomplished so far, you’ll see your scenes grow more complex and see how your characters behave under pressure.
To get us thinking with all our senses, we’ll also work with a local artisan on a craft, learning how traditional artistry is still being practised today. You'll apply the learnings to your scene so that you can engage the reader on all levels.
Day 5: Convergence & Reflection
A communal coffee & breakfast prepares you for the day ahead.
Today we bring everything together, working to pull the various elements we’ve developed over the week into a coherent whole. We’ll review the characters, the scenes, dramatic arc By the end of the day you’ll have a fully realised scene.
There will be plenty of time for revision.
This is the most powerful day of the retreat.
We’ll celebrate the wins and learnings of the week with an aperitivo, followed by a dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 6 - Arrivederci
Our time together on the retreat reaches its conclusion, but there’s enough time for another breakfast and cappuccino.
We’ll say our goodbyes with appreciation for the time together and for the confidence and skills you've gained to take your writing project forward.
A la prossima!
"I learned how to inject detail and emotion in my writing. I really enjoyed reading the sample exercises to gain insight. I do look forward to more opportunities with The Writing Grove - online and in-person :)" Lisa, USA
What you get
6 unforgettable nights in accommodation in the luxury palazzo
1 historical and informative tour of baroque Nardò
1 inspiring tour of the seaside villas, seaside town and lunch
1 Craft-making activity with local artisan
Daily delicious breakfasts
All retreat materials
Transfer to/from local airports or train stations
For each participant, I will plant an olive tree via a local olive farm regeneration nonprofit. The tree will sequester 600kg CO2 per person - perfect for travel offset!
Flights or trains
Meals outside of those specified
Trips, tours and activities outside those specified
Nardò is the crown jewel of the southern cities in Salento, Puglia, the region at the very bottom of Italy’s heel. The town is renowned for its baroque and rococo architecture: the squares are full of ornately designed churches, palazzi and restaurants.
It’s not just the buildings that are magic – local legend has it that mystical elves live in the countryside and love playing pranks on people.
Only an hour's plane ride from Rome, Salento is a well-known treasure to Italians but still undiscovered by the rest of the world. You’ll be amongst locals, far from the masses, giving you the authentic experience in Italy you’ve always dreamed of.
Over your morning coffee and brioche, you’ll admire the elaborate, baroque palaces and churches built centuries ago by nobles to show off their wealth.
You’re also only a ten-minute drive to the Ionian coast, which has the clearest, cleanest beaches in all of Italy. Regardless of the season, the sea is always worth visiting. Large mystical forests line the coastal hills, perfect for a walk as you tour ancient forts and villas as part of the retreat.
I’m Lloyd. I’m a published author, with experience in theatre and film. I graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Film Studies and went into advertising, a career that took me around the world from New York City, to Sydney, Australia, to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands and now Italy. Along the way, my campaigns won global awards but I always kept writing for myself.
I’ve had short stories published in the US and Europe, and my stage work has been performed in New York and London.
Several years ago, looking to build an English-language community, in the Netherlands, I started my own writing group. Writers I’ve worked with have published short stories and novels, and have been nominated for and won several awards, including the prestigious Pushcart.
Now more than ever, people need a place where they can express themselves creatively. My workshops and retreats are spaces where you can slow down, get inspired and allow yourself the time and space for play and creativity. I create supportive, calm, open experiences where participants thrive.
I divide my time between the Netherlands and Nardò, the town in southern Italy where I hold the writing retreats.
I can’t wait to work with you!
I believe the earth is a precious, though vulnerable and fragile resource. The olive groves of Southern Italy have been threatened by disease over the last several years, causing environmental and economic damage.
For every participant in a Writing Grove retreat, I plant an olive tree with a local nonprofit. The tree will grow to provide habitat for animals, jobs for farmers and, of course, delicious olive olive.
Each tree sequesters 600kg (.67 tons) of carbon dioxide - perfect for offsetting the impact of travel!
How much experience do I need?None! Just a love of reading and storytelling. Our students range from aspiring writers to experienced authors. Everyone is welcome.
Can I bring my kids/partner?Sorry, but no. This retreat is just for those who want to focus on their writing without distractions.
Are there shared rooms?The palazzo you'll stay at only has single-occupancy rooms.
Where do I fly intoNardò is an just an hour's flight from Rome. There are 2 airports you can fly into. Brindisi Airport: 1 hour drive from Nardò Bari Airport: About 2 hour drive from Nardò You can also take a train to the beautiful city of Lecce from anywhere in Italy. Lecce is about a 25-minute drive from Nardò. The trains in Italy are wonderful - clean, safe and modern. It's also a great way to see the country. We can arrange a transfer from either of the two airports or the train station. If you would also like recommendations for booking travel, don't hesitate to contact me at Lloyd@writinggrove.com.
Can you accommodate dietary restrictions?Yes! Don't hesitate to contact me at Lloyd@writinggrove.com with your needs or requirements.
How can I offset the impact of my travelling by plane.For every participant, I donate to a local biofarming regeneration project that sequesters 600kg (.7 tons) of carbon per year. If you'd like to make an additional donation, let me know!