Memoir writing workshops include how to capture food and cooking – the Italian way

STATEN ISLAND, NY — When Casa Belvedere’s program director Beatrice Alecci asked Maria Giura to host a writing workshop, the title came immediately to the author — “Writing the Italian in Your Memories.”

And so began virtual writing workshops at the Italian cultural center in December,2020.

Giura explained, “As someone who has always cherished my Italian-American background — a theme that emerges in both my books — I wanted others to have the opportunity to reflect on and write about the Italian in their memories, whether they are Italian, partnered to an Italian, or simply someone who appreciates italianitaˊ — the spirit, character, or essence of Italian life.”

In prior workshops, participants have had the opportunity to reflect on and write about how a specific theme — food, music, language, immigration, travel, art, faith, etc. — you have formed the background or foreground of their memories, said Giura.

CLASS SCHEDULE

The summer edition of Writing Your Memories will be held on Wednesday evenings from 7 pm to 8:45 pm on June 22 and July 13. There will be a Revision Workshop on Aug 3. The theme encompasses summer as “a strong beam or capstone meant to hold something up or together.”

Participants will have the chance to write their memories of the season and/or of those people and things that have supported them throughout the years.

Workshops are $27 for Casa Belvedere members/$30 for nonmembers. Sign up for one, two or all three. To register, see https://casa-belvedere.org/product/virtual-writing-workshop-writing-your-summer-memories/ For more information, email beatrice@casa-belvedere.org. For more about the instructor follow her de ella on Instagram @mariagiurawrites and at her de ella website de ella mariagiura.com

Giura has taught at multiple universities including Binghamton University, where she earned her PhD in English. She has won awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Independent Press, and the Center for Women Writers, and was a judge for the Lauria/Frasca Poetry Award. Her writing of her has appeared in Prime Number, Presence, Vita Poetica, (Voices in) Italian Americana, Lips, Tiferet, and Paterson Literary Review.

MEMORIES AND READINGS

“The memories and discoveries the participants have uncovered in their writing lean on ethnicity but also transcend it…So, while the workshops still feature mainly Italian-American readings, we hope they will attract a more diverse audience,” said Giura.

In the first part of the workshop, participants read and chat about short, vibrant excerpts by published authors as a way to inspire their own thinking on the theme. In the second part, they’re given five or six writing prompts to choose from and have at least twenty minutes to write.

The workshops also include a shorter five minute “free write” that helps writers warm up and tap into their intuitive side.

“During the writing periods, they can turn off their video, put up their feet, maybe even go to a different place in their home to write. Then they come back and are invited to share an excerpt from what they’ve written or to simply comment on what the experience of writing was like,” encouraged Guira.

She said, “Participants are encouraged to appeal to at least two senses in their writing, not just the way they remember something looked but also the way it smelled, tasted, what it sounded like or felt like on their skin.”

FOCUSED ON FOOD

During the workshop that focused on food, some of the prompts included: watching a loved one cook a meal or make wine or work the garden; the dish or meal that has brought the greatest comfort; where they and their family gather to eat; a time in their life when cooking or food was a source of stress/distress or criticism; what time and place to which the aromas of certain foods bring them back.

By the end of each workshop, participants produce at least one original first draft.

“They are often surprised by the direction their writing takes them, which is where the joy is. To be surprised by one’s writing is a real gift. It means you’re open to what you want to be written,” said Giura.

The classes have attracted participants from Staten Island, the Tri-State area, California, DC, Vermont, North Carolina, Florida, and even Naples, Italy. Giura said a few participants have published their work produced in the workshops.

“No experience is necessary, just a notebook, pen, and a sense of curiosity and fun,” said Giura.

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