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Memoir Writing & Cultural Retreat
Varenna, Lake Como, Italy
September 25--October 1,

Join us for a week-long Memoir Writing Workshop at the edge of Italy’s peaceful and inspiring Lake Como. It's an opportunity to start narrative nonfiction writing from scratch, revive current work, refine drafts or find focus for a current manuscript in progress. 

In the afternoons you will have time to read and write as well as  explore Varenna's architecture, gardens, art, villas, cuisine, and wines. 

Your leaders combine decades of exploring Italy and Italian culture, Linda Prospero as an traveller and guide and Kathryn Abajian as a traveller and instructor. Both have chosen the best for your week in Varenna: insightful and supportive instruction complemented by excellent restaurants, accommodations, and activities.

    New Enrollment Dates!
(Recent Cancellation; Room for More)
       Deposit due July 30. 
         Contact: Kathryn


The tiny town of Varenna features pastel-colored houses, “delicate layers of human history,” stacked against the mountainside and restorative views of Lake Como. Stroll along the passerella from one tiny harbor to another, under trailing wisteria and palm trees that nod gently in lakeside breezes. Watch boats and kayaks trasversing the

lake while enjoying a cappuccino at a small cafe.


Our accommodations at the four-star Hotel du Lac in Varenna provide each guest a single room with a view of stunning Lake Como. 


The hotel's intimate vine covered terrace facing the blue-green waters of the lake exudes relaxation and is the perfect place for sipping a romantic aperitif at sunset or enjoying a delicious snack with homemade cakes and pastries. It's also an ideal location to settle into quiet reading, to meet with friends or to rest and contemplate your life stories.


Kathryn's instruction evolves from decades of personal writing and teaching. She offers techniques and tips for approaching your story, organizing your life experience, appealing to your audience, and finding

your individual voice. Together, the group will analyze published  writing for its techniques and workshop revisions as a group.  Kathryn will meet with each

writer in at least one individual conference.


Linda guides the group on a variety of activities to deepen understanding of the northern Italian culture–-such as a hike to the ruins of a local castle, a ferry ride across the lake to Bellagio, a tour of a local estate. Linda also shares her knowledge of northern Italian culture, literature and history of Varenna in the Lombardy Region of Italy.

Like most towns set on Lake Como, Varenna is reached via steep, cobblestoned pathways or ancient steps. The hotel rooms are accessible via stairs, not an elevator. Thus, participants need to be able-bodied and adaptable to European customs and styles.

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                 EATING & DRINKING

Breakfast, included in the program costs, is served in our hotel, American style, yet enhanced  with a typical Italian coffee bar. 


Lunch is no host and easily available in town, just steps from our meeting room. Enjoy a sandwich or salad outdoors at a cafe in the town square or by the banks of the tranquil lake. Relish northern Italian delicacies–salami, prosciutto and local cheeses such as fontina and gorgonzola.

You will enjoy four multi-course dinners at the best restaurants in town and one lunch in Bellagio as part of your enrollment. These meals specialize in the delicate cuisine of the Lombardy region. Here the food favors butter sauces punctuated with fresh herbs over the preponderance of olive oil used more predominately in the south. First courses might feature pasta with creamy sauces, vegetable soup or a risotto made from arborio rice that grows on the region’s low-lying plains. The area is prime cattle area and the abundant beef and veal provide carefully prepared second courses. We also enjoy fish from the lake such as trout. All meals are accompanied by the best wines of the region.




A Princeton, New Jersey writer, Linda has been traveling throughout Italy for forty years. She has lived for extended periods in Rome and visited most of Italy to see family and explore Italian culture. Linda’s background knowledge and fluency in the Italian language offer participants valuable insight into Italian culture.

Multi-talented as a cook, photographer, writer and emerging artist, Linda spent her career as a journalist. Her articles have appeared in publications ranging from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times to the Times of India.
She is the author of the popular blog, Ciao Chow Linda.

But her real love is Italy–its food, art and literature.



ROME 2020

Weekly Workshops 

We meet in the charming Trastevere neighborhood of Rome for a series of
classes on three successive Saturday mornings.
Writers learn techniques that enliven nonfiction narrative writing and the

process for workshopping each others' drafts. The small group of six writers typically bonds quickly into a supportive response group. 

The writers are usually resident expats and long term visitors to Rome.  You need only to desire to write narrative nonfiction to join.


Sorayya Khan, Rome

The workshops were invaluable in providing structure, purpose and focus for writing. Kathryn’s feedback was very constructive and gave me the impetus to make  improvements on current and future writing. I appreciated Kathryn’s very approachable style, as though we were having a conversation, which helped me learn.

Tomas Lindemann, Rome

I enjoyed attending this workshop because it helped me understand I was on the right track when writing autobiographical stories. 

Four members of my writers group attended the workshop which helped consolidate our team spirit.

Roxana Imam, Rome

I felt this class was a great way  to learn

how to begin understanding my own writing process. The techniques and tips were useful for drafting my own stories. I wish we had more than three class meetings so we could review more work together in class, as a group. The comments I received were useful and encouraging. 

         KIND WORDS & ENDORSEMENTS           
     Week-Long Retreats 

  Santo Stefano, Abruzzo and Varenna, Lake Como, Italy   SINCE 2010

Angela Thirlwell, London, UK

The instruction has been concentrated, serious and completely absorbing. I’ve learned a great deal about the craft of writing: setting a scene, foregrounding the nut-graph, using direct speech effectively etc. I appreciate and recognise Kathryn’s conscientious preparation, her discipline within the group, and keeping us all focused on the subject for discussion. Though the workshops seemed daunting at first, they became lively and valuable sessions both for the individual and for the group.
Our group gelled almost immediately.  Much of this was due to the organised and varied structure of our week in Varenna. Classes in the mornings interspersed with our reward excursions in the afternoons organised seamlessly by Linda Prospero. Hotel du Lac is a great choice and the staff unfailingly helpful and friendly. The views over the lake are breath-taking, inspiring and soothing to the spirit. 


Susan Donaldson James, Middlebury, VT
I am leaving the retreat more aware of the importance of showing not telling, use of dialogue and creating narrative with textured writing through one single, powerful event. And most importantly, how to use reflection — hard for a former reporter. The in-class assignments were daunting, but they forced me to rethink my own writing. Honestly, I found the work shopping most useful in applying artful techniques to my storytelling. The best part of the retreat was hearing my fellow writers’ stories. I’ve made lifelong friends and hope we continue to share our journeys. I admire all of them.

Doty Tsiantar, New York City, NY

The instruction part of the course was insightful. It helped me think about what memoir writing is all about.  I've been struggling with a desire to get my parents, and more specifically, my mother's story on paper—and not at all sure about how I was going to do that.  I am leaving with some strong lessons learned:  about how to use tone and voice to make a story more personal, how to recreate dialogue and include it in the story, and how reflective writing can help make a story more universal, honest, and meaningful.  The workshopping was terrific.

Cassandra Joubert, Vallejo, CA

I loved the content of the instruction. We covered just the right amount of material for the time we had. The workshopping was fantastic and the short instructional day was appreciated so that we could enjoy the other amenities of the area. Kathryn is a great teacher and I appreciated her deep knowledge and familiarity with the content.  I loved all the outings–fun, fun, fun! I loved having Linda as our guide.


Eileen Houlihan, Washington D.C.
The instruction was an overall great experience. The group [of eight] was a good size; I would not go any larger. The feedback in the workshopping was very helpful. All of the activities were fabulous. Bellagio was the highlight.

Carol Sherrill, Danville, CA
Kathryn’s memoir workshop in Santo Stefano fulfilled every hope I had when I signed up. From each session, analyzing and appreciating how good writing develops, I grew in understanding of the craft. Through the revision techniques we learned in class—working on each other’s and our own pieces—and in conference with Kathryn, my confidence in myself as a writer multiplied. I left fully inspired to “do the work.” 

Rhonda Callaway, Houston, TX
The workshop in Varenna was one of the best experiences of my life, and I  thank Kathryn and Linda for providing helping me find my narrative voice.  How I wish I could go again! 

Gloria Humphrey, Plantation, FL
Every once in a while the unimaginable happens along the journey of life. Being in Abruzzo for the “Italy In Other Words” retreat has changed my life forever. It was like finding a hidden treasure filled with genuine historical and cultural wealth.  I loved meeting daily for workshops in a classroom setting that challenged my writing skills and being serenaded nightly with wine and fine dining. I am undoubtedly enriched by the experience.  

Susan Imboden, Fairfield, CA
I do a lot of writing in my work and can put one word in front of the other. But the Santo Stefano workshop has given me the tools to write creatively. From the nuts and bolts of an essay to the nuances of tone, I received new skills and ways of looking at my work that have bumped both my writing and confidence a notch or two. And the cultural activities and camaraderie in that beautiful setting added so much to a fun and worthwhile week.

Dan Martin, Kansas City, MO
The content of the workshop was solid even for someone like me who teaches writing. I found that Kathryn’s understanding of the components of the memoir genre was strong and nuanced. She did a great job of explaining the elements of memoir and illustrating them with examples.

Jan Mannino, Laguna Beach, CA
Since attending Kathryn’s workshop my writing has improved considerably. Her teaching techniques, my class members, the surroundings, the food, the wine all came together in my efforts to find direction in the writing. Kathryn is an excellent instructor; her lessons on honesty in memoir writing have been a major turning point for me. She has refined my desire to write more and better. Learning to listen and to understand the critiques of the other writers have been an important life learning experience for me. I can highly recommend this workshop and trip to a magical place.

Richard Bilotti, Pennington, NJ
The content of the workshop was excellent, good enough to get me focused as never before on my work. The delivery was easy to understand and Kathryn’s making sure there was no room for nasty critical criticism made the tone very good.

Arthur Darby, Calgary, Alberta, CN
The content of the workshop and the presentations were excellent, the materials were good, and the technique of having the writers listen while other gave feedback was good. I will recommend this course to anyone who will take it. Absolutely! Fantastic excursions. Linda is a very good guide and presents a lot of information.

Laura Vejarano, Milan, Italy
I have the fondest memories of our week in Santo Stefano! It was both inspiring and instructional. I wrote in my notebook non-stop on the train from Rome to Milan, just enjoying the act of writing. I very much appreciated Kathryn’s style because it was very organized and engaging but, at the same time, left space for change as the group dynamics and needs evolved.

Cynthia Parry, Long Island, NY
Thank you for so many things: the program, the wealth of sharing and warmth that Kathryn and Helen and Linda have brought to this process, the opportunities to work with and meet others who are serious about their work, but not themselves. The activities outside the workshop created a bond that allowed all of us to have easy conversation and connections that added to the trust developed in the workshop. Our interactions contributed immeasurably to the sense of camaraderie that we felt, although we started out as strangers.

Gina Fattore, Los Angeles, CA
I’m an experienced television writer, but I’d never written memoir before, so Kathryn’s morning sessions on fundamentals and techniques were incredibly helpful to me. Plus, she and Helen and all the other participants were just great people: smart, adventurous, funny. Everyone had a story to tell—on the page, on our day trips, and over drinks at the Cantinone.


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