Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Trip to Italy aka Writing, Cooking and other Wisdom

by Judy Merrill Larsen

There are many different paths to becoming a writer (and all involve rejection. Sorry to be so harsh. Hope you've had your coffee.).

My road has been both pretty normal (Loved reading as a kid. Always wanted to write. Got paying job. Put off writing to raise kids. Finally decided to write a book, because, hey, who can't (ha!). Got rejected. Got rejected again. Found my dream agent. Poof! Got published.) and unique (because each of our winding roads are uniquely true for each of us.).

Here are some things I've finally figured out.

First, go to Italy.

Drink in the sights and the wine. Savor the art and the food. Because Italians get it. Get that if you start with the freshest, best ingredients and work with joy and love, you'll create something wonderful. A big slab of perfect marble and years of work that's a labor of love. Fresh sage and butter and ricotta. Tomatoes ripened in the Italian sun. You don't need scads of ingredients; you need to use only the best and let the truth of the flavors do the rest.

A few years ago, when I learned how to make risotto, I wrote this, and traveling to Italy earlier this month continued my education (although I don't really think the IRS will agree that the trip was a work-related expense!).

Some of the writers on this blog have MFAs. Some of us teach writing workshops. We've all shared our "go-to" writing books. When asked for advice I always say, among other things, to read read read.

But my time in italy clarified and simplified things even more. As we stood in front of The David, I let the words of Michelangelo wash over me:

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

And that's it exactly. My task is to discover the story through my characters. And in doing so I'm setting them free.

How easy is that?

And now, one more gratuitous picture . . .

And yes, we did throw coins over our shoulder. I have so much more to learn . . . oh, and more gelato to eat!

I live in St. Louis, MO with my husband, am the mom/stepmom to five kids (ages 18-26), and taught high school English for 15 years. I'm over on Facebook and Twitter . My first novel, ALL THE NUMBERS was published in 2006.


  1. Judy, I know you wrote this post just for me (well, even if you didn't, it spoke to me as if you'd had me in mind ;). Love Italy. Love everything you wrote here. Thanks... Glad you had such a wonderful trip!!

  2. Hey Marilyn, so glad this resonated . . . isn't Italy the best!

  3. Great post, Judy!! This was fun to read! I think a trip like that can provide endless inspiration! Where are you going next?

  4. Such beautiful pictures and a lovely post, Judy. So glad you enjoyed your trip and that it inspired you. Makes me want to go back!

  5. Thanks, Laura and Sara! We don't have anything firm lined up for our next trip . . . but we're hoping to return to Italy and spend some time in the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside.

  6. Lovely post! And you make me hungry.

  7. Feeling inspired is just the best thing! Your trip to Italy sounds amazing, Judy. As for the Michelangelo quotes: I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Love! Thanks for sharing with us, and I can't wait to hear more when I see you! :-)

  8. Oh, you do so make me want to go back -- and I did throw coins as well, so maybe . . . .

  9. Welcome back, Judy. Sounds like the trip was amazing.

  10. Oh Judy, what a lovely post, and your imagery from gorgeous!! I think your creativity is endless and I love how you share your inspiration.

  11. Wonderful post! There really is nothing like traveling to motivate story. I always feel like I have better ideas when I'm writing in a hotel room or on an airplane or really anywhere but at my own desk.

  12. I loved this post, and you may have just given me sufficient reason to plan a trip to Greece.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  13. It is the education that makes a contrasting difference between a human being and an animal. Education helps us to refine our personality and develop a sense of control over our work statement of purpose