Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Write Your Heart Out in Provence

In all my years as a book lover I remember writing just a handful of fan letters to authors...and Richard Goodman was one of them. Something about his 1991 book, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of Francereally grabbed me. That was maybe 15 years ago and we've stayed in touch ever since. So I was delighted when Richard told me he was returning to Provence to lead a writing workshop this coming summer...and even more delighted to learn it would be hosted by the non-profit Maine Media Workshops + College (MMW).

The school is based in Rockport, Maine and was formerly known as the Maine Photographic Workshops. While I've only been lucky enough to take one of their workshops, I know many people who've studied or taught there and the school gets top reviews all around.

Launched in 1973 offering photography only, MMW has since added a wide range of subjects such as film/video, book arts, writing, poetry and more. (School president Meg Weston describes what they teach as "the art and craft of storytelling.") They have a full calendar of courses in Maine, plus travel workshops (like the one I took in Provence in the late '90s), a 30-week certificate program and an MFA program that’s been rated in the top 100 fine arts graduate programs in the U.S. They offer courses at all levels, from absolute beginner and serious amateur to working professional. Every time their new catalog comes out I see ten classes I'd love to take!

But back to Richard's upcoming workshop...

Called Inspire Your Writing in Provence,  it's devoted to "exploring how this delicious corner of France can stir the senses and inspire the imagination with its light, its scents, its sights and sounds." The dates are June 24 to 29, 2018.

Richard tells me he designed it for anyone who loves to write...memoir, food writing, travel writing, personal essays or anything else...whether they're deep into a project or just beginning. "This is a chance for you to experience 'the magic' with like-minded people and really just write your heart out," he says.

The group will stay together at the charming hotel Clos de Buis in Bonnieux, one of the famously gorgeous hilltowns of the Luberon region. (I mention the hotel in my recent Luberon story here.) Mornings will be devoted to talks about craft and writing exercises. "And of course we’ll read about the region, about its storied history—its art, food and wine," Richard says. "And we’ll learn about the wild, lovely country nearby." Afternoons will be spent exploring Bonnieux and nearby villages, taking in scenery, history, culture, lavender and more. Most students will likely arrive early or stay on for additional travel.

Richard is currently living and teaching in New Orleans but he has twice spent a year in the South of France: first in a small village near Nîmes and then in Sanary-sur Mer on the Mediterranean coast. His stories about French food and culture have appeared in The New York Times, Saveur, Creative Nonfiction, French Review and Grand Tour. He has taught at MMW's  home base up in Maine-- and will teach there again this summer--but this will be his first workshop in Provence. 

Well-known cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins took Richard's workshop in Rockport last summer and loved it. "This is a wonderful opportunity," she says. "Richard is a fine, provocative, inspiring teacher." 

All the workshop details are on the MMW site here; please note the discount for early booking. If you have questions, Meg (mweston@mainemedia.edu) or Richard (richardgoodman711@gmail.com) will be happy to help. 

Hope to see you this summer in Provence!

Photos: (1) The workshop takes place in Bonnieuxthe highest perched village in the Luberon. Bonnieux’s steep upper streets are lined with 800-year-old buildings, most of  them built atop older structures and ancient caves; from the peak you get a spectacular view. The village has an upper and lower church, so folks who lived in the valley, back in the day, didn’t have to climb all the way up top to attend mass. This is the lower or "new" church, built in 1870. (2, 3)  Students will stay at Le Clos de Buis, a perfect little hotel with a super-warm vibeThe photos show breakfast and a guestroom. (4) The famous 86 steps leading up to the 12th-century "old" church in Bonnieux...and fantastic views. (5) The hotel has a large lovely garden and pool. (6) Looking north from Bonnieux: the mighty Mont Ventoux, “the Giant of Provence,” well known for many grueling stages of the annual Tour de France. (7) We've all see a million photos of lavender fields in Provence but this is one of my favorites; see the story behind it here.  The Luberon's lavender fields should be at their peak--or close--during the workshop dates. (8) In the nearby village of Menerbes, local rosés on display at Maison de la Truffe et du Vin. (9) The irresistible antique shop directly opposite the hotel: resistance is futile. (10) The ochre cliffs of the nearby village of Roussillon. (11) Richard and his students in Rockport this past summer; photo by Gussan Jalil.


  1. Amazing photos! Looks like a great getaway.

  2. What an incredible opportunity!

  3. Ooooh là là ~ This sounds fantastic! Seven spots won't last long! Thanks for this, Julie. You know all the good stuff!

  4. All sounds wonderful! To get you in the mood why not join a small group of women for our Meditation and Markets in Provence Escapade in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence June 17-23. Marilyn McMullen, a wonderful woman from Sydney will lead 2 sessions per day intertwined with markets, wine tasting, picnics and other daily escapades. For more details email Karen at info@gourmetescapades.com

  5. Wow what a good opportunity,Have alway wanted to go to Provence area ,maybe this winter.



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