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Experiencing Italy Through Writing

Umbra students, faculty, and staff trooped down to l’aula magna – the great hall – of an old monastery in the center of Perugia on April 16 to listen to literary readings by the students of “Italy of the Imagination: Creative Non-Fiction.” The audience laughed, sighed, and cheered at the chronicles of Americans’ experiences in the bel paese, which ranged from a set of profiles of distinctive characters met on an Italian beach to the typical travel misadventures to a less-typical public encounter with dog excrement.

“The reading itself and the thought of having to present work to the public helps students see their work in a different light so that, even moments before the reading, new revision possibilities will come to them,” explained instructor Cynthia Clough, who has taught writing courses at Umbra for seven years. “Usually there are beautiful surprises for me as a teacher during the readings, (like) stories that were not quite finished when I read them earlier in the term suddenly coming to fulfillment at this grand finale. It is always beautiful to see this happen, and this is why I find the reading so important – it connects a student’s voice and vision to the larger community. …

“Both experiences — putting together an anthology and reading before the public –help writers see their work in relationship to a broader public reading and therefore help them understand its purpose and value more,” Clough concluded.

After the last student finished her story to roaring applause and personalized signs, class and audience marched side by side to the nearby Pizza e Musica for congratulations, pizza, and drinks.

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