Rilla AskewUSAWriting2004

I came to Civitella with ambition to complete a novel begun in the summer of 2001, a structurally thorny narrative – or that is to say, the process of finding the structure had been thorny - and when I arrived at the castle I knew I should be closing in on the end of the book. The manuscript was more than three hundred pages already, I’d written to the novel’s climax, but I was completely stuck – and had been for months. I simply couldn’t see my way through to the ending. I’d thought that the uninterrupted hours of writing at Civitella would be the solution to my impasse – and time to work is certainly one of the many gifts of the Fellowship - but the breakthrough I needed came as much from my interaction with the other Fellows as from having time and a beautiful space in which to work.


Through a serendipitous series of conversations and day trips, through experiencing the other artists’ work and worldview as we presented to one another, I came, in a rather dramatic fashion, to see the end of the story. Although I didn’t quite finish the novel during my stay, I achieved what I needed to achieve, in ways I’m not sure I could have ever dreamed up. The breakthrough has been invaluable. As I put the finishing touches to the book, I have on my desk here in Oklahoma two talismans representing that breakthrough in material form: a Hohner Blues Harp, purchased in Sansepulcro on the day of our mini rebellion, and a postcard of the pregnant madonna, Madonna del Parto, which we fellini went together to see in Monterche. Among the varied and bountiful gifts of Civitella, none surpasses, to my mind, the opportunity for rich encounters with fellow artists from around the world, across disciplines, across cultures, over lunch or dinner, on day trips to Umbertide, Cortona, Sansepulcro. I’m grateful to my fellow fellini for their good work, their excellent conversation, their support.