College Scrivere (Writing)

Short Stories, Novels & Everything Else

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18 assigned vacancy

18 assigned vacancy

A few things you should know before you choose Scrivere

You don’t need to have read all the world literature classics to enrol in this College. You don’t even need to have read a lot. Unbelievable, isn’t it? If you’re wondering why, it’s simple: we’ll take care of that whilst you’re here – we’ll make sure that you read.

But you have to be the type of person who, when you’re feeling excited or upset, or when you’re happy about something, instead of calling a friend you write it all down. And you also have to be a bit of a solitary creature, or at least capable of being on your own and focusing intently on something for a long time. This will be a useful attribute if you’re planning to be a writer.

Please note: this College is just for native Italian speakers or bilingual students.

What you’ll be doing over the two years

You will work on refining your technique. We’ll ask you to write things you’re not expecting, from a football match report to an inaugural speech by a CEO. You’ll study the structure and techniques on which stories are based. You’ll also practise putting the right emphasis on what you write; it’s not just about having the right technique, we want the heart and soul of the story to come out through your words. Sometimes, we’ll want you to make us fall off our chairs.

You’ll learn how to use your body; for example, finding your voice or regulating the pace and breathing of your writing through physical activity (walking, running, swimming, etc.). This will help you think “holistically”, so that your characters have a physical presence and not just thoughts. You’ll do practical experiments too, which seem to have nothing to do with writing, but don’t worry – it’s all part of the plan.

You’ll apply your writing to actual work situations; there will be opportunities within the school (how to prepare a theatrical reading), or you may collaborate on projects with external organisations (companies, publishing houses etc.).

Finally, of course, you will work on your stories, and you’ll be given plenty of tools to help you: all the baggage you’ve accumulated in the run-up.

What you’ll be able to do by the time you leave

  • with all the practice you’ve had in class, you’ll be able to present yourself to your listeners and write as if you had a vast audience listening to you, conducting an ongoing discourse with your readers. Your words are not meant to stay in your head, they’re meant to be read by voices that are not your own, to be heard by people who do not know you, and whom you may never meet;
  • you’ll be able to write for a living, using it as a tool for your work, because you will have learned to apply it to any situation during the two years you spent studying;
  • you’ll have started a writing project (a novel or a collection of short stories), and you’ll have flexed the muscles you need to use to complete it.

Master 2018-2020

Alessandro Mari

Who is he?
Alessandro Mari was born in Busto Arsizio in 1980. He lives in Milan and is a writer and translator (among other things). After graduating in Foreign Languages and Literature in 2005, he attended Scuola Holden. A few years later, he realised that he had a choice to make: dedicate himself solely to his studies, or continue tearing through books while also starting to pen his own. He chose the second path.


What has he written?
His debut novel was Troppo umana speranza (Feltrinelli, 2011), which won the Edoardo Kihlgren First Work Prize – City of Milan and the Viareggio Prize 2011. The novel chronicles the hopes of four young people living through Italy’s Risorgimento period and is almost 800 pages long: Alessandro calls the book “chubby”. He followed this up with Gli alberi hanno il tuo nome (Feltrinelli, 2013), a slightly less weighty tome that revolves around both Francis of Assisi and a modern-day psychotherapist, and L’anonima fine di Radice Quadrata, a novel “about young adults” rather than simply “for young adults”, which was published by Bompiani in 2015. Alongside Francesca Zoni, he has also published a graphic novel titled Randagi. Da Zero (Rizzoli-Lizard, 2016), as well as presenting two series of Effe come Festival, a programme focusing on cultural festivals broadcast by laeffe TV in 2015 and 2016, alongside Marta Perego. He has collaborated with Italy’s Radio2 and translated many books, including Just Kids by Patti Smith (Feltrinelli, 2010), Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max (Einaudi, 2013), the Jimi Hendrix autobiography Zero (Einaudi, 2014), and Uncommon Type (Bompiani, 2017), a collection of short stories by Tom Hanks. His latest novel is Cronaca di lei (Feltrinelli, 2017).


How did he get started?

Working as a reader, editor and consultant for Einaudi, Feltrinelli and Bompiani. But first he did a variety of strange jobs, partly because he needed to and partly because, as he writes in Troppo umana speranza, “Dragging around muck isn’t a bad job; it’s a shame it’s not the done thing”. Here’s one example: at Malpensa Airport, he cleaned the trays used to serve in-flight meals alongside a team of South Americans. It was a night shift job. At dawn, however, he says that “something wonderful happened: one wall of the large room was made of glass and, through the stench, you could watch the sun rise. Everybody used to take a break and light up a cigarette. To make sure the fire alarms didn’t go off, there was always a guy with a water jet spraying it above our heads to get rid of the smoke”.


What was the first book he read?

Before his love of reading came a passion for stories, like the ones featured on the Story Teller cassettes that he would rewind and listen to over and over until the tape player ate them up, or the ones told to him by his grandfather, a lorry driver. Then came Giovanna, Busto Arsizio’s librarian, who recommended a Lone Wolf gamebook and Extraterrestre alla pari by Bianca Pitzorno. As he leafed through those pages, he fell in love with literature.


Where can you read something of his (maybe something short and a little bit odd)?

Go to a newsagent’s, buy the latest issue of Donna Moderna and read the column La mia prima, ultima volta. Among the various stories, we liked the one about the Sanremo Festival 2018: before it started, Mari shut himself away in the Ariston Theatre and emerged 11 hours later with the tale of what he had seen during the rehearsals, the auditorium’s distinctive smell and his chat with Nina Zilli.


Speaking of marathon sessions, how many hours does he write for?

Sometimes 12 hours non-stop in a day. He says that you feel an incredibly strong sense of pleasure while creating: a feeling of creative power that, unfortunately, can eventually destroy you and everything around you. Luckily, before things go too far, his wife always steps in. She is also a writer and therefore understands when it’s time to knock off and put on some music. Also on hand is their dog Guerello, who wants to be taken to the park.


His worst moment of madness?

Training, getting in the ring and taking a flurry of punches in order to write Cronaca di lei and, specifically, to create Milo “One Way” Montero, the boxer who is one of the novel’s main characters.


A big question about telling stories: is it something that can be learned, or is it more a matter of natural talent?

According to Alessandro, it’s a bit of both: being able to tell stories is a talent, but it is also a perspective that has to be honed day after day, just as a boxer has to train prior to getting in the ring. Before all that, however, he learned the value of perseverance by observing the work ethic of his father, a carpenter, and his mother, a secretary.


The thing that makes him angriest?

Being bored. If he’s sitting cross-legged and starts to fidget, it’s a bad sign: it means that he feels like he’s wasting time and that a genuine transmission of experiences isn’t taking place.


What can you do to prepare yourself for meeting him?

Two things: read a lot of fiction, which he considers a great workout to guard against laziness, and search online for Mike Tyson’s daily training regime, a perfect metaphor for the craft of the writer. As Roberto Bolaño put it: “Hay momentos para recitar poesías y hay momentos para boxear.”

However, the Master ad honorem of College Scrivere is, and always will be, our headmaster Alessandro Baricco. It’s very difficult to present him because he doesn’t like talking about himself, even if he has published essays and novels all over the world. He has directed a film, worked on TV and written theatre plays.  He’s on Twitter @BariccoAle and on Facebook. As for the rest, he’ll get in contact with you.

Here’s a list of people who dropped by College Scrivere during the last years: Charles D’Ambrosio, Ben Lerner, Jonathan Lethem, David Grossman, Erica Jong, Margaret Mazzantini, Jeffery Deaver, Merritt Tierce, Nicola Lagioia, Chris Bachelder, Han Kang, Harry Parker, Andrea Bajani, Don Delillo, Alessandro Mari, Akhil Sharma, Benjamin Sutherland, Marco Missiroli, Andrea Tarabbia, Davide Longo, Elena Varvello, Emiliano Poddi, Vincent Raynaud, Stephen Amidon, Donald Antrim, Tom Drury, Violetta Bellocchio, Don Winslow, Philipp Meyer, Andrew Wylie, Emmanuel Carrère, Sam Lipsyte, Irvine Welsh.