my summer vacation

August 19th, 2014 | Uncategorized


I am at an artists residency in Italy. I was magically given a fellowship to spend 6 weeks at this crazy castle in Umbria, a place called Civitella Ranieri. (See me poking my head out of the battlement window? My bedroom is in that tower.) There are a dozen or so of us—writers, visual artists, and musicians. (I count as a writer.) We get studios, amazing rooms in the castle or on the grounds, and they feed us wonderful local food every day. It’s pretty unbelievable.

I’ve never done an artists retreat of any kind. I’ve listened to my writer friends talk about their stints at various places, and it sounded nice, but not worth the hassle of packing up and leaving home. Now I understand why people do it. In recent years I’ve been feeling so raveled and shriveled and creatively wrung out. But with all this open time and generous space, I feel like I’m reviving a bit. I can just do whatever I want whenever I want. Here’s one of my rooms–a tall tower with a great old drafting table in it. I got myself a giant roll of good white paper, and I’ve been doing big drawings on it.  First cartoony things in ink, then more naturalistic, life-size figure drawings in charcoal.



They take us out on field trips once a week. Last week we saw Piero della Francesca frescoes in Sansepolcro. This is Saint Julian, after realizing that he just accidentally killed his parents.


Here’s everybody’s favorite, Saint Sebastian.


Here’s a little movie I made of this strange bird I hear in the mornings.

It sounds like someone tapping away on an old manual typewriter, this funny erratic rhythm. You can hear it and not see it in the first half, and you can see it but not hear it in the second half, because it stopped chirping in order to groom and fluff.

Another cool thing that happened since I got here was the announcement that Fun Home will move to Broadway next spring. Who would ever have thought that beginning a 6 week artist’s residency at a gorgeous castle in Umbria could get better?


15 Responses to “my summer vacation”

  1. Ruth in RI says:

    The typewriter bird! I’ve heard it too. Wrote about it here.

    Glad you’re having such a good time. Sounds sublime.

  2. Amru says:

    happy for you beyond words. except these. xo

  3. Jack Sky says:

    The typing rhythm – hunt and peck.

  4. nkb says:

    How wonderful for you, Alison, that not only are good things happening in your life, but that you are learning to nourish yourself and your awesome talent.

  5. Mara says:

    oh oh oh ah ooohhhh

  6. Glenn I says:

    Ooh. Broadway!


    One year I bought a directory of artist/writer colonies with the idea I would apply to a bunch of them – and change my situation! Then I found myself in a serious relationship – and my situation changed. This month we’re together 20 years. My poetry hasn’t gained me fame (or more than the occasional honorarium) but I still do it because I gotta.

  7. Kate L says:

    Oh, yeah? Where’s the carriage return sound??? 🙂

  8. Andrew O. says:

    This retreat couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person. I’m looking forward to seeing what develops out of it.

    I read about “Fun Home” moving to Broadway in The New York Times print edition (old fashioned guy that I am) and was and am thrilled.

  9. ina says:

    Have you been to Padua to see the Giottos? I consider him the first comic book artist. There’s this painting, on the ceiling I think, of a crowd, and the next painting to the right of it is a reaction shot, and the same crowd is all crouching down.

  10. cybercita says:

    That’s wonderful news. The show was brilliant and should do very well on Broadway. I’m looking forward to seeing it again!

  11. So amazing, so wonderful! Yay!! I applied for that residency, and even just the dreaminess of getting invited to apply was a gift. So good to get to unshrivel a little.

    Plus, hey, Broadway!

  12. Zehra says:

    WOW, congratulations on the Broadway run, Alison!!! It is now my mission this spring to go see it.

    I recently became a huge fan of your work–read “Are You My Mother?” while on a plane and am pretty sure I scared my seat mates by bursting into tears every few pages. I then proceeded to read “Fun Home” and am working my way through DtWOF. THANK YOU for your amazing work and I look forward to your future endeavors!! 🙂


  13. shadocat says:

    Hey Alison-Happy Birthday!

  14. Andrew B says:

    Alison, I hope this place continued to be as wonderful as it looked in this post, and that you unraveled. I never thought I’d say that to anyone, but if the problem was that you were raveled…

    Happy Birthday — or, more likely, by the time Mentor gets around to vetting this, happy day after your birthday.

  15. Jered Karr says:

    Bird is:
    Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus