A Week With Roya in Italy

roya photo


A few years ago, the director of Fairfield University’s MFA in creative writing called me into a meeting on Enders Island, where we held our residencies. He’d also summoned fellow faculty member Roya Hakakian. Each of us had been scheduled to deliver writing seminars in about thirty minutes’ time. Michael C. White told us that an important writing issue had turned up during the residency that seemed to beg for a seminar all its own, and asked us to address the subject together instead of hosting individual sessions on the subjects for which we had prepared well. Sure, we said.

Roya and I huddled afterwards, but, if anything, were less ready thirty minutes later to address the new topic than at the time of the meeting. However, once it all began, and the room was full of faces eager to discover our wisdom, I watched Roya’s magic at work. Her introduction to the seminar, and the warmth and generosity with which she delivered her newfound message set a tone that made it easy for me to also weigh in. It was as if we had rehearsed a dozen times.  As it turned out, we knew a lot more than we thought about Michael’s emergency subject (what it was, I can’t recall — it was that important.) I thought, well, I’d love to teach with Roya again.

Now, several years later I have that chance. Not in Fairfield’s fine program, but the one that Suzanne Levine and Clo Davis established three years ago in Praiano, Italy, with the help of Wally Lamb. Wally’s movie and writing duties prevent him from joining us next spring, so we thought about who would be an ideal replacement. It’s difficult, certainly, to measure up to Wally’s generosity and wisdom, but when I recalled Roya’s seminar triumph and her two highly regarded books, and that in our Praiano workshops we talk about scenes from her eloquent writings, the answer seemed obvious to us. I won’t repeat here her credentials. See for yourself what all the enthusiasm is about in regard to the memoir Journey to the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran, and the richly reported book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, at www.royahakakian.com. Once you do, then call up www.praianowriters.com, and fill in the blanks, whet your appetite (the food is, of course wonderful), the view is great, and seminar is warm and encouraging, and we’ll a raise a glass to our new faculty member.


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