‘The Art of the Short Story’ with Vanessa Gebbie

Workshop event tutored by Vanessa Gebbie — Venice, April 2017

Vanessa Gebbie
Vanessa Gebbie

Classic writers such as Byron, Browning, Hemmingway, Thomas Mann. Contemporary writers too – Salley Vickers, Sarah Dunant, Michael Dibdin, Donna Leon and many many more – Venice has always intrigued writers, gifting them stories, inspiration, settings, characters…

Join their ranks in April 2017 for five busy half-day workshops spread over five days, led by award-winning fiction writer and poet, Vanessa Gebbie, whose text book is recommended reading on creative writing courses in the UK and beyond.

We will be based on the lovely Giudecca, a three-minute ferry ride from the main sites of Venice. The course will be hosted in ‘Spazio Bocciofila’, a small, contemporary arts’ centre offering a delightful indoor space, plus the added attraction of a garden where we will be able to eat our ‘al fresco’ lunches on fine days.

Giudecca is a collection of eight islands joined by canals and bridges which began as a fishing village around 500 AD. Soon market gardens followed and eventually, during the 19th century, it became an upscale address full of grand homes. The Industrial Age added shipyards, factories and even a movie studio to the sprawling estates. The result is an eclectic island which is both brutish and romantic.

The Lonely Planet

This five-day creative writing course is a great way to focus on the craft underpinning so much successful fiction. It is aimed at those with experience of creative writing, but beginners are also very welcome.

The course will bring together like-minded writers in pursuit of answers to the following questions:

  • What exactly is a short story?
  • What is a story, and what is not?
  • What makes it tick? 
  • What are the tricks of the trade?  How can writers produce them successfully, better, and better again?
  • How can writers be original and surprising, as well as competent, to make their work stand out in the slush pile or competition entry pile?

Activities will include analysis of published works, debate around craft issues, and a look at opportunities regarding the short-story market and short-story competitions.

Participants will be encouraged to write every day, play games with words, and open themselves up creatively.

Vanessa envisages the week’s events as an opportunity for busy and focussed creative expression.

We will make new stories, characters, settings, voices. We will write complete pieces, and work on outlines for others. We will share our own work, if we wish, and focus on giving feedback that is not just useful for the writer, but useful for our own learning. I hope you will leave with enough ideas to keep you going for ages, and the tools to sharpen both your first drafts and your editing skills.

Workshop Programme:


Arrival Sunday 23rd April

Accommodation choice is entirely up to you – from 5* hotel to comfy B and B or well-equipped self-catering apartments – local hosts Creative Retreats have included some useful tips and recommendations on their website to help you find the right place, according to your needs and pocket. Once you arrive and are settled in, take a little time to look around and get your bearings to be sure of locating our meeting point for Monday morning.

Getting there, Staying there, Moving around there

Monday 24 April
09.15 meet at the Palanca boat stop on Giudecca for a brief welcome meeting before we move off for an introductory walkabout.
12.30 – 13.30 typical Venetian ciccheti and Prosecco snack lunch
14.00 – 17.00 workshop

Tuesday 25 April
9.30 – 13.00 workshop (with short refreshment break)
13.00 – 14.00 snack lunch at venue
14.00 onwards — one to ones, writing time, time to explore Venice

Wednesday 26 April
9.30 – 13.00 workshop (with short refreshments break)
13.00 – 14.00 snack lunch at venue
14.00 onwards — one to ones, writing time, time to explore Venice
*Activity with guest artist: A Venetian Mask workshop. After working hard creating characters, voices – a change of tempo – decorate your own Venetian mask!
*Pizza or pasta supper in a local restaurant
* These timings may vary slightly and according to the availability of our guest artist, may be switched with our meal being taken first and then followed by the mask painting activity.

Thursday 27 April
9.30 – 13.00 workshop (with short refreshment break)
13.00 – 14.00 snack lunch at venue
14.00 onwards — one to ones, writing time, time to explore Venice
19.00 (approx.) – Farewell dinner

Friday 28 April
9.30 – 13.00 workshop (with short refreshment break)
13.00 – 14.00 snack lunch at venue
14.00 onwards — one to ones and farewell…

The workshop ends at 16.00 hours.

Course fee:

Full course costs €430 (approx.£388 — £77 per day)
5% discount for all those who have attended previous (or who have booked to attend forthcoming) workshops in any category with Creative Retreats in Italy.

The course will be conducted in English and will run with a minimum of 10 participants, maximum 14. DO NOT book flights or accommodation until you have confirmation that the minimum number of attendees has been reached.

The following are included in the fee:

  • Introductory city walkabout
  • Five 3 hour workshops
  • One to one meeting with the tutor
  • Mid-morning/afternoon refreshments (hot beverages & biscuits) during workshops
  • Five lunches
  • Two suppers
  • Venetian mask workshop
  • Use of location
  • Welcome pack with course details and local map (mailed to you following registration)

The following are NOT included in the fee:

  • Local and international travel and transport
  • Local accommodation
  • Meals apart from the ones detailed above
  • Personal and travel insurance

Payment & registration:

Please register your interest in the course by completing the § dedicated form online at the very earliest opportunity. Your registration date will be the deciding factor for your eligibility to participate should the number of requests exceed the number of places available on the course.

*Deposit of €180.00 (Euros) to be paid via Paypal at the time of registration.
Balance to be paid in cash upon arrival in Venice or by effecting a second payment using the appropriate option in the dropdown list below.*


Please select a payment option from the dropdown list


Paypal accepts many of the major credit cards for payment through their secure payment gateway. It is therefore not necessary to have a Paypal account.

* Your deposit will be refunded in full if the the minimum number of participants does not register for the course. DO NOT make transport or accommodation arrangements until you receive confirmation that the workshop numbers are sufficient.