Linda Lappin

award-winning writer and writing teacher

Scene from Hitchcock's The Birds, adapted from Daphne Du Maurier's story

Islands are 4 Writers

View of the Port of Kiel

My first typewriter in Italy was a Lettera 22 Olivetti

Persephone in Bomarzo

The Mermaid with Two Tails

The Chimera of Arezzo, subject of Ugo Bardi's Il Libro della Chimera

The Hell Mouth of Bomarzo

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A New Mystery Novel Set in Bomarzo published in 2013 by Caravel Books, an Imprint of Pleasure Boat Studio
Runner up in Fiction, New York Book Festival, 2010 "Haunted... vivid... entrancing"... Kirkus Reviews Click here to read reviews, watch videos, and download the free Readers' Guide for Book Groups.
Katherine's Wish "A dazzling bit of fictional sorcery" David Lynn, editor Kenyon Review A new novel about the lives of Katherine Mansfield and her circle Gold Medal Winner in Historical Fiction, IPPY Awards
Writing Women's Lives
Essay on the life of the artist, Jeanne Hebuterne, wife of Modigliani
An essay about Katherine Mansfield

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A Writer's Life in Rome & Tuscia

Six Place Writing Prompts from my American Library in Paris Workshop

November 30, 2017

Tags: writing prompts, american library in paris, writers workshops

Writing Prompts from my Paris workshop
I had the great pleasure of presenting my book The Soul of Place -A Creative Writing Workshop:  Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci  at the American Library in Paris   this fall, where I conducted a small place-writing workshop.  Here are a few excerpts from my talk - and some writing prompts chosen for this particular venue.

"This is a book about how to enhance our awareness of places and find in the environments around us inspiration and material for artistic and writing projects .  It’s very much a personal journey , retracing  my own creative process and discoveries as a writer, reader, teacher, and traveler.  Its most basic premise is that there is a power or energy at work in some, perhaps all places, that speaks directly to our imaginations and nourishes them.

Many writers, artists, photographers, psychogeographers have   recorded eloquent  testimonies of the ways particular places have inspired them, and it would take to long to share even a few.  They boil down to a few concepts: "Landscape is character," in the words of Henry James. For  Lawrence Durrell,  "We are expressions of our landscape."   And the houses and rooms we live in are analogues for the self. We keep up an ongoing dialogue with the places we live of which we are totally unaware. Houses and landscape inhabit us just as much as we inhabit them."

Here are 6 prompts from the workshop I gave:

1. A set of stairs -- you are at the top or at the bottom of a stairway, and you know that when you reach top/bottom you will enter a space where something life-changing will happen.

2. Write about a tree you have never forgotten

3. Write about your first kitchen in a foreign house –an object in that kitchen that manifests its “foreignness” and what you did with it.

4. Write about a place where “silence” had a new meaning for you.

5. Recall a window, door, or drawer in a place you no longer live. Take hold of the handle or door knob. How does it feel in your hand? Now open it and describe what you find there.

6. Write about a statue you would like to talk to

More writing prompts my be found in my book The Soul of Place A Creative Writing Workbook: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci

Islands are for Writers

October 30, 2017

Tags: islomania, islands are 4 writers, writing prompts

There are people who find islands irresistible -- Lawrence Durrell
There are people “who find islands somehow irresistible. The mere knowledge that they are on an island, a little world surrounded by the sea, fills them with an indescribable intoxication.” -- Lawrence Durrell

Greece is our ancestral home– we were born to its sun, sea, and islands – to its penchant for speculation, exploration, philosophy, and myth – its relentless searching for the essence of things, and its celebration of the mind, body, and senses. The great Greek myths probe the depths of our psyche to reveal the conflicts and energies that fuel our lives. Greece is a storied territory. As Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor once claimed, you cannot walk across its terrain without tripping over some sacred spot drenched in history or myth. Each of its six thousand islands is a world unto itself.

Places inhabit us just as we inhabit them. They have personality, emotions, agency, and transformative powers. This is particularly true of Greece and its islands.

Islomania was the underlying theme of a recent writing workshop I taught at the Aegean Arts Circle Workshops on the island of Andros.

During our sessions, we explored islands and their meaning. Geographical islands and psychological ones. Islands as setting, protagonist, myth, and metaphor. The enormous gap between the popular image of islands as places of pleasure, escape, the natural life, and utopia and the bleaker,cruder reality they often are. We explored “islomania” and insularity and what these things have meant in our lives and work. In addition to working with The Soul of Place – A Creative Writing Workbook, we elaborated several exercises with island themes to use during the workshop.
1.Write about water as a medium, an element, as distance, emotion, music, or as part of your body.
2. Write about an island in your life, interpreting “island” from any point of view desired.
3. Connect the islands in your life in a personal essay.
4.Write about collecting islands or a collector of islands.
5. Make a deep map of the islands in your life or of your ideal island.
6. Write about an island creature, from any domain – including imaginary, mythological,or culinary! Or write about a (sea) food as a form of alien life.
7. Write about a culinary experience as a rite of passage. (See MFK Fisher on the oyster).
8. Write about a house or room from which you are(or the main occupant is) absent.
9. Write about an object that transports you to another time or place.
10. Open the door to a place you once loved, but haven’t been for awhile…

Carnival is Here! Writing Prompts on Masks and Masquerade

February 15, 2017

Tags: carnival, masks, writing prompts

Pietro Longhi Carnival in Venice
Here are some notes on this tradition and some writing exercises and prompts celebrating masquerade, disguise and masks.

Carnival Time

Masquerade nowadays is often considered to be an entertainment for children, usually at Halloween, when we impersonate spirits and ghosts. In earlier times, however, ritual masquerade was primarily for adults and performed important social and spiritual roles especially in the period known in the west as Carnival. This tradition lives on today in Catholic countries in a few world-famous celebrations such as the carnivals of Rio de Janeiro and Venice, and the Mardi Gras of New Orleans.

The Christian tradition of Carnival situates it sometimes right after Christmas lasting till the Tuesday before Lent, Ash Wednesday. These weeks were a time of feasting and transgression, when the vital needs of the body and the flesh ( "la carne") were celebrated and gratified without restraint.
In some areas, Carnival has blended with local traditions – as in Sardinia where indigenous folklore combined with vestiges of the earlier Phoenician culture to create a unique Carnival parade known as the Mamuthones. In this festival, zombie –like creatures dressed in sheepskins and wooden masks march through the streets, while brightly- clad figures capture onlookers with lassoes. To be lassoed during the parade is considered a lucky event, but this custom is thought to derive from a Phoenician ceremony in which sacrificial victims were chosen.

In Tuscia, the feast day of Saint Anthony kicks off the Carnival period. On this day animals, both pets and livestock, are blessed in church and huge bonfires are lit in public squares in memory of ancient propitiatory and purification rites hearkening back to the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. During this celebration, people of all classes could mingle and slaves and masters changed places for a day. Businesses, public offices, and schools shut down as the routines of daily life were set aside. Gambling, drunkenness, licentious behavior were allowed. All this served to help drive out the winter spirits of darkness, revitalize the natural cycles, and prepare the way for the sun to return.

The Christian Carnival tradition borrowed three practices from the ancient Roman Saturnalia. Firstly, a focus on food –with pancakes or fritters being a typical dish -- along with the overconsumption of meat, sweets, and alcohol. Secondly, an emphasis on sex and fertility. Social rules regarding sexual behavior were temporarily loosened. Lewd pranks and bawdy humor set the tone for popular entertainment in street circuses and pageants where fertility symbols were prominently displayed. Thirdly, “misrule” – the suspending of social hierarchy. Breeches of propriety, etiquette, and piety, insults, and challenges to authority -- all were permitted. Political satire was, for this brief time, not subject to censorship and control. The world was turned upside down.
Misrule played a key role in maintaining public order – for those few days the more oppressed classes could vent frustrations which might otherwise have festered into social rebellion. The Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin, who has studied the carnivalesque in literature, held that
the impious and free-thinking attitudes permitted at Carnival unleashed powerful creative forces into western culture that were later manifested in art, literature, and politics.
The social freedoms of Carnival were made possible by yet one more custom inherited from the Romans: the wearing of a mask at this time. However, this had some negative consequences: while wearing a mask, it was easier to conceal signs of disease from others or to perpetrate crimes anonymously. Narratives set in Carnival time often involve criminal acts committed in disguise, or sometimes death by transmittable diseases, such as the plague, which happens in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mask of Red Death.”

Venetian Domino

Disguise and masks remain a popular form of adult entertainment. We may play out fantasies by donning a wig or a domino, the hooded cape of the Venetian carnival, used by both men and women, hiding the whole body in voluminous folds. Stanley Kubrick’s erotic thriller, Eyes Wide Shut, adapted from a novel by Arnold Schnitzler, employs dominos and other iconic Venetian masks to portray darker instincts hidden beneath facades of propriety. Lawrence Durrell, describing the carnival in his masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet, writes “ What stamps the carnival with its spirit of pure mischief is the velvet domino – conferring upon its wearer the disguise that each man in his secret heart desires.”

Iconic Venetian Mask


Masks are power-charged artifacts

Masks can be receptacles for the projection of what Jung called the shadow -- the darker sides of ourselves – fear, loathing, desire, impulse, transgression, otherness, which we cannot acknowledge openly and which appear in our nightmares. Masks may also express emotions in a pure state – like the Greek comic and tragic masks, or idealized icons of beauty or ugliness. They may embody the spirit of a place or people. They may manifest archetypal figures or character tropes. As ritual objects they may serve to connect us to other levels of reality: the underworld, the world of animals, magical beings. As vehicles of impersonation, they allow us to take on the identities of celebrities or imaginary characters we admire or envy. Masks are power-charged artifacts: Hannibal Lecter’s iron muzzle invokes in us an instinctive fear. The white Guy Fawkes mask popularized by the movie V and adopted by protest movements everywhere - speaks of challenge to tyranny and the vindication of the rights of the oppressed.

WRITING EXERCISES Variations on disguise

It can be frightening to see a masked person when we don’t expect it. The recent panic over clown sightings in the US and Europe is an example. We may imagine the worst if we find a masked person standing on our doorstep – but we may have got his intentions wrong. Write a scene in which a masked person , intending no harm, turns up in an inappropriate place.

It can be equally unsettling to be the only unmasked person in a crowd of disguised and anonymous revelers. Write a scene in which an unmasked person tries to recognize or find someone in a crowd of masks.

In carnivalesque literature, the rules of daily life don’t apply – as in Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Write a scene involving two couples who are matched with the wrong lover.

Write a scene in which a natural or supernatural force shapeshifts into a human being.

Write a story with a disguised traveler as the narrator.

Write a scene in which a person removes a mask or disguise while being observed by a stranger.
Write a scene in which a person removes a mask or disguise while being observed by a spouse or family member.


This exercise is best done with any form of mask made to be worn on the face, and not a merely decorative object. It can also be done with a mask you have made yourself.
Ask yourself these questions and jot down your responses
 What is it made of? Where and when was it made – in what context was it created?
 What powers or feelings does it evoke?
Take some time when you are alone. Put the mask before you on the table. In a passage of free association ( or speaking out loud), address the mask directly asking it a question ( for example : Tell me your name?) and ask it to reply.
Write down its answer. Ten minutes
Put the mask on and look at the world through the slits of its eyes, then at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? Be prepared for surprises
Write down your response. Take as long as you wish for this exercise

More exercises like this are found in The Soul of Place – A Creative Writing Workbook.