It might read like gobbledygook, but FloNoWriMo stands for something tangible. The brainchild of the Florence Writers community, Florence Novel Writing Month encourages people to work on their writing goals. Co-organizer Lauren Mouat explains more.
When and how did you end up in Italy?
I moved to Rome in 2010, fresh out of college, for what was meant to be a year. I’d fallen in lovewith Italy during a semester abroad and I had one of those romantic fantasies about being astarving writer in an attic in Rome. I definitely fulfilled that (on both counts), but realizedhustling 24/7 wasn’t exactly the most conducive approach to the writing life. As I wrote, taught,tour guided and more, one year turned into two, two into three, and now we are at 13 andcounting! In 2019, I moved to Tuscany.
Your writing journey/career so far?
In 2022, I published a collection of short fiction with Ali Ribelli Edizioni called Intermezzo.
These stories are based on moments of transformation and change, so they can sometimes take
on elements of the surreal, surprising and the unexpected. The book is published in parallel text
with English and Italian versions on opposing pages, so you can read it in either language or try
it out in a bit of both. I’ve written for a few magazines and newspapers in my time in Rome and
Florence. During the pandemic, I launched a literary magazine called The Open Doors Review.
Tell us about the writing community.
I was a part of a number of writing groups in Rome when I first moved to Italy and I always loved coming together with other writers to share work and advice. I hoped to find a similar environment in Florence, but the pandemic put a big block on meeting anyone. At the end of 2020, I started to create The Open Doors Review, a literary magazine to bring together writers and creatives in Italy or around the world. It was a way to create the community I was longing for on a larger scale and it started reaching more people than I expected! Last spring, the Florence Writers community was born. This is the collaborative effort of Lori Hetherington, Nora Studholme, Laura Vinti and myself. The idea was to create a monthly newsletter for Florence writers to get details on all the upcoming English-speaking groups, talks, workshops and events in Florence. There are writers’ groups, brainstorming sessions, author talks and retreats. Some of these are led by the four of us, though not all of them.
Why do you think there’s a need for a group such as this?
In general, the English-speaking community of Florence is a creative and arts-minded group of people. Whenever the talk of writing groups comes up, the response is always overwhelmingly positive and followed by, “How can I join?” Facilitating a way to make it easier felt like a no-brainer.
Tell us about FloNoWriMo.
FloNoWriMo is an initiative started by the Florence writing community and it takes place this February. Most writers have heard of, or even participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where the idea is to blast your way through writing a whole novel in just one month…But at least in Florence, November always feels so packed with activities and pre-holiday stuff that there’s never time. Now February, there’s a month with less going on and more time to actually sit down and write. Hence: FloNoWriMo: Florence Novel Writing Month. The idea is to get to work on the novel, story collection or writing goals you have in mind and commit to working on it every day. There’s no official word count and you can choose your specific end goal. We believe in the power of numbers, so join us in person or online to find a writing buddy to share progress, goals, and motivation. There is also going to be a “best first lines” challenge through Open Doors. Those participating in FloNoWriMo can enter their first sentences for the chance to be featured in the magazine.
How do you find Florence as a city to write in?
I personally have two writing moods: the “silence of the cloister writing mood” and the “buzzy energy writing mood”, and Florence really stimulates this second one for me. I love writing on the train on the way into town and my favorite writing cafes are Todo Modo, Il Conventino Caffè Letterario and the newly opened Giunti Odeon. Even a little corner table in a coffee bar (with the waiters wondering why you’re lingering) can be perfect to watch passersby and jot down the idea that’s just popped into your head.
Any latest news on The Open Doors Review literary magazine?
Open Doors just published its fifth issue in December and last year welcomed two new members
to the team: the talented Monica Sharp as poetry editor and Luca Misuri of the Studio 124 art
collective as art editor. The magazine is available to read online for free and submissions are
currently open for issue number six, which will come out in the spring.