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Wonderful news.. a lovely article about Aegean arts circle and Andros was published…

click on the "my greek review" link below to see the article:

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Setting the scene: writers' workshops

The word on literary courses in Europe's inspiring places

January 13, 2006

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For the past three years, writer Amalia Melis has gathered a small group of instructors and fiction writers in her family's hometown in Greece for 10 days of feasting, wine drinking and most of all, writing. The Aegean Arts Circle meets on the verdant, picturesque Cyclades island of Andros, where participants experience village life, eat traditional Greek cuisine and have a window into life on the sea -- literally. All participants stay at the Andros Holiday Hotel, where each is given a single room with private balcony overlooking the Aegean.

[A dinner during the Aegean Arts Circle workshop.]
The Andros Holiday Hotel.



"Andros is not commercial," says Ms. Melis, a Greek-American who was born and raised in New York and now lives in Athens, where she is a writer. Ms. Melis says the isolation of working on her first novel inspired her to create a workshop in which she could have contact with other writers. She chose Andros because "that's where my family's roots are, that's where my spiritual home is."

For 10 days, participants meet for three hours with an instructor in the morning, then spend free time in the afternoon writing, swimming or exploring the area. The group meets again in the evening to discuss their work, and then enjoys a traditional Greek meal with wine.

Dorothy Allison, who has taught at numerous workshops in the U.S. and Europe (including the Abroad Writers Conference), says she loved her experience teaching at Aegean Arts. "Greek history is different from that of the U.S. -- even the maps you see don't match the ones you see in the U.S.," the author of "Bastard Out of Carolina" says, adding that she bought many maps while she was there. "When you see a different narrative of history it affects how you see your own narrative and your place in the world. And that is always good for writers."

During the workshop, Ms. Melis takes the participants to the island's capital, Hora, to see neoclassical architecture, marble-paved streets and museums. Ms. Melis also takes the group to meet her parents in their village, Apikia, where they are treated to a home-cooked meal.

[The Andros Holiday Hotel.]
A dinner during the Aegean Arts Circle workshop.



Nick Papandreou, a fiction writer and the son of former Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, teaches at Aegean Arts, and says the workshop should be seen less as a classroom experience and more as a turning point. "This is Greece after all, and time is viewed differently over here," he says from his home in Athens. "It is not measured in units of productiveness or pages written, but in terms of experiences felt, dinners tasted, sunsets seen and swims taken. And a more relaxed attitude can go far for the creative writer."

In 2006, the Aegean Arts Circle workshops will be held June 26 to July 19. There will be a four-day workshop combined with a six-day writing retreat, which costs $1,200, as well as a full 10-day workshop that will cost $3,000. The workshops will be led by Mr. Papandreou and June Gould. Costs include a single, air-conditioned room with balcony, all workshops, breakfasts and dinners. Ms. Melis also organizes an optional trip to Athens at the end of the workshop.



Workshops on Andros foster writers’ skills

HERALD TRIBUNE Archive - Kathimerini

Thursday April 21, 2005 - Archive
Workshops on Andros foster writers’ skills

Connie May Fowler

Got a novel, short story or memoir that needs some help to get it into publishable form? Why not take it along to a writer’s workshop on the quiet Cycladic island of Andros this summer?

Amalia Melis, who is working on a novel, started the Aegean Arts Circle workshops in 2003 from a need to nurture her own work in a calm supportive environment, and they’ve been a success.

This summer’s instructors are Connie May Fowler and Nick Papandreou. Fowler’s most recent work, “The Problem with Murmur Lee” (Doubleday, 2005), has been chosen as Redbook’s premier book club selection. She has published a memoir, “When Katie Wakes,” and four critically acclaimed novels, including “Remembering Blue,” which was awarded the Chautauqua South Literary Award, and “Before Women had Wings,” recipient of the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Buck Award from the League of American Pen Women. Fowler’s screenplay of “Before Women had Wings for Oprah Winfrey” became an Emmy-winning film starring Winfrey and Ellen Barkin. Her work has been translated into 15 languages. Fowler is the Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing at Rollins College.

Nick Papandreou’s “A Crowded Heart” (Picador, Penguin), short-listed for the Los Angeles First Fiction Award in 1999, was a best seller in Greece. His most recent book is “Andreas Papandreou: Life in the First Person and the Art of Political Narrative.” He won the Greek Science Fiction Award for the year 2000 and has published short stories and essays in American, Canadian and Greek literary journals.

Range of genres

Papandreou will lead a six-day workshop followed by an optional four-day stay to work on your writing alone (June 27 - July 7). Fowler will work with writers for a full 10-day workshop (July 11-21).

Both will help writers produce new material in their chosen genre: short story, novel, memoir and creative non-fiction. Writers with manuscripts in progress as well as writers who want to start new work will be considered for both workshops.

The deadline for applications is June15.

For more information: or info@aegeanarts



Creative Writing Workshops in Andros island

2004 Media Center Archive - Zappeion Press Center

Monday  October 11, 2004 - Archive


June-July 2004

Creative Writing Workshops in Andros island

Greece is the exciting place to be this summer especially since the Olympic Games return to their birthplace. Aegean Arts Circle has chosen the inspiring, quiet island of Andros to host its creative writing workshops for the second year in a row. The physical beauty of Andros with its undisturbed villages, world class art exhibits at the Goulandris Museum in Hora, combined with two award-winning writing instructors Dorothy Allison and  Kathryn (Kitsi) Watterson who bring both experience and commitment to their workshops make Andros the place to be this summer if you are serious about writing and getting away from all the things that keep you from diving into your own manuscript.



Meeting place for writers on isle of Andros

HERALD TRIBUNE Archive - Kathimerini

Thursday June 24, 2004 - Archive
Meeting place for writers on isle of Andros

AAC director Amalia Melis.

Amalia Melis, director of Aegean Arts Circle, told Kathimerini English Edition about her background and writing:

“My parents are from Apikia, Andros — immigrants who lived in Astoria with one dream, to return to Andros (which they did). That notion was injected into my blood from a very young age. Every summer trip to Greece as a child filled me with incredibly strong memories, smells, images, family stories from the village — these experiences have shaped me into the hybrid person I am today, very Greek in some things and very American in others. I was born and raised in New York but my heart belongs to Greece, specifically to Andros.

“My heart is happy here but it has not been easy for me as a writer who writes basically in English. Not being a person who gives up without a fight, I created Aegean Arts Circle writing workshops last summer.

“I’d tried creating writers’ groups but nothing really panned out. I attended one writing workshop in Italy which knocked me out because Dorothy Allison was teaching it. It was the first time I exposed my writing to anyone. Because of her fiery commitment to strong literary writing and because of the helpful feedback I got from other writers, I rewrote, revised every word I brought to her and I published my first short story, ‘Immigrant Daughter,’ in the US Literary magazine Glimmer Train Stories — Spring 2002 issue.

“Right now I am focusing on my novel. By creating Aegean Arts Circle, I have brought the writers to me since it is not easy for me to travel to workshops or conferences on writing. My daughter Anna is 8 and I am too attached to her to let go at the moment. I find it difficult to balance the mother/writer role. I would never be able to write or create Aegean Arts Circle if I did not have the safe harbor my husband Argyris provides.

“I want Aegean Arts Circle to become a meeting ground for writers from all over the world, who will want to gather in Andros to write, exchange work, write new material and recharge their batteries on what I think is the greatest island in the Aegean, before they return to their other lives.

“In this current writing workshop with Dorothy, I am a participant like the next writer.”



Workshop nurtures creativity

HERALD TRIBUNE Archive - Kathimerini

Thursday June 24, 2004 - Archive
Workshop nurtures creativity
‘I want to encourage forward motion in the writer’s creative life,’ says author Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison is the author of ‘Bastard Out of Carolina’ (National Book Award Finalist), ‘Cavedweller’ (American Library Association Prize), ‘Two or Three Things I Know for Sure’ (New York Times Notable Book of the Year), and ‘Trash’ (Selection in the Best American Short Stories Collection for 2003).

By Vivienne Nilan - Kathimerini English Edition

Writing is by nature a solitary occupation, but writers benefit from feedback. When Athens-based, Greek-American writer Amalia Melis felt the need for precious writing time, the stimulation of working with fellow practitioners, and the support and encouragement of a leader, she founded the Aegean Arts Circle to run writers’ workshops on Andros (see left).

The first of this year’s workshops has already begun, led by Dorothy Allison, an American author with the reputation of being an inspirational workshop leader. Allison told Kathimerini English Edition what participants can gain from workshops and about her own writing.

What do writer’s workshops offer that writers may not get elsewhere?

Writers by necessity work in isolation — the writing needs quiet, concentration, and emotional energy. Often, writers reach a point where they need to be able to hear how the work seems to others — to expand the sense of what is possible or to be able to more accurately judge what has been accomplished, and what remains to be done. Very frequently, particularly in the early stages of the writing life, writers need feedback on what they have done and are doing. Criticism that can be trusted is vital. You cannot get that from family or friends; they will just be impressed that you have 30 pages at all, not able to look closely at what you have done on those 30 pages and offer useful suggestions.

Breaking logjams

A good teacher is also a good editor, one who can critique the work and point the writer where she or he needs to go. A good workshop provides an opportunity and guidance for a writer to begin new work. A great workshop generates new work that follows on what the participant has most wanted to accomplish.

My goal as a workshop leader is always to encourage the writer in the direction the writer most wants to move. I want to encourage forward motion in the writer’s creative life, to break up logjams or blockages, and trigger new associations or simply spark whole new stories.

Do you have a standard procedure for workshops, or do you tailor them for participants?

I have a series of designs for workshops, and I always tailor them to the participants. For this year’s Aegean Circle workshops, I particularly focused on writing the novel and designed a series of exercises to help the participants move forward with the manuscripts they brought with them.

With a participant who is working on a biography, I introduced some techniques which address how biographies differ from novels, while trying to help to make the narrative itself more novelistic. For any book, the basic requirement remains how to make it a good read. As a reader, a writer, and a workshop leader, I can help to make that possible.

Challenging assignments

I also have a number of assignments and exercises that challenge and surprise the participants. Sometimes it helps to feel stimulated in new ways — for novelists to write short stories, for narrative writers to be asked to write a poem. One of my favorite and most successful challenges is to ask the participants to write a bad poem. I ask them to try to write the worst possible poem they can, to compete for worst poem. This often frees them up to write remarkably heartfelt and beautiful material.

How does the process of teaching and running a workshop help you with your own writing?

Teaching is a form of tithing; it can become a way to give back what has been given to you. It is that for me. I have had the luxury of having the attention of fine editors and gifted writers, all of whom generously helped me when I was most vulnerable and uncertain about my own work. I try to carry on that tradition, the tradition of what comes around, goes around.

It is also true that in teaching or critiquing manuscripts, I learn more about my own writing. I see the parallels between my own stalled stories and the difficulties some of my students have in their work. I sometimes find that I set exercises for others that I need to complete for myself. Sharing criticism, I acknowledge my own handicaps and together we come to a shared sense of what is good writing, what is weak writing, what needs to be done and what needs to be avoided or overcome.

In the best workshops, we become a community, share resources and spark each other’s imaginations. In this extraordinary place, among people from many different regions and countries, we reaffirm what is most life-affirming about writing and storytelling. It is the story that passes from one person to another, the story told or published, which has the capacity to change the world.

Are you working on a book right now?

Always. And yes, doing workshops is an interruption to my own writing, sometimes. Sometimes working with other writers is a stimulus to my writing.

I am working on a novel, tentatively titled “She Who” which deals with a young woman who has survived a violent assault, her mother, who becomes an anti-violence activist, and the ex-nun who runs a retreat center to which the young woman flees when trying to avoid being drawn into her mother’s political activism.

Joy in creation

This morning I was up at first light watching the sun come up over the hills and the water brighten with reflected light. This is many thousands of miles from the northern California coast where my novel is set, that goat farm where hurt children from all over the world come to heal at their own pace. But in the pasture near where I stood was a long shaggy goat that reminded me of a scene I had not yet written, and I fell right back into my story. By the time the sun was high, I had six pages I think I will keep, and a rush of love for this landscape and energy for the work I need to do. I am grateful for every morning that begins like that, every time it happens again. Success in this circle will mean every participant will take away from Andros reflections of this beautiful landscape, this rich heritage, this energy and joy in creation. And they too will want to give it back, in beautiful books or in workshops with others. It goes on forever.



Aegean Arts Circle hosts meeting

HERALD TRIBUNE Archive - Kathimerini

(Translated from the Greek Kathimerini article)

Date: 07-26-03,   Category: Arts and Leisure,   Author: HELBI

A meeting took place recently on Andros, involving foreign writers invited by the Aegean Arts Circle of New York and its director Amalia Meli. Meli wants “to combine her love of Andros with creative work in this writers’ workshop. I wanted to show the writers... the beauty of Andros, for them to learn its history and meet in the calm environment of the island and be creative. I think I have succeeded.” Two people helped her in terms of hospitality: Panos Vassilopoulos, director of St George Lycabettus, where the writers stayed, and Tassos Vourlas at Andros Holidays, where the writers met for 10 days. What did her guests think? Diana Sperrazza, senior producer at Discovery Channel and a CNN journalist, said: “I feel like I belong here. I could stay in Andros and write here.” Kathryn Watterson, award-winning writer and a professor at Princeton University commented: “For a writer it’s a gift to get up in the morning and write with a view of the Aegean. We made friends and discussed the progress of our writing. Amalia took us to see traditional Andriote music. We danced, at least we tried; we had a fantastic time.” Jim Prately from Texas, a professor of molecular cell biology, said, “This trip was special because my great-grandfather migrated from Greece to America.” Meli wants to bring writers, artists and musicians to Andros to get to know the place she loves.











Andros, a creative encounter on the quiet island. Standing (from left), Lee Gruzen, Elissa Raffa and AAC director Amalia Meli. Seated, Jim Pratley, Kathryn Watterson and Dianna Sperrazza from CNN. (

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Aegean Arts Circle Writing Workshop--Last day  July 9th 2003   6:22 p.m.

 The group dismantled today, like scaffolding which finally came down. We held each other's words for a moment, crossed paths into new stories--will these stories rest between the covers of  published books?

 I packed the printer, picked up the printing paper, straightened the chairs around the meeting table.

Our manuscripts are packed and wrinkled from handling, outlining, marking all the moments the reader stumbled or yearned for clarity. Will we pay any heed?

The writer decides which way to take the reader.

The instructor guides the writing.

 We bonded as a group. We shared the generosity of the instructor's  guidance. There is little to change for next year--only my hope that more writers might bring their stories, their curiosity for Andros-my quiet Andros and that its beauty will inspire them so they can create and move along their own paths in search of the stories they want to write.

 This year ONE has been a good one. The writers who came here took a chance on Aegean Arts Circle. They did not know me, they did not know my small dream. The deep blue Aegean Sea plays outside my balcony-it tells me its currents move on forever. I am only a small pebble on the Sea's path, its ancient path smoothed out long ago between these Cycladic shores.




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        Listen to the siren song of the Aegean Sea and join

     For two writing workshops on the Greek island of Andros


       Creative Writing Workshops in Greece



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