• Sheryl Gwyther

#1 Story research-v-alluring foreign places?

In exactly 15 days, I head for Europe with suitcase, computer, writing journal and my other half, Ross. This trip has crept up too quickly and I'm mentally not ready.

Writing lists, checking flights, accommodation updates, paying Captain Train (now called Trainline (fabulous site for booking train travel), organising tours to the Lascaux Caves II in France's Dordogne region, night cruise down the Seine, free walking tour in Berlin - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

You may be aware I'm writing a children's novel set in 18C Venice. It's not just a story about Caterina, a feisty, young street urchin surviving in a dangerous city on her wits and the use of her fists and beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. Staying one step ahead of starvation and ruffianos as she searches for a secure and loving home, and her musical destiny.

THE FOUR SEASONS OF CATERINA is also a journey into the life, times, music and city of the Baroque Italian composer, Antonio Vivaldi. Musical genius, virtuoso violinist, and music master at Venice's Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned, unwanted children since the 1300s, Vivaldi also struggles to write his most famous composition, The Four Seasons. Yes, geniuses are never appreciated until they're dead. Did you know this iconic composition was not heard by the modern world until 1939? The very first recording of the Four Seasons by Bernardino Molinari and the Orchestra dell’Accademia di S. Cecilia was issued in 1942.

I've always loved the violin, Vivaldi music and Venice. It was inevitable that I would one day write a story set in the 1700s, in the city of music, Vivaldi's home.

Sure, one can google and pour over books about Venice and Vivaldi - I have! In fact, I bet I'm the most researched and informed children's writer about Vivaldi and his 30+ years at the Ospedale, in Australia! Funny how my head retains all those facts about that wonderful relationship, but not where I left my mobile phone.

Hence, this trip to Europe. It started off as 11 days in Venice to carry out research - one must stay on the island to truly appreciate its unique environment. I want to experience where my Caterina lived - what she saw, smelled, felt, tasted and touched - to walk in her footsteps. To visit the Pietà Museum and its collection of historical data and instruments.

But somehow those 11 days have ended up 7 weeks. Oh, yes, that's how quickly things can get out of hand!

Blame it partly on Ross. He decided to speak at a 3-day Peace Conference in Berlin at the end of September. But I'd booked our accommodation in Venice starting on the 25th October. So what happens in between?

France happens, that's what! And guess what? I'm also researching another junior fiction novel set in the Dordogne, the beautiful limestone region south of France.

So, yes, this is a journey to find several stories. To research all those things I can't do from books and internet. But it's also a chance to experience a new city - Berlin. And to see the enthralling cave art of Lascaux. To visit Vicenza, the Italian city of famous architect, Andrea Palladio, and Rome, and Paris. And so much more.

Hope you'll join me in this journey. I'll promise not to write too many words per post (oops, done that already), but I will bring you special images and insights about what I see and experience.

Till next time. Signing off...


#travel #research #Venice #Vivaldi #childrenswriting #Australianchildrensauthors