When Janet met Sophfronia…..

Janet Simmonds at work planning an itinerary (as usual)! Janet writes about travel at www.educated-traveller.com
Janet Simmonds at work planning an itinerary (as usual)! Janet writes about travel at http://www.educated-traveller.com
Sophfronia Scott - author www.sophfronia.com Photo by Rob Berkley
Sophfronia Scott – author, teacher and tremendous inspiration to all. http://www.sophfronia.com Photo by Rob Berkley

APRIL 2016 – I met Sophfronia for the first time when we were room mates at an event in Chicago. We’d both travelled long distances to be present at the annual retreat of a women’s group known as ‘Women on Fire’. Sophfronia had travelled from Connecticut and I’d travelled from England.

THE START – I’d joined the ‘Women on Fire’ group the previous October and had immediately spotted Sophfronia’s poetic and thoughtful ‘Thanksgiving’ insights, delivered daily during the month of November. A few months later when I’d decided to attend the Chicago event Sophfronia was the obvious choice of room mate. She’d studied English Literature at Harvard, whilst I’d done Geography at Oxford. I felt like we’d have plenty in common. However it wasn’t until we both arrived in Chicago that we actually met for the first time. We got on immediately. Sophfronia is thoughtful, considered and eloquent. I’m gregarious and conversational. We had no problem in finding common ground. Harvard and Oxford did just fine together.

At the time Sophfronia had just completed the manuscript for her second novel, she was trying to find a publisher. Never an easy task. I volunteered to read the manuscript and suggest it to any friends in England involved in the publishing world. Several months later when the manuscript arrived as an e-mail attachment and I pressed the print button I was slightly taken aback to realise that the document was 550 pages long (admittedly it was double spaced). However when I started to read the content, the quality of the writing and the character development was so good that I didn’t concern myself again with the length of the tome. A year or so later Sophfronia’s novel ‘Unforgivable Love’ was accepted by publishers William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins. It was published to considerable critical acclaim in September 2017.

A YEAR LATER – The next time Sophfronia and I met was in Nashville, Tennessee at another ‘Women on Fire’ event. We talked about Sophfronia’s book and her writing plans for the future. I was telling her about my love of Italy. In 2014 I’d started a travel blog called ‘Educated Traveller’ writing about my travel experiences and observations from several decades of wanderings in Europe. For longer than I care to remember I’ve also run a travel company and worked as a tour guide, specialising in Italy. Over the years I’d lost count of the numerous itineraries I’d planned and delivered for clients travelling to Venice, Rome, Florence and Naples. Italy had always been and continues to be my great passion. I love Italian history, art and culture.

In one of our Nashville conversations Sophfronia told me that she’d love to host a writer’s retreat for her students and followers. I thought this was a brilliant idea and immediately suggested a country house hotel about 20 minutes from Venice. The property I had in mind was Villa Margherita, a 20 room country villa, standing in a large, private garden. Just across the road the River Brenta meanders its way gently towards the Venetian Lagoon. I just knew that this would be a wonderful location for a Writer’s Workshop event. During our Nashville stay we developed an outline for the trip. One week in length, long enough to really help participants to develop and move forward with their writing. We decided on daily morning workshops, taught by Sophfronia. Then each afternoon, Janet the tour guide would be unleashed on the group to deliver fascinating and inspirational tours and visits, designed to encourage creativity. Thus ‘The Write of Your Life’ event was born.

TWO YEARS LATER – I’m sitting in my room at the Villa Margherita contemplating ‘The Write of Your Life’ event that will happen in September, 2019. I feel proud of the collaboration between myself and Sophfronia. I’m looking forward to welcoming the writers and aspiring writers to this magical and historic part of the Veneto region. I’m very excited to say that we will probably be taking over the whole hotel, which is going to give the event a very exclusive, private house party atmosphere. I’m also feeling very satisfied, and I’m sure Sophfronia will share this sentiment, that we’ve created a unique event together. We’ve pooled our skills to optimal effect. It is our intention that ‘The Write of Your Life’ event will become an annual fixture on the calendar.

THREE YEARS LATER – we’ve completed the very first Writer’s Retreat in Italy. It was a great success. The synergy and dynamism created within our group was electric!

FIVE YEARS LATER – Now we are both looking forward, with great anticipation, to the ‘Second Edition’ Writer’s Retreat in September 2022. We most sincerely hope that we’ll be welcoming both old and new friends to the Veneto later this year.

BECOME part of our story in 2022 – when the next writer’s retreat will take place – invest a week in your writing career!

Writer’s Retreat – Sept, 2019 – our fabulous students.


Villa Margherita - aerial view - country house hotel, Veneto
Villa Margherita – aerial view – country house hotel, Veneto
Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott
Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott

Written: December, 2018 / Updated: 10th January, 2020 / Updated: December, 2021

10 thoughts on “When Janet met Sophfronia…..

  1. Sounds great, Janet – another SW (Simmonds Winner) without a doubt! I look forward to reading about the success of the week later next year!
    All best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful read, Janet, as your stories always are! I did not realize that you and Sophfronia were roommates at the Chicago Retreat. It was my first retreat as well and I had not met anyone from the group in person until I got to Chicago. I felt very brave to go without knowing anyone! I recall how happy I felt when you invited me to join you for dinner that very firt eve. I joined you, Sophronia, Kathi and her husband. It was a delightful way to start getting to know Women on Fire! Thank you for including me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Janet! You should update this with our latest exploits. Reading it again, I’m amazed by how far we’ve come, especially post-pandemic! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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