Yes, we all know writing is a solitary pastime, however we do need to connect with others writers from time to time. In this virtual age many of us have connections across countries as well as in our own place in the world. This is achieved with local writing groups or through the wonders of the internet.
With our imposed isolation those precious moments of physical connection have been extinguished for the time being and ‘virtual’ has become the norm. We have all seen the virtual book readings, book launches and promotions. The greatest thing as far as I am concerned are the growing number of virtual writing groups.
I have such a group, who link up on Sunday’s for three hours of writing. We can see each other and there is a brief hello and details of what project we are tackling. Then it is heads down and write! At the end we report on progress and feel accomplished. We may not be ‘together’ but we are!
The added benefit is that we are accountable and that drives us to write. No matter the circumstances there is always a way to stay connected.
This year I celebrate a decade of writing. It was not something my creative brain discovered until I came to Canada. Throughout my younger life art was my main creative outlet, whether it was painting, collage, pottery, sculpture, textiles, knitting, sewing, and many more. I would spend my lunch hours in the art room at school rather than in the playground, it was my happy place. From creating abstract art in a multiple of mediums to utilizing fabric remnants found at Liberty’s of London for summer tops, I indulged my creativity.
This changed as I began adult life and my creative outlets ceased as I entered the workforce and socialized with my peers and then had children. I dappled in rug design without success and although I was gifted an easel one Christmas and attended an art class for a short time, I just didn’t have the time or motivation. It was only when I came to Canada and there was an opportunity to find a creative outlet that I made the decision to find one. I stumbled across the writing group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/ ) by pure chance on a trip to the local library and decided to attend a meeting. From that point on I found my ‘place’ and began to learn a new skill, one which has given me not just a group of firm and supportive friends but also allowed me to discover my new country, as well as attend numerous events and a connection to many other writers from home and further afield.
Now I have eight published books and three work in progress manuscripts (and numerous ideas filed) and there is no slow down in sight for my writing passion. It has gripped me and I am so happy I ‘found’ my creative life again.
Not only have I written novels but also participated in National Novel Writing Month a total of ten times, attended numerous writing retreats and workshops, presented at workshops, started a freelance writing business (https://tailoredthemedtosuit.wordpress.com/ ) and became Secretary to my writers group. I am truly immersed in the writing life and am so glad I braved that first writing group meeting.
3 – Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
4 – What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I won’t name names; I might leave someone out. I can rely on them to be honest with their criticism regarding plot, style, tone, and character development. I am also inspired and encouraged by the authors I have met through Goodreads and Facebook.
5 – Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
My first book is a World War 2 drama that will not have a sequel. My work-in-progress is a diamond caper set in Venice, Italy with an amateur sleuth protagonist who, if she is well received, may find herself in future novels.
6 – What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
$6.95 for a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
7 – What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
In 8th grade when I began public speaking.
8 – What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
History by Elsa Morante. It was a success in Italy, but the English translated version didn’t receive the recognition it deserved.
9 – As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Pinocchio is my favorite “Guy.” I love his fearless, curious nature, his sense of joy, and most of all, his unwavering love for his father. I have an assortment of Pinocchio figurines and dolls that I have collected during my annual visits to Italy. Located throughout my home, they never fail to make me smile.
10 – How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Five completed children’s books and one work-in-progress novel.
11 – What does literary success look like to you?
My desire is to entertain and inform. I want readers to lose themselves in my stories and enjoy and connect with my characters. I am deeply touched and elated when a reader takes the time to let me know through email, website, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, etc. that they enjoyed my book. A happy, satisfied reader is golden.
12 – What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My research for Bridge of Sighs and Dreams included interviews throughout Italy including multiple family members, and translating countless documents and publications. The discovery of personal letters and journals written by Italian POW’s augmented my study. The consistent manifestation of hope, scribbled across those abandoned pieces of paper, afforded a valuable glimpse into the Italian sentiment during this horrific period. Research takes the author off on so many fascinating tangents; and then comes the difficult task of editing down to just enough information so as not break the suspension of disbelief. I will say, to weave my fiction around the time-line of events that I wanted to highlight was tricky, but I didn’t want to alter facts to fit my fiction; instead, I utilized truth to enhance my characters and their story. And so, after more than a decade of research, translations, false starts, writing, editing, shelving, writing, editing, shelving, etc., etc., Bridge of Sighs and Dreams finally developed into a novel of which I am proud.
13 – How many hours a day/week do you write?
I write for several hours every day.
14 – How do you select the names of your characters?
I love naming my characters. Names are important; they have to “fit” the character’s look, personality, and nationality. They need to be easily remembered (No Stobingestikofsky), and not too similar to the other characters (No Jane, Janet, Joan, Jason, Jack, etc. all in one story) Readers don’t need to spend time trying to remember who’s who or attempting to pronounce a certain name every time it shows up.
15 – What was your hardest scene to write?
I don’t want to give away the who, but sending off two of my favorite characters to be executed really had me weeping over the computer keys. I still can’t read than scene without welling up.
16 – Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
While growing up, I always hated listening to jokes about the Italians going into World War 2 with their hands raised. This was not at all the case, and I wanted to point out the bravery of the Italian population during this horrific time. Although Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is fiction. It is based on real events. I felt compelled to write a war novel in which the women don’t play the role of wallpaper or objects of amusement to soldiers and politicians. The women in Bridge of Sighs and Dreams take center stage in a behind-the-lines battle between good and evil.
17 – How long have you been writing?
I started writing in grade school. I loved books and enjoyed making up my own stories.
18 – What inspires you?
The lives of ordinary people who preform extraordinary deeds without seeking recognition. Diligent and creative people also inspire me.
19 – How do you find or make time to write?
As I don’t have a regular 9-5 job, I balance my day between writing and painting.
20 – What projects are you working on at the present?
I am currently working on a “not-too-serious” diamond caper that takes place in Venice, Italy. I am also a translator for various Italian poets, so there are continuous translation projects in the works. As a working artist, there is always a new painting on the easel.
21 – What do your plans for future projects include?
I am considering adding to and publishing my blog, Painting in Italy, which is a guide to painting in Italy for artists who prefer independent travel and off the beaten track locations. I have written 5 children’s stories that I still need to edit and illustrate, and I continue to take on select translation assignments, mostly for Italian poets and musicians.
Pamela Allegretto lives in Connecticut and divides her time between writing and painting. In addition to her historical fiction novel, Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, her published work includes dual-language poetry books, translations in Italian literary journals, articles in local newspapers, book and CD covers, illustrations, and cartoons. Her original art is collected worldwide.
As a kid, what job did you dream you would have as an adult?
My first recollection of wanting any particular ‘job’ was in secondary school (UK 11 – 16). I was art mad and spent all my lunch hours in the art room creating. Luckily my art teacher, Miss Randall was very supportive and allowed me access to all the art supplies (and some non art supplies, one of which was the large noticeboard from the main corridor!) With free rein I created to my heart’s content, I utilized not just the usual paint, clay, paper etc. but the internal workings of clocks, cellophane, paper mache, wire and a lot more.
I dreamed of designing house interiors, some alternative, some not. I even planned to use my summer vacations to dress shop windows in London high street stores. My art teacher, Miss Randall actually sent some of my artwork to the Royal College of Art. I was accepted until she advised them I was only 12!
Alas my dream did not materialize but I have experienced many forms of art through the years and now have found my niche – writing. I sometimes wonder how my life would look now if I have followed that path. Maybe my parallel self is enjoying that designing life – who knows?
Incidentally I did watch a fantastic Netflix documentary, Abstract some time ago which highlighted designers and one just blew me away. I watched and thought that Ilse Crawford: Interior Designer had my parallel life. Maybe next time round I will go that route.
It is Board meeting week for me this week, Tuesday is the Writers Foundation meeting and then Wednesday is the Arts & Culture Council meeting. We have a lot to plan and organize for our annual Words in the Park and Culture Day events. Again we are co-hosting our events as part of Alberta Culture Days. It is a special year not only for Canada 150 but the Writers Foundation and Albert Culture Days 10th anniversaries.
We have a new larger venue this year – Spark Gallery, which is the home of the world renowned Canadian artist Glen Roland. It is exciting to have such a beautiful space to display, interact and engage.
With numerous authors and artisans, dance and music performances, children’s activities and a food truck it’s an event for the whole family.
What are your plans this week?
A few tickets are still left for the very popular When Words Collide in Calgary, AB, August 11-13, with Will Ferguson, C.C. Humphreys, Guy Gavri
Winterset in Summer – Literary Festival
The Winterset in Summer Literary Festival in Eastport, NL, takes place August 10-13, with Anakana Schofield, Esi Edugyan, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, and so many more great authors.