Friday, May 28, 2010

You had me at Arafalo ...

A while ago, Ben Spurr who writes for posted this very pleasant entry for a (Not So) Nice Italian Girls & Friends reading that I co-organized ... 

Michelle Arafalo is a busy gal. Between time working as a co-editor at prestigious Canadian literary quarterly Descant, she's also a blogger and author in her own right. Her well-received 2008 book Made Up of Arias delved into the life of an Italian immigrant family, and her cultural background as an Italo-Canadian is her favourite source material. She helms a bill of like-minded Italian girls tonight for a reading of poetry and short stories.

Ai yi...much as I appreciate the kind words, I kind of wish my last name had been spelled correctly. He linked to this blog but the spelling of my last name is a mystery.

And it's interesting what's out there that's not exactly correct.

I volunteer with Descant (prestigious true) but, alas, I am not a paid employee. I am merely a minion, one of many.

My book Made Up of Arias (of which I am enormously proud) received very little critical attention because it was published by a small literary press which doesn't have much of a distribution channel (they are working on that though). I did get a very nice blurb from Nino Ricci, a colleague and a literary superstar here in Canada and around the world. So that was an enormous boost for me.

"Her cultural background as an Italo-Canadian is her favourite source material" - yeah, I will cop to that. But I'm trying to break free of that...after all, I am more than a female, more than Italo-Canadian, no? I hope I am. It's funny to be identified that way as I had striven so hard as a teenager and young adult to be free of that label. That's why I like the "(Not So) Nice Italian Girl" moniker so much - it's a cheeky subversion of the stereotype - an acknowledgment of what we aspire to be at times for our families and what we are truly.

The poster above says it all ... we so much want to be loved even for our transgressions as writers and artists. We fear the disapproval of familyand friends yet feel compelled to write in this fashion, to express what we really are: not so nice Italian girls.

Back in the day (this was the nineties), myself and a friend, LD, organized two readings: one was called "Nice Italian Girls" with female writers and the other was "Nice Italian Boys" with male writers at the Green Room in the Annex. It created a bit of a stir in the Italo-Canadian community and we got a lot of great press at the time.

LD and I became estranged. A baby and a career change later and the series was never continued.

Now carrying more than lipstick and a mortgage I moved on to trying to find financial stability for the famiglia and trying to write in a more consistent fashion.

When I had a landmark birthday recently I started thinking...when was I going to do those things that I had been thinking about but not acting on - like resurrecting the reading series? What are you waiting on girl, get a move on I thought.

So I sought out the assistance of friend and poet GR to organize the series. I asked the husband to help with posters and started to plumb the depths of my literary friendships. So far so good ... the series has been a satisfying experience - organizing readers, creating the posters, placing adverts, being the emcee on occasion. I've enjoyed it all.

Stay tuned for more "Not So Nice" literary action...


Ruth Seeley said...

Getting the name right, yes. I used to deal with a reporter who consistently got my company - and my CEO's name wrong. The CEO offered to change his name to the one the reporter had assigned him, which I thought was big of him.

For me, the overwhelming question of middle age is precisely the one you alluded to: "If not now, when?" Which is why I chose it as my personal blog title, not realizing till years later that it was the translated title of a novel by Italian author Primo Levi. Not that I'm calling you middle-aged. But since I don't aspire to live to be 100, I figured that by the time I hit 40 I probably had to accept that I was, in fact, middle-aged.

I have to say, all the amazing literary activity in TO is making me wonder if I should move back. My main concern is: could I handle the humidity again? And how many more big moves do I have left in me? ;)

Michelle said...

I love that Ruth ... if you are going to "steal" why not from the great Levi - on of my fave authors?

Yes the clock ticks on. That b'day gave me a jolt, it made me more pro-active for which I am grateful. Thanks for sharing.

Christine said...

...when was I going to do those things that I had been thinking about but not acting on...

Oh boy, that part got me thinking about what I am not doing....but you did it and that's wonderful!

And your mention of the Green Room brings back so many memories, too.

Michelle said...

Gosh, that was fun ... I'd love to go back there!

Andrew Smith said...

It's a cliché, but I had a wake-up call about time ticking when my partner died too young. An unoriginal situation but, like most clichés, powerful nonetheless. So here I am, now at 63 touting my first novel and planning the next. If one has "ideas" or "aspirations," shed those inhibitions and get on it. Brava, Michelle!!

Michelle said...

Yes it's a bit sad that we sometimes need a shock to get motivated ... for me I realized that my father had died just before this same "landmark birthday". In the back of my mind I kept thinking, that could be me. And what was I waiting for?