Surprise for a Writer

July 13 -
Some days are better than others – for everyone. This is a simple fact of life and everyone knows it. And yesterday fell in the “better than others” category for me.

When my day was almost over yesterday, I opened an e-mail from a name I did not recognize, but the subject line was the title of my first book, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy.

Book cover print version Amazon2 (2)My initial thought was that someone had left a comment on my blog, or had read my book and wanted to talk about it. So I opened the e-mail, and was stunned to read the first two lines ~

Dear RPLA Finalist:
Congratulations on your entry making the final cut.

Immediately I knew that the e-mail was from  the Florida Writers Association and that  my book is in the running for an award. I didn’t quite realize the full meaning though until I continued reading the rest of the e-mail.

I had submitted my book  in May along with an application to the Royal Palm Literary Award Competition. Since I had not heard anything yet, I had sort of forgotten about it and assumed that I must not be a finalist. No big shock, especially since this was my first book.

I am still overwhelmed with this news and will have to wait until the Florida Writers Conference Awards ceremony at the end of October to find out the results. I am excited and as they say in Hollywood, it is an honor to even be a finalist.

RPLA Finalist BADGEBeing recognized like this for my writing means much more to me than selling a lot of books, although that is always great too. For a new author like me, this is a validation of the quality of my writing. I am very humbled and grateful.

I do have to thank my editor, Almut Metzroth, who was brilliant in her meticulous editing process. And I also owe her a thank you for encouraging me to submit my book to this competition. You are the best, Almut.

Stay tuned for more on this come the end of October. It is wonderful to be a writer!

book-signing-event-1024x680

 

Posted in Italy Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

More Travel Planning for Italy

Milan Duomo

Milan Duomo

With every passing day, I am closer to returning to Bella Italia and am firming up some travel plans. In less than three months I will be on my way and I am starting to get excited. Of course I have the peace of mind that travel insurance provides. After last year’s experience of having to change airline and hotel reservations, I now automatically buy travel insurance for extended flights and trips.

FrecciarossaI have all my accommodations booked and now am deciding whether it makes more sense to take a train or fly, specifically from Milano to Napoli. My original plan was to book one of the low-cost flights from Malpensa Airport to Naples Airport, since the flight time is only an hour and a half, compared with a four-and-a-half-hour train ride. And the price is not that different. A flight is as low as $43 on the no-frills carrier EasyJet and the fare on a Frecciarossa fast train from Milano Centrale to Napoli Centrale is just under $40.

Milano Centrale

Milan’s main train station

After careful consideration I decide to the train and here is the reason: Since I will be in the city center of Milan, the train station is easily accessible. The same goes for the train station in Napoli. Its location is a short taxi ride away from my reserved B&B.

To fly rather than travel by train requires a train ride to Malpensa Airport via the Malpensa Express for $16 or the Malpensa Shuttle bus for $13.50. The bus takes an hour – I know from previous experience, and to fly requires early check-in at the airport plus weight restrictions of checked baggage and carry-on. Then once arriving at Naples Airport, also known as Capodichino Airport, I would have to board a bus to the city center and then take a taxi to my accommodation. So flying would cost more, but more importantly, it would cut into my time in Milano. Thus the train it is!

Now I know that I can look forward to a leisurely ride where I can relax, enjoy the scenery, and catch up on writing.

I enjoy making these travel arrangements and especially when I realize that they are to my best advantage. Italy – here I come!!!

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How to Plan for a Trip to Italy

Gelato and cold drinks on the street

Gelato and cold drinks on the street

By now you must know that I enjoy travel planning almost as much as I enjoy traveling…well, not quite. But I do like figuring out my own itinerary when I go to Italy, and I also like the idea of finding the best deals I can.

In fact this is how my fall trip to Italy materialized. My original plan was to wait until next spring, but then the more I heard about others taking trips to Bella Italia, and the more time that went by, I really wanted to go. So I made a deal with myself to go to Italy in the fall, but only if I found a fantastic airfare, since that is one of the most costly parts of a trip to Italy—airfare and accommodations.

Milano Centrale

Milan’s main train station

Well, I found a nonstop airfare from JFK Airport in NYC to Milan for the incredible price of $643 round trip, half the cost of my last transatlantic flight, which was definitely not a non-stop flight. so that was it and planning for Italy in the fall became a reality. Without needing to worry about vacation requests, since by then I would be retired, I chose the time frame of three weeks and booked my flight.

I spent a couple of months figuring out an itinerary, and have been having fun looking for hotel deals and deciding whether it is better to take a train or a cheap flight within Italy. It turns out that a cheap hour-and-a-half flight from Milan to Naples is a better deal than a four-and-a-half-hour train ride. And not only because of the time but the difference in cost is negligible, even factoring in the €7.50 price for the Malpensa Express bus ride to the airport in Milan.

Since I wanted to make this trip as inexpensive as possible, I have booked a three-night stay in a monastery in Venice, although this is not the same one in which I stayed three years ago; that one is booked.

Venice

Venice

So this place is in the Castello sestiere, not too far from the Rialto Bridge, and a neighborhood I would love to explore.

Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal

Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal

Venice is known to be one of the most expensive cities in Italy; it has been my experience that the nice hotels in Rome and in Venice rank as some of the highest. So this is perfect to be able to stay in Venice for three nights for less than $250!

Amalfi

Amalfi

I have also decided to spend time again on the Amalfi Coast and had considered the monastery in Maiori, where I had stayed before. I actually liked the idea of staying in Amalfi this time, so I did a little research and found a great 4-star hotel right in the heart of Amalfi with a view of the sea! (OK Splurge – I have dreamed of writing here and being able to relax.) After making the reservation through Booking.com, I found that the hotel website was actually cheaper. I made a short phone call to Italy via Skype and a pleasant English-speaking receptionist named Vittorio made a reservation for me at the discounted rate. She even made it refundable, up to four days ahead. Sometimes it pays to book directly with a hotel. And guess what? The cost of four nights in this hotel ended up to be only $33 more than the cost of four nights in the monastery.

I am still firming up a few other details and places for this trip, but stay tuned, because I will be blogging from Italy again in just a few more months. I love finding travel deals. If travel agents’ salaries were more lucrative, I would have to seriously consider it. In the meantime, I will keep having fun planning more trips to Italy for as long as I can. Who knows?  This may be the subject for yet another book!

Gelato vendor in  Lucca

Gelato vendor in Lucca

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Posted in Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

An Interview with an Editor

Today I would like to welcome Almut Metzroth, author and editor, to my blog. I am honored to interview her and share her perspectives on editing for authors. She is the editor of many books and I am fortunate to be able to say that she is the editor of both of my books. Welcome, Almut!

IMG_2190 Almut 1How long have you been editing books?
As soon as I had my book published in 2007, my fellow writers from two workshops asked me to edit their books.

What is your teaching background?
I taught five levels of high school German for 28 years in Massachusetts and two levels of French when needed. In advanced levels I edited students’ weekly blogs in German.

When did editing become more appealing to you than writing?
When editing occupied my time, earlier studies of languages, as well as memorable years of teaching, made my choice easy: I put writing on hold.

What are your main concerns as an editor?
Effective communication with authors as regards clarity of expression, accuracy – especially in the use of foreign languages in dialogue or for concepts accepted in English – as well as veracity and credibility in memoirs.

Can you describe the term hopscotching?
This term refers to jumping around from one topic to another before finishing the first one but later returning to it. A “cut and paste” restores the flow of the writing.

How many times is normal to rewrite a manuscript before it is ready to publish?
There is no norm. An author with academic experience in creative writing, or with the mechanics of it gained in writers groups, needs fewer rewrites than a beginner.

What words of advice can you give a new writer?
Be unafraid to fill your first blank page. Keep writing. Find out which style feels natural. If you are more comfortable with chapter outlines, write those. After one chapter, join writers groups where participants critique each  other’s work.

Are you currently accepting new manuscripts for editing?
I am available for editing on a first-come basis. If the writing samples are acceptable, I’ll advise the individual writer after reading an introduction to the work in progress and chapters one to three.

Almut Metzroth is a member of the Treasure Coast Writers Guild and a published author. Her memoir, Thorns and Roses: A Life in the Context of History, published in 2007, received a Royal Palm Literary Award in the History/Biography/Memoir category from The Florida Writers Association. She and her husband make their home on the Treasure Coast of Florida.

Contact Almut Metzroth  for editing at dudoller@comcast.net

Thank you again Almut for sharing your wisdom on editing here. And keep those red pens handy! You are the best!

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I’m Going Back to Italy~Are You Really Surprised?

Li Galli islands in southern Italy

Li Galli islands in southern Italy

I am excited because I am planning another trip to Italy!  This one will be this fall, just after I retire from my nursing career. What a treat not to have to request time off and wait for it to be approved, (or not). I am starting to put together an itinerary and definitely Napoli is on my list. I promised the wonderful Tina from Discover Napoli Destinations  that I would return so she could show me the best of Napoli and explain why the mantra of the local Napolitanos is “See Napoli and die.”

Port of Naples

Port of Naples

After that I am considering time to relax on the Amalfi Coast once more, since I never tire of the tranquility and stunning landscape of this area.

Vietri sul Mare on Amalfi Coast

Vietri sul Mare on Amalfi Coast

I will be in a couple of other places where I plan on visiting friends and family and also am building time in for another favorite Italian city ~ Venezia.

Gondolas in Venice

Gondolas in Venice

I especially anticipate wandering through the sestieri of Castello and Dorsoduro and hopefully lose myself in a calle without a care in the world.

Venice

Venice

 

Venice

Venice

VeniceOf course my camera will be my companion.  Stay tuned for more updates.

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New Release ~ My Love Affair with Sicily is now Available

Great news! It is definitely time to celebrate with some prosecco or vino! Or maybe some Sicilian NERO D’AVOLA!

Prosecco (480x640)As of today My Love Affair with Sicily is  available on Amazon in both editions, the Kindle version as well as the paperback. For my friends in the UK it is also available on Amazon UK and for my friends in Italy, on Amazon.it.

I will also have my own copies if anyone would like an autographed version, please e-mail me and we can make arrangements.

I intend to upload the file to the Barnes and Noble website too, so those readers with a Nook can view it there as well.

Thank you for all of your support during this process. You have helped spur me on to complete this journey. Who knows where it will end?

Grazie a tutti!

Sicilian cookies

Sicilian cookies

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Winners Announced! My Love Affair with Sicily

My Love Affair with Sicily book cover

My Love Affair with Sicily book cover

Grazie a tutti!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my blog and registered for a chance to win a copy of My Love Affair with Sicily. I was amazed by the number of hits on my blog in just the first 36 hours! The contest is over and by a random drawing I have the names of the winners. I will be emailing each of you to notify you, as well as asking for your mailing addresses, in the case of the paperback versions.

The winners of the e-Book versions are:

jennyandstephenmilan from the blog, ourmilantransfer.blogspot.comx

and Ann Stoodley

CONGRATULATIONS!

The winners of the autographed copies of the paperback version are:

Ishita Sood or Ishitasood the blog, ishitasood.wordpress.comx https://twitter.comItalophilia

and Nick Kurinzi or floridaduh https://twitter.com/kurinzi

The Kindle edition is available now on Amazon and I am just waiting for the paperback to show up there as well. It may be a few days to a week, but I will keep you posted.

I hope that all of you fall in love with Sicily and that you will have the opportunity to travel there one day soon. If not, then I hope that you will feel as though you are there with me as I travel throughout Sicily in My Love Affair with Sicily.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italian Language, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Last Chance to Win a Copy of My Love Affair with Sicily

Ciao miei amici! Buon lunedi!

I am in a flurry of activity working to finalize the process of publishing My Love Affair with Sicily. With the hopes of everything going according to plan, my second book will be available for sale within the next two days, by April 30, 2014.

At Farmers Market Catania

At Farmers Market Catania

I am giving away two autographed copies of the paperbook version and two e-book copies. If you  leave a comment with this hashtag, #MyLoveAffairwithSicily,  then you will be entered in the random drawing for a copy of my book.

Ceramic shop in Caltagirone

Ceramic shop in Caltagirone

In the meantime, enjoy some photos from the place I feel so at home — Sicily!

Bar Pirandello in Taormina

Bar Pirandello in Taormina

Doorway and stairs in Cesaro` Sicily

Doorway and stairs in Cesaro` Sicily

Sicilian countryside

Sicilian countryside

Don’t forget to leave the hashtag #MyLoveAffairwithSicily. Buona fortuna!

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My Love Affair with Sicily – Book Giveaway

My Love Affair with Sicily book cover

My Love Affair with Sicily book cover

Okay – I can say that I am excited because I am almost ready to publish my second book. For anyone who has been following my blog or my Twitter account, you already know that I have been working on My Love Affair with Sicily ever since I returned from Italy last September. Some of you have already had a sneak peek at the cover. And I truly appreciate all of your feedback on it. Grazie mille.

The book is in the final editing process and is almost ready to go. I hate to jinx myself and give a date yet, so I am refraining from doing so…just yet.

Sicilian Cannoli

Sicilian Cannoli

But, as promised, I am going to do a give-away and it is going to be easy to enter. At the end of this blog post, just leave a comment with  hashtag, MyLoveAffairwithSicily. For those of you who are not on Twitter and are unfamiliar with what a hashtag is, here is an example: #MyLoveAffairwithSicily. That is all you have to do. You do not even have to write anything unless you want to, and you don’t have to be a follower on the blog either. Below this post is a place for comments and just write #MyLoveAffairwithSicily. Of course please feel free to also leave a comment if you wish.

Shoemaker in Palermo

Shoemaker in Palermo

I will select 4 random entries and give away 2 autographed copies of My Love Affair with Sicily and 2 e-Books. So, start commenting and stay tuned. I will be posting one or two more times before the end of the drawing. I will collect all the comments following this post, as well as comments left after the next one or two posts that I write before my book is available for sale, and place them in the drawing. You may leave as many comments as you like. but up to three per person will be added to the drawing.

The Sicilian countryside

The Sicilian countryside

I will notify the winners by way of a blog post as well as by email and will request your addresses in the cases of the paperback book winners. Good luck!

Here is a short excerpt from My Love Affair with Sicily

“Our meals are every bit as good as our food of the previous evening. The entire bill is only twenty euros, including bottled water, aqua naturale, meaning without gas or fizz. The prices in Sicily are unbelievably low, much less expensive than on the mainland.

On the way home we buy more cough medicine at another farmacia and then go back to the hotel where we all anticipate a good night’s sleep. When I enter my room, I am pleasantly surprised to find the bed turned back, and two pieces of Italian Torrone, or nougat, candy with a note that reads, “Buonanotte,” Good Night. I am familiar with this sweet, toasted-almond candy, especially at Christmas time with Grandma Savoca. This gesture by the hotel staff touches my heart.

Sicily feels like such a special place to me; I love it here more and more each day. Because of our hotel’s proximity to the water, I hear the loud sounds of the wind from inside my room. Reminiscent of how noisy the wind can be during a hurricane, I wonder whether I can sleep. Apparently my concerns are unwarranted, since I never awaken, until morning.”

Isola Bella in Taormina

Isola Bella in Taormina

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My Comments on the South of Italy

Reggio Calabria

Reggio Calabria

An article that appeared this week on the New York Times Op-Ed page caught my attention. Respected writer Beppe Severgnini titled his piece, Why No One Goes to Naples. In the piece, Severgnini is not only talking about Naples, but also the rest of southern Italy, or the Mezzogiorno. Reading his article made me feel a little sad because I realize that much of what he writes is true. The saving grace is that his perspective is somewhat hopeful.

I found  places in Puglia and Sicily to be appealing partly because they were not crowded and non-touristy. I enjoyed traveling to places where I had to speak Italian and where I was not overrun by tour groups. Cities in Puglia like Lecce and Ostuni and smaller towns like Cisternino and Martina Franca were charming. I am positive that travelers to Italy would also discover their   appeal. I am not so surprised by the statistic that only 13 percent of travelers to Italy.

Mobile fruit and vegetable  stand in Lecce

Mobile fruit and vegetable stand in Lecce

Sicily is a special place for me because my grandparents came from the Messina region. But this island too, is very diverse and I discovered magic in its people, in Siracusa, Cefalù, Savoca, and other cities and villages.

Cisternino centro storico

Cisternino centro storico

As Severgnini states, the Italian government is losing an opportunity to spread the word and be able to increase tourism to these regions as well as the beautiful countryside in Basilicata and Calabria. He minces no words when he explains about the misappropriated funding for tourism and the corrupt practices involving infrastructure. I saw first-hand last fall how much of the autostrada in the south was under construction, and also had numerous detours. What should take six hours to drive takes ten.

Naples port

Naples port

As far as Napoli is concerned I must admit I had my own fears and concerns, about safety and crime. I never wanted to spend time there after I saw the trash all over the streets and read the horror stories by travel agents. And some of it is true. The perception of Naples will likely always be connected to crime due to the heavy presence of the Camorra, the Mafioso of Napoli. However much of the trash  problem is created by the Mafiosi, who control the industry. Corruption and bribery is well-documented and is an inherent problem.

Ferry boats in Naples

Ferry boats in Naples

I have, however, had the good fortune to meet Tina, from Discover Napoli Destinations. Her enthusiasm for her city is contagious and she has sung the praises of Napoli and posted  countless stunning photos of this southern Italian city.

Port of Naples

Port of Naples

I realize that I have missed out on experiencing another gem of the south, and on my next trip to Italy I am going to see the good side of Naples, with Tina’s help.

Italy is an amazing place, and as you know, I have a continuous love affair with Italy which only gets stronger every time I visit. Let’s join Severgnini in his hopes that the new young prime minister, Matteo Renzi, can implement changes that will make for a brighter future in  southern Italy.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy News, Italy Travel, Writing | Tagged | 37 Comments