The Upside of 2016

img_5266
2016 held some stellar moments for this writer. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

As the winter sun sets on 2016, I would like to acknowledge that not everything went awry; stellar experiences surfaced, too. Casting an eye over the landscape brings noteworthy events to the forefront with the dawning of a New Year.

The publication of my second book in the Spirited Constellations trilogy: Spirited Constellations: Travels highlighted the year for me. The second edition of my first book, Spirited Constellations, was also published. The third book in the trilogy is also well underway, and could possibly be published near the end of 2017, if not sooner.

2016 also saw me completing the first book in a new series I’m writing. This book will be published in early 2017. Vastly different from the Spirited Constellations book, the series ignited my imagination further, for I like these characters as much as I do those in the Spirited Constellations trio.

At the Indiana University Bloomington 2016 Writers’ Conference in June, I embarked on a-here-to-with unknown kind of writing: the prose poem. Had anyone told me I would one day be writing poetry, I would have laughed uproariously! Yet I did it! Under the amazing prose poet Amelia Martens, I plucked up my courage and began work on my first ever prose poem! I even went out on a limb and did a public reading of the poem in Bloomington for the conference participants. Stretching my writing wings into the province of prose poetry proved an exhilarating experience.

Not wanting to stay too long at the fair, I finally decided to retire after 25+ years from my place of employment. I did this in order to enter the next phase of my professional life, one that includes much more writing. In talking with others who have retired or resigned from their positions, the common thread was, “I knew when it was time.” Time isn’t something readily available on anyone’s side, no matter what the Rolling Stones sang. My 2016 November birthday awakened in me a turning point. With little fanfare, without drama, with my two-week’s notice, with a heart full of anticipation ready to turn the page, and with a smile on my face, I walked away.

It was time. It was my time. It still is.

Ciao for now.

The IU Writers’ Conference

The second edition of my  first book, Spirited Constellations, will be published this week, as will my second book, Spirited Constellations: Travels. -tangledpasta.net
The second edition of my first book, Spirited Constellations, will be published this week, as will my second book in the series,  Spirited Constellations: Travels. -tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

I’m back. Valentino the black cat is once again putting on a full Broadway production to hurry me into serving him his Fancy Feast Primavera breakfast. Chanel, the black and white cat, seconds his enthusiasm. I don’t mind returning to my cats; they’re cool. After nearly a week at the IU Writers’ Conference surrounded by writers and the accompanying intellectual stimuli, returning to the mundane dulls the brain, and I do not mean the cats.

At the Writers’ Conference, I struck up conversation well-published author Wesley Chu. He shared with me his satisfaction of writing full-time. His winning over 6,000 entrants in a British book contest, thereby landing him a book contract, made this possible. He did not relate this history to me in a superior sort of way; rather, he relayed it in a matter of fact manner. A prolific writer, he is living the dream most writers can only envision. I purchased one of his books, asking him for a suggestion about where to start reading in his author’s list. The book is very, very good.

I also spoke at length with another award-winning author, Salvatore Scibona. He and I spoke in Italian about food, recipes, and books, pretty much in that order. While he is not as prolific an author as Wesley Chu, Salvatore writes about one book on an average of every eight years. His invigorating class on language, mind, and words heightened my already orbiting awareness of the critical use of words in my writing.

However, unchartered territory awakened in me throughout Amelia Martens’ class on prose poetry, which sounded like a literary oxymoron. She led us to explore prose poetry’s “resilient, subversive fluidity.” The more prose poetry we read, including hers, the more intrigued I became. Inspired, I began working on an epistle form of prose poetry that first day of the conference. By the time open reading night loomed large, after agonizing over revisions throughout the conference, I read my prose poem to the crowd at the Serendipity in Bloomington. I am generally unfazed by public performances, but by putting my new work in an arena in which I had never written previously, terrified me. Yet I plucked up my courage, took deep breaths, and jumped in the foray. Once in front of the audience, I summoned up my performance know how. Afterwards, Amelia urged me to keep writing prose poetry since I have a talent for it! Who would have thought it? Not I.

One of the most invigorating things about a writers’ conference is the synergy, the exploration new ways and means that revitalize the imagination. Surrounded by talented writers awakens creative muses within me. The art of writing satisfies a need in me, much like my vocal studies and performance did. I cannot imagine doing anything else. As I gaze down the time tunnel, I see light at its end, not death, but a full-time writing life in my imminent future with Valentino and Chanel in tow.

Ciao for now.