I was born in Naples in Italy. We soon moved to Este, a very small town in the hills near Venice. It’s unmarked in the train schedules, encircled by the walls of a castle. We waded in and out of a dense fog all winter. I experienced the power of language early on as an outsider from the South by having to master the different Northern dialect. I was a listener rather than a talker. I was often ill. I heard someone point me out as ‘The girl who did not die.’ My shyness was painful in life but turned out to be a gift as a writer. I paid attention and observed. We moved many times in the same small town, then to Padua and finally Milan. My family moved and moved, like a dog turning on the same spot before sleep. In my early plays and stories there were no homes, no walls. People met in restaurants, cafes and train stations. The ordinary was a hallucination.
I went to the theatre and God knows what plays I saw. I remember the silence in the audience, and people on stage moving in the light. Theatre was for utterly amazing creatures who could stand under a beam of light and glow. I read American authors day and night. They wrote freely, madly, like people who had no Sunday dinners with extended family. They had nobody but themselves and wrote for themselves. I was spellbound. I loved reading and languages. I wanted more than what was available in translation at the time. I pursued a PhD in Modern Foreign Languages from Statale University in Milan. I was enchanted by Russian authors. They spoke of life like nobody else did: illness, melancholia, yearnings, the fear of days ahead unfolding endlessly.
When I left Italy for America, I didn’t know it would be forever. A gypsy by the Duomo in Milan had predicted I would be a movie star and marry a rich businessman. I am a writer and I am married to a theater director I met at his reading of a play by Dario Fo in New York, just before I was set to go back to Italy. I’m still here.
In the new land, at the beginning the ordinary felt like a hallucination or, at best, a mystery. How does a mailbox work with no slot in sight? Who is the fierce Exterminator knocking on my door at dawn? Even the size of a yogurt felt wondrous. That sense of dislocation and marvel later worked its way into a play, Magician’s Wife, the story of an Italian escape artist set in the era when Burlesque was outlawed and the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti ignited anti-immigrant feelings. The play was later included in the Ruth Easton Writer/Director series at The Playwrights Center and The Mollie Theatre Festival in Colorado.
I started writing plays in full in Los Angeles, after being invited by Oskar Eustis to be part of the Mentor Program at The Mark Taper Forum, where I worked with Maria Irene Fornes, Paula Vogel and many other extraordinary playwrights. At the time I was an acupuncturist and volunteering at a detox clinic. The patients were mostly homeless, Vietnam vets. One afternoon a young man showed up, with a backpack full of books. He had never had a home. He was wistful about it, and was very thorough in explaining to me, just in case I would need them, all the survival skills he had mastered. One day he disappeared. He used to tell me how sad he felt that his life would leave no trace. I wrote Sahara for him. The play was part of the Mark Taper Forum’s New Works Festival.
I took a post-graduate course in acupuncture at The Zhejiang College of Acupuncture in Hangzhou, PRChina just before Tiananmen Square. My play The Innocence of Ghosts, set in an acupuncture clinic in the P.R. of China, was an exploration of what moral mandates we question once our life dream is at stake. It had its world premiere off Broadway by Pan Asian Rep at Saint Clement’s Theatre in New York and has been filmed for the permanent collection of the Lincoln Center Library Theatre on Film Collection.
Fiction was the great love story I wanted guidance in pursuing. I lived and still live surrounded by novels and collections of short stories. There is simply no more room for bookcases in my house so I keep baskets of books under every table.
I always presumed I would not live long and die young of breast cancer like my mother, but one day I gathered all my courage and took a BRCA test. It returned negative. I resolved then to use the time left to me to fulfill my dream of writing fiction and took an MFA at Spalding University. I have never looked back. What still spurs me on is the fear of not writing (Fear makes us all martial, as Emily Dickinson wrote). It seems to me that inspiration comes down to paying attention, the delicate tension between what is there and what I actually see. It’s this disquiet that keeps me locked into whatever I am working on. When the torment of a little crush on my characters kicks in, it’s hard to stop.
Most recently I had a short story in the Best Small Fiction 2021. I found encouragement in being a prize winner of the TSR nonfiction prize 2020 and Honorable Mention for The Tiferet Journal 2019 Award. My short stories have appeared in The Sun, The Examined Life Journal, Gargoyle Magazine and Tampa Review among many others. “My Quilt – Writing and American English” was published in Brevity Blog. I am a member of The Loft Literary Center and The Playwrights Center in Minneapolis where I live now with my family. The War Ends At Four is my first novel and I am thrilled it found a home at Regal House.
My writing is often connected to one summer as a child that I snuck out to a gypsy camp on the outskirts of town. My father had warned me severely not to do that ever, and that gypsies ate worms and did math homework all day long. Squatting in the brush, I saw gypsy children jump in and out of the Bisatto canal, splashing naked, laughing, joyous. There is always another story.