Monday, November 28, 2016

Leo Journal: "Dreaming about dreams"

Lost entry from the Leo journal:

Sept 23, 2016

My little genius bounds up the stairs at 7 a.m. yesterday, and while Mike steps into the shower, Leo and I cuddle on the bed, which spurs him to say: 

“I dreamed about dreams. What did you dream about?”

This one little sentence, for me, tells a long story. A beautiful and complex story. Not only is Leo smart enough to talk about dreams, and to either recognize the themes of his dreams or realize it’s tricky to suggest one could dream about dreams, but he’s also learned to ask other people their opinions. 

He wants to dialogue with others. He doesn’t simply want to talk about himself. 


Monday, November 21, 2016

The Reader's Lament

I’m in heaven and I’m in hell. And it’s a very specific form of heaven and hell.

What I mean is, my partner has just returned from Italy and he’s come back loaded down with every periodical known to man, specifically to Italian man (everyone but Nuovi Argomenti, that is, the one I asked for. Pazienza, he’s not a writer. He’s just an engineer.)

For someone who is a writer and an aspiring Italian translator such as myself, the bounty is Christmas-morning worthy. 

I now have the joy of looking forward to reading the Saturday editions of Il Corriere della Sera (with the culture section, yes!) and La Repubblica, plus a special edition of Bell’Italia (the most beautiful magazine I've ever seen, as I never tire to say) and a copy of Io Donna.

But mind you, a few weeks ago, I'd returned from ALTA (the American Literary Translators Association conference) where I snapped up a book of poetry by Eduardo Chirinos, a Patrick Modiano book and a literary travelogue of Mexico.

All of these reading materials arrived on top of reading I was already doing, including The Best American Short Stories of the last 100 years and E' Tutto Vita, a mass-market fiction book by the well-known Italian author (and TV personality!), Fabio Volo.

So what am I getting at?

Well, I want to dive right into the periodicals. I’m translating a book right now that is full of slang and I know that the magazines and newspapers will help me place certain expressions in the current moment of Italian popular culture.

It’s also just fun. Like an archeological dig for someone obsessed with the Italian language. I enjoy even reading captions of the articles on applying makeup and styling one’s hair (topics I normally have no interest in). Why? Because I love the otherness of Italy. I love the way they say “classe 1980” to indicate someone was born in 1980. In the class of 1980.

So what’s the problem?

Well, I have a lot of other reading to do. A lot. Like anyone who wants to translate, I’m constantly reading new Italian novels and perusing Web sites and lit mags for info on up and coming short story writers. (Finally finished Nadia Terranova's Gli Anni al Contrario).

I also have reading to do as an adjunct college professor. (I've assigned "Nickel And Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich to my Freshman composition students).

In other words, how does one balance all the reading one needs to do to remain in touch with his/her culture of obsession? (Or just one's intellectual obsession).

Does anyone have strategies to share? One that I often fail to adopt is to bring a book everywhere with me. I'd love to hear other ideas.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Final projects for 2016 -- how's it looking?

One way to consider the end of the year is to think about holiday parties and shopping.

But writers (and other creative people) have to also think about what they can finish (and possibly submit) in the final weeks of the year.

Yes, now's the time to think about this!

Take a look at your goals for the year. How are you doing? You don't need to grade too hard -- things change. Look at me.

My original goals for the year were:

*Publish a work of fiction somewhere (Ha ha!!!! Did not happen)
*Establish a regular exercise routine (not so much)
*Get a byline in a major national magazine (Still working on that one)

Then halfway through the year, I invented some other goals -- really I suppose replacement goals. And I'm doing pretty good on that front:

*Begin translating in earnest (I submitted my first translation to a literary magazine so I will check this one off)

*Find a regular editing gig (I'm now a contract editor, working part-time, at CNN so I will also check this off)

*Blog regularly for a literary magazine (I've developed a good relationship with Asymptote Journal, a wonderful online literary mag that celebrates writing in translation and world literature -- so that gets crossed off, too! Woot!)

But there's still more work to be done. Here's what I hope to do before Dec. 31, 2016:

*Finish translating the first half of an Italian novel I've been working on this year

*Submit something to a literary magazine before the end of the year -- in my case, probably a story from my Bennington thesis

*Finish the short autobiographical essay for a reach publication (reach!)

*Capitalize on the success of my New York Times essay by submitting another essay about parenting (possibly to the Washington Post)

I would love to hear from others (writers but also other creatives) about how you're mapping out the final leg of the year.

Buon lavoro, as they say in Italian!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Leo: “Do you have my number?”

From the Leo journal: 

May 14, 2016
From the backseat of the car, I hear, “Mommy I’m calling you!” 

I turn to look at him and I see he’s posed his hand against the side of his head as if holding a phone. We then proceed to have a pretend phone conversation. Swoon.

May 21, 2016
Leo says I should call him. Then he asks, “Do you have my number?”

(Editorial note: Oh I got your number all right, pal, as my mother might say)

When I “call” him as I stand a foot from him, he says, mimicking responses he’s heard me say, “Who’s calling?” 

When I ask him what he’s doing, he says, “Good.”


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

My 'Italian' Christmas -- it never gets old

I will always get a thrill from seeing a mass of Italian magazines, newspapers, coffee containers, biscotti packages and other sundry items from Il Bel Paese -- especially if it's all for me!

In fact, this phenomenon of Christmas in October (or July or March) is the basis for an essay I wrote for Catapult that you can find here.

Basic summary: Mike has just returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy and now he's hauling back treats for not one Italophile, but two (hard not to love Italian things when your name is Leonardo).

I'm in magazine heaven, biscotti heaven, southern Italian coffee heaven, etc. And I have a new t-shirt! Not as good as Mike's, though, which actually features a shark plane dropping cannoli out of its cargo hold. Ahhh....Sicily!

This is really the only kind of shopping I love.