2021: The Year of Creativity

Welcome, 2021. I think it’s safe to say that everyone has been looking forward to your arrival.

Though it is a new year, that doesn’t mean that our work is over. We still have a global pandemic to combat. We still need to have those difficult conversations and take action against racial injustice. We have so much work to do.

This new year feels very different. I don’t feel as inspired as in years past. I’m burnt out and emotionally spent. However, I think that’s why continuing my tradition of establishing a theme for the new year is important, especially the one I came up with for 2021.

Last year’s theme was Self-Care (boy, was that ever necessary), and I am looking forward to continuing that theme with a little creative empowerment. This year’s theme is Creativity.

I have always been creative, from writing stories as a kid and journaling throughout my life to doodling and creating music. As I’ve grown, however, my creative aspirations have taken a backseat. I have found that my career and education are consuming my time, and I really want to balance out those responsibilities with embracing creative outlets.

When I think of a year of creativity, I envision a few things:

Writing: As a communications/PR pro and a graduate student writing a Master’s thesis, writing is definitely something I do all of the time. It can be exhausting, but I want to do more creative writing to balance it out. This year, I plan to update my blog at least once a week with bookish content. I also plan on starting my first book once my thesis is done.

Home: Ian and I bought a house this summer, and while we purchased it flipped, there are a lot of projects that we would like to complete. I would like to use my creative side and look at ways we can make this house even more of a home – from paint colors to wood accents to furniture and carpets! I’ll make sure to update this blog with our home decor.

Music: When I was 12 years old, my grandpa gave me a guitar for Christmas. I’ve always loved singing and performing, in fact, my theme for 2018 involved performing.

I learned basic chords and played a lot throughout high school and college, singing to my suite mates and future husband (hehe), but my guitar has been neglected. I now also own a mandolin and a ukulele, and I would like to learn how to play those too. Get ready for a year of music!

Do you have any goals for 2021? Share them below.

Book Review: ‘The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna’

Since I’ve finished Juliet Grames’ debut novel, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, my mind has been in somewhat of a haze. This is a good thing. That’s how I know I’ve read a really good book.

IMG_3374.JPGThere is so much to this novel; so much heartbreak and power. It will be hard for me to eloquently explain how much I loved this book, but I will do my best!

My introduction to this book started by being introduced to the author herself. One chilly evening, I drove from my workplace in downtown Hartford to Breakwater Books in Guilford, Connecticut, to meet and have dinner with author Juliet Grames.

 

I didn’t know much about her debut novel, so I spent the days before the event reading and researching. I read the novel’s positive reviews and the impact it has made on Italian-American women and families. I read about how it effectively portrays what Italian immigrants faced when they emigrated to America, and what the women faced in their small villages in Italy after their husbands left them behind.

Synopsis

From Calabria to Connecticut: A sweeping family saga about sisterhood, secrets, Italian immigration, the American dream, and one woman’s tenacious fight against her own fate.

For Stella Fortuna, death has always been a part of life. Stella’s childhood is full of strange, life-threatening incidents—moments where ordinary situations like cooking eggplant or feeding the pigs inexplicably take lethal turns. Even Stella’s own mother is convinced that her daughter is cursed or haunted.

In her rugged Italian village, Stella is considered an oddity—beautiful and smart, insolent and cold. Stella uses her peculiar toughness to protect her slower, plainer baby sister Tina from life’s harshest realities. But she also provokes the ire of her father Antonio: a man who demands subservience from women and whose greatest gift to his family in his absence.

When the Fortunas emigrate to America on the cusp of World War II, Stella and Tina must come of age side-by-side in a hostile new world with strict expectations for each of them. Soon Stella learns that her survival is worthless without the one thing her family will deny her at any cost: her independence.

In present-day Connecticut, one family member tells this heartrending story, determined to understand the persisting rift between the now-elderly Stella and Tina. A richly told debut, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a tale of family transgressions as ancient and twisted as the olive branch that could heal them.

The event

At the event, Juliet, a warm and gracious person, spoke of her novel and how it is based on her grandmother and her family emigrating to the United States. I couldn’t believe that a woman could have that many near-death experiences, but Juliet and her mother (Stella’s only daughter) confirmed!

Juliet read one of her favorite passages from her book. It details what Juliet’s great-grandmother (named Assunta in the book) had to do to survive with three children while her husband was in America. As she read, the Italian-American women in the room nodded with tears in their eyes (from laughter and sadness), saying that it reminded them of stories from their mothers and grandmothers. I sat there in awe after hearing this powerful passage (removing some spoilers):

“This was how the years passed. Assunta tended her three living children…she stitched their clothes and scrubbed them, washed out their diapers and kept them fed with bread she baked from the flour she ground from wheat she grew in the garden she tended. She preserved and pickled and salted and stored so they would never go hungry, even when there was nothing. To keep them warm through the winter she gathered firewood on the mountain and carried it home tied up in a linen cloth she balanced on her head, with Giuseppe strapped to her chest, Stella holding her left hand, Cettina her right. Assunta dug her own stones out and turned her own soil and pruned her own trees and drew her own water from the well five, ten times a day to cook and clean.

This was the trouble with emigration—it dismantled the patriarchy. Because really, what did Assunta, or any woman, need a husband for, when she did every goddamn thing herself?” (43)

Once I heard this, I knew I had to buy this book. Feminist tropes? Strong women? Yes, please. Plus, her family emigrated to Connecticut and lived a block from my office in downtown Hartford. There were many interesting ties. I read it in three days. I spent each night staying up way past my bedtime, and I never wanted it to end.

The review: 4.5/5

It’s hard to believe that this story based on real women. Juliet’s grandmother did have an accident that caused her to never speak to her sister for the rest of her life. This is her family’s story. This is what women and families faced, and continue to face. It is an important story about culture, family, and emigration.

albumtempHardship and trauma are such hard topics, but ones that we must read about. It helps establish our character, create perspective, and keep us far from ignorance.

I was intrigued by the patriarchal values that were, and still are, instilled in Italian culture and many cultures. I was enamored with the woman portrayed in this novel—the strong, raw story of Assunta and the life that she lived in Italy. The trauma and turmoil that Stella went through during her childhood and adulthood, married to a man she did not want to marry, constantly put in situations that shook her to her core. Not to mention, the physical trauma that she went through with her near-death experiences. It was gut-wrenching at times, but sometimes, you can’t turn away from the stories that make you uncomfortable. These women didn’t turn away; they persisted.

This book brought raw emotions. It brought tears and heartache, and I found myself having trouble disconnecting when I closed the book for the night. These are real people who went through so much struggle just to live the American Dream that many take for granted. There is still a struggle; there is still injustice. The women in Juliet’s family faced such strife, from poverty to heartbreak to the patriarchy. It was a remarkable book, and I’m so grateful to Juliet for sharing her family’s story.

If you’re interested in buying The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, you can buy it here on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Need free, beautiful images for your blog? Try Pixabay!

Hey everyone!

A few people have reached out to me asking what resource I use for some of my images, so I thought I’d write a post about it!

I discovered Pixabay a few years ago when I was a Content Producer for a local startup. I was covering education, pop culture, and other topics, and I found myself scrambling for copyright free images to use in my articles.

Pixabay is a super cool, life-saving resource consisting of a community of photographers and artists who share their copyright free images and videos. All content is released under a license that makes it safe for bloggers and writers to use the images without attribution—even for commercial uses!

When I am not posting traveling photos or my own amateur photography on my blog, I turn to Pixabay, and I am usually able to find the content I need. All you have to do is search specific keywords and there you go! Hundreds of images at your fingertips. These artists are absolutely incredible, and I always am pleased with the quality. If you can’t tell, one of my aesthetics is photographs of coffee, colorful journals, and pens! When I search “coffee” or “office,” I find tons of beautiful photos. Here are some examples:

coffee 1coffee 2coffee 3

Cute, huh?! I’m sure you’ve seen the bottom one on my blog before—it’s so peaceful and inspirational!

I can’t thank the photographers and artists enough for sharing their content so that amateur photographers like me can write tips and tricks and bring beauty to my website. While I do plan on using my own photography more on my blog (which I am starting to do), Pixabay is a helpful resource to find images for all sorts of projects!

What are some of your favorite blogging resources? Please share in the comments!

 

 

 

5 Quotes from Authors to Celebrate National Day on Writing

Today you might have noticed the hashtag #WhyIWrite on your newsfeed. That’s because today is National Day on Writing! By using #WhyIWrite, writers across the country have shared why they are dedicated to their craft. Today, I shared why I write:

The National Day on Writing was founded by the National Council of Teachers of English to bring more immediacy to the power of writing and encourage others to get involved in celebrating it. I wanted to share with you 5 quotes from some of my favorite authors on why they love to create and inspire through writing:

  1. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things: read a lot and write a lot.” ― Stephen King
  2. “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.” ― Toni Morrison
  3. “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” ―Ernest Hemingway
  4. “I’ve no idea where ideas come from and I hope I never find out; it would spoil the excitement for me if it turned out I just have a funny little wrinkle on the surface of my brain which makes me think about invisible train platforms.” ― J.K. Rowling
  5. “If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.” ― Margaret Atwood

 

How about you? Why do you love to write? What are you working on? Please share in the comments!