Thursday, December 06, 2007


Interview with Daniella Barsotti – Summer Contest Runner Up!

WOW: Daniella, congratulations! You must have felt great when you learned the results.

I was happy to be a runner up. I hadn't written in a while and I thought contests were a great way to "get back into it" so it meant a great deal do so well.

WOW: I bet it did! So, tell us what encouraged you to write "Sea Breeze Revisited."

Daniella: I instantly thought about the best vacations of my childhood and now that everyone in our family lives in the same province it was easy to remember those good times I had with my cousins and my sister. I am very influenced by my childhood in Trinidad and Tobago. It shows up in almost everything I write. Sea Breeze was the name of a house in Toco in North Trinidad. My Uncle and Aunt rented a house there for something like a month and invited the cousins to come up for a couple weeks at a time. I remember loving being there with no TV and just a few music tapes and just loving being by the beach every day. My teenage cousin and I, who are nine months apart, talked about everything from boys to movie stars to skin care tips. We were on the beach sun up to sunset and everything about being there is fresh in my mind. I can taste the food, I remember the people and a lot of what is in the story is true--and yes, Ralphie could move a huge rock with his bare foot! If I had to re-live a vacation it would not be the one to Disney or to New York or Barbados--it would be to Sea Breeze because it was just pure simple fun. Bugs and lizards and all. It was good clean childhood fun. Childhood is getting shorter and shorter and I like to reflect on mine because it was an easier, happier time for sure.

WOW: That sounds quite memorable! In your bio you mentioned many points that help you with your writing. I’ll begin with “the culture and natural beauty of [your] native Trinidad and Tobago”; how does the culture and land inspire you?

I think the lush beauty of Trinidad, the different ethnicities, religions, cuisine, music and of course Carnival all blend together to make me realize that I came from a small island with so much to offer. There is a relaxed nature about Trinidadians and Tobagonians that bring a calming sensation to people whenever you meet them and no problem is ever a problem. Whenever I need to re-focus my life I take a trip home if I can and I return refreshed and ready to take on North American life again. The culture of Trinidad and the scenery is always alive in my mind and whether it is a story for a kid’s magazine, romance writing, fiction or nonfiction, I can pull anything from my memories of home and come up with something to write about.

WOW: Sounds like an abundant resource to tap into for your writing! You mention, also, that your “biggest inspiration” comes from your family, especially your autistic child. How has your child made you a “much better person,” and how does this feed into your writing?

Daniella: When my son was diagnosed I think I spent a long period of his early years in a place of grief. I was not the person I used to be and, in fact, I had become a pretty rotten person. Then as life always does, something happens and you can either go down the toilet or you can rise above it and go to a better place. Therapy after therapy was not working for him and then we found the Son Rise Program in the US and I changed. When I returned home after the first conference, I was able to let the not so good parts of myself go and turn my family around and got us all to a better place and our son responded so well to the new methods I had learned. He has achieved so much in such a short time that sometimes I forget he has autism.

I decided to write something positive about autism because there are so many books out there that are so clinical or so sad that I hardly finished any of the ones I'd read. Since Adam's great turn around we decided to move from out west to be closer to family. We made some big changes--sold our house, quit jobs, and packed the moving truck and drove across the country in an RV. There is something about a family in a small space with just each other for a whole week. We made several stops and saw quite a bit of the country and the kids got closer, our autistic kid spoke more, and we just enjoyed being alone after all the years of therapists in and out of the house, and the team meetings, the individual program plans, and all the intrusion that comes with autism--we were alone to just enjoy being a family.

When I look at my son and my entire family, for that matter, I realize that in life everybody gets something and you can either go with it or let it crumble you. Looking at my autistic kid and how hard he works sometimes at the simple things in life inspires me to be a better person. I see so much beauty in him and what he does and sometimes the way he does things are so interesting and unique. I feel fortunate to witness the workings of his mind. He is funny and thoughtful and innocent and simply good. My other child is an old soul who is the younger sibling, but is already a kind and sensitive person who says the most amazing things, many of which I have written down and will quote in my book. From the mouth of babes as they say. My husband is my strength and is this bright light that sparks just when I need it the most. I could not do this (autism) without him or at least I could not do this as well as I do. I feel that we were blessed to have a child with autism because it has uncovered parts of everyone in my family that I would never have otherwise seen. It has made my life full and has inspired me as I lived through my lowest lows and my highest highs. I have also met some of the most wonderful people in the world, none of whom I would have met if my son were not autistic. It is strange, but I am actually grateful for every moment in my life and I take pieces of it all and write down everything that comes into my mind. Piecing this book together is taking a really long time.

WOW: You have come a long way. It’s great to hear so much encouragement that’s grown from something that began so bleakly for you. Have you found encouragement from other books or authors you could recommend?

Daniella: Books that have inspired me (Re-autism) are not those that detail the misery of autism. I tend to prefer humor and books on hope. I love Son Rise: The Miracle Continues by Barry Neil Kaufman and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I like Mel Levine`s A Mind At A Time and The Myth of Laziness.

WOW: Thanks. Do you have any other goals for your writing career?

Daniella: I want most of all to get my book on my experience with autism published and I want to link it somehow with the foundation we are starting in Adam`s name to help other families like us. As for the rest of my writing I will keep at it, writing in the genres I fancy and hopefully I will get my stories published. If I don`t, I will still get pleasure from writing and I will write for the rest of my life because I just love to do it.

WOW: Do you have any advice for our readers?

Daniella: Hmm. Advice--A teacher I had in University said, “Do what you love and the money will come later.” His name was Gerry Good and he taught a course in our Radio and Television Arts program in Toronto. If you are doing something you don`t love, why not try doing something you love and are good at? Chances are it was what you were meant to be doing. Writing is not an easy way to make a living but if you enjoy it and work at it, it can perhaps be financially rewarding but mostly it will fulfill your soul.

WOW: For readers who haven’t read Daniella’s winning entry, go here.

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Blogger Diary of a Fiction Writer said...

Daniella, you say that piecing your book together is taking a really long time, but from what you have already told us--so much of what is in your heart--clearly your book will be worth the waiting. Please keep us informed as your book progresses.

12:35 PM  

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