Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Artisan's Star by Gabriella Contestabile (Book spotlight, author interview, and giveaway!)

Today, I want to introduce you to Gabriella Contestabile, author of The Artisan's Star, which is currently on tour with Italy Book Tours. If you want to be immersed in the Italian culture, Florence and the art of perfumery, then you need to check out the book! Read my review of it here.

About the book

Elio Barati’s perfumery shop in Florence marks its entrance with a mosaic star. This shop immerses Elio in the artisanal world he loves, but he harbors a regret. As a young man he created a full-fledged perfume of jasmine, iris, and cypress at the renowned Ecole des Parfumeurs in Grasse—a fragrance his idealism and stubbornness boxed away before ever bringing it to light. 

A second star now brightens Elio’s life, his daughter Romina, an artist. She has her father’s unrealized talent, a precise and intuitive sense of smell. She's also inherited more challenging traits of Elio's: unbridled ambition and an insatiable wonder for the world.

But changes ripple through modern-day Florence. Artisan traditions wane; and when Romina tells her father she has no intention of running the family business Elio fights to hold on to the Florence he cherishes. Confronting the lost opportunities of his youth, Elio is thrust into this journey by five spirited women: his Greek mother, Elena; his mentor Palma; his soul mate, Marina; his astronomer wife, Sofia; and finally his beautiful artist daughter, who like the city of her birth, shows him how tradition and modernity can and must co-exist. 

Now he must alter his own path by harnessing the transformative powers of the fine and artisanal arts.

Where to buy the book

An Interview with Gabriella Contestabile

Please help me welcome Gabriella as she discusses her book and her writing.

LF: Gabriella, welcome to Essentially Italian. There are many books out there about Italy. What makes yours different?

GC: One cannot say or write enough about Italy. I’ve drawn inspiration from writers who’ve ventured into this gorgeous territory before me, (Mary McCarthy, Frances Mayes, Anton Gill, R.W.B. Lewis, Bernard Berenson, Francesca Marciano). I have always been drawn to the sense of place and the way it influences the way we feel, think and act. I love to see, re-visit, and describe the sensory detail around me, while traveling, or just walking around familiar streets. So “The Artisan’s Star” is both a novel and a travelogue. The characters inhabit artisan workshops, cafes, wine bars, and country vistas that continue to draw the curious traveler to Florence and surrounding Tuscany.

Throughout my life I’ve wanted to travel to the places I saw made real through literature. Reading about a character in a setting, following his thoughts, her revelations, their observations, makes one feel present in that very spot. It all comes together; the visual detail, the smells, the memories and fears that play against the backdrop. Setting is a character unto itself. In ‘The Artisan’s Star” present day Florence joins with Romina to wake Elio up; force him to confront his fears and regrets, and embark on a new dream.

LF: I enjoyed your book and of course, its setting. What advice would you give budding writers?

  • Make time to write. No matter how demanding your life may be. Everything is material. Even that moment when you feel the entire world is conspiring against you is an opportunity to put thoughts to paper. Someday one of your characters will face a similar conflict and those thoughts become insights.

  • Don’t let fear in. There are stories out there that need to be told, yours among them, and very often it’s art, not traditional news, that enables us to fully understand the world we currently live in. There are sparkling new voices and resonant older voices. There are emerging new literary styles and conduits. It’s a very exciting time. 

  • Ask for feedback. I owe my writing teachers and my developmental editor a million thank yous for their unsparing feedback. Their goal, and mine, was to create a meaningful and transformative reader experience. They kept me focused on that vision and, in the process, taught me my craft. 

LF: Excellent advice. Do you have another profession besides writing?

GC: I’ve had a number of career incarnations; foreign language teacher, international training and education executive, free-lance writer. Somehow I’ve always ended up doing something that involved, writing, teaching, travel, and languages. So I suppose that in an unfocussed way I have followed my dreams, or taken all sorts of crisscrossed paths to get here.

Right now I’m on a three-tiered path. I’m going to keep writing both fiction and non-fiction. I’m also President and Founder of a boutique travel company that specializes in artisan-inspired tours of Florence. And, as a result of my volunteer work, with Dress For Success, I’ve designed a series of training workshops related to the world of work. Once a trainer always a trainer I say. Empowering women and girls through education and training is one of the initiatives I’m most passionate about.

Again, all these pieces interlock. They’re about ‘work’ in its many forms, our connection with it, how we shape our life choices around what we do, don’t do, or want to do. It took me awhile to see the connection but it’s there. And I go back to the philosophy that one’s life is a work of art, to be continually sculpted, shaped and re-imagined, around the life events we encounter along the way.

LF: You are one talented lady! How long have you been writing?

GC: Since second grade in Ottawa, Canada. It’s a funny story. Back then in Catholic schools we took some serious penmanship classes. We had to learn free-hand cursive without resting our wrists on the desk. I was so bad at it my mother made me practice all my letters everyday. I got bored writing those same letters so I started writing stories instead. And I haven’t stopped. I remember the day I started, at a round wooden table in our 6th floor walk up apartment on Bank Street, on a snowy day.

LF: I didn't know you spent part of your childhood in Canada! Do you write every day?

GC: Yes. But the length of time varies depending on my schedule. I make it a ritual to write in my big notebook/journal when I first wake up. It’s when my ideas flow more freely. Just the feeling of waking up to a new day provokes fresh thinking.

LF: Thank you, Gabriella, for taking the time to answer my questions and for allowing us to get to know you better.

About Gabriella

Gabriella Contestabile is an author, educator, and owner of SU MISURA JOURNEYS, a boutique travel company connecting people to the artisans of Florence. She emigrated, with her parents, from Italy to New York City in 1959. In her pre-writer life, she worked as a foreign language teacher, management development specialist, and fragrance/cosmetics executive. Gabriella is a strong advocate of the arts, of multiculturalism, and of social justice—a passion inspired by reading Dickens and Dante at a very young age. 

She has been an active volunteer with Dress for Success for over eight years and is a member of the Slow Food NYC Food and Farm Policy Task Force. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, her daughter, her mom, and a furry Shih–Tzu named Oreo. ‘ The Artisan’s Star’ is her first novel. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, also set in Italy, and a screenplay.

Connect with Gabriella: Website ~ Twitter ~ Amazon Author Page ~ Su Misura ~ Facebook


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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mailbox Monday and The Sunday Post, April 19 Edition


Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia who now blogs at To Be Continued. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Mailbox Monday now has a permanent home on its blog. Link up to share your MM.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on your blog for the week ahead.

This one will be on tour with Italy Book Tours from June 1 to 19. If you're interested in reviewing it you can find more info here

What happens when you get sucked into the world in which you were sketched? I can't wait to read this book. Did you guess that this fantasy world is based on Italy?

Drawn by Chris Ledbetter

Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron longs to win her heart through art.

After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is with her boyfriend and her family. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to ever speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request.

To impress Farrah with a last-ditch effort, Cameron sketches her portrait. But the sketchbook he uses hides a dark secret. Farrah’s now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her siphons her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book.

If he fails… they both die.

Past week on my blog:

Florence Travel Guide by Laura Morelli (if you love Italy, you need to check out the Authentic Arts series by this author who is a historian and who introduces you to the artisans in Florence)

Coming up on my blog: 

The Artisan's Star by Gabriella Contestabile (Author interview)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Spotlight: FLORENCE: A Travel Guide to Fabrics, Frames, Jewelry, Leather Goods, Maiolica, Paper, Woodcrafts & More and ARTISANS OF FLORENCE: A Shopper's Companion - Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts Series (plus Giveaway!)

Hi Everyone! If you like to travel, especially to Italy...and especially to Florence, then you have to take a look at Laura Morelli's new Authentic Arts series. Today, I am spotlighting the second set of books in this series.

"Laura Morelli has set out to make you an expert in handmade crafts." --American Style Magazine

About the Book

Going to Florence, Italy?

Don't buy anything in Florence until you read this book!

If you're traveling to Florence, Italy, you want to go home with a special souvenir: a leather handbag, a piece of gold jewelry, hand-printed stationery, or one of the city's famous luxury fabrics. But selecting which jacket or which wallet to buy can be an intimidating experience. How do you know if you're buying something authentic, something made in Florence, something made in a traditional way? How do you determine if you've fallen prey to one of the city's many tourist traps?

Florence boasts some of the most famous artistic traditions in the world. Here's what you need to know about them.

Laura Morelli leads you beyond the souvenir shops for an immersive cultural experience that you won't find in any other guidebook. This indispensable guide includes practical tips for locating the most authentic goods in one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world. Packed with useful information on quality and value, and with a comprehensive resource guide, Laura Morelli s Authentic Arts: Florence is the perfect guide for anyone wanting to bring home the unique traditions of the capital of the Renaissance. 

Artisans of Florence is the companion to Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts: Florence: A Travel Guide to Fabrics, Frames, Jewelry, Leather Goods, Maiolica, Paper, Woodcrafts & More . Put both books together and you'll be the most knowledgeable traveler in Florence!

About the book

Artisans of Florence is the companion to Florence: A Travel Guide, bringing you inside the workshops of several dozen of the most accomplished makers of Florentine fabrics, hand-carved frames, and other treasures. Put both books together and you'll be the most knowledgeable traveler in Florence! 

"Laura Morelli has set out to make you an expert in handmade crafts." --American Style Magazine

Laura Morelli, an art historian and trusted guide in the world of cultural travel and authentic shopping, leads you to the best of Florence's most traditional arts. Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts series is the only travel guide series on the market that takes you beyond the museums and tourist traps to make you an educated buyer--maybe even a connoisseur--of Florentine leather, ceramics of the Amalfi Coast, Parisian hats, Venetian glass, the handmade quilts of Provence, and more treasures. 

Bring Laura Morelli's guides to Florence with you, and you'll be sure to come home with the best of Florence in your suitcase. 

Where to buy the books

Meet the Author

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, “What’s the difference between art and craft?” was produced and distributed by TED-Ed.

Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy and four years in France.

Laura Morelli is the author of the guidebook series that includesMade in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker, a historical coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her first work of fiction.


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