Tag: cultural differences

How I balanced my children’s grandmothers’ very different approaches to parenting

As seen in the Sydney Morning Herald. 

My mother is the doyenne of Australian etiquette, June Dally-Watkins. My mother-in-law is an almost illiterate farmer from the mountains of eastern Tuscany. Both are formidable, wise women.

But their mothering styles are biting opposites. One is a successful Australian businesswoman whose life’s work has been her career, the other a humble Italian woman who has dedicated her life to her family. Trying to glean child-raising tips from both has pretty much done my head in.

It might even be time to give up trying to be a good mum – or as my kids would say, mom. Or maybe mamma. Now 18 and 16, my children are half-Australian and half-Italian. They speak English with American accents and Italian with Florentine accents, and they flow easily between one and the other depending on their company. 

With such inherent cultural diversity, they don’t seem to suffer too much identity confusion. Whereas my maternal compass – born and raised in Australia, with one culture and one language – is frazzled. For 20 years I’ve been travelling between Sydney and my home in Florence, trying to work out which culture has the best parenting principles for my polyglots. 

Striving to be a good mum, mom and mamma by reconciling my birth culture with my new culture, I’ve naturally looked to my mother as a role model. But while navigating the choppy waters of my children’s teenage years, I observed my mother-in-law, too.  

Nonna Gemma on daily life:  “Never let your husband see you idle. When the working males return home, the women must not be seen relaxing. Men must believe their women are constantly on the move, cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, keeping house with rigour and determination. You are a signora. Ideally, you won’t have to work outside the home.” 

My mother: “Work. Get a job. He might leave you so you must have a career to fall back on. Look fabulous at all times. When at home, wear casual clothes and look even more fabulous.”

Nonna Gemma on cooking: “Always make something the grandchildren love, something they’ve eaten many times so that your food will not fail to disappoint, a reliable, heart-warming dish using a well-worn recipe of lasagne, or roast chicken with roast potatoes. Pasta should be home-made, chicken hand-reared and potatoes home-grown. 

My mother: “Cook something no one has ever tasted or heard of. Use a new recipe adapted to what’s in the fridge.” 

Nonna Gemma on raising children: “Never let the children do sleep-overs. One never knows what other families do when they’re in their own homes.”

My mother: “Let your children go. Trust them to make their own decisions, and the right decisions.” 

Nonna Gemma on raising teenagers: “Give them lots of cash. Buy them clothes because they are the family’s mascot, our representatives when out and about. Repair their clothes with a fully kitted-out sewing box.”

My mother: “Make children get a job to learn the value of hard work and money. Clothes are birthday and Christmas presents. There might be a hotel sewing kit in my cabin luggage bag.” 

Nonna Gemma on school lunches: “Nothing beats a container of pasta with a tomato sauce made from scratch with garlic, basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese. In a second container add chargrilled chicken with salad.”

My mother: “A sandwich made with white sliced bread and last night’s chicken and lettuce should do it.” 

Nonna Gemma on university education for their grandchildren: “Why should they leave home for university? Why have babies if you’re only going to send them away? At 18, they’re still children.”

My mother: “The world is their oyster. Make them international people. Let them stand on their own two feet. Send them away.” 

Nonna Gemma on table manners: “There are none.”

My mother: “Put your knife and fork together to show you’ve finished. No. Not like that, the blade must be facing inwards towards the fork. No. The plate is like a clock and the handles must be at six o’clock.” 

The only way to tackle such opposing child-rearing advice is to try to mix and match their guidelines until the balance between Italian “smother love” and Australian “tough love” is just right, like one of my mother-in-law’s recipes. 

Anglo-Saxons show their children they love them by teaching them how to do everything for themselves. Italians show they love their children by doing everything for them. Trying to be a good mum, for me, is about harmonising that while focusing on how I feel. Most people in bicultural families live in the present, look to our children’s future and try to honour the past. Finding the best child-rearing process in the middle of all that cultural identity can be hard, especially with such wildly different matriarchs. 

Both women are contradictory in every way, but hearing their opinions opens up different worlds for me as a mother. Neither way is right, just as neither way is wrong. There are two lifetimes of insight in their approaches, and there is value in learning from both. If only I could fathom how. 

Maybe it’s time to stop trying so hard, to stop judging, comparing, choosing and balancing. Perhaps if I keep my kids close, while trusting them to make the right decisions, I’ll succeed in being a good mum as well as bringing their grandmothers’ attitudes into alignment. There is only one thing I know for sure about motherhood, and it applies regardless of where you come from: children thrive on love, no matter what the language. 

How I balanced my children's grandmothers' very different approaches to parenting

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at lisacliffordwriter@gmail.com so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

We had a 10 day holiday, just enough time to really taste the area around Nice, Cannes and Antibes. I chose Vence for our Air B and B home with a pool because it is only a 5 hour drive from Florence. My mother is 90 years old and I am always scared to lose airport access in case I have to leave Europe at a moment’s notice. So south eastern France seemed like a good choice. Easy to get back home if I needed to fly out quickly, yet we were in another country on holiday.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.Our Air B and B house was 2 minutes above Vence, which has a higher altitude than the lower lying coastal towns. The traffic to get in and out of Nice to Vence was appalling and took us way longer than anticipated. On a map it says 20 minutes but in reality there were road works and crazy holiday traffic. So a day at the beach in Nice involved a lot of traffic.

I couldn’t recommend staying in the Col de Vence (mountains of Vence) area highly enough. This time of year it is so hot in the southern beach resorts of Europe and Vence, and though not the most picturesque village in the region, it is COOL! It also has everything you’ll need. When travelling with five teenagers it’s good to be near a chemist, supermarket, medical centre, takeaway, news agency, thriving piazza with cafes and the odd pub/bar for the older teens to ‘go out’ to.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.From Vence we did day trips to:

  • Gourdon
  • Bar dur Loup
  • Tourrettes
  • Coursegoules
  • Saint Paul de Vence

The favourite for everyone ended up being Saint Paul de Vence.

A South of France, Provence Food Tour is essential and was probably the highlight of my trip. This tour by The French Way was fantastic – tailor made for the likes of me or any food nut. Marion, a lovely young lady, owns and runs the business herself and is passionate about everything to do with cuisine, wine and oil. I would drive 5 hours right now to be with Marion and her food again.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

We had a Provence olive oil tasting at Maison Bremond but unfortunately I had a wee tussle with the French ‘manager olive oil teacher’ because she was treating us like we were utter idiots so I told her. Marion had to intervene when I went on to say she was making me feel very uncomfortable. Anyway, the ‘manager olive oil teacher’ and I made up and became friends (sort of) but still, I would tread warily in that shop on 15, rue du Pont Vieux, Nice. Especially when she called out ‘Bonjour’ to a perusing American client who responded ‘I’m just looking.’ To which our French manager olive oil teacher indignantly replied ‘I am only saying Good Day, I’m not asking you to buy,’ with a roll of her eyes.

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.A Wine Tasting was also necessary. The wines are so different from our normally quaffed Italian wines. I thought it a good idea to also go as ecologically sound as possible and chose A Taste of Nice: Tour de France of Organic Wines. Sublime! And seemingly without a headache – does it get better than that?

A day on the water was also a good idea – to see the French Riviera from the sea is beautiful. Book early on this boating idea – it was really hard to find a place for 9 people with 2 weeks to go to arrival time.

By far the best food we had was in Mar sur Loup. If you want a gorgeous lunch in a leafy garden go to L’Ecole des Filles – set in the old village school. 380 av Amiral de Grasse, telephone: 04 93094020

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

I rather liked all those French beaches but my Italian husband was not enamoured. Frankly, I didn’t know what he was grumbling about as I couldn’t see any difference between the Italian way of beaching and the French way of beaching. Both require loads of umbrellas, lined up row after row with easy access to a café/bar, shower and any other kind of soothing beach amenity. Comfort being the name of the game at the seaside in both France and Italy. Probably the French recliners were shoved closer together, that would be the only real difference I could see.

If you have any tips to add to these, please comment below – I am going back to this area so would love to try your ideas. Thank you in advance!

My tips for a trip to the south east of France.

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at lisacliffordwriter@gmail.com so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

Let food carry your story forward.

Let food carry your story forward.When food is beautiful, drab, compelling or repulsive we can and should include it in our stories.

Food can carry a story forward. Not only the actual food, but the process of eating it, dining around it and/or sharing a meal. Food used in a social sense can reveal much about people’s relationships with each other. When you include a meal in your story, the possibilities are endless.

Enjoying or rejecting food and the company sharing it can be the focus point a scene needs. Writers needs scenes in which to reveal… and scoffing, or quaffing, can give us just the ambience and atmosphere we need.

Let food carry your story forward.Think about how often you’ve seen meal times in movies used to show how a family or friends relate. Or how often you’ve read a book where the pivotal scene was over the dinner table.

Here, Ruth Reichl in her book Tender at the Bone, talks about going for her first coffee in Italy. It’s not a food scene, but one written so evocatively that it made me think about how often coffee is now used as a scene setter for the story telling.

The scent of beans was so powerful we could smell it from two blocks away, the aroma growing stronger as we got closer to the cafe. It was a rich and appealing scent, and it pulled us onward and through the door. Inside, burlap sacks of coffee beans were stacked everywhere and the smell of coffee was so intense it made me giddy. Thin men lounged against a long bar, drinking tiny cups of espresso. The coffee was smooth and satisfying, a single gulp of pure caffeine that lingered on the palate and reverberated behind the eyes. I felt lightheaded.

What a great way to set up a pivotal scene – through coffee!

Let food carry your story forward.

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at lisacliffordwriter@gmail.com so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

The scribbles of a mad woman.

Notes; the scribbles of a mad woman.I have notes everywhere. Handwritten notes on scraps of torn paper in the kitchen. Sentence ideas on note pads beside my bed. I have plot ideas on decrepit notebooks in my handbag. Characterization thoughts in A4 piles in the living room. Let’s not even go to the note mess in my office. Pieces of paper with line upon line of words. It’s quite depressing really.

Do the notes make sense? Most of them (to be fair). Will I ever use those notes in the book I am writing now? I don’t know. The notes, reminders, prompts and thoughts are becoming so out of hand that I will need a week dedicated to sorting them. They need to be transcribed.

Notes; the scribbles of a mad woman.The trouble is a week sorting the notes means a week without moving forward. That’s always the temptation. JUST WRITE – you know, forget about transcribing because I need to write. Move the book forward. So the handwritten notes stack up and depress me.

However, writing an opinion piece for a newspaper this week, a completely separate story from the new book, ideas flowed into the newspaper piece from various bits of note-taking. Those scattered notes are all in my head subliminally. I’ve noticed that even if I don’t transcribe, something happens once the words are down. It’s as though the notes imprint on my brain anyway, so even if I don’t transcribe, they are there. They are hitting the page, because the light bulb moments have been recorded. They are no longer hidden but real.

Notes; the scribbles of a mad woman.We’re supposed to be bower birds, us writers. Collecting realizations and moments. So it was with enormous relief when writing this newspaper story that I realized all those untranscribed notes are good for something.

So keep writing your endless Notes to Self. It’s about believing that some of them will be good enough to hit the page. And realizing that even if they’re not transcribed they are real, they are there.

But next week I really have to sort through my notes.

Notes; the scribbles of a mad woman.

Do you love writing? Would you like to join The Art of Writing team in Tuscany? Let’s dream, plot, write, learn and grow as writers for a week together.  Email me at lisacliffordwriter@gmail.com so that I can tell you more about our annual creative writing retreats.

Using my own Tuscan life in my new novel.

I am enormously fortunate to live a life rich with pickings for my writing. Scene ideas for my novel are never far away because for an Australian girl, everything I live here in Tuscany is unusual and interesting.

Using my own Tuscan life in my new novel.Last weekend I went up to cousin Vanni’s farm in Casentino, the mountains of Eastern Tuscany. We made sausages, pancetta, capocollo, capaccia, salami, ribs, pork fillet, prosciutto and cotecchino. We spent the day making these ‘salumi’ using every part of half a pig. The process we used has not changed for millennia, apart from the meat grinder – a mincer that in the old days was cranked by hand.

Using my own Tuscan life in my new novel.So here’s the tip: in every story something happens. Writers are always looking out for how and where a certain plot event can happen or evolve. I plan to use our ‘salumi’ making scene as an occasion where action takes place. While making our sausages, I took notes, but not your typical notes. My records center on the senses. What we smelt, heard, tasted and the scene’s atmosphere. These are the nuances we forget when we finally have time to sit down and write the scene we witnessed, sometimes even years beforehand.

Here are some of my notes as an example:

  • Using my own Tuscan life in my new novel.The smell of wine, vinegar, spices, cinnamon, raw garlic.
  • Cognac like tea drizzled
  • Red wine bubbles with garlic in an ancient pot on the austere stove-top
  • Using my own Tuscan life in my new novel.Silence punctuated by steel tubs being rinsed
  • The men hum
  • Bay leaves crackle
  • Fennel sticks and fennel seeds
  • Air is pungent, thick with these smells
  • The men work quietly, humming or breathing heavily through their noses as they work with their tube of sausage, twisting and knotting it into four finger lengths.
  • The women chatter in the kitchen as they pull pasta, mash potatoes with conserve and cinnamon.

This is just a simple example of what you can draw from, later, when you’re ready to write your scene. Can you do this too? Do you do this? Write the smells and sounds to keep ready for when you’re ready to structure your action scene?

Using my own Tuscan life in my new novel.

Why every writer should join a writers group.

There are no excuses anymore. By joining my little writers group in Florence I must write, must edit and must listen to my fellow writer’s thoughts and advice. Why didn’t I do this earlier?

Thinking of joining a Writers Group? Here's why you should.My writers group lets me know what is not clicking. So often we think our readers will understand, that they will ‘get’ what we’ve written. But my writers group lets me know that, actually, they didn’t pick up the thread because I wasn’t clear enough, or didn’t explain enough. Yes, it’s a little daunting, scary, being picked apart but it’s so good for your work! Your writing group sees where you can extrapolate. They let you know whether your story is engaging or not. My last question to my fellow writers this week was ‘do you want to know more?’ and that, as a writer, is what we are aiming for, no? Are you hooking your readers? Are they bored? Overwhelmed? Disinterested?

Thinking of joining a Writers Group? Here's why you should.I must say, I had put off joining any kind of writers group for years. It’s my first time. Funny, huh, after four books and finally on my fifth that I now know I need fresh takes, readers, second opinions. Probably because this is my first Fiction book, while the others were all Creative Non-Fiction. I cannot recommend sharing with a writers group highly enough. Especially if you are embarking on a new form of writing, like I am.

Thinking of joining a Writers Group? Here's why you should.Am I being narcissistic also adding that the thought of plagiarism within writers groups also scared me? I had heard of writers sharing their work, only to have ideas copied, concepts imitated and phrases plagiarized. But I flattered myself. Their work is fantastic! Who did I think I was? They’re amazing! My work is paltry compared to theirs.

Check your library or local arts group for any writers that meet up. Start a Google Docs Sharing session so you can all post your work, and pick the month to upload your work.

Go on, do yourself a favor and force yourself to diarize, write, share and enjoy writing with other people. Regularly!

Thinking of joining a Writers Group? Here's why you should.

How to make strong, memorable characters your readers won’t forget.

Make strong, memorable characters your readers won't forget.When writing Death in the Mountains, I made sure to give each member of my 1907 poor Tuscan family a characteristic or quality that made each person memorable.

  • Bruna liked to touch things. She was so in sync with the land and farming environment around her that she was tactile with the things she grew, made and created.
  • Artemio had bandy legs, a leftover from soft bones due to a lack of Vitamin D and rickets in his youth. He was swaddled and left inside for months without the sun. A common disorder of Tuscan babies in the past.
  • Fiamma was a fire brand, like her name which means flame.
  • Mario was violent and exuded anger like a perfume. Because of this characteristic he ultimately beat up the farm’s overseer. You can imagine the problems that caused!
  • Maria was beautiful.
  • Silvio hated wearing shoes.
  • Pasquale was only ever mentioned as ‘baby Pasquale.’

Make strong, memorable characters your readers won't forget.And onwards for each character within the pages of Death in the Mountains.

Giving each character at least one mannerism is a process that many writers follow. It helps writers dig more deeply into a character, enlarge upon or extrapolate the person or the location. It also helps readers remember your characters, no matter how big or small their part in your story.

What mannerisms or habits have your protagonist’s history given him/her? What kind of impact does that have on your story or scene?

Make strong, memorable characters your readers won't forget.The Italians are fascinated by beautiful women, more so than other nationalities that I have encountered. They LOVE a beautiful woman; they venerate ‘bella.’ Making Maria absolutely drop dead gorgeous helped me examine the Italians attitude to beauty. It helped me form Maria’s character; it even helped me create the narrative and plot line for the book. Who could fall in love with her? What impact would that have on the family? How did Maria feel about being so beautiful? Did she see the impact that she had on people? How did it feel for her father, Artemio, to go into town or church with a daughter that everybody stared at and talked about? How would Mario, Maria’s aggressive, troubled brother feel about her beauty? Was he protective of her?

Make strong, memorable characters your readers won't forget.In the end, giving Maria that physical characteristic of beauty helped me write a much better book. Her beauty gave me ideas, outcomes, reactions, actions, scenes.

In my next Blog I’ll look at the difference between superficial and deep characterization.

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram too for my new #WriteTipWednesday! Every Wednesday I’ll give a writer’s tip and then examine the issue more deeply with my Friday Blog.

If you’re interested in reading more about the rural life of Tuscany’s past, check this post out on Nonna.
Make strong, memorable characters your readers won't forget.

Keeping a character bible is the only way I can truly know my characters.

thumbnail_b2918e19018fad4042214c815df298c6Thriller and suspense writer, Conrad Williams, ran a fabulous class on character building during The Art of Writing this June. It was especially helpful for me because my two protagonists are American and, being Australian, it’s not easy to really know them instinctively, intuitively, and innately.

Enter the Character Bible.

Character defines us, helps us understand motive and convinces and persuades our readers. If we don’t know our protagonists deeply, the story becomes unbelievable and flawed. Character is what observers see in us. And it’s one of the first things a literary agent or publisher will look for in your manuscript – believable characters that respond and react according to their character.

Here is a quick checklist that doesn’t focus on the obvious. Do you know the answers to ALL these questions? How well do you know your character?

  • What kind of house do they live in?thumbnail_432374eeb9e5095840cabc53e59d2c5c
  • What kind of car do they drive?
  • Are they overweight or underweight or fitness freaks or lazy?
  • What kind of food do they like?
  • Kids? Strict? Easy going?
  • Their key relationships are with? (Very important because it can help with plot)
  • Education?
  • Work history?
  • Hobbies?
  • Birthday? How would they like to celebrate? How do they celebrate?
  • Special present they give? Like to receive?
  • Religion?
  • Profession?

thumbnail_art-of-writing-affirmation-03I didn’t know the answers to a lot of these questions and frankly, as I work through my new book, I am still looking for the answers to these questions (watch out American friends, I’ll be emailing you with questions). Unless my publisher advises me to make this protagonist couple Australian for marketing purposes, they will remain American. Till then, I’ll continue to track down a good understanding of them.

Do you have any other character traits to add to this list? Would love to hear your thoughts!

DESC: Agriturismo Corsignano ARTICLE NAME: USAGE: PRESS USAGE: 1st published DATE: TERRITORY: Australia and its territories ONLY PUBLICATION: MAGAZINE © 2009 Vincent L Long (PRESS USAGE: 90 days from date of first publication date ONLY) NB: Images may not be stored digitally, either in original format OR as a copy and must be removed from publisher’s archive immediately after publication. Image files may not be placed into publisher’s stock libraries or sublicensed or onsold to any third party libraries and are supplied for one time editorial use ONLY. Reproduction fees must be agreed with Vincent L Long BEFORE USE. Usage Rights subject to FULL payment of relevant invoice(s) MANDATORY ACCREDITATION MUST READ: © Vincent L Long

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?

It’s not every day that a friend publishes a gorgeous cook book on all things Florentine. But Emiko Davies has done it! With a superb take on dishes like gnudi, papa al pomodoro, panzanella and patate alla Contadina, Emiko is working right now on her second book, Maremma. Not only is she creating and styling everything in her kitchen, Emiko is also doing loads of the photography for both books herself. No small feat.

But how does writing and photographing a cook book happen? Looking back on life, what ingredients made Emiko’s journey into a recipe that ultimately equipped her for the perfect moment to write and shoot a cook book? It’s something that fascinates me. How our lives, whether we know it or not, are preparing us for wonderful opportunities. Loved talking this week to Emiko about her voyage into the world of cooking.

All photos are copyright Emiko Davies. For information on how to buy her book, visit her website at www.emikodavies.com.

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?Have you always loved cooking?

As long as I can remember I’ve always loved eating and cooking, equally. I was never a fussy eater and I have always loved doing things with hands (my educational background is in Fine Art, more specifically etching and art restoration, which I feel like are things that are as technical but also as creative as cooking is). I feel very comfortable in a kitchen, it’s the space I most like to sit in whether at home or on holiday or in someone else’s house!

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?
Emiko Davies

Can you think of a time in your early life when you realised that your career would be so food oriented? A food story of some kind that was your epiphany?

Earlier in my life I thought I’d perhaps be an artist. Or maybe a photographer. As a child, though, for a time I wanted to be a writer and an illustrator. Food was in the side lines, something I loved and turned to when I needed to relax, have fun, make new friends or impress boyfriends. I have moved from country to country my entire life (Australia, China, Japan, the US, Italy) and I always found cooking, comfortingly, something that could connect people across languages and cultures. When it changed from being just a passion to being something more serious was when I started writing my blog five years ago. At the beginning it was just for fun, an outlet that I needed at a time when I was in a real job and identity rut in Florence and things just took off from there.

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?How/where did you learn to take such gorgeous photos of your dishes? Where did you learn to cook?

I took photography as an elective during my four years at art school (Rhode Island School of Design in Providence), which involved mostly mucking around in a darkroom and occasionally producing something properly exposed. It wasn’t until I dove into a more intense photography course, still black and white film and still focused on darkroom photography, in Florence in 2006, that I really began to fully understand how to use a camera. I was using vintage cameras from the 50s and even the 1920s. When I decided to start a blog, I knew I’d had to make the jump and the investment to a digital camera — it was, still is, a huge learning curve, especially the editing side of things (so far I am fully self-taught!). Learning to cook was easier. I can remember standing on a stool next to my grandmother at her stove in Sydney, while she showed me how to make scrambled eggs — proper butter, and remove the pan from the heat before it’s finished cooking so the eggs don’t overcook. I was given my first cookbook as a child, and many a picnic was inspired by it. I devoured cookbooks and cooking magazines throughout high school and university. I just always loved being in the kitchen, making things.

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?

What inspired you to write Florentine, as in, why Florence?

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?It really was Florence that inspired the cookbook. I had lived there nearly 7 years when the idea for the cookbook came about. It was the place I had lived longer than any other city in my life, the place where I met my husband, where we got married and where I started the blog. It was the place where I fell madly in love with Italian food culture. In short, the place where it all started. It was also the topic I felt most comfortable with. Also, a properly written cookbook about Florence, only Florence, had never been done in English before. I wanted to write that book.

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?Looking back in retrospect, what was the work opportunity that changed your life?

I had just finished a three year degree in book and paper restoration at Palazzo Spinelli in Florence when I was given a job as a conservator at the Alinari Museum archives, one of Europe’s most important photographic collections. It seemed like a dream come true until the head conservator suddenly quit one day, and I was left looking after it all, on my own — but with an intern’s salary, which couldn’t even cover my rent. A few months later, I was forced to quit the job to work behind a reception desk — an easy, well-paid but soul-sucking job. I spent the days bored out of my mind, looking forward to what I was going to cook for dinner, or planning what winery or beautiful town with their wonderful local dishes to visit on the weekend. It was being in this situation and needing a creative outlet and something to look forward to that made me decide to start a food blog. I think if I had been doing something more fulfilling, I may never have bothered to start my blog.

Food, Florence and Photography. How did Emiko Davies wind up writing a cook book?How did you go about getting this book published?

I was sitting in my kitchen one day (it’s where you will always find me), when I got an email from a publisher in London who had read my blog asking if I’d like to write a cookbook. I couldn’t believe it. It took months of emailing, a visit to London and a pitch (Florence, of course) with recipes and chapters and photographs to illustrate what I had in mind. Six months later, I signed the contract with the Melbourne office of the publisher, Hardie Grant.

Over the next 18 months, the book was made, with my photographs of Florence (many black and white film — I couldn’t help myself), plenty of historical anecdotes and research, family recipes and favourite trattoria or bakery dishes, along with beautiful food photographs by Lauren Bamford, made pretty by Deb Kaloper (dishes that I was busy cooking in the kitchen with Marco, my husband, and Caroline Griffiths, a home economist in Melbourne). It was pretty much identical to the original pitch I sent them.

Learn more about Emiko Davies’ cookbook at www.emikodavies.com/cookbook.


Buzzed to read out loud.

images (1)

After five days in Fez, Morocco, living in a restored riad (typical Moroccan house) in the ancient medina (centre) with a writer who has penned twelve political thrillers, all of them set on the international stage, I was buzzed to get back home and get back into my new book.

Why? Because often my writer host, Sandy McCutcheon, would read his new book to me. We would sit in the blue and white tiled courtyard of his Moroccon home, sometimes with the Islamic call to prayer in the background and Sandy would read his new manuscript out loud.


The wonderful process of reading work out loud was one I had entirely forgotten. It’s incredibly rewarding to both the writer and listener to hear the pages. I know it can feel embarrassing, even odd, to give voice to new words but if we can overcome the awkwardness the writer is rewarded with many benefits.



A writer benefits from reading their work aloud because they:

Understand with fresh insight whether their structure and syntax is working or not


Hear the rhythm of their phrases, punctuation and how it’s all working with sentence construction

Get the sense of whether their suspense is paced correctly

Appreciate more fully whether character development is rational and believable or contrasting and contrived.

Reading aloud encourages, inspires and motivates all concerned.


In writing news from Florence, an on-line magazine for Tuscan based writers has been established. Called The Sigh Press editors are looking for Italian themed and Tuscan based stories.


Read more about Sandy and the Art of Writing retreat in Fez planned for November.



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