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  • Writer's pictureTessa Floreano

My first author talk

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Poster for Author Talk at Shelton Library
Poster for Author Talk at Shelton Library

Today, at 11 AM precisely, I was the featured author at the Timberland Library's Author Talk in Shelton, WA. I was a small bundle of nerves when I walked through the front doors and saw an easel with my name on it welcoming me. "Author Talk Tessa Floreano 11 AM" it read. That, and the color flyer they designed (see above), was enough to almost make me turn on my trembling heels and run out the way I came in. My friend Suzanne was right behind me and was my stalwart companion on this new adventure in the world of aspiring author. Her nearby presence and assurance anchored me throughout the morning.

When I walked into the room, my husband, my husband's nephew, and his wife were also there. Having so much support from friends and family helped me set aside my jitters, and get ready to face a small yet interested audience. My husband had already set up a video camera, and Amanda, the library representative, brought me a much-needed podium and projector.

I had developed a short, but hopefully, engaging PowerPoint deck detailing my research into the history of Italians in the Pacific Northwest. I started the presentation with some background on my family history as a first generation Italian-Canadian citizen (I have dual citizenship), who was born in Toronto and raised and educated in Vancouver, B.C. I briefly mentioned my academic life as a business major and early career years in the world of finance in Vancouver, B.C., then I lead into my marrying an American and becoming an immigrant in the United States in 1999. I described how I always wanted to be a storyteller (my first love) but was waylaid by other, more lucrative career options, but am now getting back to my avocation.

I began the research part by touching on the state of Italy approximately 170 years ago when its people were enduring decades of famine and mistreatment by an antiquated feudal system. The experience of misery or "la miseria" as it is known in the country shaped like a boot is what lead to its people's determination to follow a charismatic military leader, Giuseppe Garibaldi and his troupe of Red Shirts, to seek independence from the fractured kingdoms, ducal states, and Papal States that made up a divided land. This independence fever garnered the people a unified republic between the north and the south in 1861, and the resulting movement became known as the Risorgimento.

But the reunification still wasn't the salve people sought, and many from the Mezzogiorno, the region south of Rome, left their homeland in search of a better one, and more often than not, they landed in Canada and the United States. From 1900 onwards, more than 20% of Italians (as they were now called after Italy became a nation in 1861) emigrated. Many left hoping to make enough money to eventually come back, and many did, but still more, stayed, assimilated, and became Canadian or U.S. citizens. Even though most Italians were illiterate and from rural areas, most sought jobs in large cities applying the logic that they could make more money in the cities, and faster, too. The reality was much different. It took longer than many expected and the hardships included discrimination, stereotyping, and xenophobia that squarely impacted their prospects for improving their economic hardships. But despite all the name calling, job shut-outs, etc., they persevered and advanced so much more than they could have dreamed back home.

I touched on all this in my talk and then some to show what my protagonist, 25 year old Aquilina Da Ponte and her family faced in 1930s Portland at the start of the Great Depression. The post-Flapper era is the time period where my novel, LINA'S FATE (placeholder title), opens. I then described how Aquilina, otherwise known as Lina, was the first in her family to graduate from college. In her case, it was with a journalism degree from Reed College in Portland, and how she sets her sights on becoming a real reporter à la Lois Lane. But with no women journalists at her paper, The Oregonian, and it being less than a year after the stock market crash of '29, the only job she could get was as a copy girl. Times being what they were, she has to count herself lucky to get what she could.

However, in her dreams, she wants to scoop a Page One story, but how will she ever come across such a story? A rumor makes its way to her and she decides she will pursue uncovering the truth of it—all without her boss knowing about her behind-the-scenes machinations. In the midst of her secret pursuit, Nate Hawkins, her arch-nemesis at the paper, thwarts her every attempt to keep her activities hidden and threatens to expose her. With stakes rising and crimes mounting, she keeps her determination intact and ultimately triumphs, though not without some serious setbacks, many personal, along the way.

After numerous slides filled with timelines, maps, and photos, and a few hints at the plot and themes of my story, I read a short scene to the audience, giving them a taste of what's to come when my manuscript is finally finished and published, and hopefully, into their eagerly awaiting hands.

While I used to be an old hand at giving presentations in the investment industry, today's talk showed me how rusty I was and pointed out to me a few areas of improvement for the next time I give a talk. Though I felt I was as prepared as I could have been, and despite my nerves, I pulled through my first talk and will take to heatr my lessons learned. Future audiences, and potential readers, will have a better experience next time they hear me speak, and, I hope, a good historical mystery in their hands at the same time.

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