In the past two years, since I published my first book, I have had the honor to be featured and interviewed on other authors’ blogs and websites. I remember how exciting it felt. I know that my books are doing as well as they are today because of the strong support I’ve felt from other writers, bloggers, and authors.
That’s why I am especially pleased to be able to feature a new author on my blog today. Not only is Victoria De Maio passionate about Italy, but she is also a
travel consultant, blogger, writer, tour leader & now, a published author. Congratulations, Victoria!
Welcome, Victoria De Maio!
Please tell us a little about yourself.
When I reflect I feel so grateful to have been raised in a small town; Napa, California. I’m second generation Italian (my maternal grandparents came from Tuscany and my paternal from Sicily). We were a small tight knit family and upon reflection, my pretty wonderful childhood seems very innocent and sweet.
I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a writer. As a matter of fact, I was actually first “published” in my early elementary years. I wrote a little story about my stuffed bunny that appeared in the weekly children’s section of the local newspaper.
In junior high school my English teacher was a strong influence. His comments and encouragement had an indelible impact on my dream of being a journalist and traveling the world. I even declared English as my college major but, when I received the recommended reading list, I was so intimidated (Beowulf? Chaucer? Shakespeare?) that I changed to a social science major and English minor.
Fast forward past finishing college in southern California, teaching, marriage, divorce, career transitions, corporate life, and a few “mid life” crises! I was compelled to re-evaluate and do a lot of soul searching and I made the decision to leave the corporate world and pursue what I felt was my true calling, teaching; not in the classroom but teaching yoga.
Several years ago, to supplement my income, I had the opportunity to be a travel consultant. It was a natural fit and I began learning the travel business. I started a newsletter and utilized a lot of the writing skills I had honed in my corporate life (business letters, marketing plans, proposals, etc.). It also afforded me the opportunity to do more traveling.
All of this time I was journaling and writing about writing a book! I kept hoping I would reconnect with my creative voice. Then, a little more than two years ago when I was going back to Italy for a month, I decided I wanted to start a blog. However, I was still on my flip phone and 10 year old 1-gig Mac! A coffee meeting with a friend (who happens to be a social media guru) ended up being a 6-hour life-changing afternoon. In a nutshell, I realized that I needed to take the technological/social media plunge…
By the time I left for Italy two months later I had a new iPhone, a blog site and a used Apple laptop. So, off I went to Italy to begin the next chapter. I managed to blog (learn as you go!) and when I returned I summoned the courage to submit my first article to a daily email newsletter, Italian Notebook, and it was published! Not only that, it was well received! I was over the moon!
About a year ago, inspired by other terrific bloggers and writers, I decided to write an ebook. Ideas were scribbled and filed, edited, refiled! Around the same time, through more wonderful social media connections, I partnered with a local tour expert in Puglia and, after two successful trips this year, became a tour leader.
Organizing and promoting the tours overshadowed the ebook…until this spring when the idea for my ebook distilled and became obvious – and, of course, the main character would be Italy!
After hundreds of hours, lots of coffee and hand wringing, my labor of love, Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style, was just published on Amazon. I have to say it’s a surreal moment. I only wish my parents were here …
When did you go to Italy for the first time and how many times have you been there total?
If I tell you the year, then some people are going to start doing the math so let’s just say it was back in those $5.00 /day days! I was a school teacher and went to Europe for a good part of a summer with three fellow teachers. Of course, our itinerary included Italy.
I remember coming home with fantasies of returning and teaching English in Italy (yes, I met a cute Italian) but “life” intervened and it actually took me over 20 years to get back! I went solo and joined a tour and it was marvelous. I remember thinking, “why did you wait so long to return?”
Since then I’ve returned six times, twice this year with my groups and additional independent travel. As soon as I get home, I’m homesick for Italy!
What is your favorite location in Italy and why?
This could very well be the most difficult question to answer because I love Italy so much and there are so many more regions I want to experience. If I had to choose one city, it would be Venice. For me, it is pure magic.
As a writer of your first book, do have any advice for aspiring writers?
Just start. Start today.
After many years of procrastinating and false starts, I decided I had to tap back into what I was passionate about and find my creative voice again. I was introduced to “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and it was exactly what I needed! It gave me permission to be imperfect. I could stop feeling guilty about that drawer full of beautiful journals that I had started and were filled with “good intentions” and to get a 99 cent spiral notebook and just WRITE! No editing, no rewording, not even rereading, just put it all down on paper.
I also struggled for years with that need to be perfect and the fear of rejection. When I started to blog, I read lots of other blogs and I realized that I could definitely write as well and in many cases, a lot better than what was out there. It was also an opportunity to risk rejection on a small tolerable scale! (Every day, I still have to let go of that need to be perfect and fire the internal judge!)
The beauty of a blog is that you are encouraged to have and express your own voice. It’s pretty much free to start and it’s all yours. And when you write from your own voice, it’s authentic, real and appealing. It’s like having a conversation and allows you to share what you’re passionate about. And you connect with others on the same path…(The other beauty is that you can edit, change, and delete anything at any time!) And I love that you can connect with an amazing community.
There’s no better time than now! Start, step out, tap into your passion, share it, find others who share it…enjoy the journey!
How long did it take for this book to come to fruition? (From concept, writing, editing to published)
For over a year I was toying with the idea of writing a series of travel tip ebooks. I had outlines and ideas. And there it sat while I worked on the other projects I’ve mentioned.
While preparing for my 6-week trip to Italy last spring, I also planned to write lots of notes for future posts/articles. One idea was to take notes (and photos) of what you will and won’t find when you travel to Italy. At some point I had my “lightbulb, aha!” moment to expand that concept into travel tips strictly about Italy.
When I returned, I made the ebook a top priority with the goal of publishing before the year was over. What started as a few thousand words grew and fleshed out over the next six month into 16,000 words. It’s was a rolIer coaster of ups and downs – excitement, inspiration, self-doubt, creative spells, writers block…the gamut!! But, once I knew what I wanted to do, I persevered. I was also fortunate to have the encouragement of supportive friends and, in particular, two fellow blogger/writers that I highly respect, Margie Miklas and Rick Zullo.
Over the months and hundreds of hours, it evolved. New ideas were integrated and my vision of how I wanted it to look and read took shape. I started counting the number of “editions” and drafts – there were over 30! I had connected with someone who professionally designs ebooks and when it was ready we started the nitty gritty of cover design, formatting, etc. More tweaking, editing, proofing.
Once the “finished product” was ready, then the technical business of getting onto Amazon and ordering my print proof. I have to say that getting the proof copy only two weeks ago was an incredible moment! Just pure “WOW!”
Earlier this month the final versions were uploaded and as of November 13th everything is “live” on Amazon! I’m now a published author! It’s an incredible milestone for me.
Where else can we find your writing in addition to your blog and your book?
In addition to a e-newsletter I am thrilled and honored to be a contributing writer for Italian Notebook, Italian Talks, and L’Italo-Americano. I also contribute to Beautiful Puglia and Stay.com. I also write guest blog/articles. You can Find Me anytime on my blog.
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
Next spring (and fall), I’m returning to Italy. I have small group tours to Puglia and Umbria. I will also do some “before and after” independent travel. Venice is definitely on the itinerary for next spring and Torino, Bologna and the Amalfi are possibilities. Stay tuned on my blog for updates!
What one travel accessory can you not live without?
My tech devices have become indispensable – primarily my iPhone. I love the Mophie battery pack/cover made for it as well. Since I use my iPhone for photos, the Mophie doubles my battery life so I can virtually take photos all day long and not run out of juice.
What is a favorite travel moment?
Oh dear, this is very difficult so I’m going to cheat and share a few. Many involve my attempts to speak Italian -Italians are just so patient and I embrace and love trying. One incident was when I was slowly greeting and asking a question in a shop in Florence. When I finished, the mother and son shop owners both smiled and said “bravissima!”
OK, one more…I love taking photos of people I meet – shop owners, merchants, artisans, waiters and servers, etc. I always ask their permission and they are always so surprised and flattered. Also, I always ask their names and thank them. Wonderful, special moments and memories!
How has travel changed you?
I don’t know how you can travel and not be changed. It has certainly changed me in a myriad of ways; it shifts my whole perspective and my priorities. The experience of traveling solo, what I call exercising my “courage muscles” and navigating my fears, has been especially rewarding and empowering.
There’s a great quote from Ibn Battuta that sums up how travel has changed me: “Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m usually researching and planning my next trip to Italy! Staying in close touch with my friends and social media communities is a priority and I do spend a great deal of time planning, marketing and sharing about my Italy tours and now, about my book.
I still teach yoga, love taking walks and find living and walking near the ocean nurturing. I am still trying to improve my Italian and love watching vintage and contemporary Italian films while hanging out in my pjs with a glass of wine and my Lulu kitty.
What is your favorite travel quote?
As a quote collector, I have so many but I have to go with Browning: “Open my heart and you will see Graved inside of it, Italy.”
Grazie, Margie, for the privilege and opportunity to be interviewed on your blog!