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Friday, February 10, 2006


Author Highlight: Carol Field

Carol Field

The third author featured at last Saturday's Festival of Women Authors was Carol Field.

Field has written six books about Italy and Italian food including In Nonna's Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy's Grandmothers. She recently published her first novel, Mangoes and Quince.

Field is an energetic and engaging speaker with an obvious love of all things Italian, especially the people and the food. She believes the study of food is a great way of looking at the history of the culture of a country. She said, as "it turns out, food is my muse in every way."

Field has made a career out of writing about Italy and Italian food-based traditions. Her first publication was a book about the breads of Italy. She wrote In Nonna's Kitchen after realizing that much of the time-honored traditions in Italian cooking are disappearing from modern kitchens. In part, this is because they are traditions based in poverty and more of the country now is middle class. She went looking for grandmothers (nonnas) in order to document the traditions and the history through the food--how they made it as well as the ingredients in it. She met many interesting women while traveling in Italy and gathering the material and recipes to put in her book.

Field describes herself as a commuter. She commutes between Italy and America as well as between non fiction and fiction. About writing a novel, Field suggests that a writer simply sit down, put pen to paper, and write. She also recommends firing your inner critic, advice I found reminiscent of Chris Baty’s.

While writing Mangoes and Quince, Field found that swimming helped her to think about the writing. Also, she didn't write the book with the idea that she would try and get it published, something which she thinks helped her to write unencumbered. During the Q & A, I asked her if she found it difficult now to work on her second novel. She agreed that it was more difficult than working on her first and for two reasons: One, because she is writing about a more familiar locale, which she finds to be more stifling than writing about a place she knows nothing about; two, because she now has the pressures that come with publication, including editorial and deadline.

Promoting the act of writing, Field said, "We all have so much inside us that we don't know is there." Field confessed that when she's in the middle of writing a novel, she doesn't discuss it. This way, she retains the energy of the book for the writing of it. She advised the writers in the audience: "Don't ever discuss what you're writing while you're writing it!"

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