All photo cred goes to Aleka Nakis and Jenyfer Matthews, since, although Mr. Brice has downloaded pictures for me, I keep forgetting to upload them to Shutterfly or to at least save them onto a flash drive to bring to work. So no pictures actually from me...yet.
Anyway, as I posted last week, I recently got back from the International Women's Fiction Festival, in Matera, Italy. I'm sure you're all saying "where the heck is Matera? I've heard of Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice, but Matera?"
I thought the same thing last year, when my agent started encouraging me to attend. Matera is a town in Southern Italy, right at the instep of the boot, in the Basilicata region. The area been settled since the Paleolithic period. The city itself was allegedly founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC.
Matera is known for its ancient village, the "Sassi di Matera" (meaning "stones of Matera"). The Sassi originate from a troglodyte settlement, and are houses dug into the limestone cliffs themselves. So while the front of a building may look like a house, the back portions of it are really a cave.
For millennia, people lived in these cave houses, entire families in a 200 sq. ft. space, including their livestock. In the 1930s, a Jewish-Italian dissident named Carlo Levi was thrown into internal exile by the Fascists, and forced down into the Basilicata (then call Lucania) region. He noticed, when he crossed the border from the Campania region (where Naples is located) into the Basilicata at a town called Eboli, that everything changed. Life was completeley different -- like time had never touched the region.
He was appalled by the poverty and primitive. unsanitary conditions the people were living in, and wrote a book about his experience, called "Christ Stopped at Eboli" (which signifies that civilization never went any further than Eboli). Although he lived in Alanio, he devoted several chapters to Matera and the Sassi. When the book was published in 1945, it caused a national scandal so large that newly elected prime minister De Gasperis (after the Fascists were kicked out of power, of course) visited Matera to see if Levi's charges were true.
They were. In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to a newly constructed modern city on the outskirts of town, but some Sassi residents returned to their homes after failing to be able to adjust to modern life. As a result, the ancient village fell into disrepair and decline, until the late 1980s, when local administration decided to clean up their heritage and engage in tourism. The Sassi were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, because, as the Fodor's Guide puts it, "Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses of their ancestors of 9,000 years ago."
As a result of the UNESCO designation, the EU donated money for preservation, Hollywood started using the town as a backdrop for several movies (most notably Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ") and now the Sassi have become trendy. What was once the place where only the poorest of the poor lived has become a place where only the richest of the rich can afford to buy.
Anyway, enough about history. How was the conference?
Super cool, actually, glad you asked. :) This was my 7th writers' conference, and by far my favorite. In many ways, it didn't even feel like a writers' conference. RWA Nationals is so big, so stressful. WFF, on the other hand, is intimate and relaxing. If you ever get a chance to go...do it!!!!
I was there to give a talk on copyright laws in the US and the EU, and how it affects writers. And I did...just not for as long as I'd hoped. Nothing starts on time in Italy (we called it "Italian time"), so the workshop before mine began half an hour late and, not surprisingly, ran over by half an hour. You'd think that would mean that everything would just be pushed back by half an hour. But no. My talk began more than half an hour late, but I was cut off at the designated time. So I only got to speak for about 25 minutes...I was scheduled for an hour. :(
That's ok...as far as I'm concerned, they can just bring me back next year, and I'll be happy to continue!
There were about 50-75 people total in attendance at the conference, including the translators. This meant that everyone had unprecedented access to agents, editors, big name authors, even a Hollywood director!
Next week I'll post a little bit about what the keynote speaker, Nick Hornby, said, since he was there to promote his young adult book, "Slam." But for now, some more pics!
Agent Scott Eagan, author Aleka Nakis, me, editor Chuck Sambuchino (Writer's Digest), editor Leah Hultenschmidt (Dorchester), agent Georgia Garrett, author Jenyfer Matthews