Writers Networking: Carmen Ziolkowski
Carmen Laurenza Ziolkowski was born in Italy. She studied journalism at Wayne State University, Detroit. Her prose, poetry, and dramas have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies in Italy, Canada, Unites States, England, and Australia. She is the author of several books including Roses Bloom at Dusk (Vesta Publications, 1976), World of Dreams, (River City Press, 1995), and The House of Four Winds (River City Press, 1987).
Carmen is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Association of Italian Canadian Writers, Canadian Poetry Association, and of course – Lambton Writers’ Association. Her motto is: Revere every living thing and enjoy life.
G: How has your previous work and/or life experiences influenced your writing, Carmen?
C: I was 10 or 11 when a friend of my mother used to come and visit us in the summer. She liked going for long walks and I had to keep her company. She made me tell her stories and she told me to be concise. So it was from that point that I started to write.
G: What are the genres in which you write?
C: My first creative works were plays. I was born and lived in an old convent which was isolated by an ancient forest. So I started writing plays and producing them once a year at the Village Festival. The young local people were my actors, the plays were about the people I knew, just disguised a bit. Later I wrote articles, then poetry and short stories and novels.
G: Are you working on a project currently?
C: At the moment I am working on a project that I wanted to do for a long time. It is the story of La Monaca, the place where I was born, a convent in existence for 200 or 300 years before my birth. My grandmother was to tell me that a nun was still roaming around the twenty rooms in the place. Now in one of the many rooms there was a mural under the ceiling depicting a nun consecrating. And above her was the Creator, an old long bearded man possibly taking the nun to heaven.
G: Do you have a favourite location for writing?
C: Yes I have a studio, and it is the only place where I can think clearly.
G: What kinds of books do you read?
C: I read mostly literary books. I have read the French, Russian, Spanish, Italian and the ancient Greeks. Lately I enjoy listening to humorous tapes such as Paul Johnson.
G: Have you participated in writing contests?
C: I have never participated in contests, because I didn’t want to give out my money.
G: Can you tell us about some of your published works?
C: I published many short stories and novels, and three books of poetry and a chapbook. My short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies. I also wrote the experience of my mother-in-law which is not yet in print. My mother-in-law and her three teenage sons were taken from their farm in Poland and brought to hard work in Siberia, where she remained for 10 years. In 1962 we brought her here. She lived with us until she died of cancer in 1971.
G: What are your thoughts on traditional vs indie publishing?
C: I never worried too much about publishing. I just wanted to be able to create something. Mind you, in 1980 to 1998 or 99, there were places buying our work. To name one, CBC used to buy five short stories a week, and three or four of them came from Sarnia’s writers. I was lucky because, for a while, I had an agent in England.
G: Anything else you wish to elaborate on?
C: My writing was influenced by other writers. Some of my friends. Now I enjoy listening to tapes. I used to speak four languages and write in them.
Thank you, Carmen, for reflecting on some areas of your wonderful writing career. Your life would make a terrific biography – or memoir. Keep spreading your words of wisdom and prodding us to revere every living thing and enjoy life.
Gloria: I loved reading this interview with Carmen! She is beautiful—and a beautiful writer. I am proud to call her one of my longtime friends. And I want her to finish her latest on the convent! Warm wishes to you both.
Thanks, Heather. Always love to hear from you.