Interview with Gilda Morina Syverson, author of 'My Father's Daughter, From Rome to Sicily'

Gilda Morina Syverson, artist, poet, writer and teacher, was born and raised in a large, Italian-American family in Syracuse, New York. Her heritage is the impetus for her memoir My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily. Gilda’s story was a Novello Literary Award Finalist previously entitled Finding Bottom: an Italian-American woman’s journey to the old country.

Gilda’s award winning poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, magazines and anthologies in the United States and Canada.  She is also the author of the full-length poetry book, Facing the Dragon, and the chapbook, In This Dream Everything Remains Inside. Her commentaries have been aired on WFAE, Charlotte, N.C.’s public radio station.

Gilda moved to Charlotte, NC after having received an MFA in Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education from Buffalo State College. Gilda has taught in the Creative Arts for over 35 years including memoir classes and workshops for Queens University of Charlotte, The Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius, N.C. and at various other locations. Her fine art has been exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally. Her angel drawings and prints are in a number of collections throughout the United States, Canada and Italy.

Gilda lives outside of Charlotte, N.C. with her husband Stu.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I had just returned from a trip to Italy and Sicily with my parents and husband. My father was born in a small village in Sicily and came over to the USA when he was 15 years old. My mother was the first child in her family born here in America. I was enthralled with the whole experience of traveling with them to Rome and then down to Sicily by train. It was like stepping back in time, walking the streets with my father in the village he was born. It was equally inspiring to be with my mother when she met some of her cousins for the first time. When I returned home to the USA, all I could think and write about were the experiences of my trip.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

For me it wasn't hard because I was passionate about the journey. What was hard was when I had other things to do and was not writing about the experiences I had in Italy and Sicily. It's all I wanted to do. I have taught memoir writing for 16 years, and the biggest tip I give my students and other interested writers of memoir is to write down what comes to you, even if it feels like it came out of no where. Write it down. No thinking allowed. Do not edit yourself when you first begin. Keep a journal of your memories and meanderings. Let each story flow. You can go back and edit afterwards.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is Laura Ponticello of Divine Phoenix Books in conjunction with Pegasus Books. I met Laura at a spa in upstate New York, in a town where I went to summer camp as a child. Laura was giving a talk on lavender. I discovered she had a site called Laura's Books, and I joined it. I was intrigued with Laura and her presentation and was drawn to her energy. We both come from an Italian-American background.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

What surprised me the most is that I found a publisher in a most unique way after having followed the hard-fast rules of finding a publisher through The Publisher's Weekly and other periodicals, writing conferences, query letters and the like.  My experience turned out to be more about synchronicity and being open to the unexpected.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I have a book I've worked on about my journey toward an energy modality that I eventually became certified in called Healing Touch. It's similar to Reiki. In the book I write about my experiences while receiving Healing Touch. I also have stories about mixed media angel drawings that I created over a number of years. I have no date for publications. For now my total focus are presentations, events, classes and workshops on memoir writing, and my book My Father's Daughter, From Rome to Sicily.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I'm forever researching an idea related to something I am writing about or a book someone has told me about. These days I spend a lot of time with my own e-mail and responding to the messages people send. For social media, I hang out on Facebook

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

We all have our own unique stories and family history to tell. My message is about how my family acclimated from Italy to the USA, and how it has influenced my life. Someone else’s story will be different. If we don't write down our stories, they will die with us. There is a lot to be said--not only for ourselves, but also for future generations--about writing the experiences we have lived through.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Many people think that no one will care about their stories. If you have a passion to get a story down, write it. Keep a journal, a file on your computer or both. Write what comes to you. That's what I did with my memoir. I never set out with the idea of publication. You don't have to show your stories to anyone; all you have to do is write them. If you need people to share your stories with, look for a class, a workshop, a writer's group, a conference in your area or online. As time goes on, you will be surprised over your own discoveries. Once you get your words down, then you will want to go back and edit for clarity. That is when a writers' group or a writing friend would be helpful. Someone may eventually be interested, but whether they are or not, first and foremost, tend to your stories. 

About the Book:

Title: My Father's Daughter, From Rome to Sicily
Author: Gilda Morina Syverson
Publisher: Divine Phoenix and Pegasus Books
Pages: 277
Genre: Memoir/Travel/Family Relationships

In this multigenerational memoir, My Father's Daughter, From Rome to Sicily, our author travels with her Italian-born father, Italian-American mother, and very-American husband to the villages of her ancestors. This trilogy tale leads the reader through ancient sites of Rome, landscapes of a picturesque countryside, seaside villages of Sicily, olive trees in the valley of Mount Etna, while contrasting an emotional journey between a father and daughter.

Former North Carolina Poet Laureate, Joseph Bathanti, says, "My Father's Daughter: From Rome to Sicily" is a travel book in every sense. Syverson - a savvy, funny, elegant tour guide - expertly escorts us through the gorgeous time-locked terrain of Italy, but also along the often precarious byways of the heart. This book risks everything: its humanity, its courage, its sheer unbridled candor, the moving sweep of its poetic language and its refusal to turn away from the breathtaking mystery of love and ancestry.

For More Information

  • My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Watch the book trailer at YouTube.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

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