We asked the author of My dog/ Il mio cane è come me (illustrated by Sonia Maria Luce Possentini) to tell us about this new book!
Letizia, tell us about yourself: what were you like as a child and how would you define yourself today?
I was an “adult” child. I was shy, I liked going to school and I was a bit unpleasant. I’ve been the kind of child who corrects adults when they talk.
You are a little proud of it, a little bit you think it is unbearable. I was a “non-child” kid, that strange little girl who hides behind books in the summer and prefers those stories to everything else. When I grow up… I’m still a bit like that, but now someone says I’m a strong woman (as well as a bit unpleasant), someone else says I’m a sweet woman. A biscuit that is crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. If you know how to win me over and it takes a while, I can give satisfaction.
How and why did you approach the world of picture books?
I have always enjoyed drawing and also writing. I went through the most amazing phases, I think from 5 years upwards. I wanted to be a painter, then a stylist, then a restorer, but only to be allowed to touch my favorite paintings. This even before finishing school. Then I went to university and tried a path that seemed practical to me at the time, I took a first degree in product design. At the end, however, I realized that I was not really interested in how the objects work “inside”, I preferred to draw them outside and I preferred to draw them weird, perhaps with my ears, I preferred to “tell them”. On graduation day, a dear professor gave me Shaun Tan’s The Arrival as a gift and, without knowing it, he suggested the way. I consider that book to be my first illustrated book “as an adult”. I had certainly had others, but with this gift I realized that I wanted to address the children, that I wanted to draw and write my stories freely. So I went back to studying, this time the right thing and now I’m here.
Tell us about the newly released My Dog / Il mio cane è come me: how it was born, how you worked together with Sonia Maria Luce Possentini
I kept this text in the drawer for a while. My Dog / Il mio cane è come me was born as a poem, dedicated to my father. For a long time I considered this writing too personal to be able to “speak” to others as well. When you write something on impulse, it is difficult to estimate how much you can communicate. If you write, especially for children, you need to plan. It is absolutely necessary to always remember that there is someone on the other side and that you are not only expressing yourself. We don’t make art.
In my opinion, illustrators and writers creating picture books create connections and perhaps it is even more important, more satisfying than creating simple beauty. Sonia is a teacher in this, she knows how to be both an artist and a narrator. When I realized that she liked the text and wanted to illustrate my words, I felt flattered to say the least. I am so small, still almost an unnamed one in the publishing market, I would have had the honor of working on a project with her. It was awesome.
When I entrust my texts to other illustrators, it happens that I am asked “but why didn’t you illustrate it?” In the specific case of My Dog / Il mio cane è come me I calmly replied that I would not have done a good job, the story was too close to me so as not to allow me to objectively “see” the images. I would have tried to portray my father, I would have remained too attached to me without being able to give myself enough to the child readers. In other cases, however, I believe that not everything I write is suitable for my graphic style and it would not be right to steer the writing in favor of what I would like to draw
To anticipate a predictable curiosity of the Readers: I tell you that, as in the book, I too had a dog as a child, and my father had one before me. I grew up with a very sweet dog and now when I grow up I have another one called Peg, but she is so mad that we have nicknamed her Tempest.
Tell us about your relationship with Genoa, the city where you live
I am from Rome. I will probably never feel from Genoa, but I love this city very much. It is a rather picturesque place, I must say. Like all port cities it is dirty and noisy, but full of little surprises, different cultures and history. Genoa is an ancient city and the historic center, where I live, an atypical place. I loved it because, for me, the center has always been a prohibitive place. The rich and the politicians live there, the shops are luxurious and the supermarkets are disguised so that they don’t get too noticed. Here the center is of the unfortunates and of all non-Genoese like me. The alleys are for young people, for young ladies and for artists. People complain a lot (that famous grumble typical of Genoa’s people!), but deep down between a piece of focaccia and an aperitif, they enjoy life.
Dreams and desires in the drawer?
Aaaah, the dreams…! They tell me that I am already living it, my dream, because I have the opportunity to do the job I like. So, maybe the desire could be to keep doing it all the time, or rather, to have the opportunity to dedicate myself only to writing and drawing. For a few it is like that, and it still isn’t for me, so I hope that so much.
Photo credits: Jan Papas