Author

Amy Collini

Oh, the places we’ll go

I camped a lot as a kid. My parents started us off tent camping as babies (can you imagine?), but when I was ten or eleven, they bought a pop-up camper. We went everywhere with that thing bopping along behind my dad’s truck. We drove up and down the length of New England, all the way up to Maine and down to Key Largo (from Toledo) multiple times, to the Outer Banks, to northern Michigan. My mother planned all our trips, and recently told me that they often set out with only a few hundred dollars and a destination in mind. We found some of the most lovely campgrounds, and saw a good bit of the country this way. My fondest memories of my childhood all come from our camping trips. My husband and I bought an RV a couple months ago, and I am so excited that we now we get to continue that tradition with our own children. The first trip–only an hour and a half away–wasn’t easy. It was 90 degrees, a thousand percent humidity, and the campground was in a rather bare state park with nothing fun for the kids to do. The baby had a…

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Why I don’t watch TV

I read a really eye-opening statistic last night, courtesy of A.C. Nielsen: by the age of 65, the average American has spent nine years watching television. Nine years. Four hours per day adds up to two full months of TV-watching every year. Two months! I don’t know if I can adequately describe how those numbers took my breath away. At the risk of sounding extremely sanctimonious, I don’t watch television (not online and not on my regular TV). Very occasionally I will indulge in a few episodes of something, but that literally happens maybe twice a year. I also don’t let my children watch TV shows. This is not because I want to be a holier-than-thou mother who looks down her nose at the common folk who let their children rot their brains on cartoons, but because I don’t watch it myself. My oldest is almost five years old, and I’m glad that he doesn’t have any “regular shows” (they always ask this when we get his hair cut, so they can put one of his “regular shows” on to entertain him, like they do with all kids). It doesn’t even occur to me to turn on the TV or…

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The fire drill of life

Life is getting in the way of writing lately. This past week alone, we’ve dealt with or are dealing with the following: buying a new couch (the old one has a broken frame, and the baby has peed on it too many times to count), the babysitter quitting with less than a week’s notice, hiring and training a new babysitter, made reservations for our rental apartment in Italy, our dishwasher catching on fire and necessitating a call to the fire department at 10:30 at night, my National Piano Guild auditions the morning after the dishwasher fire, and hiring a new housecleaner. Each of those events involved a constellation of their own mini-events (for example, once we discovered that the dishwasher was the source of the fire, then we had to turn the power off in the kitchen for a day. Then we had to take the dishwasher out of the wall and try to find out exactly where it was burning. Once we found the loose rubber gasket that rubbed against the heating element and caught fire, we had to take it out, then put the dishwasher back, then run it to make sure nothing was leaking and nothing else would…

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No talent required

My piano teacher has this posted on a bulletin board in her studio. I noticed it today during my lesson; she told me she wrote it up because she was tired of people telling her how “talented” her students were. Talent in music, she said, means little; mostly, success comes through hard work. I can’t count how many writers–professors, authors at conferences, authors in their books on craft–have reiterated these same tenets. Talent is MADE, not born. Everyone thinks that anyone successful in a creative field–artists, writers, musicians, actors–has been born with some sort of innate talent or gift that the rest of the world wasn’t lucky enough to get. Dustin Hoffman said something like, “I worked half my life to become an overnight success,” which pretty much sums it all up. All of this–talent, effort, hard work, success (whatever that is)–has been swirling around in my mind lately. I began writing in 2000, and I wrote in complete privacy and silence for ten years–TEN years, a full decade–before I could admit aloud to anyone that I really wanted to be a writer (never mind that every day I wrote, I already was a writer). I just told a friend…

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Practice practice practice

I recently finished a mindfulness-based stress reduction class. I’ve been a spotty meditator for years but have never been able to commit to a daily practice because, well, meditation is hard. I also knew that the originator of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn, requires his students to meditate for 45 minutes a day, six days a week during the class. Frankly, that scared me. I have so little time as it is–especially time when I am not being interrupted continually by children–that the thought of sacrificing nearly an hour a day to doing NOTHING just frightened me. But I also knew that when I meditated, I felt better. And I want to be able to do hard things, things my brain tells me I can’t do. So I signed up for an MBSR class as my birthday present to myself. The class, which I took through a local hospital, ran for eight weeks. We learned a variety of meditation techniques, including the body scan, mindful eating, yoga, walking meditation and traditional sitting meditation. We also learned informal practices that we could use all day in our daily lives. We started off only doing formal meditation for ten minutes a day in the first class–very…

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Wooden spoon survivor

I’ve seen this image floating around on Facebook lately. Whenever anyone shares this, it’s in the vein of, “Haha, isn’t this hilarious?” and “Yep, I survived, and look at how GREAT I am because of it!” As if they belong to some private and wonderful club. I don’t find it funny at all. I find it repugnant. Many of my published essays center around the topic of my childhood, specifically my mother’s rage and how it manifested in abuse. My mother and I have shared a long and rocky road in our relationship, but I’m proud to say we’ve come to a good place, and I’ve forgiven her for my childhood (thanks in no small part to my own entree into motherhood. It’s a real humbling experience, folks). I understand now why she did what she did; she couldn’t help it, she didn’t know better, and she was a mere child when she got pregnant with me at seventeen. (Seventeen!) She knows all about my writing and was bighearted enough to tell me she understood that it was my story to tell. How lucky am I, that she has given me this gift? Still, it should not be a surprise…

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Welcome to Cesena!

Welcome to Cesena! Home of my husband’s family, and home of Arturo Donnini, one of the main characters in my novel, House of Truth. I visited Cesena, Italy (in Emilia-Romagna, which is in northern Italy, very near the Adriatic Sea) for the first time in 2010. I was there with my then-boyfriend Paul (now husband) and we were staying with his family; his aunt and uncles and cousins still live in the same city his father emigrated from in 1957. I spent the first week of my trip in Florence with two friends for a creativity workshop; in the mornings, after eating breakfast in the high-ceilinged pink ballroom of our pensione, my friends and I walked along the Arno in golden Italian sunshine to our class. There, we would begin class by lying on the floor meditating before we set about whatever exercises the instructors had waiting for us. Sometimes we drew, sometimes we journaled, sometimes we worked in small groups. It is absolutely a cliche to say that my week in Florence was magical; the air there tasted different, as if the dust motes carried the remnants of those long-gone Renaissance artists and scholars. The trip changed me as…

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Enemies of creativity

I broke up with my phone. I’ve loved her for a long time, and I’ve broken up with her before. I’ll probably have to break up with her again, even though this time feels very final (they usually do). She is a very demanding (and cunning) little companion so I’m sure she’ll insinuate herself back into my life at some point. I realized something interesting a couple months ago: when my phone is on, I’m irritable. I’m checking it constantly, responding to its dings and chimes (or, if I’ve tried turning them off, I’m checking the screen repeatedly). Since I stay at home with my boys, both of whom interrupt me at the rate of seven times per second, I feel continuously torn between multiple attention-demanders. This makes me really edgy, because I cannot pay attention to two things at once, as much as I want to. And mostly I don’t want to. Also, when I’m writing, I interrupt myself to check my phone whether the ringer is off or not; sometimes this is necessary, like when I have a babysitter and I need to check texts in case she needs something for one of my kids. But mostly, it’s…

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How I started thinking maybe I could be a writer

I still remember exactly when it happened: I picked up a non-fiction book by Elizabeth Berg. Back in the late nineties and early aughts, I read a lot of Berg’s fiction. I wasn’t terribly happy back then, having gotten married to the wrong man and all, and her books, while not exactly fine literature, were cozy and comforting like an old pair of slippers. On a whim, I checked out her book, Escaping Into The Open, which is all about how to get started writing. Before I read that book, I couldn’t admit to anyone, but especially to myself, that I wanted to be a writer. I had been writing all my life, including a diary I started at age seven and dozens of stories and poems throughout childhood and adolescence, and had even won a couple contests with short stories and poetry, but no one ever said, “You should be a writer.” So it didn’t occur to me that I could. I went off to college and majored in history (the first time around, anyway. Later–much later–I went back and majored in English. Just because I wanted to) I read Berg’s book–which was like having a chat with a friend…

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