My Adventures in Italy … (Part II)

I am finally back in America after ten days abroad for an international writers conference in Italy. Everything was a blast, but I am jet lagged and struggling.

Getting back home after the conference ended was a little nightmare. I went through Naples, which is not a great place to be, to get to Rome and fly home. At one point in Naples, I was driven around by a crazy cab driver who knew about four English phrases, one of which was “I’m crazy!” Not joking. He had some trance (techno) music playing in the cab as he whizzed through city streets, and at one point he saw me kinda bobbing my head along with the music, so he jacked the volume up to super-loud and was like “Dance, Carlo! DANCE!” (Over there, I went by Carlo a lot, and my Italian last name had a lot of people asking where my ancestors were from. Napoli and Isernia, if you were wondering.) When he dropped me off in the heart of Naples in rush hour, he came to me and gave me the kiss-kiss on both cheeks. Quite an experience.

Some cliffs in Ischia. I like the
cool little thing on the cliff,
although I’m not sure if it is a
lighthouse or a church.



I spoke on three panels. Producer/director Doug McKeon and I spoke on screenwriting and playwriting. Several editors and myself talked about how blockbusters are sucking all the air out of the room. I didn’t add too much on this panel, but I did mention how the term “blockbuster” is often thought of with fiction, but also translates to nonfiction. It seems like the same nonfiction blockbusters are always on the bestseller
lists, such as the high-profile inspirational books, the next great diet book, the latest 10-step business book, and memoirs/autobiographies by celebrities and politicians.

My advice for breaking through all these blockbusters is to be either 1) controversial; or 2) entertainingly informative. Two examples of controversial books that broke through and did well are On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt, and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. Two examples of entertainingly informative books are Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, and Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.

My last panel had editors talking what is hot now and what will be hot in five years.  Everyone on the panel was kind of hesitant because it isn’t wise to talk about trends like this. Alsoas far as what will be hot in five years, who knows!? Writers will create the trends when they create something brilliant. Period. So, with nothing to lose, I predicted “war” would be big in the next five years because of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, and more books looking back at the Iraq conflict. Time will prove me right or wrong.


The man on the right is
super-author Nick Hornby, writer
of books such as
High Fidelity.
He was talking on how to craft
a young adult novel.

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8 thoughts on “My Adventures in Italy … (Part II)

  1. Aleka Nakis

    Thank you for adding your expertise to the great panels in Matera. It was an amazing conference and an absolute fantastic time. Once I’m adjusted to being back home, I’ll post more details and some pictures.
    Pleasure to meet you in Italy.


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