Once I Saw The Larger Purpose I Was On Fire – Interview With Author Gabriella Contestabile

by Marilyn R. Wilson

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Please share a bit about your journey to become a published author.

I’m convinced Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos – launching on Nov. 8, 2017 – was waiting in the wings for decades.  Pieces of it ran through my life and remained fixed in my memory or scribbled, like secrets, inside a journal.  Through Julie Salisbury’s ‘Inspire A Book’ webinar, the support of the Influence community, and Julie’s coaching, the book I’ve always want to write came to life.  That Julie was able to zero in on the one word that captured the core of the idea – heritage – was brilliant.  The stories took off from there.

How does the writing process work for you?

I start with an early morning meditation to clear my head and set my goal for the day. That’s the perfect time to get out my journal and hand write the next part of the book.  There’s something about taking a pen to paper. I take my time with my thoughts. I don’t edit myself. Then I step away from it and go out for a fast walk or a work out before coming back to my desk to work on the Su Misura Journeys business. Since both the book and the travel business are connected, it makes the workflow easier or more complicated depending on the project.

What did you find most difficult about the writing and publishing process?  What was the easiest?

What’s most difficult for me is finding a quiet space in which to work.  With the business, my caregiving responsibilities, advocacy work, and my own tendency to become distracted, it can be chaotic. That’s when I close the computer, go outside and do some type of physical activity. Living in New York City, close to the river and two parks makes it doable. It seems the writing flows so easily inside my head during those walks or bike rides. I’ve also found it helpful to leave my home office with my computer and go to a library or the lounge inside a museum where I won’t be interrupted.

While it didn’t make the writing easier, Julie’s advice to go deep and tell the bigger story made me more determined to tell it. I have always been passionate about the arts, empowering women and girls, and the importance of aligning our goals and our lives with humanity and respect for our planet.  Once I saw the larger purpose I was on fire.  Each chapter linked an experience to a revelation and to the power women have to make the world a better place – a place in which we feel very much alive.  We also know how to have a great time doing it.

What title or titles have you released?

Launching on Nov. 8, 2017, is my latest book, Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary, Extraordinary. This book takes the reader on a journey from the humble hill towns of Abruzzo to the revered fashion capitals of Milan and Rome, into the artisan workshops of Florence. Ask any Italian woman where she gets her sense of style and she will tell you it’s not about labels.  It’s tethered to humble roots; humanity, community, conscious consumerism, and a profound appreciation for art in all its forms. Sass, Smarts and Stilettos will help you learn how to live fully within your own philosophy of living.

My first book was a self-published fiction novel, The Artisan’s Star (2014).  Since I love the city of Florence I couldn’t resist making the book a travel guide as well, placing the characters in select parts of the city; cafés, museums, streets, artisan workshops, designer ateliers. Set in Florence it uses perfume composition as metaphor.  The top note is youth when possibilities open up, the midnote represent our middle years when we put down roots, and the base note, the most sensual and enduring, represents our later years when it’s too late to realize the abandoned dreams of our youth, but the ideal moment to imagine a new dream infused with the richness of past experience.

Do you have any new books in the planning or writing stage?

I have a collection of short stories I’d like to bundle up into a book.  Each one is set in Italy and uses art and landscape to influence each protagonist’s journey

I also love collaborations so that’s the direction I’m heading in for future books, two in particular.

This first is a non-fiction work that builds from ‘Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos’.  The working title is ‘Let’s Shake Things Up’ and would feature individual chapters about women who are either taking on the most critical issues in our world today, or propose solutions on how to tackle them.  Women have the ability to build community, to problem solve in multi-dimensional ways, and to think outside the box.  Let’s harness those talents and make it happen.

The second work will be a collaboration with Francesca Belluomini, who I met through  Influence Publishing when she published her book, The Cheat Sheet of Italian Style.  Francesca has been an inspiration, and a tremendous support throughout this project.  We have outlined a book about ‘living the Italian way’ wherever you live in the world.  We will also be collaborating on an ‘Extraordinary Women Travel’ initiative in Tuscany in 2018.

What would you like readers to know about you?

Throughout my life I’ve been passionate about empowering others, about finding joy in whatever life throws our way, and in making our lives our own works of art.  Until I wrote this book I had no idea of the role my heritage played in that journey.  As a corporate head of International Training, I knew my mission was to make the business profitable and that people were the key to making that happen.  To this day nothing gives me more joy than to see a person achieve a dream, a goal, and an exuberant sense of self that says ‘ I am who I am and I’m unstoppable.’  Thank you again to Julie and the Influence community for helping me find my voice.  Now that I have it I’m not shutting up.