Archive for October 2013 | Monthly archive page

What is talent?


doing what you're good at, gift, talent


When children go to the nursery they do a lot of artwork, colouring, drawing, painting; this carries on during the first years of elementary school. Well, I have to admit it; I was terrible with my artwork. Whenever I did a picture of a house, no one understood it was a house: everybody thought it was an arrow. Why couldn’t people see what was obvious to me? But then, when I looked at the other children’s pictures of houses, I noticed they did look different from mine.

The same applied to my trees, flowers, clouds, suns. I soon realized that I just wasn’t good at drawing; no matter how hard I tried, I could not express with pictures what I had in my head. This was very upsetting for me.

My older brother Mariano, on the other hand, had a natural gift. He could draw perfect pictures of anything, animals, still life, landscapes, even abstract stuff. The picture in the cover of my book A Deal with a Stranger is taken from a painting he did for me as a wedding present. Mariano, however, had difficulty as a child with his Italian homework; he sometimes struggled with his grammar, spelling, writing compositions, etc. So we made a deal: during homework time, we would swap notebooks, he would do my artwork and I would do his Italian homework.

Many years have passed since elementary school, and I have tried several hobbies. I always believed that it’s important in life to identify one’s talents and use them at their best. Sometimes life it tricky though, because often the things we like, we may discover we’re not that good at. Take my drawing example. I also mentioned in my old blog that I loved playing electric guitar, in particular hard rock. I played for several years, been to lessons, been part of a band which met regularly, and yet, I never felt I was becoming a better musician with time. Why is that? Maybe I just didn’t have that natural gift. Every time I learnt to play a new song, I had to actually rehearse it many times before I got it, and then do it again, so I wouldn’t forget it. Practice, practice, practice, were the words of my guitar teacher. In comparison, if we decided to have a go at a new song with the band, my friends would have a little play with their instruments, and pick up the riff or rhythm straight away. Also, they were able to improvise any tune; and I really had a problem with that. Can I say that they had talent and I didn’t? Probably.

What is interesting is that when it comes to writing books, I don’t ‘struggle’ like I used to struggle to learn a piece of music. I just sit down at my keyboard and type. Words flow freely and, of course, I have to go back and cut, rewrite, adjust, etc, but it doesn’t feel like hard work, it feels like a pleasure. It’s easy and natural.

We often associate the word ‘talent’ with art, making music, films, sculpture, etc, but when I looked it up in the Cambridge Online Dictionary the definition was “a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught”.

I think that the above definition is quite accurate. And moreover, I think that everyone, and I do believe, everyone, is talented. Each one of us has been gifted with one or more talents, it’s that sometimes we may not think as our qualities as talents. As an example, among my friends I have: two who can make fantastic cakes, one who can organize international meetings and conferences without a glitch, one who writes comedies in Sardinian language, one who trains disabled children to play rugby, one who can clean a house and make it really sparkle, one who volunteers for a children’s hotline, a mum that makes the best lasagne ever.

These are only a few examples of our gifts. What are your talents?


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Cake, anyone?


cake, tea, treat


I like to have a cup of tea in the afternoons, but I don’t always have cake with it. Yesterday, however, I fancied a little treat, so I had a slice of lemon cake to go along with my drink. As I had my first sip of tea, I observed my sweet temptation and wondered: if the heroines of my books were to face this lemon cake now, what would they think?

Clara, from A Deal with a Stranger, has an obsession with food, in particular desserts. She would be right in her element. She would probably pick up the small plate and bring it closer to her face, in order to smell the cake first. Because it’s lemon cake, she would expect to detect the hint of the fruit, and possibly spot some lemon zest in the sponge. Then she would dive into it. Her thoughts would be something like: “Not bad. The sugar on top is lemony too. I would probably have put a layer of lemony cream or crème patissière in the middle, to make it even more palatable, but that’s fine too. I now need a second slice to get a better idea of what it really tasted like.”

Lucy, the more traditional one of my Incompatible Twins, likes to eat good food and is keen on puddings; she wouldn’t say no to a slice of lemon cake. Her thoughts would be along the lines of: “Tea and cake during working hours? Why not? It’s nice to have a treat every now and then, especially after working on the computer all day. Just make sure you don’t make a habit of it. Otherwise, who’s going to fit into that Kenneth Cole dress again?”

Poppy, the more unconventional one of my Incompatible Twins, likes good food too, but is a vegetarian and always very careful about how food is made and what it contains. She would be quizzing the person who brings her the cake, her line of questioning would be something like this: “Thank you for this, but I need to know a little more. Is it made with free range eggs? Is that sugar on top, instead of honey? Were the lemons organic?” Before you’ve even had the chance to reply, she’s already decided that not only she’s not going to eat your cake, but she’s not even going to touch it.

Nonna Pina, who runs the Broken Heart Refuge, will be looking at this slice of cake with a smile. She knows that if you’re feeling a little sad, but you’re in the company of friends, and you’re having a cup of tea all together and are sharing a cake, you are bound to feel a little bit better. It may not be the cake in itself, but the combination of the three things above. What is better than a cup of tea? A cup of tea with cake.

And now, I am curious: what do you think when you look at my slice of cake?