To the delight of longtime Victoria subscribers, Carol Rizzoli returned to our pages as Writer-in-Residence for 2019, nearly a decade after her first tenure with the magazine. Her inaugural essay, a tribute to the incomparable joys of reading, inspired us to launch the Victoria Classics Book Club, a vibrant online community immersed in beloved works of literature. Throughout the year, many readers have reached out to Carol, often sharing their own reflections about favorite tales. Here, the author offers insights on her writing journey and gives us a peek into more of the treasures on her bookshelf.
During your tenure as 2019 Writer-in-Residence, we have learned about your deep and abiding appreciation of the arts. How did writing emerge as a creative expression for you?
I was a shy kid and spent much time with books, those patient friends who give so much, creating and opening worlds for you, and make few demands in return. It was a natural, small step from there to try putting words together on paper, reflecting my own world. None of it was real, of course, until it was shared—with parents, sister, and classmates initially.
Then, too, my dad worked in publishing. By day an editor, by night he composed light verse. When he occasionally had a poem accepted for publication, excitement swept our household. We read and reread it aloud, and the obvious pleasure of this, which I observed as a young girl, was certainly a factor, as well.
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
That’s easy to answer! Inspiration, for me, comes from everyday life experiences—my own and those of loved ones, neighbors, and strangers. It’s all right there, I found out after a youthful fling at trying to pull romantic abstractions down from the sky.
Your essay “Books, Dreams, Friends” in the January/February 2019 issue inspired us to follow through on establishing the Victoria Classics Book Club. During this year of cozy reading, we have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. What other titles would you recommend exploring?
I much enjoyed revisiting the work of these four great women, along with Victoria readers. Logically, one might have gone on to explore the female experience in other cultures and eras, but my reading was less measured.
Museum bookstores are a perennial favorite, with their curated selections, and I landed on two wonderful books. The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe presents a vivid portrait of these beloved painters and their milieu. Unforgettable are the challenges the few women in this group faced, most notably Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. The second museum find was a 1906 classic, The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, which delves Japanese heritage and aesthetics through the ancient tea ceremony and the cult of flowers. And all in just seventy pages.
A third favorite this year, a small gem of a gift from my husband, Hugo, is a book about—what else?—books! The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee ranges the entire history of books from papyrus to sheepskin through the perilous Middle Ages to the contemporary meanings and uses of books. All is so conversationally and lightly imparted, you’re scarcely aware that you’re reading history in this charming, petite volume.
What is next on the horizon for you?
A picture book for young children, it’s called “Annabelle: A Happy (and Only Little Bit Sad) Tale Told by a Cat.” Humorous yet serious is how I would describe it, with an important lesson about freedom and responsibility. This is a collaboration with Lucy Holland, my artist-daughter, and we’ve been working on it for a couple of years now. Actually, my own work began about five years ago. I take very seriously the asking of a child’s time and attention, and it’s taken that long to get the story right. The illustrations came together much more quickly and are, if I may say of her work, entirely captivating.