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Magazine

July 2018

3

Adriana Trigiani speaks about her life & work

Southwest Virginia’s Adriana

Trigiani is beloved by millions of

readers around the world for her

bestselling novels. Her themes of love

and work, emphasis on craftsmanship

and family life have brought her

legions of fans who call themselves

“Adri-addicts.” USA Today calls

her “the reigning queen of women’s

fiction.” The New York Times says she’s

“a comedy writer with a heart of gold,”

and her books are “tiramisu for the

soul.” Her books have been translated

in 36 countries around the world.

She wrote and directed the film

adaptation of her debut novel “Big

Stone Gap,” which she shot in her

hometown. She is currently directing

a new movie, “Love Me To Death,”

starring Kathie Lee Gifford and Craig

Ferguson.

She is coming to Abingdon this

month to speak at a fundraiser for

the Friends of the Washington County

Public Library and to teach at the

Virginia Highlands Festival’s Writers’

Day.

She took time out of her schedule

to talk to us about her life and work.

A! Magazine for the Arts:

How

does growing up in Big Stone Gap

influence you and your work?

Trigiani:

The place you grow up

has a profound impact on what you

care about and how you decide to

spend your time as an adult. My life

in Big Stone Gap is so very obvious in

my career choices. I loved to read, and

luckily, we had the bookmobile and the

public library and the school libraries,

which were an embarrassment of

riches to a hungry reader. There was

a lot of theater to see at the Barter,

Clinch Valley College (now U.Va. Wise);

the Big Stone Gap Music Study Club’s

annual musical and, of course, the

“Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor

Drama.”

I was also aware that it took

some time to drive places, that we

were in a part of the state that was a

challenge to get to they were talking

about putting in roads when we moved

here in the late 1960s, and they’re

still talking about the need for roads.

Perhaps less now than back then, but

it’s an ongoing discussion nonetheless.

But that may be what I like best about

small town life: the illusion that things

don’t really seem to change over time.

A visit home is a balm, a comfort, in

this weary world. When I was in my

grandmother’s hometown in Italy

last December, an old family friend

said, “Everything changes but the

mountains.” How true.

A! Magazine for the Arts:

Tell us

about the importance of family to you

and in your work.

Trigiani:

I find as life goes on,

I think a lot about my parents and

growing up. This is part of being a

parent, so much of it is guesswork, and

the rest is rock solid belief in a set of

values that you got that’s right, from

your parents. So, when they pass on

to their great reward, it’s time to think

about what you believe in and what

formed those beliefs. The core value I

received from my parents was faith a

faith built on a personal relationship

with God.

I remain a Roman Catholic. My

husband and I raised our daughter in

the faith, in a large part due to the

way I was raised in Southwest Virginia

in the small but devout Catholic

community led by the Glenmary order

of priests and nuns, and the Irish

sisters, The Poor Servants of God, who

ran Saint Mary’s Hospital in Norton.

Sister Bernie Kenney who founded

the Saint Mary’s Health Wagon, which

now is called The Health Wagon, is a

modern saint. She brought medicine

up into the mountains to the folks who

needed it the most.

So you see, I can’t really separate

faith and family. And I hope that my

parents know that where they are now.

I would also like to add that some of

my happiest memories were spent

in some of the great churches my

friends attended: Methodist, Baptist,

Episcopalian, Presbyterian well, I

could keep going. I have wonderful

memories of the Seder supper we did

every year at Saint Anthony’s with

the only Jewish family in our neck

of the woods. I had a pretty diverse

experience in matters of faith.

A! Magazine for the Arts:

You

seem to come home to Southwest

Virginia more frequently. Why?

Trigiani:

The Origin Project brings

me home, and of course, visits with

my mom were important. I have the

same friends I had when I was 6, and

as time goes on, I treasure them even

more. So, visits home are essential. I

am lucky that I travel a lot, but there’s

nothing like home.

A! Magazine for the Arts:

Which

came first writing or acting? Was it a

difficult transition?

Trigiani:

There are no transitions

in art, just states of being. In the

beginning was the word, and so,

despite how writers are often treated,

I always believed writing to be a

sacred act. Acting was something I was

never good at, but enjoyed because

I understood being a part of a larger

group such as it was in my family.

Turns out that I needed to know

how to act in order to be able to direct,

so my experience as an actor helped

me become a director. I love actors

because they are the instruments of

the orchestra they tell the story

the writer has put into words. They

dramatize the text with emotion

and physicality, with thought and

connectivity and hopefully scope.

They take such risks they have to be

vulnerable in their work and fearless

in their choices. It’s a hard life and I

understand it, which helps me when I

direct.

It’s my job to serve the actor and

to place their performances in the

scene, as part of the whole, so the

audience understands the point, the

meaning, the pith and the heart of the

story. I give the actors a safe space to

bring their gifts into the process.

Adriana Trigiani

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