Jump to content, Jump to navigation.

Amber Paulen

Thoughts on the Women's Fiction Festival and Matera

In six years of living in Italy, I’ve rarely gone south of Rome. And this is a shame because south of Rome there’s an Italy that is almost like a new country to me. New pastas — in this continuity of Roman cacio e pepe and amatriciana — are new food. So I don’t know if I went to Matera this last weekend for the Women’s Fiction Festival or because I’ve never been to the southern Italian town of Matera. Because of both, I suppose.

Matera is visually stunning and has an equally stunning history because it is both recent and ancient. Matera is the longest inhabited city in Europe, starting in the Paleolithic times. From that long-ago era people have lived in the caves dug into the rocky hillside, eventually building fronts that look like homes but are actually caves. The whitish, light-tannish tufa dominates the color of the sassi (or the cave dwelling parts of town) that spill down two sides of the hill or ridge. Stairs climb and twist past homes crumbling or renovated. There are no cars. Silence, stillness. The town looks out on an uninviting landscape of stones and steep hills.

I balanced walks through town with sitting at the fiction festival. There were a lot of romance writers and some agents and editors from both sides of the Atlantic that talked about interesting stuff such as publishing and the “changing realities of the market.” I pitched my novel that isn’t a novel but a growing thing and got some encouraging responses. There were a couple sessions focused on writing but most of it was about selling, which I know is important to writing but just doesn’t feel as important as writing. There were interesting discussions about the rise of self publishing and how the publishing world has changed: it is more malleable, there are more choices and possibilities for writers to try and make money. All encouraging.

But my favorite part of the weekend was meeting other writers, like Catherine McNamara, Lisa Clifford, Robin Cohn and Pauline, and hanging out with the writers I already know. Quantities of wine, food, and conversation. Nothing better. So I got back on the train to Rome with a couple new books to read (Pelt, Catherine’s collection of short stories) and another whirl of energy to keep me typing away at this novel.


·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·