As far back as elementary school, I composed stories on my mother’s Remington typewriter and fancied myself a fiction writer. Most of the stories were based on tales told by my mother and uncle, first-generation Italian Americans, over obligatory Sunday afternoon dinners and Christmas cookie-making marathons. My mother and uncle are gone now, but the memory of their influence lives on in that typewriter, displayed on my bookshelves and still housing the last of many ribbons now fixed halfway between its beginning and end.
Spurred by those early attempts at fiction, I’ve written and published a number of “Italian stories,” collected in Falling Through the New World, which arose not only out of a fascination with my personal history but also the events that spurred that history—World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. History and research inform most of my other work as well. My novella Badlands, published by Miami University Press in 2008, was inspired in part by a passage in Melvin Gilmore’s “The Truth of the Wounded Knee Massacre” regarding the genocide of American Indians in 1890: “There were about four hundred people in Big Foot’s band. […] Of the victims, there were 164 bodies buried at Wounded Knee [and] about one hundred survivors. The rest were not accounted for.” Haunted by the idea of these 136 “disappeared” human beings, I set out to write a story of an archaeologist who strives to preserve their memory.
My novel, The Last Whaler, is set on the Svalbard archipelago where, in June 2017, I shared close quarters with 31 other artists and scientists aboard the Antigua as part of the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice expedition. A retrospective narrative set in the 1930s and 40s, the novel concerns a widower-whaler’s exploration of guilt both over his botanist-wife’s death and the damage he’d done to once-pristine shores killing beluga at a remote site on Svalbard.
A graduate of Warren Wilson’s low-residency MFA program and a former lecturer in the MFA program at Rosemont College and the undergraduate creative writing program at Bryn Mawr College,
My fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared widely. I’ve won several awards and honors, including prizes in Columbia’s Fiction Contest, the DeMott Short Prose Contest (Quarter After Eight), New Millennium’s Short Short Fiction Contest, and Potomac Review’s Fiction Contest, as well as residencies at Hawthornden Castle, Galleri Svalbard, and Vermont Studio Center. I recently relocated to Midcoast Maine, to a home across from the harbor where my grandfather laid the stone walls and not far from the blueberry farm in South Hope where my father grew up. When not writing, my great love is traveling. In August 2024, I hope to survive yet another Arctic adventure aboard a ship that will circumnavigate Svalbard carrying 100 alumni from previous Arctic Circle expeditions.