Valentina Nesci

Author's details

Name: Valentina Nesci
Date registered: May 26, 2011
URL: http://www.valentinanesci.com

Biography

Editor in Chief Valentina is a writer, journalist and editor who enjoys nursing creative works to life. She graduated from Stanford's journalism Master of Arts in June 2011, after earning a B.A in Communication from the American University of Rome in 2010. At Stanford, she contributed to The Peninsula Press, the Bay Citizen and SFGate.com. If you are interested in learning more about Vale's work in Italy, your best bet is to look for her articles on Italian Notebook. If, instead, you love Human Resources, you can check out her blog at Procter & Gamble. In her free time, Vale likes to turn visions into reality, problems into opportunities and words into magic. She currently works at Uniiverse, a platform for collaborative living, where she is the City Manager of San Francisco. Contact Info: vnesci@write-a-holic.com

Latest posts

  1. Seven Years — September 10, 2012
  2. Writing, NaNo and Meditation Pratice — July 1, 2012
  3. Rage Against the NaNochine — November 8, 2011
  4. Interview With Luke Geraghty, author of Torrodil — November 8, 2011
  5. No Plot? No Problem! — October 31, 2011

Most commented posts

  1. Anatomy of a Writer – Part 1 — 10 comments
  2. No Plot? No Problem! — 9 comments
  3. Nobody Tells This To Beginners — 7 comments
  4. Enchantment — 5 comments
  5. Rage Against the NaNochine — 4 comments

Author's posts listings

Jun 04

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Last updated Wed, 01 Jun 2011 05:51
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Jun 03

Don’t Be Such a Cry Baby

The slimy, wet floor emanates a strong smell of sweat and chlorine. It rises up Ria’s nose and seems to settle inside her brain, making her feel dizzy. Thirty or forty six year olds like her have been running in circles on that wet floor for what feels like an eternity, and Ria finds herself insistently looking at the whistle the coach  wears around her neck. It’s green, like the floor.

When is she going to blow it?

Suddenly, what feels like a block of wood crashes into Ria’s ankles. She looks down and catches a glimpse of pink. Someone has tripped her! She frantically waves her hands in the air,  but can’t prevent gravity from hurling her down. The floor hits her like a slap, leaving the left side of her body numb.

Ria feels the vibration of someone’s feet hustling away – the culprit – as the rest gingerly crowd around her. The smell of sweat intensifies as the other children get so close they are practically breathing on her. Ria can hardly breathe, suffocated by the pain, the smell and the heat of the other bodies. Then Helaine, their coach, forces the children to disperse, and the poignant smell is replaced by a fruity scent as she sits beside Ria. Helaine’s eyes are grey and inexpressive, they remind Ria of cement.

Helaine’s monotone voice is is slightly aggressive. She wants to look concerned, but you can tell from the mechanical way in which her lips move that she couldn’t care less. She puts on a smile but it’s all teeth. Ria’s pain seems to intensify.

It’s like her arm is on fire.

The heat begins at her elbow, and propagates to the rest of the body, like an earthquake. Ria mumbles that she thinks her arm must be broken, but Helaine isn’t listening to her. She grabs Ria’s arm, which is awkwardly bent at the elbow,  and yanks it. Ria closes her eyes, trying not to scream. By now she knows the arm must be broken. The coach, however, is of a different mind, and insists that  the arm can’t be broken, because it moved and when a limb is broken…it doesn’t move.She says it very matter-of-factly, in that metallic voice that is so machine-like that it can’t be wrong, a human can’t contradict it.

Defeated, Ria lets her arm hang at her side. She wonders whether the coach might be right. After all, she doesn’t know how much pain people feel when their arms are broken. Her arm throbs so hard she thinks her heart might have decided to settle there. But does it hurt enough to be broken?

Ria follows Helaine towards a long, winding pipe, which is also green. Its hollow end stares at her, like a snake ready to attack.  The coach turns the handle on the pipe, and icy water gushes out of it and onto Ria’s feet.  Ria can’t help it. She squirms and hides her arm behind her back.

“Come on, don’t be a whimp” says Helaine, in a mildly frustrated tone. “Give me your arm.”

I would rather walk home in my bathing suit! Is what Ria would like to say.

Instead, she extends her arm towards the coach and turns her head away from the pipe, hoping that, because she can’t see what is going to happen, it won’t hurt as much. The other children are huddled together in a corner, gaping at her with a mixture of awe, pity and fear. Then the icy water hits Ria’s  arm, and her friend’s faces fuse into a blur.

 

***

Curled inside her bathrobe, Ria watches the other children pretending to swim, their curious eyes burrowing into hers. She can’t stop crying. From time to time, Helaine coach tries to persuade her to get in. The coach is clearly disappointed now, and even though Ria hopes she won’t say it out loud, she knows what the coach is thinking: what a cry baby.

Her mother always used to say that. What a cry baby. What a cry baby. Ria can hear her mom’s voice chanting inside her head. Cry baby. Cry baby. Cry baby!

Unexpectedly, Ria notices the pain in her arm seems to have subsided. Maybe she wants to prove her mother wrong, or maybe the pain is so persistent she has become inured to it. Relieved, she realizes that there is no more reason to cry. She begs the coach to let her swim, raising both arms to prove that all is well again.

Helaine smiles. For a moment, she almost seems human. And, most importantly, she seems proud of her.

Of course that doesn’t last long, however. As soon as Ria tries to move her arm into the water, the stinging pain is so strong and immediate it makes her want to puke. She can’t swim anymore, and as she struggles to keep her head afloat her memory brings her back to the day in which she had been the last person to have the courage to go from one end of the pool to the other. Feeling the familiar fear of being a failure overtake her, Ria’s eyes swell with tears. Maybe, she thinks, I am a cry baby.

Then one of Ria’s friends offers her a rubber ring. Yes! What a great idea! Incredible how that small gesture of kindness filled her with hope so quickly. The coach helps Ria into it, and there she is, swimming away with her good arm. Occasionally, she also tries to move the other one, convinced that with enough will-power she will eventually learn not to notice the pain.

For what seems like an interminable hour, Ria stomps her feet and good arm to reach the other side of the pool in a succession of pain, moments of relief and then more pain. Until she hears the whistle.

It’s finally over.

Everybody storms out of the pool and rushes to their bathrobes, eager to be free from the coach’s rule. Ria slowly follows suit, first struggling to climb out of the pool, then to keep up with the others. The floor is her enemy now, and she can’t help  but anxiously look around her for dangerous glimpses of pink. She is so caught up with avoiding legs or anything that might trip her, that she walks straight into a massive glass door, hitting her bad arm again. But it doesn’t matter anymore. Ria’s babysitter is observing her from the other side of the glass, and the apprehensive look in her eyes, the first one Ria has received up to that moment, is all that she needs to smile.

***

During dinner, Ria’s mom tries to take the heat out of the situation. “Of course it’s not broken,” she reassures her husband. “Ria is such a cry baby!” Ria’s mom playfully pinches Rias’s cheek, and the poor child turns to her plate for comfort. Incredible, how that single pinch could hurt more than her swollen arm.

I knew it. She thinks. Of course my arm isn’t broken. If it had been, the pain would have certainly been unbearable.  I probably won’t even get a bruise from this thing. As she tries to ignore the pain to use her knife, she tells herself that next time she won’t cry, no matter how much it hurts. Ria’s younger brother, who is only three and, therefore, still maintains the healthy curiosity of someone who doesn’t have to worry about work all say, notices something.

“Dad, don’t you think that Ria’s left arm is growing?”

By the time Ria finshes eating desert, one of her arms is double the size of the other, and her shirt is braced around it so tightly that it almost feels like it will suffocate.

Without even finishing his food, Ria’s dad swiftly cleans up the table and leaves.

“Honey, where are you going?” asks Ria’s mother.

“To get the car keys. Ria’s arm is clearly.”

I knew it! Thinks Ria. She has never felt so relieved in her life.

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Jun 02

Castel Sant’ Angelo

Azure

Too azure…

The Roman sky.

Smiles on their faces: mothers and little children.

 

Where are their men?

 

Tourists all over

The ancient Roman walls

Taking pictures and pictures and pictures…

 

Where are their souls?

 

Cuddled in their desolate coats

Dust in their wrinkles…

 

Where are their homes?

 

The angel up above has lost its sword…

 

When will I learn to fly?


The view from Castel Sant' Angelo, Rome, Italy. Photographed by Valentina Nesci

 

This poem was originally published in Remus’s Literary Journal, Volume II

 

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Jun 02

One Page Per Day…

… To Write a Novel Without Delay!

Ok, the rhyme is ridiculous, but you know what I mean.

The point is that many of us, me included, would love to be able to write a novel. However, the task seems so daunting that it’s easy to get caught up in all the day-to-day events that require more immediate action. Take the cat to the vet, help your child finish his homework, complete that essay for your Philosphy of Movement, Language and Dreams (one of those classes with interminable names that sound interesting until you realize that even the professor himself doesn’t really know what he is teaching)… anyway, I digress.

Which, actually, proves that maybe, just maybe,  the reason why we never sit down and write those masterpieces is that it’s simply too easy to digress, to run off on life’s tangent and leave our great novel unwritten.

This is why some of us “chicken out” from writing lengthy pieces and write short stories and poems instead, then publish them on a blog called Write-A-Holic and feel a little bit better. (Any reference to me and you is purely not coincidental).

Nevertheless, there is still a part of us that would very much like to write that novel.

If you feel like you would just need that little extra nudge to help you get started, then here is the solution to all your problems: One Page Per Day.

This website is a useful tool that simply presents you with a blank page ever day.

The idea, according to them, is that “You get a gentle reminder to do your page each day, then you just sit back and watch your book come together.”

I’m not as optimistic as they are, but I think I will give it a try, and let you know how things go. You do the same and, if you finish your novel, let me know!

Buona scrittura :)

(roughly translated as “pleasant writing”)

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Jun 01

On Box Making

Boxes come in many forms.
Some are thin and some are fat,
Some are round and others square,
And some even have steering wheels.

Still others are of a subtler sort.
for instance
If I say I’m bad at sports
Or Calculus
Or loving
Well, there’s a box that I just made and sat right down in.

Or if I were to insist that you do it this way
Or not that way
Or not at all
Well, now I’ve made a box for you and stuck you in it.

So try not to be overzealous in your box-making.

It would be like if you sat down to write a poem, and I told you not to use any words beginning with vowels.
And you had once been criticized by your fifth-grade teacher for writing a run-on sentence, so you decided you’d better play it safe and keep to really short ones.
And I told you you’d better not use any long words either.
Just to be safe.
Well, pretty soon there’d be only one word left to write:

Help.

…but that’s hardly to say that all boxes are bad.

The canvas of O’ Keefe, the sonnet of Shakespeare, the symphony of Schubert: these are royal boxes, fit for a queen, as she watches life play out, discerning details that many might miss.

The right box can also keep us safe and comfortable, as many a cutely curled kitty can testify.

So my advice would simply be that whatever cube you encase yourself in, take note of where you’ve placed the walls.
And leave yourself a door — two, in case of fire.
Or at least give yourself a window.

At any rate, that is how I would construct my box.

But you don’t have to do it that way, if you find it too constricting.

This poem was originally published in The Musings of Marc Evans

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Jun 01

Perhaps: Story of the Luckiest, Least Fortunate Man on Earth

Fortunato checks his mailbox every morning, anxiously waiting for that package to arrive. But day after day he finds his mailbox empty, aside from the usual bills or the occasional postcard from his sister, a hardcore globetrotter.

Days, weeks go by, Fortunato’s hopes shrinking into nothingness. Finally, he stops checking. He doesn’t care anymore. Or, at least, he pretends he doesn’t.

One day, his mother knocks at his door and peeks in, hesitantly. The muscles of her face are tense and she is fidgeting with the doorknob. At first, he doesn’t realize what has happened, his mind still clouded by sleep. But his mother keeps staring at him until he notices she is holding something.

It came.

The package is heavy and filled with countless papers, a brochure with course descriptions, and a map of the university. He made it. He will go to Grad School! For Fortunato, who has always lived nestled in the small Italian village of Spoleto, the United States of America will be a drastic change. In Spoleto, life seems to have stopped at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s as though somebody took a picture and froze the moment and no one but Fortunato is aware that the world outside is changing, leaving them behind. The rest, the “Spoletini,,” regard television as the devil. Their “Facebooks” are unwieldy albums with yellowing pages and, if you asked them to guess what Wikipedia was, they would probably say that it’s a board game or something.

Luckily, Fortuato won’t have to put up with them anymore: he’s going to study Business… at Stanford!  His head feels dizzy. It’s probably the excitement. He walks across the room towards the phone. He MUST share the good news. But the room suddenly becomes so long and his legs so heavy, his eyesight blurs as he falls to the floor.

The carpet is the last thing he sees.

Fortunato wakes up feeling refreshed. He smiles, images of Stanford’s majestic campus crowding his mind. He doesn’t notice the white walls, the smell of disinfectants, the gown someone has gently slid over his body. It will be only later, when a stern doctor’s monotonous voice will tell him that he has brain cancer, that Fortunato will become acquainted to the merciless, unforgiving irony of it all. One moment his dream had been laid out in front of his open palms, the next it was gone, evaporated into thin air as if it had been merely a vision. Continue reading “Perhaps: Story of the Luckiest, Least Fortunate Man on Earth” »

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May 31

Eternal Fire

Pray let me dwell in the colorful bliss of blindness

And overlook the lies that time has painted on my wall.

I close my eyes, invoke sleep’s absentmindedness

But for the sake of honesty, some things I can’t ignore.

 

I therefore gingerly, hesitatingly, force my eyes open

And walk into the lion’s lair, with nothing but my pen

It’s not a wand I’m holding, of this I am aware

And I am no magician, but I have a story to share.

 

It won’t make clocks run backwards; it’s not a secret cure

It’s just the knowledge that we’re not only cold skin, but fire

That nourishes your body even when the soul is starving,

And makes a soldier fight even if wounded, or while dying.

 

Some people call it ingenuity, others foolish stubbornness

The cynics call it love, and atheists like to call it faith.

But my light can’t be named, it can only be seen

It’s both in my eyes and yours,

 

Can you see it?

First Published in Remus Literary Journal, Volume II

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May 30

The Importance of Being Patient

The thin sheets of nori algae have a pungent, salty smell which reminds me of the little dry fish we give our turtles. I wave it in front of my eyes, as if it were a fan. It feels coarse, like fabric, but has the consistency of paper, and I soon notice that it breaks as easily. “Stop playing with your food!” says my mother.

“Food?” I ask. I look at the algae, its dark green color reminds me of the grime that collects on the sides of my turtle’s cage at the end of the week. “There’s no way I’m going to put that into my mouth!” I protest.

“It’s good, I promise! You just don’t know because you haven’t tried it yet,” she says. I look again at the algae, then put it close to my nose and smell it. It’s salty and fishy, like my turtle’s cage. My nose wrinkles in disgust. However, I try to remind myself that I am almost four now, so I have to be brave and try everything, even if it smells bad!

I look up from the algae and notice that my mom is taking a box which has the same shape and size of a pasta container. As soon as she pours it on the scale, however, I notice that it’s not pasta, but white pellets that look like miniature confetti. They clatter against the sleek surface of the scale as my mom brings it closer to the boiling water. She then pours all of them in, and the water swallows them, making some sort of foam. I try to look beyond the foam and into the pan, wondering if they are melting.

“What is this?” I ask my mom.

“It’s rice. It tastes a little bit like pasta, but better.” I try to imagine what flavor could taste like pasta, but better. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem possible that such a food really exists.

My mom keeps stirring the rice. Periodically, she picks some of it up with her spoon, observes it intently and then places it back into the pot. When I ask her why she moves the spoon from side to side, she explains to me that she needs to see when the rice becomes of a certain color and consistency, indicating that its cooked. When that happens, she motions for me to look at it. “See? It’s almost transparent, and swollen.” I look at the rice and, sure enough, it is a lot larger, more shaped like a pearl than confetti. My mom gives me permission to touch it. It is wet, soft and mushy. I reach into the box and take the other rice, to see if its different. The uncooked rice is hard and dry like confetti. Cooked rice instead feels more like candies. I wonder if rice also tastes like candy, maybe that’s why it’s better than pasta? I reach into the pan and get a handful of mushy rice, but my mom gently slaps my hand with the spoon.

“Be patient! The hasty cat had blind kittens,” she says. My mom really likes proverbs, especially this one. I never understood the connection between being hasty and having blind kittens, but I do know one thing: I’m hungry, and I want to eat now. However, my mom explains that she is making sushi, a dish that needs to be prepared slowly and carefully. I tell her that I would rather have the rice now than the sushi later, but she refuses, assuring me that the sushi will taste a lot better than rice. I am getting wary. To distract me, mom talks to me about the origins of this food, which comes from the faraway country of Japan.   She says that the Japanese consider food an art, and rice to them is like gold, a material that cannot be wasted. Suddenly, I feel guilty of having eaten such a precious food, and imagine how it would feel like to pay with rice instead of dollars. I guess the only problem would be that they rice is so small and slippery it would be very easy to lose it…

While I’m daydreaming about a world in which rice is the only currency, my mother lies a wooden mat made of bamboo sticks that look like tiny straws,. She then covers the mat with a thin sheet of transparent plastic paper, the one you use when you don’t want food to stick to the pan. On top of it, she puts the green nori. Then she takes a flat, plastic spatula and dips it into a cup of water. Steam is curling up from it, making me realize how hot the water inside it must be. My mom explains that you need to dip the spatula into the water several times so as not to have the rice stick to it. She then dips the spatula into the rice, scoops a spoonful of it and shows me how to lay it on the nori so that it forms a perfectly rectangular surface about half a centimeter thick. We then peel a cucumber and cut it into tiny strips. We do the same with a thick omelet and some avocado. After, we carefully position the three ingredients in three neat lines. It’s a painstaking task, and the end product reminds me of those mosaics that I see when I go rollerblading in Rome’s Foro Italico. There is a neat, yellow line of omelet, followed by a line of avocado, followed by a line of cucumbers. It looks perfect to me, but my mom decides we need to add more color to this sushi, so she goes into the kitchen and reaches for some tuna. She puts tuna inside the pan and starts cooking it with oil, soy and salt.

I am extremely bored and even hungrier, so my eyes keep drifting towards pieces of cucumbers, omelet and avocado. However, they are cut so precisely that I don’t dare touch them. I begin to realize that sushi is like a puzzle. For it to be worthy of the name “sushi”, all of its condiments have to fit together perfectly, and for this reason each piece has to be prepared with the utmost care.

My reflection is interrupted by my mom, who takes the sugar container and starts pouring it onto the tuna.

“Mom, that’s sugar!” I blurt. She replies that she knows, and then adds some soy to the concoction, puts a generous spoonful of it into her mouth and makes a satisfied smile.

When she hands me a spoonful of the reddish tuna I refuse to try it. It looks like a mixture of dog food and blood. However, the smell is delicious, a little sweet, like dried fruits, and a little sour, like lemons. I help my mother to place the red mixture in a neat line beside the cucumbers. She then shows me how to roll the mat slowly from one side to the other so that the rice forms a cylindrical shape which wraps around the other ingredients like a blanket. Then, slowly and carefully, we begin the arduous task of removing the mat without ruining our creation. We are left with a compact, white cylinder of rice with pieces of cucumber and omelet poking out of it like whiskers. I look at my mom in awe as she takes a knife, dips it into the now barely warm water and then starts carefully cutting the cylinder into tiny slices. Her shoulders are hunched and her brows corrugated into a concentrated expression, much like the one of the surgeons on the television show E.R. The room is so silent I can hear myself breathing. Then my mom suddenly breaks the silence. “This is the most crucial part of the preparation. You see, if the rice breaks off and the cylinder loses its shape you can’t eat it anymore.”

“Why?” I ask, bewildered.

“Because it wouldn’t be beautiful. And sushi has to be beautiful!”

I had never thought that food had to be beautiful. As my mom hands me the piece of sushi, I look at it in amazement. It is a perfect circle with four squares of different colors. It’s closer to a painting than to something a person would eat. My stomach grumbles, reminding me how hungry I am. I bite into the sushi and a myriad of tastes fill my mouth. The tuna’s sweetness is balanced by the acrid taste of cucumber and the softness of the omelet is enhanced by the avocado, which melts in my mouth. I take another bite, and another, and another. My mom looks pleased.

“Wasn’t it worthwhile to wait a little?” She asks. I nod, and take my second piece of sushi.

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May 30

There Are No Tips!

If you look at blogs about writing, you will find that many like to give you the “Top Ten Tips To Write a Bestseller In Less Than Two Weeks” spiel.

My assumption is that this is because the career of a writer can be scary: the creative process is often so mysterious and subjective that it’s very hard to truly know whether or not you can be good at it until you try.

Instead, it’s comforting to believe that there is an easy fix: follow these rules and you’ll be successful, start your book with a “killer first sentence” and you’ll have everybody hooked. A person reads these rules and thinks ” it’s easy! I can be a writer too!” A writer, instead, looks at these rules and frowns. They know that the moment writing becomes governed by a set of rules it loses its magic, becoming just a string of words on a page.

At this point, you might be asking yourself why I decided to include a category of “writing tips” if I don’t want to give you any tips. Good point.

The reason is that I do want you to become the best writer you can be. I just don’t believe that the easy fix will help you achieve your goal. Instead, I will use this section to share with you all of the knowledge that I and the writers I admire have accumulated over the years. I hope to be able to use our stories and advice to enable you to find your own path to success.

Ultimately, the best tip that anyone could ever give you is this: write because you can’t help it. Write because you would rather do that than anything else. If you take this approach, you will be successful, regardless of whether or not you follow anyone else’s “tips.”

 

 

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May 27

La Luna

Pale blue eyes, you’re here

Painting poems in my head, weaving secrets in my soul.

I write to you, with my chocolate pen,

on tip toes, like a blind man on the edge of a precipice.

My makeup melts in front of you,

I’m just a clown with no more jokes to share

And yet you laugh,

Until she comes, and smiles at you

White dress, earrings, beauty, flair.

 

Lips turn blue, you’re gone.

Nothing but your  perfume to fill the space you left

I circle your house, a wilted sunflower

Begging with no hands, singing silently.

Then, unexpectedly,

The Moon starts barking.

Tap water got us drunk.

But we won’t tell them how it happened.

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