From January to May of 2022, I studied literature and Italian at the SantAnna Institute in Sorrento, Italy and lived with a local family. Those four months were some of the most life-changing of my life, and I am endlessly grateful to have had the experience. One of many gifts that the study-abroad experience gave me was a new writing project, my current Work-In-Progress. As I walked around town one day, a few weeks into my stay, I went down to the Marina Grande, a beach in the tiny ocean town of Sorrento. While there, I saw houses built into the cliffs overlooking the ocean, and was intrigued by the idea - what would it be like to wake up and walk to your bedroom window to a view of the Mediterranean Sea? What if those houses were a castle? And my story was born. I went home and began writing.
A few days later, my host mother, Iryna, had a friend of hers over for tea. The two of them were chattering in Italian around the cozy mosaic dining room table and when I came out of my bedroom, Iryna introduced me and explained that I was a writer. My host mom had only known me for a few weeks and could barely communicate with me since I didn’t speak Italian and she didn’t speak much English. But Iryna proudly told all of her friends that I was a writer and would announce that I was “J.K. Rowling! Agatha Christie!” The most famous English authors she knew. It was adorable, she is still the best hype-woman I know. But that day, Iryna’s friend asked me a question that changed my life.
“What is your dream?”
I thought about it for a minute, and then called Iryna’s son, Matteo over. Matteo speaks English, so I asked him to translate for me, because what I was about to say, I simply didn’t know how to say in Italian.
I told Iryna and her friend that I was currently reading a fantasy book series (it was A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas) and I was spending a lot of time looking on the internet for people who adored the books as much as I did. In my search, I found countless pictures of people dressed as the characters, artists who had drawn the characters as they imagined them, merchandise with quotes from the stories, and my personal favorite, textposts about the characters that told stories about how they imagined the characters would act in situations outside of the books.
People loving my stories so much that they use their creativity to make the stories better than I ever could. That is my dream.
Matteo told them everything I’d said in Italian and the two women told me that was a wonderful dream, offered me tea, and continued their conversation about…I don’t know, I didn’t speak enough Italian that early into the stay there to follow the conversation. But I’ve thought about that moment every day since it happened, because I had never seen the future I wanted for myself more clearly. Every time I feel creative burnout, have anxiety that my book won’t get published, or that no one will ever want to read it, I remind myself of that day, when a girl who didn’t feel like she had much purpose became a girl on a mission.
Writers, what is your dream? Do you crave fanart as much as I do? Comment below what your dream is and what drives you to achieve it!