The Old Shelter

Dieselpunk Roaring Twenties. Sarah Zama's Author Blog

About me

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“Long story short” version

Born and raised near Verona (Italy), I’ve been a fantasy fan since a was a kid. I started writing fantasy stories when I was nine and never stopped.

Lover of history, fascinated with culture and anthropology, newly discovered dieselpunk. Yeah, that’s me.

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“Sit down and have a cup of coffee while I tell you a story” version

So where to start?
When I was eight… hey don’t run away! I know, I know, you don’t want to hear my life since the moment I was born, but it really started that early for me. When I was eight, my teacher had a brilliant idea: she would spare half an hour of lesson at the end of the school day and read us kids a story, so to tease us into reading. She read quite a few stories for us, but the one I remember the best is the first she read. It was called, The Magic Mountain, and no, it wasn’t Mann’s novel (thank goodness, we were just eight!). This was the project of a teacher who wrote a story together with her students – who where kids like me – and where each animal character in the story was actually one of the students handling that character.
With my adult’s eye I can see now it was mostly the teacher’s project, but my child’s eyes saw something completely different. I thought,  “Hey, if these kids can write stories, I can too.” That’s how I started off. My father was completely shocked.

For many years I wrote incessantly all kind of craps, mimicking the stories I watched on TV and then the ones I read. There was very little sharing at that time, ne
arly no one read my… things.
Then as a teenager I discovered something amazing: other people liked the same things I liked, and they wanted to share their passion.
This is how it worked: you bought magazines about the things you liked and if you wanted to share, you posted an add in the magazine talking about yourself and your passion, left your address, and if someone wanted, they could write to you, via snail mail, of course.
I got in touch with a  few people who also wrote stories, in this way. We started to exchange our stories and critique them for each other. With a couple of these people I wrote ‘ensamble’ stories. One of us would write a chapter, then she would send it over the mail, the other one would wait for the leTraforotter and would write the following chapter then send it out. And so on.
Sounds a lot like last century.
Oh, right. It was last century…
This is how I started seeing my stories through someone else’s eyes, which is the best thing that can happen to a writer, although I didn’t know, at the time.

Soon after, I started entering contests. I’ll tell you what, I never won one, even if I often won second place. Honestly this experience, which lasted a couple years, didn’t bring me anywhere, still it was quite important to me. It taught me discipline, because I had to match a deadline for entering the contest. I had to stick to parameters (word count, themes, genre), and for the first time I confronted myself with others and had to handle rejection.
It was indeed a forming experience. Above all, it taught me the Italian market might not be my place. The kind of stories I wrote and the way I wrote them did not fit what the Italian market liked… and no surprise about it, since my models were all British and American novelists.
In the end I thought I might have a better chance writing in English for the English-speaking market.
I started reading in English, I enrolled in English courses and for a few years a spent a few months a year working in Dublin (which was another forming experience, but that’s another story).
I started translating my own stories and entering them into contexts… and I don’t really know where I found the nerves to send them off, since they were honestly unreadable, but hey… hadn’t I done it then, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

In 2007 the most important thing for my writing ‘career’ happened to me: I entered an online workshop, namely the Critique Circle. It was like seeing the light. I am serious.
Not only did I get in touch with so many people all around the world writing like me and taking the thing seriously like I did, but these people were also willing to read my stuff and critique it, as I was willing to read and critique theirs. I thought I knew the value of feedback. In fact I didn’t until I entered this workshop.
I know people who don’t like being in a workshops because they think critiquing other people’s stuff is a waste of time. Nothing is further from the truth, at least for me. Sure, having your stories critted is nice, even when the person critting you can’t find anything nice to tell you. At the beginning it was hard to accept that most people didn’t love my stories, but as soon as I gotmacchina da scrivere over that stage, I discovered I had something to learn from every single critique. It could be about my use of English, it could be about my handling of characters, about my story’s structure, about the way I used one technique or another. Even hearing about how a reader saw something I saw in a completely different way was a discovery. And this happens both ways. I learn things when people point them out to me, but I also learn when I point things out to other writers, because then I start seeing the same things in my own writing.
But the most amazing thing is that with some of these writers a more friendly bond was born. People whose stories I like, whose style I appreciate. People who speak their mind honestly. In short, people I trust. With this writers I have a stronger bond, which means I can talk more freely with them, and about more specific things, knowing they are going to help me, whether they have something nice to tell to me or not.
Really, if you’re serious about writing, do enter a workshop. That’s the best thing you can do for your writing skills.

In 2008, my mum died. My world crushed down. Among other things, I nearly stopped writing. But I never accepted I would just stop. Writing has always been a let out for me. It proved to be again. I held in it and slowly, I started creating stories again, though very different stories. Mostly deep into history and culture (although always speculative) and talking about rebirth.
That’s how Ghost Trilogy came to me.

———————————————————-Welcome to the Old Shelter

Photos by Mascia Zama
Background image by ScatterFlee
Gravatar image by DreamUpGraphic

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