Elbows the Size of Pumpkins or Knees the Size of Watermelons?

What an odd question to ask! And yet it was one of the interview questions posed to me by Robin Woods, an independent author of young adult fiction and a blogger who posts a weekly author interview.

Want to find out who my writing heroes are? How I define the genres I write in? What inspired me to write my first (and second and third and fourth) book? Where my titles come from? And what I’ve hated about my writing? Maybe you’ve experienced some similar roadblocks or joys or embarrassments as a writer (and can send me a comment to sympathize or laugh along with you). In the interview I also share the quote that keeps me writing.

Here’s the interview: Interview by Robin Woods

Robin ends the interview with the “This or That: Speed Round” set of questions. That’s where pumpkins and watermelons come in. Robin is a teacher, so you can understand that her creativity must captivate her students and inspire them to write. Hopefully you’ll check out her website, too, and find a new book to read!

Robin Woods Fiction

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Necrology Tells All

Necrology. Sounds so ominous and spooky!

But in this case, the necrology, or list of the dead, that was kept by Sister Bartolomea Riccoboni is a valuable document that reveals so much about the life of the nuns at the Church of Corpus Domini in Venice.


For example, Sister Lucia Tiepolo, who became the prioress, decided to build the church on its particular location after a great snow storm left a pile of snow that didn’t melt. She earned some of the money to build the church with funds from concocting simple medicines for others. “Go to Venice and build me a convent in my name,” (Riccoboni 26) she was commanded by a vision of Jesus Christ.


Many of the sisters saw illness as a “gift from God” to test their faith (67), and they took great care of those who were suffering. They lived much of their day in complete silence, and Sister Bartolomea reports that often their religious fervor was exultant. Some women seemed to glow with internal light, particularly at the moment of death. Some even smiled or laughed joyfully upon dying, knowing they were soon to meet their God.


The Church of Corpus Domini was founded in 1375 but consecrated on this day, June 29, 1394, 621 years ago. It no longer stands, having been replaced by the train station, though it shows up on old maps and etchings. Today I honor these women who founded a refuge for their sisters, a place where they could practice their faith and care for others.

A fuller story with more quotes is available in my book A Beautiful Woman in Venicehttp://kathleenanngonzalez.wix.com/beautifulwoman

(Quotes taken from Life and Death in a Venetian Convent by Sister Bartolomea Riccoboni. The detail from Barbari’s map is taken from the website churchesofvenice.com, as is the etching of the buildings.)

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Without Precedent

The University of Karueein, which began in 859 in Morocco, is the world’s oldest continually operating university. For Europe, that distinction goes to the University of Bologna in Italy, which opened in 1088. But it took until June 25, 1678, until a woman was allowed to earn a university degree.

Elena Cornaro Piscopia

That woman was Elena Cornaro Piscopia, a Venetian. Here she is wearing an ermine stole called a mozzetta, worn by laureates along with an actual laurel wreath. Though she was not allowed to attend classes at any university, through her own hard work with tutors she prepared for and passed the exam to earn a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Padua. She wanted a degree in theology but was denied because church authorities were adamant that a woman doctor of theology should not be allowed to teach church doctrine.



Among Elena’s many accomplishments, here’s a list of some: she spoke Venetian, Italian, French, English, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic. She studied grammar, philosophy, and her favorite, Christian scriptures. She also read deeply and widely from such authors as Homer, Plato, Herodotus, Xenophon, Livy, Virgil, Horace, Caesar, and Cicero. She studied art in Venice’s museums and private homes, plus sang while accompanying herself on various instruments. As was popular at the time, she could improvise poetry or singing on a given topic. All before she was twenty. She was termed Unico examplo, “Without precedent,” on a statue in her honor at the University of Padua.


Elena wanted nothing more than to be left alone with her books, but her father tried to force her to marry. However, Elena had secretly taken vows to be a Benedictine oblate, one who follows the Rule of Saint Benedict but without living as a nun. She also practiced physical penance by flagellation and starvation. Her faith was the only thing in her life she had any control over.


Elena’s was a remarkable intellect, formed by remarkable drive and discipline. A medallion cast in her honor read, “Non sine Foenore,” “Not Without Reward.” Today, we honor her memory. Read more about her life in A Beautiful Woman in Venice.


(Image of first portrait from Wikipedia. Image of plaque and second portrait from http://venicexplorer.net/tradizione/piscopia.php?hlangs=en. The statue photo is from brainsandcareers.com.)

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Pensione Vapore

My friend Piero is un tesoro–a treasure when it comes to Venetian things. He recently sent me a link to this 1946 arty film set in Venice:


Titled Pensione Vapore (Loosely translated as Hotel Steam), it was silent footage until Piero stepped in. He’s a jazz musician and gathered his friends to record the soundtrack for this film. It’s uncanny how well the music fits the footage. Bravo!

Can’t say that I follow the film’s plot, but maybe that’s not the point. Some things are all about mood, and Venice fairly reeks of mood! Here, apparently, is it’s steamy mood. Enjoy with a glass of something dark, like a montepulciano or sangiovese, in hand.


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Trip Fiction

A friend recently showed me that someone reviewed my first book, Free Gondola Ride, on TripFiction.com.


How cool is that? I knew that I had a few reviews of my writing on Goodreads, and I have gotten a couple Amazon reviews as well. Such a pleasant surprise to find out that my books are out their circulating and being enjoyed. Thank you to all who take the time to review what you read. It can really make a writer’s day.  :)

front cover copy

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The Book – The Trip

The book, the trip, the realization of a long time dream!


Three years ago Vonda approached me with the idea to write a book about Venetian women, a book that would work in conjunction with a tour of sites related to their lives. I would write the book while she would lead the tours. In 2013,  I flew from the west coast to New York to meet her and begin work. We immediately hit it off and worked well together, holed up in the upstairs bedroom of her house, immersed in books and websites as we started to list names of women we wanted to research. Morosina Morosini Grimani, Veronica Franco, Maria Boscola…the list grew slowly but surely as we got deeper into the research.

Then I continued on my own, drafting chapters and discovering Venetian women who fired my imagination and inspired me with their stories. Elena Cornaro Piscopia, Marina Querini Benzon, Archangela Tarabotti, Cencia Scarpariola….

Vonda & Kathy in Venice

Last summer, Vonda and I met up in Venice to discuss details about the tour. (Yes, we could have met in the U.S., but why here when we could be there?) The whole project is now complete, and in fact we’ll meet up in Venice again this July as Vonda leads a group trip to our favorite city. We got to walk in the footsteps of Barbara Strozzi, Cecilia Ferrazzi, Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi, Rosalba Carriera, and others.

Visit www.abeautifulwomaninvenice.com to see details about the tour, its itinerary, photos from trips, and a preview of the women featured in the guided tour. Here are details about the book, with a complete list of the women included: http://kathleenanngonzalez.wix.com/beautifulwoman

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Quattro Minuti con Casanova: Guardi’s House



Francesco Guardi, as you might have guessed from the paintbrush between his fingers, was a painter. He was known for Venetian cityscapes. He was also painting teacher to Francesco Casanova, brother to the more famous Giacomo Casanova. Giacomo wrote in his memoir about joining his brother for dinner at Guardi’s house in Venice. Here you can see the location as I tell a bit more of the story:


While many of Guardi’s paintings depict the ubiquitous canals, Rialto Bridge, San Giorgio Maggiore, and such, here are two of his works that stand out to me for their use of color.


The Piazza at night.


An oil fire at San Marcuola.

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