Emerging Author of the Month: Joanne Vannicola

Photo of joanne-vannicolaTell us about yourself.

I’ve had a long career as a film actor in Canada. I started working as a child and had a professional career at a young age. I’ve won an Emmy, been nominated for a Genie, a Gemini and an ACTRA award. I’ve traveled to a number of places and have weathered the storm of being a female actor in a sexist industry, still weather it! I’ve also been an activist since I was a child and the merging of creativity with social justice issues is part of who I am. I founded a small nonprofit a while back called Youth Out Loud, and the goal was to raise awareness about child rights and violence issues, to provide creative outlet for teenagers and young adults as well through writing poetry and making art. Now I’m focusing on my writing because I’ve always wanted to write. I started out writing plays about adolescent experiences, around issues of race, gender, sexuality or being LGBT. Writing this first novel has been a challenge, but one where I get to use my politics and expose the harsh realities of growing up in a difficult environment, with a protagonist who must cope with a lot as a child and find her way in the world.

Tell us about the piece you’ve decided to share.

It’s from my novel, Walking Through Glass. It’s near the opening of the book where the protagonist Carly Bello is about to visit with her mother who is in the hospital. The novel moves in time from the 70s, 80s, and 90s up to 2010 where Carly’s mother is dying, and Carly hasn’t really seen her mother for a number of years until she is diagnosed with cancer. With the clock ticking, Carly is desperate to learn some truths, but you will have to get the book some day to learn what those are!

When and why did you realize you had a passion for writing?

When I was a child and participated in an activist march during the first International Year of the Child in 1978, and saw the power of words in speech, in chants and in the energy of people coming together. At the same time, I was performing in plays and television as an actor, and there was freedom in being able to feel, speak and make things up, even if it wasn’t reflected in everyday life, even if life was hard at home or at school, I understood there was a way of living in alternate realities or of exposing truth through words, theatre or activism. I felt the power of words at a young age.

What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?

I would say books that had some type of social, emotional or political impact, books like A Fine Balance, Tipping the Velvet, Don’t, or inspiring people like Nelson MandelaSarah Waters, Lawrence Hill, Dorothy Allison, or current books like Room, poets like Sylvia Plath and activist writers and thinkers, Adrienne Rich, Toni Morrison. Oh . . . Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit—books that pushed the envelope in their time, or made people think beyond their own reflections about difference, gender, the human condition.

What kind of writer do you aspire to be?

Hopefully a good one. A writer that changes a person’s perspective or opens minds or provides moments of clarity, something that sticks, even if only in a single sentence, or books that inspire young adults. I wouldn’t mind writing some books that also push the envelope, that dig deep into social issues that matter through character, other worlds, or just this one!

How and when do you find time to write?

I make time to write when I am moved to write . . . more like a fever. I don’t always write, but when I do it’s as if something must come out, and I can sit down and write for hours and hours or days and days on end . . . then won’t sit down again for weeks, unless of course there is a deadline. But because I am also an actor and activist, my schedule always changes as does my available time or writing time.