Tonia Parronchi

I grew up in Shenfield, England, got a degree in English Literature and History, worked as an air-hostess for a year and then in a fashion showroom in London but although I loved England and my wonderful family and friends the urge to travel was too strong to resist. I left home in 1990, met my Italian husband Guido whilst in Greece and have been living with him in Italy ever since. I fell in love with a man who shares my passion for travel, adventure, books, good wine and snow - what more can a girl ask for? Not only that but he is a great cook too!

We live in Tuscany, with our son James and our adorable dog Stella. Our current project is the restoration of a beautiful old stone farmhouse nearby. The bureaucracy involved merits a book by itself but we are getting there slowly and I cannot wait to move in. My men love sailing and scuba diving and I follow along, although my real love is the countryside, with my feet firmly on dry land. Living here is constantly stimulating but I get back to England as often as I can to catch up with everyone there.

My other passion is, of course, writing. Read on below to find out what inspires my creativity ...



 When my friend recently asked me to write a little about my own creativity for an article she was writing, I wasn’t sure where to start but,  as usual,  when I began to write, the words came to me easily. In fact  the word “creativity” made me think immediately about my writing, even though I could have thought of numerous other things that could be defined as creative; arranging flowers to finish a room, cooking a special meal or messing around with pots of paint. I do have the occasional urge to paint or draw something but I never like anything that I produce because I find the tools unwieldy and am frustrated to find that I cannot reproduce my inner feelings when expressed in this way.  Words on the other hand never let me down.  I can mould them to reflect my sentiments exactly.

I remember that as a child I would struggle with simple mathematics,  detest the cookery classes that the other girls loved and get impatient in art lessons when I couldn’t make my clumsy hands create what I wanted to but I never had to fight to find the right word.

I have always jotted down words and phrases that come to me and sometimes these then develop into stories or poems but at other times I just take pleasure in the pure sound of a word and the images that stream forth when I concentrate on it.  Often,  as I am walking or swimming, a word will repeat rhythmically in my head like a mantra.  I remember how thrilled I was to discover the Italian verb sussurare which means to whisper. The word whisper in both languages sounds exactly as it should.  Many words have this quality of onomatopoeia that adds texture to a sentence and brings the spoken word to life. A word does not have to be spoken aloud or written to be important.  Many artists that I know say that they view life as a series of images that form in their minds.  I, on the other hand, describe things to myself with words.  When I watch a spectacular sunset or visit a beautiful place,  a part of my mind will be supplying a list of adjectives to fix it in my memory.  When thunder shakes the house and hailstones pound and rebound on the roof,  I can hear rhythms that beg to be put into verse.

Not all my wordy ponderings turn into anything poetic.  Often all that comes to me are silly “Pooh Bear” songs that make me laugh.  However,  there are also those exhilarating moments of creativity where the words take over.  They storm through my brain, falling over themselves in a mad outpouring that sends me scrabbling for the nearest scrap of paper, demanding to be written down.  I have covered many paper serviettes,  railway tickets and receipts in this way, then worked from them at home until I have arranged the skeletal idea into a perfect image.

Poems are usually the result of this kind of spontaneous creativity and it is not unusual for months to pass without any urge to write and then be followed by a period where images are unleashed, one after another, for days. I clearly remember one stormy day in October when we had just bought our boat and were moored in the picturesque port of Santa Marinella.  I had volunteered to go out for supplies and was walking back along the seafront with my heavy bags,  all muffled up in my rain jacket, when the fierce wind blew my hood off and a mixture of drizzle and salt spray hit my face.  I looked up at the ragged grey clouds racing overhead, then over at the horizon where pewter, white-backed waves surged angrily. I experienced a moment of pure joy. Joy in the savagery of the elements, in the wild freedom of nature vibrating in the air around me and in my own sense of ecstatic abandon as my soul raced to join in a primal dance with the elements. At that moment an image came to me of how one could be mesmerised by nature to the extent of wanting to be joined with it completely and the following lines came to me;

Pull me down and suck the breath from me,

Show me the mysteries only mermaids ever see,

The ocean spinning around us and you here, loving me.

I later wrote a poem around those lines but for the rest of my journey back to the boat those words ran around in my head like a siren’s song and I walked a long way round to delay my return to the “real” world.

When I am writing a book things work differently. I make myself write for several hours a day until I have a routine established.  I do not necessarily feel inspired every day but I follow the outline that I have in my head and keep writing,  even if only in note form,  knowing that there will be other days when I will be able to rewrite everything, do the corrections and write for hours without even looking at the time. At moments like that I hate to be interrupted and forget about everything else, having to be brought back to reality by the rest of the family when they declare that they are starving.

When I am really involved in a book my characters are constantly with me whether I am driving, cleaning, cooking or having a shower.  Whenever I am alone I slip into the story that is consuming me. Whatever happens to me during the day I imagine how my characters would react to that same experience. One of the most creative moments for me is while I am doing the washing up, after dinner. I often have to stop what I am doing,  dry my hands and scribble  notes at the kitchen table. I have notebooks and pens scattered all over the house so that there is no danger of losing an idea.

I try not to allow myself to think too much when I go to bed because if I do then I know I will have to write something down and disturb my husband by turning on the light.  It is not always possible to turn off my thoughts though and there are times when I get really cross at myself when I stagger back to bed,  naked and shivering, for the umpteenth time,  after being forced, by my creative force, to get up and write notes in the kitchen. As to what exactly triggers my creativity, it is hard to say. Extreme emotions certainly force me to confront them and describe them to myself.  Forming a word-picture helps to focus those emotions.  I find that I am unlikely to feel creative when I am in company,  my art is a very personal and solitary beast.

I also find that some of the most exquisite images come from the deepest pain. People have said that my poems are sometimes dark and sad but I do not see them in that light.  I see them as beautiful reflections of my deepest self and find that writing about something painful is very therapeutic.

There are many recurring images in my work. Certain words and phrases please me more that others and I enjoy playing with them and reworking them in different ways. I am particularly drawn to the “in between” state; the dusky limbo full of magical possibilities that falls between the reality we know and what we think of as nothingness.

Although forcing myself to sit down at the computer to write works well enough with a long story,  where a lot of the work is already plotted and I just have to fill in the descriptions and dialogues, I have found that I simply cannot force inspiration. The images, poetry and pieces of prose that give me the most intense and durable pleasure come from moments of unsought-after inspiration. When I finish writing something that contains a powerful emotion, handed to me almost like a gift or a blessing, I find that I am at peace. If, on  the other hand, I am unable to put the words that swarm in my brain down on paper for some reason then they swirl there, intruding on my every-day actions until I give in to the urge to write.

When I write something that truly pleases me and expresses some facet of my soul I am fulfilled. One can only ever really understand the depth and complexity of oneself  when alone and unafraid to be who we truly are, rather than a reflection of someone else’s view of us. When I do not write for a long period of time I can feel myself being overtaken by a kind of melancholy that I have discovered arises from a sense of missing my true self. At such times I sit down and pick up a pen and let whatever words come to me spill onto the page and heal me.


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