Meet Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Tiziano Thomas Dossena was born in Milan in 1952. He grew up in an artistic and inspiring environment and began writing at a young age. He is an award-winning author whose works have appeared in more than 100 magazines and anthologies in Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland, India, Canada, and the United States.
Dossena is currently the Editorial Director of L’Idea Magazine (lideamagazine.com) since 1990, and founder and Editor-in-Chief of OperaMyLove.com magazine. He also has a blog on 8 BQE Media magazines where some of his book reviews and interviews appear.
Dossena is the author of Caro Fantozzi, Doña Flor, An Opera by Niccolò van Westerhout, Sunny Days and Sleepless Nights, The World as an Impression, and Federico Tosti, Poeta Antiregime.
He is the editor of various books, both in Italian and English, published by Idea Press, and is also a translator of all informational text and of the libretti in the music books by the same publisher. These music books are historical, had never been published before, and present a unique occasion to the public to access this newly found information and marvelous vocal scores.
In 2012, he was awarded the “Globo Tricolore Award” for his outstanding work in the publishing industry and his journalistic work. In the same year, he was asked by the City of Yonkers to read poems at the 9/11 Memorial ceremony.
In 2019, he was awarded the Order of the Sons of Italy Literary Award. In 2021, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Italian Charities of America, for “his tireless and lifelong dedication in documenting and highlighting through his work the richness of Italian culture and heritage for present and future generations.”
You were so fortunate to grow up in an artistic and inspiring environment. Please tell us who and what your greatest influences were.
My first and foremost influence was my father, who was an outstanding artist and a marvelous human being. Seeing him paint and talking to him about other artists (he was also a restorer) gave me an understanding of art that I could never have gotten from school. He also gave me a model for never stopping in creating your Work, since he painted until his late years, and when his health faded, he started writing…
He influenced me in many ways, although not only in a positive manner. Having him as a reference for creativity somehow stunted my desire to paint and to sculpt, which I originally had. He created such marvelous paintings and sculptures that I felt I could never match his work, so I gave up early in that career attempt, although my first award was for sculpture and not for my literary work.
As a young man, I was extremely lucky to have met many Italian writers. Two of them in particular had a strong influence on me: Mario Bonfantini and Mario Soldati. Bonfantini was my brother-in-law’s brother and he taught me how to play chess, besides telling me various stories of his life, both as a teacher at the University and as a writer. Soldati, who was also a movie director, influenced me both with his writings and his persona. His “America, First Love” was a staple in my library even before I met him at 17. Spending time with him, Bompiani, Bonfantini, and other writers at the various Bagutta Award events gave me a feeling of belonging in the literary world that never left me.
Writing was something you began at a young age. When did you know you wanted to become a published author?
My desire to write emerged while I was at a boarding school in Italy, at the age of 12. I used to write mini short stories about “cowboys and Indians,” making sure to get the proper names of the native tribes…This need to have the correct details followed me throughout my writing life… My exposure to Italian literature at Queens College was extremely important. I knew I wanted to be a published writer after I graduated in 1974. Life and its needs came in the way, regrettably, and made me put that desire on the back burner for many years…
Where did your love of opera come from and what prompted you to translate the text and music of various operas?
One of my brothers-in-law, Ottorino Cameran, was a tenor and had sung in many theaters. His love for opera migrated to me like osmosis. A few years back, I discovered, through my friend and business partner Leonardo Campanile, that Niccolò van Westerhout, a composer from his town of Mola di Bari, was almost forgotten by the music world, although he was very successful in his time. We both felt he needed to be recognized for his work, so we co-wrote in Italian the book “Doña Flor, An Opera by Niccolò van Westerhout,” which I translated. From that point on it was a crescendo … We brought the opera to the United States for the first time and then we prepared the corrected and revised versions of the libretti of all his operas, which I also translated. To clarify, I do not have any scholarly knowledge of music, so my work in that field is only related to the translation of a libretto, the scholarly reconstruction of various libretti, and the writing of essays and biographies of composers, besides the reviews for the magazine I founded, OperaMyLove.
I’m sure aspiring authors would benefit from hearing about your journey and whether there were bumps in the road you overcame. How did you go from writing the first words of your first book to becoming an award-winning published author with many books to your credit?
The bumps in the road should teach you how to drive better and more cautiously; they should not scare you. I had a double emigration from Italy to USA within ten years, and that caused some imbalance financially and career wise. I went from having a company to going back to college to acquire new skills so as to support my family. That situation took most of my energy and put my writing interests in limbo for a while. If I can give a recommendation to anyone who has a passion of any kind, it is not to let life get in the way too much. You still have to find the time for your passion…
In my case, the process of becoming an award-winning author did not start with the publishing of the first book, but instead with the publishing of poems, short stories, and articles in magazines and anthologies. The awards won by these early works gave me the boost and the confirmation that I was on the right track. I won a few awards for my journalistic work, but the awards for the short stories and poems were the most important in that sense.
How long does it usually take you to go from idea to publication?
It depends on the topic, genre, and research involved. I wrote an essay book on a Roman poet and that took me around nine months. The libretti preparation was complex because of the conditions of the originals, so the time frame was influenced by that and not by my writing. The biography of my father, which is still being paginated, took me nine years, because of the research involved. Whenever research is involved, time may seem to stand still…
What is your research process like? How do you choose what will be included in your books? When do you know you’ve gathered enough information for a book?
Research is the stronghold of any essay books. I contact experts, relatives, librarians, and physically review the texts involved to make sure the picture I describe is accurate. Redundant information only goes in the bibliographic reference, while I retain the essential core of the information found that allows me to present a coherent and linear story. When the story appears sufficiently substantiated, at that point I can assert the material gathered is adequate. There have been surprises in the past, though, such as in the biography of my father, when a diary written by him in his late years was found and some of the information details on his life was enriched or slightly modified. This happened when the draft of the book was completed and it delayed the publication even further.
In your book, Sunny Days and Sleepless Nights, you share a compilation of poems. Where do you find the inspiration for your poems?
“Sunny Days and Sleepless Nights” contains poems on tormented love, love in its simplicity, observation on life, and the anguish of existence. The inspiration for my poems comes almost exclusively from my need to express particular feelings of mine in writing. Only rarely was I inspired by an external event that did not connect to me directly. It is not an egocentric process, though, but somewhat a way to convey observations and feelings related to particular events of my life. Doing so allows me to overcome the negativity or the impasse that may have been born out of some situations.
In your book, The World as an Impression, you share the landscapes of Emilio Giuseppe Dossena. Who is the artist? Please tell us about his work.
The landscapes of Emilio Giuseppe Dossena, my father, were well known in the years in which he produced them, as they were captivating to their audiences on many levels. He painted a variety of contrasting landscapes—from the soft valleys of Umbria to the centenary trees of Lombardy, from the sea cliffs of Liguria to the Alpine huts of Piedmont, from the gypsy caravans to the circus troupe encampment. Through his paint strokes, we were able to view the world as it was through his eyes, realistically and without gimmicks, an appeal that has set him apart from other artists of his time. This focused monograph (both in English and Italian) offers the opportunity to explore a selection of his landscape works (62 color images) throughout his extended artistic career, introducing them to new generations. The reason for his success is revealed in seeing his artwork and the essence of his artistic expression.
“The World as an Impression” is the first book on my father. The book is the first part of a series of books on him that touch on the different aspects of his art. As I mentioned, a complete illustrated biography will soon be published. This monograph will include his personal life, the different artistic periods that influenced his work, his achievements and over 500 illustrations that will allow one to really know him and his work.
How did you obtain the illustrations contained in Federico Tosti, Poeta Antiregime and how did you go about getting permission to include those images?
Some of the illustrations were provided by the Tosti family. Others were in the public domain, since the events described were over 75 years old. I just had to make sure to give the proper credit. I avoided agencies that charge fees and limit commercial distribution.
Is there a personal favorite among the many books you’ve authored? Please share a short synopsis. Which book are you most proud of and why? Give us a short summary.
Definitely, “The Dance of Colors”, the monograph on my father is the book I am most proud of, not only because it’s about him, but for the extended research involved and the graphical presentation. The book visits his whole life, from his young age to his years at the Academy of Brera, through his painting of churches and his restoration of frescoes, offering visual examples of his multifaceted artistic talent. It is a complete and generously illustrated biography of the artist.
The other book that I am very proud of is “Federico Tosti, Poeta Antiregime”. It was born out of love for both the man and his work. I had met Federico Tosti, the father of one of my friends, when he was 100 years old, and spent a week at his house in Collespada, a tiny hamlet in the province of Rieti, in central Italy. He was such a delightful person and a poet in all senses. He would recite his poetry, whether in Italian or Roman language, by memory, with no hesitation. He would gladly talk about his life and I absorbed as much as I could.
Years later, when I was shown a book published in Italy about his poetry against the fascist regime, I was displeased because I realized that most of the readers would not understand a lot of the historical references. I also realized that some of the linguistic expressions were antiquated and not in use anymore in Roma, so they would need to be clarified. I approached the family and proposed to redraft a book with the proper historical references and footnotes. The family was very happy about that and started giving me the material to elaborate. While working on it, some correspondence and notes by the poet came to light and the book assumed a different perspective, becoming what it is now—a presentation of his works and personal notes that attacked the fascist regime, with a proper historical explanation and commentary.
How do you gather authors for your anthologies?
My anthologies were born out of the need to congregate and present the works of Italian American writers to the public. I realized that there were no short stories anthologies of the kind, so I felt it was overdue to prepare one. I contacted various literary associations and IAWA (Italian American Writers Association) and the response was more than enthusiastic. Out of this was born Volume One of “A Feast of Narrative”. For Volume Two, I contacted the Sons of Italy magazine and they advertised the opening of submissions. This time, the number of viable submissions was so strong that I had to divide the anthology in two parts, giving birth to Volume Three. I will begin putting together Volume Four soon, so I will let you know when the submission period will start and any other information related to it.
OperaMyLove magazine contains interviews with opera singers, composers, orchestra conductors and such, information about opera events, opera houses and also some information on ballet, especially when connected to the opera. There are also some reviews, but these have been limited because of Covid. Lideamagazine.com was born as an online version of L’Idea Magazine. The magazine was started in 1974 and published until September 2013, when it was decided that we would stop the print version and focus on the online one only. The magazine hosts articles on Italy, Italian writers, performers, scientists and personalities of the moment and the past, and any other news that may interest Italians and Italian Americans. Some of the articles are in Italian, some in English, and some in both languages, depending on the topic. I have been the Editorial director since 1990 and I am happy to say that the magazine is thriving.
Many aspiring authors are told to create a blog to help them hone the craft and get their name out there. Please share what your blog is about, how you started it, how often do you post, and how do you keep it fresh, and filled with content?
My two blogs on BQE MEDIA mostly cover opera reviews and interviews of Italian American personalities. The eight magazines are now undergoing a lift and the blogs are in limbo until the new websites are completed. I started the blogs with a need to reach different people than the ones from the community tied to our magazines. The response has been more than satisfactory, with an average of 7,000-8,000 readers per article, with some of them reaching 14,000 readers. I used to post bimonthly on the blog on Italian American writers, less frequently on the opera blog.
What is your best advice for aspiring authors?
Read. It is important to read all kind of authors and to appreciate the nuances and differences in literary styles. One cannot become a great writer without being an avid reader at first. Also, when you start writing, do not be afraid to edit and revise your material. At the same time, do not become fixated on perfection. If you feel a text you wrote does not flow as well as it should and you cannot find a way to edit it properly, put it aside and dedicate yourself to other writing and reading. When you get back to it, you may see it differently and solve the conundrum. Nothing worth publishing is born in a minute (maybe some rock lyrics were, but that’s another story…).
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