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March 18, 2018
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A Renaissance Woman In New York City. Interview With LindaAnn LoSchiavo
by Milano52
Mar 18, 2018 | 326 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
A Renaissance woman in New York City. Interview with LindaAnn LoSchiavo

An interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

She is the optimal example of a Renaissance woman and a New Yorker combined: humble but determined, soft spoken but direct, with a genial attitude not usually associated with a virtuoso of the pen, and most of all a realist who is aware of the elusiveness of fame in the literary world. This, to me, is the portrait of LindaAnn LoSchiavo. Although I know her for over 20 years, I never knew she had a Ph.D. in Early Modern British Literature and that’s because she never talks about herself, although she will have a heart-to-heart discussion of her work, her characters, and the plays she reviews without any hesitation.
Having appeared with her wonderful poetry and her captivating short stories in over 20 periodicals in the last six months, and that’s not counting the numerous nonfiction articles published by our very own magazine and other periodicals, with her plays recently enriching the theater scene of Gotham, and two documentaries to her credit, LindaAnn has definitely proven her worth. To confirm that once more, she just won the 2nd place for her poem “Mother on Morphine” from Wax Poetry & Art, adding it to her many awards.
I thought it was the perfect timing for interviewing her and letting our readers discover not only the extent of her achievements and the path she took to attain them, but also her thoughts about life and literature.

(Please click on the bold words in the interview to link to videos and blogs)

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: When did you start writing?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: I started putting words together before my fourth birthday. My family used to receive a lot of greetings cards, which contained “light verse.” I thought the sentiments and poems could be improved. My Aunt Fay would draw illustrations on light cardboard and I would write a poem, metrical and rhymed, underneath.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat was the first thing you wrote?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: When I was nine years old, I wrote my first one-act play for five actresses. It was produced in NYC when I was ten.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat was the first thing that gave you some public attention?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Irwin Maiman, a high school English teacher, was the supervisor of the literary magazine and he recruited a number of us. I liked to write but I was also interested in how to become an editor. Being on this staff taught me how to proofread, evaluate fiction, and put a publication together on a deadline. My style changed a lot with the short story I wrote in my senior year about a drug addict. It was accepted for publication and earned me the school’s gold medal for Literary Achievement, which I accepted onstage at Commencement. That academic award was a sign that I was meant for this.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou’ve had eight short stories accepted and/ or published in the past 18 months, each for a different publication.  How do your other literary endeavors – poetry, stage plays, reviews – factor in when you are writing a new short story?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Reviews, as with all journalism, require a writer to be specific. Formal verse tunes your ear and hones your skill with rhetoric. Stage dialogue must be economical, conveying both emotion and information. All these elements get channeled into the creation of a short story and fuel it.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDoes any of your work ever cross a genre?  Did a poem ever turn into a short story, for instance, or vice versa?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Since I don’t work on only one manuscript at a time, my pen is often traveling in a few directions. An experience with answering poignant “Dear Santa Claus” letters from poor or abused New York City children became a poem. Since it was rather long for a poem, I turned it into a story. It was published in February 2018 by Flatbush Review.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou mentioned writing your first one-act play at 9 years old. What brought about your transition to writing short fiction, three years later at 12 years old?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: My family started taking me to Broadway shows when I was four years old. I loved playwrighting but, even as a child, I realized that producing a play involved considerable cost and collaboration. My instincts told me I’d better explore other formats and find something else to do with paper and a typewriter.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaI’ve noticed New York City is sometimes your setting. In what way does the New York location add to the story?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: I’m a native New Yorker so I enjoy bringing the city into the narrative. My poignant story “Sifting on the Santa Shift” takes place in the basement of the main post office on 34th Street, those unprepossessing cheerless rooms where Good Samaritans gather to read letters from needy children and grant wishes. There couldn’t be an uglier room in all New York where so many beautiful acts of generosity take place.
In contrast, “The Gospel According to Saint Marks Place” was inspired by the street itself. It’s the block where brainy Cooper Union students meet maniac drug dealers and Hell’s Angels along with immigrants born in Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine. A clash of cultures is waiting to happen.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaSeveral of your most recent stories have had a supernatural theme. What accounts for that change?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: I was always intrigued by the speculative elements in the literary novels of certain Latin American writers but felt that, if you have supernatural creatures in the earliest work that is published, you can be dismissed as a genre author. Now that I’ve seen my plays staged, had my articles in prestigious magazines, won prizes for poems, it’s not so easy to categorize me.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat other fiction projects are you working on?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Ten years ago, I wrote a play “The Djinni and the Pianist.” The protagonist is a 13-year-old girl. Since young teens are hard to cast, and an adult who is short and slight would have to play her, I felt it would be imprudent to give her a friend or classmates. It gathered dust; I never sent it out. Last year I decided to revise the narrative as a novella. I completed my first draft of Part 1, which is over 10,000 words, and now I’ve started Part 2.

LindaAnn LoSchiavo poses with Italian American Museum founder and President Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa after her multimedia presentation “Meet Mae West’s secret Italian husband”, which topped all attendance records at the museum. Photo credit: Brian Gonzales

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou are an expert on Mae West, with two plays about her to your credit, special Mae tours in the City and a blog dedicated to her. How did this interest about Mae West came about and where is it bringing you?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Whenever I passed the former Jefferson Market Court (now a public library) at 425 Sixth Avenue, one element about this unique nineteenth century structure would annoy me — — the plaque that merely credits two male architects and never refers to its women’s history. It riled me up that numerous women were unfairly arrested and tried here yet most people had no clue. I decided to write a play, three one acts with one commonality: how each defendant was treated unjustly in Jefferson Market Court. The idea was that the library itself might host it.
I selected three potential candidates: (a.) labor organizer Clara Lemlich Shavelson (1887—1982), who demonstrated against the sweatshops with a huge gathering of ladies’ garment workers on Nov. 26, 1909, which led to multiple arrests and a trial at Night Court; (b.) dramatist and actress Mae West (1893—1982), who was arrested and held at Jefferson Jail on Feb. 9, 1927 for writing a play about homosexuals and drag queens; and (c.) sex educator and birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger (1879—1966), whose medical records were seized on April 15, 1929, and who was thrown into a police wagon with her staff, and faced off with Jefferson Market’s Magistrate Rosenbluth.

At a performance of “Courting Mae West,” in 2008, from left, Yvonne Sayers as Mae West, with the late TV talk-show legend Joe Franklin and the work’s author, LindaAnn LoSchiavo.

That was the concept — but with back-stories and three trials, there was too much material for a trio of one acts. Therefore, I focused on one “criminal” and wrote “Courting Mae West.” I began my Mae West Blog in 2004 during auditions when it became obvious that the cast did not know Mae West, Beverly West, James Timony, Texas Guinan, and other characters they were playing were real people. At the time (14 years ago), there was only one Mae West fan site online; it praised her Hollywood films and offered nothing about the police raids and legal skirmishes. Additionally, I began a Texas Guinan Blog, a Jefferson Market Court Blog, and I put other details online to give the actors reliable source material that would familiarize them with the 1926—1932 events and personalities in this Prohibition Era play.
Any time there was a reading or a staging, certain remarks astounded me. For instance, “Was Mae West really a man?” and “Wasn’t Mae West from Los Angeles?” and “Did Mae West write two plays about homosexuals because she was gay?” In addition to helping fans get correct information about all things Mae, The Mae West Blog was a conduit.

Thanks to my blog, for example, in 2013 I met actress Darlene Violette, who had a strong interest in playing the Brooklyn bombshell, and who was reading my posts in order to develop a cabaret act. It was decided that I would write “Diamond Lil, Queen of the Bowery” and she would star and co-produce it. We archived a full performance at Don’t Tell Mama’s and I have the Estate’s permission to go forward with another production. I’d love to find the right team again.
Meanwhile, the Mae West Blog is now in its thirteenth year.

The cast of Diamond Lil’ in 2013

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDo your plays have roots in real life facts or are they fantasy?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: “Courting Mae West” is based on true events. “Diamond Lil, Queen of the Bowery” is a trimmer, tighter 90-minute version of Mae West’s sprawling 1932 novel. “A Worthie Woman Al Hir Live is based on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath Tale. But most of my plays are fiction, spun out of thin air.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDo you believe your writing of short stories is paving the way to write a novel?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Yes. When you write every day, creative muscles get stronger, the reach somehow gets longer. When my novella is completed, my focus will be back on the screenplay I’ve started. Most of the story is set in 1990 on a dilapidated British estate, where a portraitist has been invited to meet an art collector uncle she barely knows — — except the genial host who greets her is an impostor and an art thief.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaHow much do you believe being an Italian American influenced your writing and your writing style?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: All four grandparents were born in the meridione, so I’ve embraced the Neapolitan and Aeolian Island culture, whose oral poetry I have translated. When it comes to writing about it, I limit myself to articles, personal essays, and poems.
The reason for that is the stubborn lack of support for Italian-American authors by the major Italian-American organizations. I wrote a chapter on this topic for the book “Anti-Italianism — —Essays on a Prejudice,” co-edited by W. Connell and F. Gardaphé, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

L-R: Professor Fred Gardaphé, Dr. Elizabeth G. Messina, Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, LindaAnn LoSchiavo and Professor William J. Connell

Maybe one day that will change. Meanwhile, the characters in my screenplay are British, Pakistani, and Polish. The characters in my novella are Scottish and French. However, the poems in my chapbook “Conflicted Excitement” (forthcoming from Red Wolf Editions) are Italian-American.
And so, to the nice people who are reading this interview, if you have an audience for Italian American literature or are interesting in hosting a reading, please get in touch with L’IDEA.

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March 17, 2018
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The Private Eye Who’s Probed the World
Mar 16, 2018 | 1166 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cici’s a writer and a private detective.
Cici’s a writer and a private detective.
She’s lived and traveled all over the world.
She’s lived and traveled all over the world.
Her office is in her one-bedroom Astoria apartment.
Her office is in her one-bedroom Astoria apartment.
Once, Clarissa McNair had to convince a Diamond District dealer that she was a shop owner eager to buy his designer knockoffs. Another time, she played the widow of a Tiffany-glass collector to see whether the well-known dealer, who had served time for selling stolen goods, had turned over a new leaf. And then there was the time she pretended to be the mother of a child dying of cancer. She had to memorize medications and complicated medical terms so the oncologist, who was suspected of selling a bogus “cure” for outrageous sums to desperate parents, wouldn’t catch on to her impersonation. “I got so caught up in the story that I found myself crying,” she says. The unplanned tears, she confesses, “were a good touch.” Clarissa, who goes by Cici, is a not an actress. She’s a private investigator who has worked on everything from sexual harassment, stolen art and corporate malfeasance to missing persons, death-row and blackmail cases. She’s worn a wire and costumes. She’s gone undercover long term. Slipping into the skins of others is all part of the job. “I love doing it,” she says. “It’s a holiday from being me.” Just who Cici is is hard to pin down. Although she was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, she didn’t waste time leaving the state. After graduating from Briarcliff College in Westchester with a degree in American history, she got married and spent five years in Canada. “The divorce took longer than the marriage,” she says. “I went to Rome and threw my wedding ring in the Tiber.” By that time, Cici had done, by her own account, “a whole lot of jobs,” including working on a true-crime documentary and training to be a dessert chef. “I felt out of step with the people I had been close to,” she says. “I decided to start over and moved to Italy.” Vatican Radio hired her as a news writer, on-air newscaster and documentary producer. “I was the only non-Catholic there,” she says. She left to write a nonfiction book, and when that didn’t work out, she produced her first novel, “Garden of Tigers.” She moved around a lot, setting up house in Rome, then London, then Geneva and several other places, before returning to the states. After a year of working on films in Los Angeles and writing her second novel, “A Flash of Diamonds,” in 1994 she landed in New York, broke and living out of a suitcase in a borrowed apartment. She got the idea to be a detective while looking through the Manhattan Yellow Pages. “I’d never met a detective, but suddenly I wanted to be one,” she says. Cici landed her first job on April Fool’s Day, 1994. The irony was not lost upon her. Cici, who is tall and willowy and likes to wear big, floppy sun hats, speaks with the seductive wisp of a Southern accent. She’s had a lot of adventures while vanquishing the bad guys – you can read all about them in her 2009 memoir, “Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts.” That book left her sleuthing solo in Miami then Philadelphia. That’s not where her story ends. There was Paris. Then Rome. There were more novels – “Dancing With Thieves” and “Kiss the Risk” – and a true-crime book, “Never Flirt With a Femme Fatale.” And lots of investigations. In the summer of 2016, Cici set up what she calls the “international offices” of Sleuth Star and McNair Writes, her memoir-writing company, in her one-bedroom, marble-floored Astoria apartment above a Laundromat on Broadway. “I don’t like 9-to-5 jobs,” she says, adding that she has clients around the world. “I like projects because I like to see the end of things.” Such as the rape case she just finished gathering intelligence for. “I’m hired in criminal cases to hear the client’s story, take photos at the crime scene and interview the people involved,” she says. “I think of my job as gathering background information for the lawyer so he’s not surprised in court.” Each case, she says, is, in essence, a short story. “The characters lie and cheat,” she says. “Sometimes there’s heartbreak. They have all the drama of novels.” She capitalized upon their novelistic potential immediately. “I started taking notes on my first detective job,” she says. Cici, whose crime/scandal/death show, “Basic Black,” is broadcast on World Radio Paris, is writing a screenplay and developing a true-crime television series about her life as a private investigator. She’s also seeking a publisher for an international case she recently completed. She can’t talk about it yet, but she guarantees you’ll hear about it all over the news. Cici just got back from a month-long trip to Paris. The year is young. She’s looking forward to new cases and adventures. Astoria Characters Day: The 2nd Family Reunion is September 23. Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @nancyruhling and visit
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