A Conversation With Stefano Scalich

I am glad I can introduce Stefano Scalich, a freelance editor, journalist, copywriter, writer and lecturer in publishing, to you – he has a vast experience in many stages of book publishing and passion for a written word. You can find him on the LinkedIn and Facebook, and searching through Google you might get to some exciting pieces of his writing on the web.

Stefano Scalich

Stefano Scalich

Hi, Stefano – you’re quite a “misterious” person, can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m a child in his 40s.

You play many different roles in the publishing game – you’re an editor, critic, writer, lecturer … Which of these functions satisfy you the most?
I like playing with words. Anything word-related suits me fine. Plus I like to help people and brag about it.

Fiction or Non-fiction?
Anything goes… as long as it’s a good story. Then again, if I had to choose the road less traveled, I’d definitely go down the Creative Nonfiction path. There’s lots of good stuff there: from Tom Wolfe to Andrew Chaikin, from Joan Didion to David Simon. The deeper you go (and anyone else is ranting about vampires and weird erotica) the sooner you’ll get into a world very much your own.

Printed books or eBooks?
Printed… did I say “printed”? Well, also eBooks… but then again, hmmm, print… oh, wait, wait, wait: what was it I said opening the previous answer? The story is all that matters.
Look, I’m not a tablet enthusiast and yet I have few words of praise for e-related stuff: I love the journalistic selections on Longform.org, I love podcasts (This American Life, Serial, Love + Radio) and due to heavy commuting I started experimenting with audiobooks.

Beside publishing you also have advertising experience – what’s your opinion on advertising (storytelling, ethics, quality of work, creativity, …)?
I left advertising at large more than 10 years ago. I think advertising is fun and can be a genuine art form (those famous VW ads) although a lot of people mistake it for a greedy upselling practice. A lot of people in publishing still think it… poor misguided fools.

Many writers have started as ad men – which of them do you find important and why? How has advertising benefited their fiction writing?
Hard to say. First, I’ll answer the second part of the question. Yes, it’s possible for advertising to benefit your writing style because it stimulates you to find a good lead and a good ending: but this could also be true of journalism, to be honest. Same goes for rhythm and knack-for-dialogue issues, although of course an “advertising ear” helps here and there. But do poets, for instance, behave otherwise?
First part of the question: I can only relate to Elmore Leonard, since he’s the one ad-man I read the most. I find him relevant for all of the above reasons plus a key one: clarity. His prose shimmers with clarity and focus and is among the best writing workshops anyone could wish for.

Do you write fiction?
I write terrible, self-loathing specimens of fiction which are stored in paper journals as sloppy mementos. But once in a while I write looooovely letters.

What does your typical work day look like?
You know how it looks, dontcha? A total mess, but what a funny mess. Example: wake up at 8, commute to part time job until 14, lunch break, back home at 16 until 19 trying to conjure up notes for articles/blogposts/whatever, second part time job until 21, gobble up something out of the microwave, zombie-stare at tv set and collapse into bed. Another example: all of the notes shape into a coherent whole and I start typing and typing and typing… One final example: a day at the library for research. The final example is something out of heaven.

What is the literary scene in Italy like? How does a writer break into this scene?
I have a feeling it’s quite vibrant although I’m definitely not a huge reader of Italian authors. To give you something more than jacket-flappish quotes, I’ll tell you this: it is far easier, now, for writers to stay connected and yet it is far harder – compared to the 1960s and 1970s but in a way, amazingly, also a bit of the 1980s – to have a social impact. This is no time for an average writer to make it as a role model or a maître à penser. No more Pasolinis, sorry.
Breaking into the scene? The usual recipe, and the only one that works: write good books.

What do you think about reading culture in Italy? Are there more writers or readers?
You didn’t hear it from me: Italy has not so many “strong-readers” as other countries seem to have and, in typical Italian fashion, it seems to have far more writers than readers. The joke you might hear is: no one reads here, they just (think they know how to) write.
There’s a neverending debate about this state of things and I guess what many other guess, too. It happens because reading is something you “must” do: they tell you so in school, they tell you so in some social circles; your parents sometimes might also tell you so– that it’s good for you to read. Which is true. Yeah, fine. But where is the fun part?
Another 2 cents’ worth: what are we supposed to read, anyway? Fiction? And who said fiction is top, as of now? How about reading a few John McPhee pages? A collection of letters? Download a script and go through it? William Least Heat-Moon, anyone? And so on…

How important is Social Media for your work – both in finding content, businness opportunities and to network with similar people?
I wish I could tell you its importance is paramount. But that would be a petty lie. At least for the second item on your list. But finding content: yes. And then the idea-machine starts ticking.

How do you see publishing industry in the next five, ten years?
Five years? It’ll be watching itself in a hazy mirror. Ten years from now: reading a helluva good book.

Thank you, Stefano!

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