Claudia Calori was born in Brescia, Italy, a town known for its steel foundry, not far from Milano. She speaks excellent English with a lilting accent in animated tones. She works in brand management—in the past for companies such as Heineken and Procter & Gamble, and currently for Converse, the sneaker brand. She lives with her wife Alessandra in Amsterdam’s de Pijp neighbourhood. As the daughter of avid readers, Claudia began reading early—starting with comics like Mickey Mouse (known as Topolino in Italy) and eventually evolving to the rarefied worlds of Calvino, Lampedusa, Tolstoy and Thomas Mann. She is a valued member of our Level III workshop.
Q: What’s your origin story as a writer?
In high school I did a lot of writing assignments in my classes, as well as occupying myself with poetry and short stories as a way of expressing myself. When it was time to choose a major, journalism felt like a natural choice. But after school, I got an internship and my path changed. For the next years I stopped writing. Then in 2004 I saw a poster for a short story contest and applied. They selected 100 stories to be published and mine was one of them, which was very rewarding. After that, I began looking at writing as an outlet. I noticed the more I wrote, the happier I felt.
I wasn’t looking for a writing course, but a friend pointed me to a workshop with Sarah Carriger and said, “I think this might be something for you”. And it was. When I joined the intro class on the first night, the first session was amazing. You know those moments when you feel, ‘this is the place to be’? Well, it’s felt like that ever since. But I don’t have any ambitions, nothing particular to be published. It just feels so good to have found my place with the Collective.
Q: What do you like about it?
Everyone had a different background, different motivations. You’re basically surrounded by people who are like-minded, and spending hours together trying to find your voice and devote yourself to something for yourself. You are inspired to create something and that something is so pure. It is quite different from doing something for your career or for others. I like the solidarity we have in class. There’s an incredible amount of trust that you have with the others. You expose a lot of yourself, become vulnerable to other writers, who you start out with as strangers, and then become friends. They’re not burdened with any other purpose. I can just be and that is what I really love. The critiquing is done with the best possible intention. There is no jealousy or hidden agenda. Nor sugar coating. It is so much better to have that kind of openness with the intent to help, that you improve what you are doing.
Q: When do you find time to write?
I commute to work in Hilversum, so I write on the train. It sounds funny because there is noise and a lot of people, but I put my headphones on and I’m on my own for 40 minutes. Or else I write at home, getting up early on a weekend morning or setting aside a Sunday afternoon.
Q: What’s it like to write in English as a second/third language?
It’s a challenge in the most positive sense of the word. I need to do research and find different ways to express myself, but I do that in Italian, too. I don’t feel limited or intimidated by it. I love words and I love puns and word play.
Q: How do you start?
I need an idea to start—the nugget of a plot or it can be the format from observing a technique in one of the pieces we read for class. I start to think what can I do with it. It’s my left brain way of approaching the assignment. If I get an idea, I make some notes on my phone and the real work starts when I get to my Word file.
Q: What’s a strange fact about you that your classmates would be surprised to hear?
I used to play the piano, and started playing again after I began with the Collective. It gave me extra motivation to do something I haven’t done in a while. My objective is to master a piece of music that I had once known how to play by heart.