In May/June 2012 I was very privileged to embark on a six-week book research sojourn in
beautiful Sicily thanks largely to the combined sponsorship of a ʻborsa di studioʼ from the
Nino Sanciolo Prize for 2012, in conjunction with ICSA and Babilonia School in Taormina.
While I was responsible for my air fares and living costs, ICSA magically organised my
accommodation in a wonderful apartment in the centre of beautiful Taormina at ʻmatesʼ
ratesʼ, followed by two weeks gratis homestay with three wonderful families in Noto,
Caltanissetta and Leonforte, as well as gratis tutition at Babilonia for three weeks.
What an excellent arrangement this turned out to be, because as an author of books for
children, I was hot on the trail of some truly Sicilian stories, and the combination of
independent apartment living, homestays and great language schooling, led me to
friendships, places and experiences I could otherwise never have dreamt of having, while
on my quest to discover the real Sicily.
With a particular main character in mind, the hero of an earlier junior novel of mine which
is set in Tuscany, I was hunting for homespun, true to life Sicilian stories and, thanks to
ICSA and the Nino Sanciolo Prize, I gathered inspiring research for what will be not one,
but two books for children, the writing of which I have scheduled for later this year.
Special thanks to Maria Sanciolo-Bell (Melbourne) and Gaetano Failla (Catania) who had
not only the imagination but also the ability to make my research trip to Sicily possible,
when for me it had only ever been a dream that I never believed would happen.
Thanks also to Alessandro Adorno, director of Babilonia Centro Studi Italiani (Taormina)
and his staff of excellent teachers, whose talent, patience and good humour gently
nurtured my Italian grammar and speaking skills to the next level of competency. Check
out Alessandro interviewing me in Italian on YouTube! – www.youtube.com/watch?v=flQBq_nxAu8 –
And in particular thanks to my generous volunteer hosts Lucia (Noto), Mikaela and
Vincenzo (Caltanissetta), Theri and Claudio (Leonforte), and their gorgeous children, all of
whom took me into their homes and made me so much a part of their families that, in all
honesty, I never wanted to leave! I will write my books for them. Viva Sicilia!!