We are honored to have as our final guest on Writers in Residence the indomitable Hugo Cipriani, an inspiration to us all. While many writers worry that it may be too late to start a career, Mr. Cipriani released his first book at 94 years of age, making the rest of us sound like whiners! And, yes, he does get out there and do book signings, including at the Los Angeles Time Festival of Books!
Va Fa Sa” is the name of your first book. What does this mean, and why did you choose this as the title?
The Italian words Va Fa Sa translate simply as “you go, you do, you know”. Struggling to become a student at UCLA, I realized the wisdom of You Go–Courage first, Action follows.
You Do –Confronted by new conditions, you do what you have to do to surmount all obstacles. You Know–With new confidence and knowledge you know why this proverb is true.
Would you tell us what your book is about?
The memoir explains why I left home in 1934 and had to leave again in 1938. My fateful first departure on Sunday, September 9th may strike readers with disbelief. But the second departure on Tuesday, August 2nd, was believable and more significant. My story unfolds with the fateful events that lead me to overriding truths. Infused with courage and a new confidence I surmount hardships in the Great Depression.
Can you tell us how you came to start a new career as an author so late in life?
At age 88, I was diagnosed with cardiac heart failure. My doctor had recommended open heart surgery but I hesitated due to my advanced age and diabetes. With my life ebbing I got a sudden urge to write. I wanted to explain how my leaving home led to Va Fa Sa and my happiness at UCLA.
After typing a couple pages I was rushed to the hospital for surgery — a quadruple by-pass. While convalescing I returned to typing my first chapter, completing it in September, 2001. I was surprised when my grandson, Daniel Lowe, informed me that he put my chapter on his website and I was astonished that it made a “hit” with my family, friends and strangers. They encouraged me to continue writing. Four years later, with 18 chapters completed in 2005, it was prudent to close the memoir with my enlistment in the Navy. Still young at 29, my book’s title became “Va Fa Sa: A Young Man’s memoir”.
“My writing” began in 1934, after I left home. Writing letters became an obsession. In California, I had “free postage” during my stay in Camp Cummoche and in a CCC camp. I wrote profusely to family, relatives and friends and later, even more so, while at UCLA, Lockheed, and in the Navy. In writing those letters, I now realize, I began the writing of my Va Fa Sa memoir.
Note from WinR: You can find Va Fa Sa at Amazon.com, Independent Bookstores, and Barnes & Noble.