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Welcome to the second in a series of interviews with creative friends and acquaintances I have collected over the years. My aspiration is to share their insights on what inspires them, how they work through creative blocks and rejection and their upcoming projects and aspirations on the first Saturday of each month (the idea: if you get inspired to “play,” you have the weekend to manifest what your Muse demands!!!).

If you care to start from the beginning, follow this link to read last month’s interview with poet Margaret Vos.

This month, meet author Trisha Malfitano.

Trisha Malfitano and Kiefer

Trisha Malfitano and Kiefer

Trisha grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut. She attended Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. While in college, she also met her husband Mike, and they married in 1991. Trisha, Mike and their two daughters, Alexandria and Nicolette, currently live in Watertown, Connecticut. Trisha works as a paraprofessional at Saint Mary Magdalen School in Oakville, Connecticut.

The whole family volunteers for the New England Border Collie Rescue. Trisha says, “I always wanted a dog when I was growing up. When I was first married I had one dog. After he passed away I knew I had to have another dog in my life.  I now have six dogs and three cats….We have a seventh dog, who is a foster.”

Clearly, dogs are a central focus of Trisha’s life. She recently authored two children’s books: My Dog Kiefer and Kiefer and Kiefer and Friends to celebrate Kiefer, who is deaf. Trisha taught him sign language so they can communicate with each other (!!!!), and Trisha and Kiefer visit area schools to share his story. They have been featured on “Fox & Friends,” “Better CT”, the blog Deaf Dogs Rock, as well as the Providence Journal.

Trisha and I go all the way back to Chapman Elementary School together. I have fond memories of her feeding my Hostess “Snowball” snack cake addiction (her dad was the manager of the local IGA, and had “connections.”).

My Dog Kiefer Kiefer and Friends

Lucky Ginger Studio: At what age do you remember first embracing your Inner Artist?
Trisha Malfitano: As far back as I can remember I loved to color. I colored with my own children and still love to color with my niece and kids at school. I also likes to make up stories to go with the coloring pages, especially any pages with animals on them. In school, the only reports I liked to do were any that you had to create an visuals with. I would do all the work if it was a group project first – because I loved to do it and second – it got me out of writing the report.

LGS: In what ways do you enjoy expressing your creativity? (writing, cooking, drawing, etc.)
TM: I still love to color, I write poetry, I enjoy painting the rooms in my house bright colors and I like to make jewelry for fun.  I had a small business where I made hand-sewn teddy bears.

LGS: Do you allow yourself creative “play” time? (just messing around with creative stuff making things for YOU…with no project in mind?) If so: how often?
TM: I used to do a lot more when my girls were little. We painted, played with clay, drew pictures. I made curtains, blankets, bedspreads, clothes for the girls rooms for each season. When I went back to work, I didn’t have as much free time as I wish I had.

LGS: What time of day do you feel most creative?
TM: I feel most creative at night.
LGS: Do you have any creative rituals? (example: when I am doing post-production, I HAVE TO HAVE MUSIC)
TMI blast music. The type of music depends on the project, but I love anything I can dance to. I also like to eat chocolate.

LGS: Do you have a support group of other artisan/creative friends? If so – how do you help each other out?
TM: I do not have a support group. I seem to be the only person who outwardly shares their love of creating.
LGS: What or who inspired you to write your first book?
TM: I was inspired to write my first book after adopting Kiefer. At the same time, I was working with a young student who has Downs Syndrome. I found that people often assumed that she could not perform well, without even giving her a chance to try. I noticed the family had to fight for her to have the same education and the same opportunities as other children without similar disabilities. 

When Kiefer and I attended our first puppy training class, I was again shocked at the intolerance and ignorance of people. One of the other owners repeatedly referred to Kiefer as being “retarded”; a harsh word to use, even on a dog. Another owner was afraid that their dog would somehow “catch” being deaf because of contact with Kiefer, and I had to try and explain that deafness cannot be “caught”. Despite the fact Kiefer could do all the same things as the other puppies, there remained individuals that believed he should have been put down at birth and not given a chance.

LGS: From start to finish – how long did this project take? Did it take longer or shorter than you expected?
TM: The book took about a year to finish. It was shorter than I thought. I wasn’t sure if I could actually write a story that anyone would want to read. I was also very lucky to have my very talented sister-in-law Julie Malfitano work so hard to get all the illustrations done in such a small amount of time.
LGS: What was the most fun part of writing your first book?
TM: The best part of the book was when I would send Julie a page from the book and an idea of what I wanted the picture to be. She would come up with my idea but add her talent to make the picture even better than I imagined.

LGS: What obstacles or challenges did you have to overcome in order to get the book published?
TM: I am a self-published author. I had to find a company that would allow me to self-publish and one that I could afford. I am still hoping to get picked up by a publishing company.

LGS: What was the scariest hurdle you had to cross in that project?
TM: I was very scared the first time I read my book to a class full of children. I was worried they wouldn’t enjoy it, would get bored and not enjoy Kiefer.

LGS: When you encounter creative blocks, how do you work through or around them?
TM: When I get stuck, I put the project away for awhile and wait for the inspiration to come to me.

LGS: If the “What Your Doing Is No Good” voice pops into your head, how do you shut it down?
TM: I have a wonderful family who are always here to support me and remind me of why I started the project in the first place.

LGS: How do you move through criticism or rejection of your work?
TM: I am not good with criticism. After a good cry I share what happened with my husband or Mom. They always seem to know what to say to make me feel better.

LGS: What’s your favorite tool that helps you get your creative work done?
TM: My dogs are my tools. They help relieve stress, they inspire me.

LGS: What’s your next project?
TM: I am working on my third book. This one will be completely different than the first two. Kiefer is still the main focus, but he has a different story to tell this time.
LGS: What advice do you have for someone who wants to write their first book?
TM: Just start writing the story. Don’t worry about how it is written or proper grammar. All that will come later. Getting the story down is the most important thing you can do.

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