Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Domenico Capilongo

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Domenico Capilongo

Domenico Capilongo is the author of Subtitles & Other Stories (Guernica Editions). It is his first collection of short fiction, but Domenico has already published two collections of poetry — all while teaching high school English classes.

Today Domenico speaks to Open Book about working in multiple genres, far-flung settings and his all-time favourite book of short fiction.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Subtitles & Other Stories.

Domenico Capilongo:

This is my first book of short stories and it contains many stories that take place all over the world. Most of the stories have to do with relationships between couples, friends or children and parents. The situations the characters find themselves in often test their relationships and force them to deal with conflict.

OB:

Prior to this book, you published two collections of poetry. Why was this the right time for fiction? What appeals to you about the short fiction genre?

DC:

I am basically a poet who loves to write short stories. I have had several short stories published over the years and felt that I finally had enough to form a collection. Writing poems is about pinpointing a powerful moment or emotion. Much like photography, you try to freeze a feeling with words. Short stories, on the other hand, are far more complex and leave more room to play with the reader and show how a feeling grows. Writing short stories for me is like having a video camera and filming longer scenes that build up to some climax or high point.

OB:

These stories take the reader all over the world. What motivated you to include a diversity of settings? Is travel something that is important to you?

DC:

I love to travel and I find that being in a different place allows you to experience life in a more profound way. When you are in a new place you notice things you would never notice at home. The shapes and designs of street light posts, for example, or the sounds the city makes at night. I hope setting my stories in diverse settings places the characters and the readers in a different frame of mind and allows them to take in emotions in a unique way.

OB:

The stories deal with relationships in their many forms and stages. What draws you to human relationships as artistic fodder? What role do you see relationships playing in the stories?

DC:

I find all relationships fascinating. I think we are in a constant journey or struggle with trying to figure out who we are and how we relate to others, especially the people we are in love with. I like to write about what I find interesting or perplexing and hope that the reader enjoys it too. I think that the relationships in the stories work to force the characters, and hopefully the reader, to questions and think about our preconceived notions of how we are supposed to feel and respond to each other as intimate human beings.

OB:

What are some favourite short fiction collections of yours? Were there collections you were reading while working on this book?

DC:

There are so many short fiction writers who I admire and who I constantly read. I am a high school English teacher and therefore am always trying to teach exciting short stories to inspire my students. I love Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant’s writing. They really know how to create seemingly simple characters who reveal deep emotional conflict. I also love Raymond Carver, a master at letting the reader in to the intimate space of relationships. Lately, I’ve been teaching some Ernest Hemingway short stories and have learned about minimalism and what to leave out of a story. There is, however, one collection of stories that early on I read quite a bit as an introduction to short fiction and how to write it. It’s called, The Art of Short Fiction, edited by Gary Geddes. My writing professor in university made us buy it and for that I’m grateful.

OB:

What are you working on now?

DC:

Like most writers I know I am working on too many projects right now. I’m working on some poetry based on the way we communicate and a series of short stories about teachers and then there’s always that novel that every author seems to be pecking away at but never finishing. . .

Grazie.


Domenico Capilongo lives in Toronto and teaches high school creative writing. His award winning short stories and poems have appeared in several national and international literary magazines. His first book of poetry, I thought elvis was Italian, was short-listed for the 2010 F.G. Bressani Literary Prize. His book of jazz-inspired poetry, hold the note, was long-listed for the 2011 ReLit Award.

For more information about Subtitles & Other Stories please visit the Guernica website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the On Writing interviews in our archives.

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