Woman Wednesday: JoAnn

Q and A with JoAnn
from Sicily, Italy, living in Georgian Bay, Canada

“A theme that I include in my novel is that of the immigrant experience, the struggle, and prejudice experienced by many hardworking new immigrants.”

Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: I had never held a book in my hands until my family immigrated to Canada from Sicily in 1957. There were no libraries in our small Sicilian village in the 50s, and my family could not afford books. I was seven, so I was placed into first grade, and by the end of the year, I could speak and read some English. In grade three, my class was allowed to walk to a nearby library where we were allowed to borrow three books. The books suggested by the librarian were very thin children’s books. I would take three home, read them the same night, then wait patiently for two weeks to go by so I could go back to the library and bring home three more. That’s when I developed my passion for reading, which also inspired me to write. My other interests are baking and gardening, both of which require reading, whether you want to bake some really delicious scones or learn how to grow beautiful flowers. I have been a freelance journalist for many years, but I only recently published my first novel, A Scarcity of Virgins. It is a women’s novel with a feminist bent, that incorporates the immigrant experience as a backdrop since it is so much a part of me. I have almost completed a second novel, Island of the Vespers, a historical romance that takes place in Sicily during the 1860 unifications wars led by Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: In elementary school, my favorite subject was composition, and I remember my grade-four teacher being so impressed by a story I had written, that he passed it around among the other teachers, much to my embarrassment. It was a silly story about a bear that attacked a hunter, but instead of eating the hunter, the bear preferred the hunter’s honey sandwiches. For some reason, my teacher thought it was hilarious. I thought, if my grade-four teacher liked my writing, maybe writing was something I should do. So, I always wrote stories at home for my own pleasure and had a diary going, even into my late teens. My parents didn’t speak English, so on parents’ night when kids were supposed to stay home, I had to accompany my parents to the school to translate. Because of that, and because of all the children of Italian immigrants that were enrolling in our school, I became the school’s official translator assisting teachers who wanted to communicate with the parents. My decision to study modern languages in university stems from this experience.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: In spite of the women’s liberation movement, which was at its height in the 60s and 70s, many women of my era remained mired in patriarchal and misogynistic traditions. Fifty years later, it continues to exist. I just recently watched a series entitled Maid, based on a true story, a contemporary story, and was saddened to see how women are still treated badly, and how much they have to struggle. Even though my novel, A Scarcity of Virgins, takes place in the 80s, the subject matter, which includes, marriage, family, patriarchy, misogyny, feminism, fidelity and infidelity, is still relevant today. Women cannot allow themselves to be used and abused by men and are often unfairly disqualified from jobs or social assistance. Additionally, a theme that I include in my novel is that of the immigrant experience, the struggle, and prejudice experienced by many hard-working new immigrants.

Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: To me, feminism means the freedom to be ourselves, without fear of reprimand or retaliation, without physical or emotional abuse. It means being able to have control of our own lives, and most importantly, having equal rights and opportunities, without the consideration of gender.

MORE FROM JOANN: I lived my early years in Toronto, Canada, where I studied, married, worked, and raised my three children. After retirement, I moved farther north to enjoy country life on the shores of Georgian Bay. I am so happy that I was able to combine the launch of my first novel, A Scarcity of Virgins, with my mother’s 106th birthday on October 23rd. We had to have two separate cakes, of course!

Book to order: amazon.com/author/jo-annwrites

Website: joanncatania.com

Facebook: JoAnnCatania2

Twitter: JoAnnCatania1

Instagram: joanncatania1

Thank you for reading!

I’d love to connect with you! 🙂

Woman Wednesday: Normadelle

Q and A with Normadelle, Jamaica

Know your worth, your skills, and your value.”

Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: What am I passionate about is visual arts, art education/art therapy, children, nurturing, counseling, nature, ocean, and the outdoors. I grew up in Jamaica, and I always liked creating with my hands, acting, theatre design, hand painting on clothes, piano playing, music, collecting, making things, painting, collage, jewelry making, and paper mache. My parents allowed me to choose my profession, allowed me to be creative and to be me. I’m a retired art educator and art therapist. I worked at a psych hospital doing art therapy groups. I have a natural skincare business, creating body butters, soaps, scrubs, etc. I also teach part-time at an art studio.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I went to high school, art school, and received a master’s degree. I had an early exposure to the arts: ballet lessons, piano lessons, and acting classes. I also write poetry. Early exposure allowed me to have an appreciation for all things artistic—possibilities and opportunities, problem solving, etc. I’ve been asked and paid to do many artistic activities, set design, banners, workshops, curate exhibitions, and hang art privately and in a gallery where I was a director, wrote publications attached to exhibitions, made pinatas and face painting for parties. Any and everything art-based, I’ve experienced. That’s my passion!

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: Follow your dreams. When I was about nine years old, I sat on a rock and painted and declared that I would become an artist! Don’t be scared; just do it! Know your worth, your skills, and your value. When asked to do a job you’ve never done before but it’s within your discipline, pull on all that you know and utilize it! You can veer off from your intended career path once you’re passionate enough. Know and study yourself to know your capabilities.

Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: Feminism, to me, means empowering yourself with an education, financial know-how, self-esteem, confidence, and independence to succeed!

MORE FROM NORMADELLE: My organic skincare business evolved through my creative and artistic streak! So did my jewelry making. I love what I do; it’s my passion! I also love to write about personal experiences in the form of poetry. I’m originally from Jamaica, West Indies, and have lived in Atlanta, GA, for the past 27 years.

Thank you for reading!

I’d love to connect with you! 🙂


Woman Wednesday: Ioana

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.    


Q and A with Ioana, Cluj, Romania


“What I would like everyone to know and apply is passion! Find something that you love doing and go for it. Take time for it, show what you do to other people, involve your loved ones in your passion. Whenever you feel completely disappointed, desperate, and that life is completely pointless, turn to that color or canvas, pot or music, or whatever makes you feel joy.”   


Q: What are you passionate about?

A: Since I was very little, I loved playing with stones, rocks, mud, wood, and pretty much anything I could find on the ground of my parents’ garden. When I was about 12, my parents introduced me to a well-known visual artist here in Cluj, a sculptor.


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From that moment on, I started creating carved pieces out of stone, wood, clay, resin, bronze, and many other materials. This began as a childhood hobby but soon became a lifelong dream and career. I applied to the arts high school, followed by arts university, then a master’s degree in cultural management and then another master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels.

I traveled a lot, this being one of my greatest passions in life—discovering new places and cultures and becoming inspired by other ways of living. Through many of these travels, I also organized exhibitions, cultural events, theater and performance events in countries such as Morocco, Armenia, Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden, and I also made a lot of friends everywhere. All of these experiences have shaped me, both as an artist and as a human being.



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Pictured: Art by Ioana.


Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know?

A: None of it was easy. Each time I left, moved, traveled, I did it alone. I enjoyed traveling alone because this allowed me to discover the world in a very personal way. I lived in France for one year, didn’t speak the language very well, and didn’t know anyone in the city I moved to. It was very hard at times, and I wanted to come back home more times than I can count, but slowly, I learned the language, started meeting people, people began interacting with my art, and so, by the end of my stay there, I had an exhibition, friends, and a new language under my belt.


Armenia was another challenge, as I went there in an Artist in Residence program (AIR), without any idea of what to expect. My great-grandmother was Armenian, and I had this strong desire to visit the place I also had roots in. At that time, I was still working on war-themed art pieces and was deeply inspired by the history of Armenian people, both during the genocide in 1915 and the more recent one committed by Azerbaijan in 1988. I had this drive to show people what has happened before in our history because I believed that this could change mentalities and ensure a better present and future for people. I was quite rebellious and hardheaded in regards to my beliefs.


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When I came back from Belgium, where I got my master’s degree in sculpture, I was 25. At that time, I started craving order and responsibility in my life, so, because I was surrounded by doctors in my family, I started working in an oncology clinic as a manager. One year later, I started working at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy here in Cluj, and by the time I was 27, I had two jobs, no creative time, and a big hole in my life. I missed the sculpture and the arts. I missed my years of creative events organizing, so I started, slowly but surely, infiltrating my creative side into the business part of my life. I started designing posters and commercials for the institutions I worked in, developing promotion campaigns, and started making soap to giveaway to our oncology patients.


Soap making was actually the moment of my awakening—as I was quite numb since I returned to my country. The colors, the essential oils…it’s a true therapy, this soap making activity. After that, I started making jewelry and slowly grew back my inspiration for sculpture. As I moved to a new house with a tiny garden, I rediscovered my love for gardening as well, and this became one of my biggest passions. Growing plants! And landscape design. This month I decided to start growing a vegetable garden for my family and am constantly reading about seeds, soil, and getting inspiration on landscape architecture sites. I guess I get this from my mother, who is a professor in landscape architecture and my grandfather who was a phytopathologist (doctor in plant disease).


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Pictured: Hand-crafted, natural soap by Ioana.


At the moment, I still work two jobs, but when I get home in the evening, I create something. This is my goal every day, whether it’s a silver ring, 20 soaps, or just transplanting plants, every day is a creation day! My dream is to be able to quit all jobs and only focus on my passion: art! So, I have these 3 things as creative pillars: sculpture, soap-making, and gardens. And the one thing I was lacking also arrived in my life, once I regained trust in myself and my creative side, my boyfriend.


What I would like everyone to know and apply is passion! Find something that you love doing and go for it. Take time for it, show what you do to other people, involve your loved ones in your passion. Whenever you feel completely disappointed, desperate, and that life is completely pointless, turn to that color or canvas, pot or music, or whatever makes you feel joy.


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Have faith in yourself. Also very important: Will is a self-training thing–if you don’t stimulate yourself, you won’t pursue your goals, so find things that stimulate you! Be it that one extra like on Facebook, a kind word from your partner, or selling one of your crafts at a fair, just do it! Be brave!


Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: If we ask ourselves, “Is feminism important?” Just check this little historical fact: Women in Switzerland gained the right to vote in federal elections after a referendum in February 1971.

1971! One of the “most civilized” countries in the world!
So, what does feminism stand for? I believe that if we were not forced to live in a world ruled by men, in which we were treated as subhuman, pets, or worse, we would not have been obliged to react. Feminism is a reaction to oppression, demanding equality in rights, equality in perception, and equality in labor. This is what it means to me:
a necessary movement and attitude in the 21st century.



Connect with me! I’d love to chat with you! 


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