Promoting Italian Women Writers in English: Interview with Franca Simpson of Calisi Press


Photo of Abruzzo

Scatti Abruzzesi by Stefano Maule

In this interview with Franca Simpson, Founder and Director of Calisi Press, we learn about how it feels to throw caution to the wind and start a small press just for Italian women writers in translation.

Laurie: Could you tell us a bit about Calisi Press? It has a very specific, interesting mission.

Franca: ​Calisi Press was born out of my frustration in realising quite how difficult it was going to be to achieve my dream to be a literary translator through the “normal” channels. The process is rather complex and involves a lot of networking as well as unpaid stints as a literary scout, reviewer, etc. I decided that I had rather put my time and effort into publishing my own translations. In the process of doing that, I decided to focus and promote the work of Italian women writers generally, not just focusing on the author/s I was publishing.

Laurie: I think it takes a lot of courage to start a small press. What inspired you to take on this impressive project? Do you feel like you’ve received a lot of support for it?

Franca: ​For me, it felt more of a compulsion than a reasoned choice. I had the passion, a healthy disregard for doing the “sensible” thing, and the determination to, at least, try. I am not sure I would call it courage 🙂

Laurie: I take it that there’s an assumption in the publishing industry that works in translation are hard to sell. And it’s widely known that translations of work by women writers are few in number. How do you think we can try and turn this around?

Franca: ​I think it is just a matter of keep going and keep highlighting the works of translated women, and thankfully there are a number of people and organisations working on that. Having said that, I think that the status of women in literature is a reflection of the status of women in our society, and in the end no lasting improvements can be achieved if the way women are seen and valued in our society does not change.​

Laurie: I always want to know about everyone’s online marketing work – I note that we met at #women_writers chat! Would you say that online marketing or publishing has played any special role in the launch of Calisi Press?

Franca: ​As a tiny publishing company with a minuscule promotional budget, online marketing has been the main way for Calisi to communicate to its audience. It was not easy as I am not a “natural” at social media ​but it has been a rewarding way to try to make Calisi Press better known.

Laurie: What projects do you have lined up for the future (either your own writing or new Calisi Press books by others)?

Franca: ​I have paused in the last couple of months as I have been dealing with some personal issues but there are a couple of projects on the back burner, some of which might involve cooperation with other publishers, but it is too early to say more about these. They involve other Italian women writers rather than my own writing. While I enjoying writing, I decided a long time ago that I don’t really have my own stories and I would rather re-write someone else’s story into English 🙂

Photo Credit

Scatti Abruzzesi by Stefano Maule. Reproduced under a CC license.