Name Mariagrazia Buttitta
Where are you from
I am originally from a town called Bagheria in Sicily-Italy.
But for the past seven years, I have lived in New Jersey.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I am a student at The College of New Jersey, and I will be obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies next month. I am also starting in 2016––a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counselling from The College of New Jersey.
I was born with an eye disorder called, Cone Dystrophy, which has now progressed to the state where I am blinded by all lights.
My mission in life is to continue to help spread awareness about mental and physical disabilities.
I enjoy: hiking, writing, and spending time with family, friends, and I love spending time with my two little (Shit Tzu) therapy dogs, Lucky and Happy.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have had the privilege, thanks to Josh Rivedal, to take part in his new book “The I’Mpossible Project, Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You” coming out January 13, 2016. I am the author of, Live Courageously.
You can pre-order the book here: http://www.iampossibleproject.com/one.html
Additionally, I am working on my own memoir where I share my story about coping with blindness, anxiety, and depression. The book should be complete and ready for publishing by 2016.
Lastly, I have started a campaign to spread awareness about my eye disorder. I hope to be able to pair up with sunglasses retailers.
Learn more here:
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I think I was always interested on some level, whether I knew it or not. Growing up being different from others, I learned different ways to express myself at a very young age. I enjoy writing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In 2011, I was a student at Bergen Community College. And in 2013, one of my poems was published in the literary magazine, Labyrinth. My poem titled, “A Knight’s Combat” also won best poem in the magazine.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It all started when I saw and read, “The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah” by Josh Rivedal.
Josh’s story helped me seek treatment for the first time. He also thought me that there is no shame in seeking help and dealing with a mental illness. Now, I feel I can do the same––be an inspiration for someone else. I want to use my own story to help someone else. I hope my memoir can help many too just as Josh helped me.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I try to add as much dialogue and humor into my work as much as I can. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to write, if it comes from the heart––it’s special.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I particularly enjoy reading non-fiction stories.
Josh’s memoir is one of my favorite books I enjoy re-reading. I would definitely recommend this memoir to others.
Besides being a friend, Josh has been a great mentor. He has been guiding me with my own memoir too.
Read more about Josh here: http://www.joshuarivedal.com/books.html
Lois Marie Harrod is another author I respect. I also enjoy reading her work. She is a great poet, writer, professor, and has also been a wonderful mentor for me as well.
Read more about Lois Marie Harrod: http://www.loismarieharrod.org/
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Mostly, college related books right now. But when I can fit some leisure time, I like to re-read an old book.
“No Excuses” by Kyle Maynard is one of them, but there are many others. Of course, I am always open to read a new book that has been recommended.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am working on my memoir, working on my campaign, and hopefully, do more speaking engagements.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
One? It’s a tough one, there are so many. My mother for sure, but friends, my therapist, and many of the faculty and staff from The College of New Jersey and The Commission for the Blind.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
English is not my first language, sometimes; it takes me a while to find the right word.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Reading tons helps, but also, keep writing. Practice sure does make perfect.
But most importantly, do not feel discouraged if someone doesn’t appreciate your work. I had someone tell me that I shouldn’t be writing. I took their criticism as a way to improve and grow as a writer. Today, I am a very happy and proud writer. To me, that’s all that matters––reaching the right audience.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My Mother would always read to me and my older sister when we were young. I particularly enjoyed when she read to me her books of when she was a child. A few books from Dr. Seuss were my favorite.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A good joke will do the trick, but a rude remark about my sunglasses hurts my feelings. People never seem to understand why I need to wear my sunglasses even at night.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Ellen DeGeneres. She is kind, funny, and helps so many people. She has a lot, but also gives a lot. To me, she is a real inspiration and someone I would absolutely love to meet.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love hiking. I started when I was five years old in Sicily with my family. Grand Canyon is on my list of places to go visit soon with my mother.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love the show, “FRIENDS” and I enjoy a good love story like––The Notebook.
Fiona: Favorite foods
I am an Italian girl, so pasta, bread, and lots of espresso will make me happy. A nice home cooked meal is the best. And a glass of wine here and there––is pretty great too.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do actually. It is new, but I hope people can find it helpful. I am also starting to blog and I am always looking for guest bloggers too.
Check my website: https://embracingyourdifferencesblog.wordpress.com/