Teatime Ten: Maria Grazia

Many of you know Maria Grazia as the editrix of My Jane Austen Fan Club (wherein I recently got to Talk Austen with her!) and The Everything Austen Daily.  But did you also know that she teaches English in Italy?  And is an avid fan of Richard Armitage?  (Clearly, a woman of taste!)
Well, now it's time for the interviewer to be interviewed!  So sweeten that tea, break out the clotted cream, and join us for the Teatime Ten (now in a monthly edition) with Maria Grazia! 

Hello Maria!  Thanks so much for joining us for the Teatime Ten.  Tell us a little bit about how you came to love Jane Austen.

Oh! The first time I read her Pride and Prejudice, an entire new world was revealed to my  young-teen-living-in-the-provinces-and-knowing-nothing-of-the-world inexperienced mind. I was so naive I even liked Wickham as much as Elizabeth and disliked Darcy as much as her! Never been caught in that trap again. ;-) 

But I only read the rest of her work when I was at university and beyond - so as  an adult. Actually, a revival of my fondness came after watching P&P 2005 at the cinema. Yes, I know, I know, it is not the most faithful adaptation but it was my first one (**blushes** ) Darcy/Firth only came... second. I’ve started collecting adaptations of classics after P&P 2005. So it was then when  my period drama mania had its start. But that’s another story.

How did you come to start your blog?  What did you want to focus on? 

I started blogging in 2008 for my students at  Learnonline and I still regularly add audio/video/didactic  materials there. So, after discovering the blogosphere was such fun, I wished I had  a special corner for my passions and started FLY HIGH! where I write about literature, books, art, journeys and trips, school, period drama, movies, TV series, theatre and, of course, "my one weakness," that is my favourite actor, Richard Armitage. 

I noticed that many of my posts tended to be Austen-related, so when one day at the local public library they asked me to organize and moderate a “Jane Austen Book Club,” I decided to start a third site to support and report about that experience. I wanted it to be  “A friendly meeting place to discuss everything Austen...” - hence My Jane Austen Book Club. 

I have met so many interesting people and learnt so much since I’ve started blogging. Believe it or not, but my life has radically changed!

I love the Everything Austen Daily!  How do you find your articles?  What prompted you to start it?  

That’s a very easy task. Anybody could start his/her own daily paper. You must set the tags or key words you’re interested in and then the paper is automatically done. As an editor,  I check what they have picked up from twitter and delete what is not actually Austen-related. A piece of cake, isn’t it?

Wow.  It really is.  Can you give six tips to those interested in starting their own paper or blog?

Tips? I’m not that expert, you know? I’m always asking for tips myself from bloggers I “virtually” meet online. But I’ll try to find something useful to say, let’s see...

  1. Write about things you really like
  2. Make your blog a friendly place
  3. Try to create a net of mates/ friends taking part in blog events, hops, meme.
  4. Try to use twitter/facebook  to publicize what you write about
  5. Don’t write a blog copying another very popular one. If it already exists and is popular, why should people read a similar less popular one? So try to be original, create your own style.
  6. Last but not least, be politically and intellectually correct/honest/coherent
I'm amazed that you teach ESL in Italy to high school students...and find time for everything else.  How do you balance your days?

Ehm, first of all my days are not ... balanced at all,  they are frantic! But my answer is:  to manage everything, I’ve  had to become a multi-tasker, just  like my teenage students. Something like...correcting tests and papers with music and twitter on?  Or I sleep less.  I answer e-mails very early in the morning (when my American mates/friends are still up) while having my first cappuccino or write posts/interviews at night (until 1 / 2 a.m.) after finishing correcting or preparing notes or power point slides for my lessons. 
What is really difficult is that with my different class-groups I have to cover all English literature from the origins to nowadays: pills (only one hour a week) of literature for my youngest students (16) from the origins to Shakespeare the poet; a bit more when they are in the 4th year (and 17) from the Elizabethan Drama to the Early Romantic Age;  and, finally, in their last year at school,  they study the 19th, 20th, 21st  centuries. I select authors, texts and themes but it is, however, pretty much to deal with. 

Do you find there's a difference in how Americans vs. Europeans approach literature? 
That’s a tough one, first of all because I know very little about Americans’ approach to literature. And if I must be honest, I don’t even follow any official methodology  for the teaching of language and literature. But, being the daughter of a very boring/dull/ uninteresting/formal approach to literature both at high school and at university, I’ve tried to find my own way. What I can say about us in Italy is that we are still totally free to pick up the authors and texts we like as well as the methodology we prefer. 

As for myself, I use the language as much as I can to communicate (English is a foreign language to them, not a second one), I use literature to make my students recognize/discover  themselves or connections to their own world and needs (a humanistic approach?), I support my lessons with audio/visual/interactive tools as often as I can. 

Sounds great to me!  What do you look for in a good book?

I’m rather schizophrenic (but not dangerous!) as for my attitude to books. I read and manage to appreciate very different stuff. Anyhow, my attitude depends if I'm reading  fanfiction, a best-seller (I tend to be very hard on those!) or literature. I switch my “criticism button” right or left (but never OFF), according to what kind of book I’m reading. If it is a light, escape read,  it must be intelligent and well-written but I can suspend disbelief for a while.

If it is literature or a classic, I turn into the teacher I am and start noticing, analyzing, comparing. But in order to like a classic also, it must be thought-provoking and well-written. 

Did you notice any type of book I can’t renounce? 

So let's talk books!  You've been locked in your room by a nefarious villain, who's only given you two novels for comfort.  What are those novels and why?

Mind you, I like villains. Is “my nefarious villain” here more like a wicked libertine (Robert Lovelace? John Willoughby?) or a gothic monster? Well, I hope he is one of the first type. I love them! And if he even let me keep my two favourite novels with me...awwww...he’s a darling!  I’ll keep Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and Mrs Gaskell’s “North and South” with me, thank you. 

Why? Simply because I love them both, differently, but very much.
Now for a little Austen fun: if you could pair up any two characters from different Austen novels, who would you pair up and why are they perfect for each other?

I hope Mr Darcy would not be angry with me, it’s just a game, isn’t it? And I apologize with Catherine, but she mustn’t feel offended. I’d love to see Henry Tilney interacting with Elizabeth Bennet. They are both brilliant minds, so witty and  smart, while Mr Darcy and Catherine Morland totally  lack humour and wit. Wouldn’t Henry and Lizzie be an extraordinarily well-matched couple? 
Actually...that does sound fantastic.  (With all apologies to their respective others.)  Then what's next for Maria Grazia? 
More teaching, more blogging, more reading,  more period drama, more art exhibitions, more good movies, more theatre, more trips to the UK. Fingers crossed!  
Ooops... I forgot more housework, laundry, ironing, driving sons, cooking meals... :-/  Did you think my life was all Jane Austen and Shakespeare? 

Thank you so much for joining us, Maria!

 Maria Grazia is the editrix of My Jane Austen Bookclub and the Everything Austen Daily, as well as Learn On-Line and Fly High!  She lives in Italy.  

You can follow her via Twitter and Facebook (Fly High) or Facebook (Jane Austen).  You can also find her on YouTube and Vimeo, Paperblog and Blogworld (Tumblr)


  1. Maria Grazia,

    How cool is that, teaching literature to young people in Italy. I'm envious.

    I, too, love Henry Tilney and Catherine Moreland, but bite you tongue, Maria. None of that Darcy and Catherine and Elizabeth and Henry, now, you hear!

    Nina Benneton.

  2. Thanks for reading, Nina. Envious of living in Italy or of teaching to teenagers? Because teaching in Italy is not exactly the most popular job at the moment :-/ Low wages, loads of work, unmotivated lazy misbehaved students. But I'm lucky, I know. My students are not that bad, my wage is enough for me, I love what I do!
    As for the game of the new couples, ... you won't tell Mr Darcy or Henry, nor Lizzie or Catherine, will you? ;-)

  3. Hi MG!
    I don't know how you do all you do, but I think one of your secrets must be lack of sleep. ;)
    Very nice interview!

  4. @Phylly3
    As I said, I get up early in the morning and I go to bed late. I usually sleep 5 hours per night. I don't suffer from insomnia, if that what you mean. I sleep tight but little. It's not a "problem" but a choice.
    Thanks for joining us at Teatime, P.!

  5. Low wage, unmotivated students you'd find everywhere as a teacher.
    But, you're doing it in Italy! You get to be Julia Robert riding your bike through beautiful setting, eating scrumptious pizza (no bacon and pineapple, ever!), and hearing Italian men singing as you pass by, "Bellisima!"

    That is what I'm envious of.


    Who firmly believes that the grass is greener in Italy. Let me have my dream. ;)

  6. @Nina
    I'll let you believe in the romantic image of Italy you've got :-)
    We can't ride bikes (except for mountain-bikes) in the area I live in (hills and mountains). And Italian men don't usually sing in the streets. Neither "O sole mio" nor "That's amore" or "Bellissima" (???). But Italy IS a beautiful country.I know I'm lucky for that.
    Very few things work and there are lots of problems but... Italy IS beautiful. (I often compare it to a gorgeous woman with very little brain :-/ )
    I love Italy much, much less Italians. Most of them, nor all of them.


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