Darlene Madott

Taking on different roles with finesse

2014/03/31 - Written by Vanessa Santilli
Darlene Madott: Taking on different roles with finesse
Darlene Madott: Taking on different roles with finesse
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Darlene Madott’s writing is rich in culinary metaphors. This will be apparent on May 14 when Making Olives and Other Family Secrets (Ripasso) – with five new stories added to the original version – will be launched at the Columbus Centre.

“I’ve gone over – repassed – the amarone grapes of the original stories, and I’ve done some modifications and tweaking,” says the Toronto-based writer and lawyer on her collection of Italian-Canadian short stories. “But with the new stories, there is greater depth. And just like a ripasso wine, there is richer colour.”

Madott, whose Sicilian and Calabrese nonni came to Canada at the turn of the century, describes the original short stories as being a young woman's collection. “I think we can mourn even ourselves,” says Madott. “As a mature woman now, I had a need to revisit the young woman that I was.” Without a doubt, she says, her Italian heritage has impacted both her writing and life in law.

As a young articling student at a big firm in downtown Toronto, she was considered to be too intense. “By which I know they meant too Italian,” she explains. “So that intensity has informed not only my writing but also my law practice. I am a passionate advocate.”

Her writing honours include the 2002 Paolucci Prize of the Italian American Writer’s Association and the Bressani Literary Award in 2008. But she regards her son as the greatest of her life’s accomplishments.

With her chambers across the street from St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, she says the three best years of her life were when her son attended the school. “I could look out into the playground and I could see him there. I could see if he was without his gloves or his hat…It was phenomenal as a single mom to have your kid within sight of where you are.” After all, she adds, “family is the fountainhead of my inspiration.”    

So, where did Madott find the time to write six books – with her seventh on the way – while raising a son and practicing law full-time? “I can only write it in the cracks of my life,” she says. “I have my legal practice – it’s what sustains me. It’s the routine. It's what puts bread on the table.”

But her work as a lawyer provides her with enormous life satisfaction. “I do great work for my clients and I’m very proud of helping to carry them across the water and bringing closure to their matrimonial misery,” says Madott. “I’ve been toiling in the vineyards of matrimonial misery for 30 years now.”

On the international circuit, this July Madott will travel to Vienna for the 13th International Conference on the Short Story in English. In honour of Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature, a large contingent of Canadians will be attending the event.

Madott is also a proud member of both the Association of Italian Canadian Writers and the Canadian Italian Advocates Organization.

Amidst her hectic schedule, Madott has always kept these words in mind: Do what you have to do in order to do what you want to do. “And really that has been my whole life. Doing what I have to do in order to pave the way to do what I love to do.” Everything else has always come before her writing. “But I’ve found that as I’m getting older, my inner voice is taking on its own imperative and there are moments when I just have to finish something.”

As a writer, Madott likens herself to a coyote. “I track back in order to see from some kind of distance and then I frequently re-enter the same material and it comes out in different forms.”

Looking forward, Madott will continue finding the time to write. “It might be first thing in the morning when I’m in the shadowland between dream and waking…Or I target a point in time when I’m going to sit down and then – inspiration or not – I will start to block it out.”

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