“Big Stone Gap” author, Adriana Trigiani, talks about her life and her work.

Life in the Gap

The Legal Information Network for Cancer (LINC) welcomes Adriana Trigiani, television writer, playwright and author of the best-selling novel and soon-to-be movie “Big Stone Gap,” as guest host for “Steppin’ Out” its annual fund-raiser, Feb. 24 from 6:30 p.m. to midnight at The Renaissance. Much of Trigiani’s adolescence and early adulthood was spent in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She got her professional start covering town meetings, fires and coal-mining strikes as a roving reporter for a tiny radio station in Norton, Va. The anecdotes in “Big Stone Gap” read like a savory mixture of Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” and the best of Lily Tomlin. Most recently, Trigiani has been busy writing the screenplay for and directing the movie, “Big Stone Gap,” that will star Caroline Rhea (Aunt Hilda on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”) and Whoopi Goldberg. This spring, the author will embark on an extensive national tour to promote the paperback version of “Big Stone Gap,” as well as her second novel, “Big Cherry Holler,” due out in April. How are you most like the character of Ave Maria in “Big Stone Gap”? You know, it’s funny. When I tour, no one calls me by my name, they holler “Ave Maria” when I sign books. And I guess in a way, I look like her a little bit; but in many ways we are very different. I would say if I had to choose the way in which we are most alike, it would be that I think about things for a long time and in great detail before I bust a move. That can be a good thing; or not. How have writing the screenplay and choosing to direct the film changed your feeling for the work? Making movies is terribly difficult work. There is a morass to hack through: executives, development experts, budget people, and on and on. And then there is the filmmaker, who sees the vision of the thing. So what I’m saying is you can’t just be an artist — you have to be a business person and understand all of that, because budget affects everything you do. … Writing a book in glorious solitude is quite different from baring your soul and story to a room full of people. But that room full of people have to believe in you, and the only way to get them there is to talk them through it and to deliver a script that they love. What advice would you give writers or storytellers who long for an audience? My advice to my fellow writers and storytellers is to persist. I promise you, it’s tenacity that carves the road to an audience. That, and of course, the audience (reader) has to connect to what you’re saying. That’s the art of it. … I started working very young — of course not to sound like I’m out of Dickens’ England — but I remember kids at school saying their parents told them to have fun while they were young because they had their whole lives to work — I had to work, so I made it fun. And it forced me to face myself and say, OK, if I have to work nine hours a day, why was I born — what is my purpose? And when I began digging, I found it — a lot of trial and error, but I found it! How do you hope readers will view “Big Cherry Holler”? How, as a second novel, does its texture differ from “Big Stone Gap”? First, let me say what a joy it is to write a sequel to a story that I love. It was like slipping into soft loafers, broken in just right. I kept writing when I finished “Big Stone Gap” because I wanted to find out what happened to Ave Maria. And boy, was I surprised. I think my readers will love “Big Cherry Holler” because it is about Ave and Jack’s marriage and what it means to be married — and what it means to lose someone close, and what it means to truly commit to someone . Ave Maria has some tough times and difficult choices — the book is full of conflict. How did you become involved with LINC? I became involved with LINC through Patsy Arnett. And, of course, the great Sarah Jessica Parker, who hosted last year. LINC has a Minority Initiative which I think is profoundly important. I am Italian American, and if not for the generosity of spirit of non-Italian Americans, we may not have made it in this country. It’s our responsibility to reach out to those who need us most — there are all kinds of cancer, and while we’re healing the physical; we need to face our cultural cancer which is turning away when someone is in need.


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