The Writer’s Handful with Tony Romano

romano picHarrumph. Mondays. What’s to look forward to? Hey, how about a new series dedicated to brief conversations with writers of all genres, at all stages of their careers? Yes! How cool would that be? Very cool.

So welcome to THE WRITER’S HANDFUL. In this new series, a writer will answer five questions anyway they want to. The questions will stay the same each time. The writers will be different. And I will post the interviews on Mondays.

Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.

Week four of The Writer’s Handful features Tony Romano, a much celebrated and well-loved Chicago author. His books are set in Chicago, in neighborhoods that will be familiar not just to their inhabitants, but to anyone who knows what it means to be part of a neighborhood. And Tony’s spot-on depiction of the dynamics of family, of faith, of community in his novel, When the World Was Young, will engage and entrance you. Kirkus Reviews says of this book, “A low-key, compelling look at family love and betrayal set against an old-style immigrant drama.”youngworld

Welcome Tony!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I did write today. For the past two weeks, I’ve been in a solid groove. Minutes after waking, I drive or ride my bicycle to Panera, have a bowl of oatmeal or bagel and coffee, then edit a few pages from the previous day’s writing, leading me up to where I left off, then begin writing with purple pen in my Mead notebook, one without the coils because I’m a lefty and the coils aggravate. I’m finishing up a novel, which typically ramps up my efforts, but I don’t remember a time when I’ve been so driven and productive. Given that, I’m afraid to alter anything right now. I’d rather just have a bowl of cereal at home, but I’m afraid that if I linger around at home too long, I’ll start checking emails and sweeping out the garage and painting the bathroom and then skip writing altogether for the day.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I remember the first poem I wrote for school. Maybe 4th grade? Four lines. A-A-B-B. I actually remember the lines, though I’ll spare you. The teacher planted a fat red A at the top. I’ve been lucky to have teachers who have encouraged my writing. I also remember the first story I wrote that was not a school assignment. I think I was in 7th or 8th grade. I typed the story on the back of index cards, fully intending to write an entire collection. I don’t know if I wrote more than just the one. But I’m happy to report that I am in possession of that awful story.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling. I’ve never read any of her work and could not find her most recent, which got excellent reviews. So I figured I’d find one of her earlier books, which is why I read The Uncoupling, which is full of wit and wisdom. The middle is a little predictable, but the end is earned and satisfying. I also just finished the most recent bio of Bruce Springsteen, which is also excellent. I regularly review books on my

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

Tony at 3
Tony at 3

Best advice. Don’t listen to anyone. I’m not sure if anyone actually ever said this to me. I know I typically dole out this advice to students. Springsteen echoes this sentiment in a speech he gave recently in Austin, TX. After nagging his son to stop playing that goddamn guitar when he was young, and after seeing where that guitar-playing led, his father was fond of saying, “I’ll never tell anyone ever again what to do.” (I’m paraphrasing.)

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

My writing would be the dog in the corner who notices everything but won’t bark. Every so often the dog will howl or nip at you so that you’ll remember to pet him.


Tony Romano is the author of the award-winning novel When the World Was Young and the story collection If You Eat, You Never Die.


→Thanks, dear Tony, for being part of The Writer’s Handful. Looking forward to reading the next novel. See you at Panera! And thanks, all, for reading. – PMc←