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I’m Massimo Cassani, and I’m #YOURNOVELISTPRO

This week we are interviewing Massimo Cassani, a well known Italian fiction writer, Journalist, and professor at ‘Bottega di narrazione’, a Creative Writing Academy. founded by Giulio Mozzi. Massimo speaks about his passion for writing and what is his opinion about digital transformation.

Massimo Cassani, writer.
Credits to Dario De Andrea
Massimo Cassani, writer and journalist. Photo credits to Dario De Andrea

Location: Milano, Italy

Current job: writer, journalist and editorial director at “Ambiente&Sicurezza”.

One word that best describes how you work: quick, quick, quicker!

My greatest success: seeing my novels published.

My biggest fear is: disappointing myself

My favourite writer is: there are so many talented writers, I will pick an English one, Jonathan Coe, as my way to thank you for having me on your blog

My life dream: to continue publishing novels one after the other

First of all, tell us something about your background and when your passions for writing started.

I studied classics and then I specialized in journalism. My passion for the written word was born very early, together with my passion for writing. But I only dedicated myself to it when I felt ready enough to do it. My first novel is from 2008; I was forty-two, not really a kid!

How was the transition from being a journalist to a writer?

These are two completely different worlds. As a journalist, I have always tried to develop simple, accessible writing. The journalist’s goal is, first of all, to convey information through the medium of writing. As a writer, however, I have to focus not only on the contents but also on how to evoke emotions, even in the descriptions of the characters and places. We can say that writing novels can and must be played on several levels, and various nuances; by contrast, writing journalism has to be direct, and the more direct, the better.

How did you manage to keep both careers and at the same time, to collaborate with the writing academy ‘Bottega di narrazione‘?

I try to manage all my journalist work over the week and spend my free time working with Bottega di narrazione. It’s not an easy task because free time is so rare, but I believe we all have this problem nowadays. As for writing novels, it’s something that always goes on in my head.

Can you tell us a bit more about ‘Il Commisario Micuzzi’, when and how the character was born? Was the character inspired by someone in your life or does he have anything in common with you?

Il Commissario Micuzzi was born really by chance. An international literary agent asked me if I was available to develop the plot of a kind gentleman – non-writer – who had a good story (a true story) to write. I should have been a ghostwriter. I hadn’t published anything at the time; I had just finished writing a children’s novel with a friend (a novel that has never been published). I was enthusiastic about the proposal and straight away wrote the synopsis for the story which was enriched with other invented characters, including a minor character whom I called “Micuzzi” because in Italy it is an uncommon surname. But my synopsis was rejected, so I cut everything from the plot that wasn’t mine and made this Micuzzi the protagonist of the first novel (“Sottotraccia”). Micuzzi has a fatal distraction, like me: sometimes I go around the house looking for my cell phone and asking myself desperately: “But where will I have put my cell phone?”. Now the series is stopped, I want to write other things. But in the future, we will see..

L’ ultimo ritorno is a different kind of book. Why did you decide to move away from detective stories into another genre?

L’ultimo ritornois a family novel, yes, very different from the previous detective stories. Writing this story, however, I realized that the mystery, the secrets, the double games “live” well even outside the typical genre novels. And in family stories they “live” very well … many families are not the paradise that some want us to believe.

As #NOVELISTPRO, what do you think about the digital transformation? Do you believe it’s a good change or is digital somehow polluting the nature of writing?

Nothing lives forever, but above all, things change. I don’t think the past is better than the present and that the future will be worse than the age we are living. Writing is no exception. Today we write in a completely different way than a century or two ago, and in a century or two, the differences will be just as marked. Let’s not forget that writing is a medium and objects (ink and inkwell, ballpoint pen, typewriter, writing programs …) are just tools to express it. Even in the web age, there are those who know how to express themselves very well and those who seem semi-illiterate. The instrument certainly changes the writing, but I would not speak of “pollution”, I would rather talk of “contamination”. And contaminations are always fertile, in my opinion.

Tell us your trick to have a good work/free time balance in your day. 

I really don’t have one! Unfortunately, there are no fences in my head, and everything gets confused. Sometimes it’s a resource, many other times it’s not. Maybe that’s why I’m so distracted.

Last but not least, tell us three books that you should bring with you on a desert island.

What a difficult question! I prefer not to mention the classics: they would be too many. I choose three novels from the ones I have read recently, and they impressed me:Berta Isla” by Javier Marias, “Waiting for Bojanglesby Olivier Bourdeaut, andWhat Happens at Nightby Peter Cameron.

Now please fill the gap about your five pro tips: 

  1. Your golden rule in writing: let the stories grow inside my head, every moment, not just as I write.
  2. Best place to recharge: there is no specific place, the important thing is to walk, walk, walk.
  3. A movie to watch over and over: Ulysses’ Gaze by Theo Angelopoulos
  4. A game for your brain: I love to imagine possible things.
  5.  A bit of advice for an emerging writer: reading is essential, yes, but reading while trying to understand what are the mechanisms that govern the stories is even more important. Often these mechanisms emerge even in the most unsuspected novels, even in those that are not considered masterpieces.

You can learn more about Massimo Cassani’s book here


I’m Gregory from Sissi Fabulous Food and I’m #YOUREVENTPRO

This week we are interviewing Gregory Schaad-Jackson who together with his mother Sissi have created Sissi Fabulous Food, a London-based boutique catering company that offers cosmopolitan and delicious food cooked with the best ingredients. Gregory explains how Sissi was born and how they have adjusted the business to this unusual time.

Gregory Schaad-Jackson
Gregory Schaad-Jackson

Business description: Event/party catering in and around London, as well as Europe ( Geneve, Saint-Tropez, Vienna, Sotogrande) 

Current job:  Sissi Fabulous Food Executive Chef & Operations Director

One word that best describes how you work Personably

My greatest success in life is Catering the PAD London Art Fair for 10 consecutive years

My biggest fear is bad quality chocolate

My role model is Bill Gates

My favourite movie is The Great Escape

My comfort food is Gianduja

 

First of all, tell us something about you and your business.

We are a family business, with our founder & mother Sissi still very much involved since the inception in 2003, that specialises in private party catering as well as corporate and art events. Victoria, my sister trained with London’s best party planners and joined us in 2015. I joined in 2008 after having trained in London at the Savory Grill with Marcus Wareing and in New York with Gordon Ramsay, having switched from a career in Management Consulting. We like to have a personal relationship with our clients as well as with our staff, and as a result, all invest our heart and soul both into the planning of parties as well as the cooking of the food. We firmly believe that this personal touch differentiates us from many other caterers. Furthermore, as we have lived in many countries and are ourselves Swiss, Austrian and American we can also relate, share common values and understand the tastes of our clients.

Sissi
Sissi Fabulous Food team

 

How did you adjust your business in this unusual time?

We feel it is important to be flexible at all times, and especially now, both in terms of budgets and in what we can offer in terms of products and services. As the restrictions imposed by the government are constantly being increased, clients are no longer able to have large parties. We have therefore launched an online grocery store for our clients, offering many of our most popular traditional dishes as easy to reheat ready meals. We also offer a range of wines and pantry items such as our Great Taste Award-winning Granola. We are adding cocktail mixers and elegant dinner party dishes to this.

We have also launched a Neapolitan style sourdough pizza pop up service as well as a Mobile Espresso Bar for outdoor events such as weddings or private parties, or markets.

For clients who still want to organise a fun and original social event around food, we are offering socially distanced cooking lessons for up to 5 people (6 being the current maximum at the time of writing) in our Clapham atelier followed by a dinner in our tasting room.

Maybe versatile would be a better word than flexible!

How did you manage to keep your existing clients loyal and engage with the new ones with the recent restrictions?

We have always demonstrated a can-do attitude and so have gotten a reputation to make events happen for our clients even if they come up at short notice or if the task seems impossible! As a result, we have some lovely and loyal clients who keep coming back to us over the years. We have been so grateful for these relationships. Since the lockdown, we have been posting cooking videos for inspiration on our social media pages, and are writing regular updates on our newsletter via which we inform our existing clients of our new products and services. We will offer our existing clients a recommendation reward in the form of one of their favourite desserts from our menu.

As #EVENTPRO, what do you think it’s going to be the next big thing in the catering industry?

I would like to say food trucks, but that’s nothing new.. I think maybe dinner party kits, as these have been around but have not taken off.. now with increased connectivity, these kits could be delivered to various guests who then easily prepare the food and they connect with the other guests and hosts to have a virtual dinner party – I am traditionalist though and still love the buzz of a real party taking place under one roof!

Tell us your trick to have a good work/free time balance in your day.

My mother always had an Austrian saying, which was: “do not put off until tomorrow, what can be done today”. As a result, we are a family of night owls and will work late into the night to finish any planning or work so that the following day we have more free time or at least time to react to what the day throws us!

What is your favourite recipe to cook and your secret ingredient?

My favourite recipe to cook is Truffle Linguine (fresh linguine obvs.), in under 5 min and my secret ingredient is tartufata, a wonderful aromatic truffle and mushroom paste we get from one of our specialist suppliers!

Truffle Linguine
Truffle Linguine

 

Now please fill the gap about your five pro tips: 

  1. Your golden rule in the kitchen taste everything & season appropriately 
  2. How to achieve your goals: set goals, plan a strategy, plan a backup, implement it. Then if you fail, take a break, reassess and try to revise the original goal to make it more realistic. It is ok to be 2nd best.
  3. Best place to recharge: Nature/countryside
  4. A sport to keep you fit Vinyasa flow yoga
  5. A game for your brain: flat pack furniture assembly

 

Follow @sissifabulousfood 

At Wegiveit we help businesses to navigate the digital transformation adjusting their Brand Strategy during this unusual time, any questions contact us.

 

I’m Ginevra from Cabbiavoli Estate and I’m #YOURHOSPITALITYPRO

This week on the #YOURPRO series, we speak to Ginevra Puccioni, our #Hospitalitypro. Ginevra is the General Manager of Cabbiavoli Estate, a luxury castle and farmhouse estate located in the Chianti region, one of the most amazing areas in Tuscany, Italy.

Ginevra Puccioni - Cabbiavoli Estate 
Ginevra Puccioni – Cabbiavoli Estate

Business description: luxury castle and farmhouse estate in Tuscany, 30 km from Florence

Current job: Cabbiavoli Estate Founder and Manager

One word that best describes how you work: Relentlessly

My greatest success in life: My family and the launch of Cabbiavoli, with Julia Roberts, the actress and producer, as our first client

My biggest fear: Acrophobia (fear of heights)

My secret wish: Walk the whole Camino de Santiago from London to Compostela

My role model is: my godmother, Wanda Ferragamo, a humble and tireless entrepreneur and matriarch

My favourite book:  Memoirs of HadrianMarguerite Yourcenar

 

First of all, tell us something about you and your business.

As a child, I can recall that one special day in the shadow of the castle when I had my Grandmother all to myself. I still feel the warmth of the sun, the touch of her hand, and the smell of the cut hay in the fields. My memories are feeling safe, happy, and special. So even after having studied gemology and dedicated over ten years in multiple countries, producing, buying, and selling precious and semi-precious stones, when my father asked me to come home to Cabbiavoli, I felt as if I had to say yes. I loved the idea of creating those same memories for others. This is a property that has been in the family for over 150 years. It still has so many stories to tell, and so many emotions to share yet.

Cabbiavoli Estate, Chianti – Tuscany

How did you adjust your business in this unusual time?

Creating a “personal experience” with the property is crucial- and that means listening to what our clients are saying – and what they are not saying.  It’s easy to establish a relationship when they are here with us, so in this period, we strived to establish stronger personal connections with agencies and strengthen our long-distance (direct) relationships with clients. We listened to their hopes and concerns, which prompted us to look for solutions “outside the box.”  For example, rescheduling reservations to 2021 and opening bookings to the local market with extra flexibility on minimum stays and cancellation policies.

How can you engage with your loyal guests and with the new ones?

When clients enter Cabbiavoli, they enter our home and our family, a family with hundreds of years of births, deaths, battles, and arranged marriages; as the Italians would say vita, morte e miracoli (life, death and all the miracles in between). We offer real stories, real info and real photos on social media that share who we are so that our guests are engaging with us before and after their visit to Tuscany.

Wedding table at Cabbiavoli Estate

All guests receive a copy of my book on the family history, as a precious gift to further enhance the bond with the property. It took me a long time to compile it as it includes the history of the property since its original foundation in 1210AD.  Incidentally, some ‘actors’ are visible in the family portraits or buried in the chapel on the grounds, including the family dogs!

As a hospitality pro, what can you suggest to keep this type of business alive?

Being a small business, I am in touch with every client, and this has been our successful recipe since I started the business in 1997. It has been our experience that relationships and reputation matter now more than individual transactions. In the age of ‘immediate gratification’ and self-service, people want to live genuine and personal experiences. Furthermore, when people go on holiday they want to relax, enjoy themselves, and in many cases, they want to know from local experts what to do. Genuine advice from local people beats any travel agent’s ‘package’.

Tell us your trick to have a good work/free time balance in your day.

When not travelling, I work from home; it is important to have clear boundaries between work and personal life. I am an early-bird; before my family wakes up, I walk around London for an hour and a half; I then get my children ready, walk them to the tube, this is our special moment together. I sit at my desk with my third coffee at 9:00 am sharp and start my workday.  When I finish my workday, I dedicate time to the family and only reply to urgent requests.

Tell us how is a typical day of your guests in Cabbiavoli nowadays?

Before customers arrive, I email them a list of activities they can do in the area, including booking services for the main sites to avoid queuing and disappointments.

Customers usually arrive with the expectation to have a packed agenda.  Often, after the first day, once they have experienced the local hospitality, including food and wine, they slow down and reduce the ‘activities’ to the morning, with afternoons spent by the pool and walking around the grounds, before the dinner feasts.

 

Now please fill the gap about your five pro tips: 

  1. Your golden suggestions in this new way of travelling: Travel locally
  2. How to stay positive: Practice gratitude
  3. Best place to recharge: Observe your world with an open mind
  4. A good activity for your health: Early morning walk and an evening glass of wine!
  5. A game for your brain: to switch off –  jigsaw puzzles, to engage – reading a book

 

Follow @cabbiavoli_castle

 

The WeGiveIt #YOURPRO it’s published regularly at WeGiveIt Blog. We can help businesses to optimize their Cause Marketing and their Brand Strategy.

 

I’m Robbie from RF Bespoke Fitness and I’m #YOURFITNESSPRO

We are starting a new WeGiveIt series, #YOURPRO, asking experts and leaders of different industries to share how they are adapting to the sudden change of lifestyle and what is it their new normal. The first expert of this series is Robbie Fotheringham founder of RF Bespoke Fitness for Children and Adults.

#YOURFITNESSPRO Robbie Fotheringham
Robbie Fotheringham – RF Bespoke Fitness

Location:  London and anywhere you are 

Current job: RF Bespoke Fitness Founder

My favourite website is… Sadly BBC News in this current time.

My favourite Netflix/Amazon Series is…Netflix: The last dance Amazon: All or Nothing.

My favourite book is…What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, by Mark McCormack. Quiet, by Susan Cain

My role model is…Sports icon growing up Jonny Wilkinson. Current: My parents

My favourite food is: Italian

My life dream: Happiness/contentment and to live by the sea.

First of all, tell us something about you and your business

I run a bespoke fitness business – RF Bespoke Fitness – carefully designed to develop physical and mental wellbeing for adults and children. Services include Personal Training, Sports Specific Coaching and Mentoring. Our RF Trainers come to you whether you’re at home or abroad as part of a package. Through my years of playing professional sport, personal training and illustrating children’s books I’ve managed to build a rather niche business for myself. I’m able to combine the physical aspect of training with creativity and imagination. This recipe has allowed me to bring out the very best in my clients, young and not so young. I have the great good fortune of a career that I love.

How have you adjusted your working day for this special situation?

We are in a unique situation with a lot of uncertainty during this time. Some are more fortunate than others. For me, I have had to adapt fairly quickly to the online world, as a good deal of my work is face to face. I’ve been lucky enough to have a successful client base through word of mouth, but as a secret introvert, having to film myself online and create content on social media has taken me way out of my comfort zone. However, in being this lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for me. I’ve been able to push aside my fears and develop video workouts and challenges each week to keep my clients engaged, and motivated. I’ve found that short and sharp video clips along with a 20-30 minute live online sessions is the way forward. I don’t know why I haven’t done this before!

Tell us your trick to have a good work/free time balance in your day.

I believe structure is key. Things that I feel are important to factor into your day are the following: Exercise, of course, this can vary from 10 minutes of stretching and moving to a HIT session, or going for a gentle jog. This will keep you energised and motivated and above else distracted from any worries. Reading and arts and crafts. A superb way to unwind and again take your mind elsewhere. Socialising and communication. This will keep you sane. I try to call one friend a day who might be by themselves or in a worse position than me, and this is where gratitude falls into place. Live in the present rather than worrying about the past or future. All easier said than done I know, but if you can factor those into your day, it will have a big impact on your mental health and productivity levels.

How can you engage with your clients and keep them loyal while working from home?

I’ve always had a great relationship with my clients, and quite often I would have to travel for work being away for a few weeks at a time. I always make sure they have a programme to follow whilst away. I try to keep in touch as much as possible whether that might be a quick call or text message to check in with them and see how they are progressing. I think this approach has worked pretty well so far. The lockdown situation is not too dissimilar, in fact it’s spurred me to develop new ways of communication such as Zoom and video calls.

Do you have any favourite digital platform to do online sessions?

I use iMovie from my phone to develop and edit videos. Zoom and WhatsApp video call for live sessions. These have all been consistent and useful for me.

How important is your social life for your mental wellbeing?

Hugely important. If you’re like me and run your own business it can be a lonely world. You have to be proactive in making time for your friends and loved ones. It has a large impact on your confidence and mental state. I like to keep my head down during the week and make time on the weekends to enjoy a social life. I do believe we all need human contact and having a relationship over the phone is not quite the same. I enjoy moments of solitude, whereas some of my friends require constant attention! But getting the balance right is key.

Now please fill the gap about 5 golden tips to maintain your healthy lifestyle:

  1. Best sport/activity to practice at home: Any exercise that does not involve equipment. This can be yoga or bodyweight exercises to lift your mental state and energy. I sometimes enjoy a quick HIT session for 15 minutes in-between work to keep me energised.
  2. A good diet: suggests 3 key things shouldn’t be missing: Foods rich in Vitamin D. I grew up in Scotland, so naturally deficient in this area. Try to fill your plate up with a rainbow coloured variation of foods. This means you are more likely to be getting a sufficient amount of nutrients in your diet daily. I think protein whether it’s from plant-based food or meat, we all need this to help our body’s recovery from exercise, to feel more energy and to boost your immune system
  3. How to keep your friends close: I believe it is important to call your friends in these uncertain times. I know they might not admit it, but they will appreciate it so much more than a WhatsApp message or over a group chat.
  4. How to get your ‘me time’ with partner/family always around? I moved back home to Scotland just before the lockdown. We are very fortunate enough to have plenty of space to escape the madness. I tend to take myself away for a walk or run.
  5. A game for your brain: I love Scrabble and Boggle. It’s fun and competitive. I also love to play catching games with various tennis/footballs, almost like juggling. It’s a great way to warm up the brain and improve hand-eye coordination at the same time. Ideally, you need someone to play with!

Follow @Robbie Fotheringham Bespoke Fitness 

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