By Arthur Vianna
For this edition, Wave went to Calgary (Alberta) to interview Brazilian writer Luisa Cisterna. Married to the pastor Jaime Cisterna and mother of Tiago, Deborah and Lucas, being a writer is one of the many activities our guest pursues. Holding an undergraduate degree in Languages from Rio de Janeiro and two post-graduate degrees, she is a teacher of both Portuguese and English in Canada, translator of numerous books, revisor, co-author of textbooks and an award-winning story writer in Brazil. Recently, she released her first novel, “Love in Construction”. The book, published in Portuguese, can be found on Amazon’s website (www.amazon.ca). In the interview, Luisa talks about her life in Canada, her intense professional activity and, of course, the launch of her book.
Wave – Why Canada? How did this country come into your life?
Luisa Cisterna – I always wanted to live outside Brazil. I dreamed of living in France, or Scotland, but after graduating, I started looking for a Master’s degree in the United States. The idea of coming to Canada came from my husband, then boyfriend, who was getting ready to study here in the interior of Alberta. So, we came, we got married and stayed from 1991 to 1993. We went back to Brazil, but Canada remained in our hearts. In 2006, we came back as immigrants, with our 3 children.
Wave – Tell us a little about your family life and how you became part of the Canadian community of Calgary.
Luisa Cisterna – When we arrived in Calgary, my children were 3, 8 and 10 years old. Currently my eldest son has graduated, my daughter is at university and the youngest is in high school. They didn’t experience any problems with adaptation. For my husband and I, because of our previous experience of studying here, we too didn’t come across many barriers to becoming part of the community here in Calgary. I really like this country’s diversity. I have Brazilian friends, of course, but also friends that are Canadian and from other cultures. I think that this greatly facilitates insertion into the community because we create important bridges so that we can exert some influence on society. I like to think that my family and I have contributed greatly to the fact that our city is a place where people feel welcomed and confident that they can also integrate. I tell my children, friends and students that the more we develop an attitude of giving in this country, the more we receive in return.
Wave – As a professional, what are the biggest challenges you have faced in Canada?
Luisa Cisterna – I don’t think I’ve faced many challenges. As soon as I arrived in 2006, I started teaching ESL classes (more precisely at LINC that is an English program for immigrants) at Bow Valley College, where I still am today. At the same time, I received a proposal from Mount Royal University to restructure the Portuguese course for foreigners. From there, I acquired a lot of experience and respect in that environment. The only thing I think I missed was doing the Master’s degree I had been dreaming about. I tried a few times, but I had been away from the academic research environment for such a long time that it was hard to find an opportunity. I wanted to improve my curriculum to open more doors regarding work or promotion and I did some courses at Mount Royal University and at the University of Toronto. Later I attended a number of teacher trainings at Bow Valley College, which ended up granting me more visibility and respect in the area. The good thing about Canada is that studying and persevering always brings rewards.
Wave – After working as a teacher, copy editor, co-author of several books and columnist, what was the experience like of launching a novel?
Luisa Cisterna – Writing for me has always been a passion. I went through several stages, like writing stories and I even won a prize for one of the stories. I never had the courage to write a novel. I thought it would be an absurdly complicated task. I am a voracious reader and the Calgary Public Library is an obligatory stop for me. Just over a year ago, some stories began to pop up in my head. Some characters were born and, with them, other stories. I then decided to study about the novel writing process. I have lost count of how many books I have read. I spent months going to the library to study the art of writing novels. Then I started putting those stories on paper and they started taking shape. I say that when a character is born (we do not create them), it matures and takes on a life of its own. It is not uncommon for a character to wake me up at dawn asking me to rewrite some chapters or change some of his/her features to make them more real. So, I started my first novel, but that was not the one that was just published. What I published is, in fact, my third novel. The first one needs to be rewritten because the technique is not very good. By the third, I was a little more confident of introducing it to the public. The experience of launching a novel is wonderful especially when readers says that they cried or became angry with a character. If I was able to move the reader, I think I’m on the right track. Writing for me has become a necessity and I get very upset if I don’t write every day. I have much to learn, but it is from this need that I am growing as a writer.
Wave – Could you, in a few lines, provide us with a summary of your book “Love in Construction” for our readers?
Luisa Cisterna – “Love in Construction” is the story of Isadora, a Brazilian and blogger, who lives in Kelowna, B.C. At the family’s request, she helps a widowed aunt transform an old mansion into a Bed & Breakfast. The aunt hires the services of Diogo, son of Portuguese parents, who left the buzz of the financial world in Vancouver to remodel houses. Obviously the two fall in love, but Isadora is due to go and live in Italy with her sister. Because of the work and the discovery of some of her aunt’s documents on the arrival of the Portuguese in the Okanagan Valley, Isadora and Diogo gradually grow closer and closer. Among some of Diogo’s drawings, Isadora discovers what truly matters and thus makes her decision.
Wave – Out of curiosity, why was your work set in the Okanagan Valley?
Luisa Cisterna – I love answering that question. For years my family and I have spent part of our summer vacation in the Okanagan, a place of unbeatable vineyards and orchards. I have always been curious to know why many of these vineyards and orchards have Portuguese owners. I began to read about it and discovered that, after World War II, Canada entered into an agreement with Portugal to bring Portuguese people to work planting vines and fruit. At that time, there was not much manpower and even high school students were recruited to work during the harvest. My character Diogo was born from this discovery. The Okanagan Valley seemed to me the ideal place for a happy story, full of romantic encounters and disappointments and with a Portuguese-Brazilian flavor.