My name is Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta and I’ve been writing professionally (meaning, being paid to do so) since 1995. That was the year I stood on St. Mark’s Place, in New York City, and was thrilled to see the magazine on display at a newsstand that contained one of my articles. It was one of my life’s happiest moments.
As a writer, the thrills never stop. Your first rejection list (which means people are reading), your first article in print, your first check, your first award, the first time you get to edit someone else’s work, the first time someone asks for your writing advice, and of course your first published book.
My first two books were self-published. Then my third was picked up by a traditional publisher. I was shocked. When the publisher first contacted me, I thought it was yet another self-publishing company hawking business. But, no, it was a real publisher — and wow, just wow!
Within the year, my fictional story, “The Gypsy Smiled” was published.
“The Gypsy Smiled” is music fiction chick lit, inspired by a legendary song by the legendary Lou Christie, “The Gypsy Cried.” I loved the song — and Lou Christie — so much that my book is a tribute to him. The characters who are 1980s goths have a secret passion for the 1960s; so much so that they transform Lou’s music and make it their own.
The lead character, Lucretia, is trying to make it as a musician, but something is holding her back. Then she meets an exotic, positive woman named Gypsy who guides her.
Innocent enough, with no malicious intent.
However, sadly during my time of working out the kinks, a clueless beta who read my work was fixated on the word “gypsy” which she thought was a dig on the Romanian community. (Meanwhile, I have a few friends of Romanian descent who had NO PROBLEM AT ALL with me using the word). I fought to keep the book as is.
After the book was published, I thought my woes with the publishing company were behind me until I was passed on to a publicist who — after the book was published!!! — wanted me to change the entire book because she found it “offensive.”
Do people not get out much? Hallmark Movie Channel had a feature about a “gypsy fortuneteller” not to long ago. And there’s also a TV show called “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.”
When “politically correct” turns to “nit picky incorrect” — it’s not only dumb, but disgustingly “holier than thou”!
I took a private poll on Facebook and people I haven’t heard from in ages came to my defense. The word was used in a classic song, the book is a tribute to that song, and “gypsy” was NOT used as a slur, but in a most glorifying way. (Thus other kick ass gypsy songs like “Gypsy” by Stevie Nicks; and “King of the Gypsies” by Johnny Thunders).
Life can be so ugly when you’re falsely accused for doing wrong, when you work so hard, night and day, to make the world a better place. When I worked at Montclair Times, I made the paper the first in New Jersey to write about gay marriages, followed by the transgender community; I’ve also spent many a day in violent areas in New Jersey to report on a story about the good teens and policemen are doing for the community.
That said, the suggestion by a publicist to change the title of my book “The Gypsy Smiled” was the most asinine thing I ever heard in my life; as the word was by no means meant to be harmful!
I’m no longer going to exhaust myself being defensive to ignorant, judgmental people. Life goes on; and my life certainly isn’t one lived in vain, that’s for sure! I look in the mirror in the morning and say to myself, “I like me” as I await what the day brings. And when someone has to put others down without knowing even five percent of their personality and good doings, they must not like themselves very much.
And not wanting to work with that negative energy, I declined any help from the publicist.
As for the future of “The Gypsy Smiled” without a publicist, the book may just be cult status at best. At least I never compromised myself or my values. I kept my art true.
I refuse to be a sell-out because of someone’s minuscule opinion that is so wrong. In my heart, I feel I created a piece of art that pays homage to someone I highly admire. And that is certainly something to feel proud about.
Like my character Gypsy, I am smiling!
To purchase “The Gypsy Smiled” in Kindle or paperback, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Smiled-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta-ebook/dp/B074VC7MT9