Twice nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize by two different publishers in New York and Los Angeles respectively, between June and November 2018, Raymond Fenech Gonzi was appointed Associate Editor of Adelaide Literary Magazine of New York and Lisbon, Portugal.. The author remained associate editor with the publishers from 2018 to 2020 and the reason for his decision to resign his position was that he wanted to set up his own literary publication, Literature for the People, a bi-monthly literary magazine for people poets and writers. The first issue of the magazine was published in August 2020 and among its authors were two Canadian Poet Laureates, John B. Lee and George Elliot Clarke. The many other Canadian, Cuban, English, US and Maltese writers and poets are mostly decorated and highly respected within the literary community.
Born in St. Julian’s Malta, Raymond embarked on his writing career at 17, freelancing as a trainee correspondent for two major Maltese political newspapers, The Democrat and Il-Mument. Consequently, he was employed as a full time journalist with the leading English newspapers, The Times and The Sunday Times of Malta.
Despite the fact that in the seventies and eighties, journalism and writing in Malta were not considered a profession, and no academic courses in any field of writing were available, the aspiring author pursued with unfailing determination what seemed to everyone else an impossible dream destined to remain that way. At the time, the author had an alternative career, to study singing and music as he was a naturally gifted baritone. His talent was discovered by one of Malta’s illustrious sopranos when he was 14 years of age. His parents, both talented singers and musicians were both in favour of a music and singing career but writing was somehow in Raymond’s DNA and he couldn’t do without it.
Since the author preferred to write in English, this left him with one option only – to work for Malta’s leading English newspapers, The Times and Sunday Times of Malta. At that time, Malta was being governed by the Mintoffian Regime, and journalists were targeted by the authorities in every which way one can possibly imagine. Who would want to be a journalist for The Times of Malta six months after, it had just been attacked by Mintoffian thugs and gutted by fire? But for the young author this was the challenge he was waiting for. He entered the offices of the newspaper for the first time as a new junior reporter aged only 20.
The author worked as a freelance reporter and journalist for almost 10 years, before he left journalism in 1986 to look for pastures new. By that time, the totalitarian regime had been deposed and a new democratic party had been elected to govern the island. After leaving journalism, for some time, the author found employment as a PR and credit status report writer with the first ever credit rating agency in Malta.
It had long been the author’s desire to make use of his writing capabilities in a more creative manner and he found the way to do this when he joined the second largest advertising agency on the island. His work consisted of public relations, and copywriting such as TV and radio scripts, writing press releases, text books, advertisements and brochures. Ray left the company in 1998 for health reasons.
Later, the author worked for at least two other advertising agencies, one of which he founded from scratch for Mondial Travel, the largest travel group in Malta. He was also requested to set up The Globe Trotter Magazine, which was financed by the same travel agency and was appointed editor and regular contributing writer for the publication. During the same period, Ray also founded another in-house advertising agency and acted as a consultant to another company for which he also served as an associate editor of its magazine. Ray was contemporaneously editor of the nation-wide distributed magazine, Living 2000.
In 2004, his career as an editor and manager of Regency Advertising were brought to an abrupt end, after he was diagnosed with HD Lymphoma. Forced to resign from both his editorial and managerial positions, he realized that he still had goals he wanted to achieve, even if his future seemed so bleak.
The author decided to enroll for a bachelor’s degree course in creative writing with an online UK university. It took him four years to complete his degree and consequently another three years to complete his PhD in creative Writing.
In the meantime, Ray battled cancer and a stroke and was disabled as a result of the intense chemotherapy treatment for almost two years. Despite his cancer went into remission, and he miraculously recovered completely, being almost middle aged and carrying the stigma of being a cancer survivor proved too great an obstacle for him to find employment. The only way forward was to establish his own company, starting off with the handful of faithful clients that had followed his plight very closely. That was when together with his wife, he set up RF Copywriting, PR, & Editorial Services which he managed well enough to continue earning his living for the following 13 years until he retired.
During the ‘cancer period’, Raymond also discovered poetry therapy as he was seeking a theme for his BA thesis. That was when he came across Fiona Sampson’s book on poetry therapy which intrigued him so much, he wanted to know more about the subject and decided to write his 60-page thesis on this theme. He wrote to The Creative ‘Righting Center, Touro College, Hofstra University in the USA, requesting information about their courses. But to his
Disappointment, he was told that the tuition fees were $375 per credit hour. The entire course required 120 credit hours in all to complete, which at that time was impossible for him even to dream about. Ray had initially made contact to request course details from Professor Sherry Reiter, Director of The Creative ‘Righting’ Center, former president of the National Association for Poetry Therapy, (NAPT), as well as president of the National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy, USA. Professor Reiter seemed impressed enough by his qualifications and fighting spirit that she offered him a scholarship in poetry therapy.
The author studied poetry therapy for three years and completed the course in 2012. Recently, he also completed two diploma courses in Therapeutic Journaling with The UK College of Holistic Training and another course in parapsychology and paranormal studies. He was appointed Academic Advisor of the college for therapeutic journaling in 2019.
Although a great deal of Ray’s time was taken up by his job as a journalist, he never stopped writing poetry, short stories, articles and literary essays. Nor did he stop marketing his work abroad. In those early days, submitting work to so many countries turned up to be ‘a very expensive hobby’ and an arduous task, as every submission sent to an editor meant using snail mail. His first attempts brought many rejections slips, but he never lost hope and kept submitting until the replies started turning into acceptance letters.
In 2018, Holguin University, one of the only two recognized and distinguished universities in Cuba asked the author’s permission to use a selection of his poems to form part of their master’s creative writing degree programme. The study programme was conducted by Associate Professor Miguel Ángel Olive Iglesias M.Sc. at the same university.
His two recently published books by Adelaide Book Publishers were launched at the International Book Fair, Expo America in New York and in Portugal and at the International Book Fair in Frankfurt Germany 2018. The books, The Incident of the Mysterious Priest and Other Stories consisted of a collection of short stories, articles and memoirs, and Growing with the Shadows comprised a collection of his best poems.
Most of Fenech Gonzi’s works including news reports, poetry, essays, articles, short stories, memoirs and research on the paranormal and the supernatural had been published previously, individually in numerous magazines, newsletters, journals, newspapers, anthologies and online literary publications in fourteen countries.
In the Author’s Own Words on Poetry: I like to write poetry in a language everyone can understand, without mincing words, or losing my way in the obscure, or the abstract. Poetry from its very origins was intended to entertain the masses, even the illiterate. It is another form of communication and therefore each word has to be simple enough for the majority reader to understand. Like Hemingway, I think ‘the most important equipment for a writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector’, which can identify nebulous sentences. Readers usually want to associate themselves with the poet’s feelings, but to do so, they first have to understand his language.
I have been in the business of marketing my own work, publishing, editing, journalism, public relations and advertising for decades.