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Author Spotlight: Greek-American Author Tassie Kalas

by Maria A. Karamitsos   ·  7 months ago   ·  
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Time for another Author Spotlight! Come meet Greek-American Humorist Tassie Kalas and learn more about her work.

Author Spotlight: Tassie Kalas

Welcome back! This month, I put Greek-American Author Tassie Kalas in the author spotlight. Keep reading to learn more about her and her work.

Greek-American Author Tassie Kalas

Born and raised in Houston, TX to a Greek immigrant father and Greek-American mother, Author Tassie Kalas is also a realtor. She’s the author of Yaya’s Big Black Purse: Drama of a Greek Mama (Van Velzer Press, 2021). Let’s meet her!

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Q&A with Tassie Kalas

… On her Greek roots

Where is your family from in Greece?

My father was born in Nafpaktos and came to Houston with his brothers when he was thirteen years old. My mother was born in Houston, but her mother’s family was from Patmos, and her father was from Kefalonia. I’ve been in Houston for my entire life, because we all had to sign a contract at birth that we would never leave. I’m fortunate to have a close network of family and friends here, as well. Honestly, I can’t imagine living anywhere else!  Houston is home and it’s where my heart lives.

Does your Greek heritage influence your work?

My Greek roots played a huge part in inspiring my work. Each story is lovingly based on my Greek life and the people who make it a rich, fulfilling one. My family and friends are my inspiration and the heart of my stories, and through the laughter and tears, make life worth writing about.  Sometimes you have to grow up to appreciate how you grew up.

IMAGE: KATI HEWITT

… On life and work

Tell us more about you.

 I love a good story and I love making people laugh!  My three grown children encouraged me to write this book, and I did so in part so we would never forget some of the fun and crazy real-life moments we’ve shared.  Like many women, I struggled to be the perfect wife, mother, and daughter in an imperfect world, but learned that if I face life with joy in my heart, nothing and no one could keep me down—at least not for long!  In my free time, I enjoy traveling, spending time with my family (especially my two new grandbabies) and cuddling on the couch with my sweet golden doodle, Archie. In the bittersweet journey of life, I still believe in happily ever laughter, and hope you do, too. 

Do you have a job outside of writing? 

I’m a realtor who believes that home is where your story begins.  Because I value family and home, it’s a fun and fitting career for me to help people find the perfect place to live. 

… On reading

Who are your favorite authors?

Erma Bombeck is one of my favorite writers, and her good-humored essays on marriage and motherhood have greatly influenced me.  Attending the Erma Bombeck writing workshop in Dayton, OH played an enormous role in motivating me to write and publish my book.  Surrounded by funny writers, key-note speakers and comedians, I felt like I’d found people on the same page as me.  They made me believe I was more than a mom with a Mac.  I was a writer!

What kinds of books do you like to read?

I’m a big reader, and love books from many genres, from biographies to rom-coms to psychological thrillers, and of course, humor!

… On writing

When did you start writing?

I’ve always been a writer and dreamed of getting a book published. Even as a child, I enjoyed writing stories and plays and acting them out with my friends. On the floor of my closet, I have a dusty box full of journals I’ve kept from middle-school to middle-age where I documented every secret crush, every public humiliation, every success and setback.  Many of my stories are taken from the pages of these journals.

What inspires you?  

I’m inspired by my family and friends who are the heart of my stories. They grew up and grew older with me, sharing every milestone from middle-school through middle-age. It took a village to write my book, and I’m grateful mine is full of loving, passionate people who are proud of their roots and choose to live life as a Greek comedy instead of a Greek tragedy.

What do you like to write?

I love a good story—especially a funny one!  In real life, and in my fiction, I’ve chosen to overcome life’s obstacles with humor and heart.  I write about the universal topics of marriage and motherhood, friendship and family, and hope to help people realize we’re more alike than we think.

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… On her book

Tell us about your book.

Yaya’s Big Black Purse: Drama of a Greek Mama is a collection of short stories based on real life that covers four generations of a traditional Greek family. It focuses on one member’s modern-day struggles as she grows up, grows older, and finally finds her voice—at the same time she’s about to lose her mind. There seems to be nothing this mom can’t handle. But when the husband she adores leaves her for a racy two-seater convertible, she has no choice but to learn from her past, face her future, and grow into the strong, independent woman she was destined to be.

Where did the idea come from? 

When I was growing up, my yaya carried a big black patent leather purse. She was prepared for any crisis and always had just what we needed—a tissue, a breath mint, a slice of pepperoni pizza. She had safety pins, perfume, a collection of Sweet ‘n Low packets she’d swiped from a coffee shop. It was her big black purse and the strong, loving woman who carried it, that inspired me to write my book. I like to think there’s something for everyone in Yaya’s Big Black Purse, and I chose the title in honor of my grandmother.

When did it come out?

My book was published in September 2021, just in time to make its debut at the Original Houston Greek Festival.

How is it being received?

 I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback I’ve received from readers who can relate to my humorous short stories about marriage and motherhood, dog hair and divorce. Yaya’s Big Black Purse has traveled the country, attending conventions and conferences, Greek festivals and book readings. It’s appeared on podcasts and comedy corners and blogs and a radio show.  It was written up in the National Herald and selected as a finalist in the Gilda Book Award for humor. The city of Houston even proclaimed a ‘Make Your Grandmother Smile Day’ in honor of the important role yayas play in their family’s lives.

Are you doing any events to promote it? 

I’ve had so much fun promoting Yaya’s Big Black Purse! I’ve had the opportunity to be interviewed by Greek comedian, Basile, on the Pinch of Basile Radio Show and Podcast and was a guest on the Karis Comedy Corner with the Greek goddess of comedy, Ellen Karis. Also, I’m looking forward to being featured in the Daughters of Penelope Book Club Zoom event on December 6!  I love going out into the community to share my stories and look forward to scheduling many more appearances.

How long did it take to write? 

Three years.

…On the future

What’s next for you? 

The story doesn’t end here. Life goes on and there are many chapters ahead. I was thrilled to become a yaya this year—twice! I am the proud grandmother to two beautiful baby girls, a one-year-old and a five-month-old.  My heart swells when I hold the babies, and I can’t help thinking about my own yaya and the love she had for our family. Suddenly, I understand why she worried about us so much, and I look forward to the stories yayahood will inspire in me. 

Anything else people should know or you want to share? 

Readers won’t want to miss the hilarious sketches at the end of each story by my talented friend, Houston artist, Joni Zavitsanos. Joni and I grew up together, and she’s lived through many of my stories with me. A picture paints a thousand words, and I love that we get to see her clever perspective of growing up Greek through her artwork. 

I also want to mention there is no greater gift a reader can give a writer than feedback.  Knowing I brought a smile to someone’s face is all the motivation I need to write that next story.  I ask readers to please consider writing a review on Amazon or wherever they purchase books. The most fun part about writing this book has been meeting and hearing from my readers, the real people who struggle with marriage and motherhood, dog hair and divorce—the household heroes who laugh without fear of the future.  My stories are for you.

Check out Tassie Kalas’ Website

Follow her on Facebook, Instragram & Twitter


Read more:

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Author Spotlight: Zafirios Georgilas


Maria A. Karamitsos

Maria A. Karamitsos is a journalist, author, and poet. She's the founder & former publisher/editor of WindyCity Greek magazine and former associate editor & senior writer for The Greek Star newspaper. Maria currently pens a literary column for NEO magazine and also contributes to Greek City Times and TripFiction. Her work has been published in The Magic of Us-A Moms Who Write Poetry Anthology, The Pen Poetry Magazine, Voices of Hellenism Literary Journal, Highland Park Poetry, GreekCircle magazine, The National Herald, GreekReporter, Harlots Sauce Radio, Women.Who.Write, KPHTH magazine, XPAT Athens, and more. Maria has contributed to two books: Greektown Chicago: Its History, Its Recipes and The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook. She's currently working on her 1st novel.

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