Featured in Vanity Fair Italia:
"Chelsea Hodson and Giancarlo DiTrapano have created a workshop that follows
its own rules and is creating tomorrow’s literature.”
Featured in Departures Magazine:
"A little disruption in routine can be helpful for unlocking new creative potential."
NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR OUR
SPRING SESSION: APRIL 15-22, 2019
Workshop III: October 7-14, 2018
Workshop II: April 17-24, 2018
Workshop I: October 15-22, 2017
ABOUT THE FACULTY
Giancarlo DiTrapano is editor of Tyrant Books and New York Tyrant. He has published and edited books by Atticus Lish, Marie Calloway, Scott McClanahan, Clancy Martin, Brian Evenson, Eugene Marten, Blake Butler, Michael Kimball, Sam Michel, Ken Baumann, and others. He has written for Playboy, Vice, and other outlets. He taught fiction writing and editing at Catapult. He lives in Rome.
Chelsea Hodson is the author of the essay collection Tonight I'm Someone Else, which The Washington Post called "a memorable first collection" and Kirkus Reviews called "a simultaneously bewildering and compelling body of work." She is a graduate of the MFA program at Bennington College and has been awarded fellowships from MacDowell Colony and PEN Center USA Emerging Voices. She has taught nonfiction writing at Catapult in New York and as an Alumni Teaching Fellow at Bennington College.
Both Giancarlo and Chelsea share a love for work that is unflinching, visceral, and heartbreaking—this aesthetic informs everything about the workshop, from our manuscript response letters to our in-class discussions. When a student in our first workshop asked if three rounds of edits was a good rule to use before submitting to journals, we said it should be closer to a hundred rounds of edits. We believe in the workshop as a space where a piece of writing can be sufficiently interrogated, leaving the writer encouraged and excited to get back to work on the next draft.
Mors Tua Vita Mea translates to "your death, my life"—a medieval Latin battle cry that indicates one's defeat is necessary for one's victory. This workshop is not a space for defeat, but a place where you are free to question or abandon your former writing practices in order for new ones to emerge.
Workshop meets for two hours every morning and each student will have the opportunity to workshop a manuscript up to 20 pages. Both Giancarlo DiTrapano and Chelsea Hodson will be present for each workshop meeting—fiction and nonfiction will be workshopped together. Each workshop will also involve a lesson from either Giancarlo or Chelsea—past lessons have included topics such as: how to write a great first sentence, how to use the physical body as a writing tool, and how to use constraints to battle writer's block and inspire new ideas.
Before arriving in Italy, each student is expected to print, read, and mark up the other students' manuscripts and respond with a one-page letter to each student. These letters will guide our discussions.
Testimonials from our previous Mors Tua Vita Mea students:
"Mors Tua Vita Mea was simultaneously the most valuable educational experience I've ever had, and the most unique vacation I could ever imagine. Chelsea and Giancarlo have created a community that extends far beyond the one week of being onsite at Villa DiTrapano. The workshop element is thoughtfully prepared, efficiently structured, and I learned things both about my own manuscript and about writing in general that were completely transformative. The editing tools and writing practices I've engaged in since returning home have been completely worth the investment. But on top of that, I ate the most incredible food, saw the most magnificent sites, learned bewildering Italian history, and gained a new family, with whom I'm now in daily contact. Chelsea, Giancarlo, and Giuseppe gave us all an irreplaceable, life-changing experience. A weeklong workshop/trip with strangers was an admittedly frightening prospect, but, in the end, if I ever have children, they'll just have to understand they're the second best thing I've ever done." —Lexi K.
"The faculty are reason enough to attend Mors Tua Vita Mea. Never in a workshop environment have I felt the instructors to be so engaged with my work and invested in its growth and success. Chelsea and Giancarlo are sharp, centered readers with true artistic sensitivity and a firm grip on the literary world, and their insight and feedback are invaluable. A gorgeous room in the villa, super fun non-touristy experiences, and the best food you'll ever eat are just your added perks." —Mila J.
"I travelled to the workshop from Australia because I wanted my writing to have the same intensity I find in Chelsea Hodson’s work and in every release from Tyrant Books. Giancarlo and Chelsea put me on the right path. They were generous with time, attention, and took us out to see Medieval monasteries and coastal towns crumbling into the Mediterranean sea. In a long line of bad decisions, attending Mors Tua Vita Mea wasn’t one of them. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made." —Paul D.
"If you want your writing life to stay the same, Mors Tua Vita Mea is not for you. The workshops and craft exercises will challenge you, the faculty will encourage you, your cohort will inspire you, and you'll come away better for it. I not only grew as a writer at Mors Tua Vita Mea, I felt validated as one. The guidance I received from all corners was invaluable. Then, top it all off with food, wine, and the breathtaking Italian countryside? MTVM is worth every penny." —Jessica H. (read her blog post about her experience here)
"Mors Tua Vita Mea was an amazing experience. I went with an idea of who I was as a writer, but I left with a clearer sense of what I wanted to achieve. Giancarlo and Chelsea's advice was valuable and constructive, and I cannot recommend this workshop enough." —Alex G.
"The opportunity of workshopping my material with Chelsea and Gian, as well as the incredibly talented writers in the workshop with me, was instrumental in helping me figure out the direction that my novel ultimately took. I cannot imagine a better setting than Villa DiTrapano to write and discuss literature in, and I cannot imagine a cooler group of people to spend a week in Italy with. It’s fun as fuck." —Ivan S.
“If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Go to Italy. Walk amongst ruins. Drink wine. Bask in the sun. Meet new people. Try new foods during a five hour lunch on a mountain next to an ancient chapel. Hear a language that is not your own. Drive down winding roads while Gian plays Fleetwood Mac. Have a staring contest with Chelsea. Listen to every single thing that Giuseppe says. Gaze into the Cave of the Oracle and contemplate what lies in and beyond the darkness. Talk with and listen to your peers and teachers for hours about everything and nothing. Hone your skills, refine your craft, listen, observe and learn. Writing is a tool as well as a practice. You can do it anywhere, but this place has power and you can feel it running through everything. —Brent R.
“This was my first time in Italy, so I really had no idea what to expect. I arrived there with zero luggage (it got lost on the way), a short story written in 4 nights (I work a full time job), and bluish veins under my eyes (my layovers were long). I went by the word of a trusted friend who had gone previously and recommended it highly, saying the program had jump started her writing again after a long dry spell. It was both everything and nothing like I had imagined. There were haunted nights, dinner spreads on lemon tablecloths, chilly day swims, talks behind the olive trees, medieval history, long-stretching views of the sea, shifting walls and faces, and lots of reading. I realized on this trip what past studio spaces had been missing for me—the encasing of an adventurous yet comforting 360-degree cultural experience. It is the entirety of the experience—the honesty, the familial openness, the diverse group of people— that makes me want to urge people to apply. Don't even hesitate—just go for it! At the very least, you will return home with renewed spirit and, at the very most, you will return a better writer and more soulful person.” —Jenny M.
Villa DiTrapano is a private gated residence located on sixteen acres in Sezze Romano, Latina, Italy. Originally built in the 17th century and in the DiTrapano family since 1932, the villa has been fully renovated and now operates as a luxury rental year-round. It has all the amenities you'll need: high-quality bedding and sheets, wireless internet, a fireplace, air conditioning, bathrobes, hair dryers, a coffeemaker, and a security system. Each student will have their own bedroom in the villa.
Giancarlo’s husband, Giuseppe, acts as our own personal chef at the villa, preparing delicious, authentic Italian dishes every day.
There is one bedroom at the villa with two twin beds (pictured below left). If you and a friend would like to rent this room together, let us know on your application. If you are both accepted, the cost of your stay will be reduced.
There is also a separate garden apartment located across the pool (green room pictured below). This apartment offers more privacy and has its own bathroom with a shower. For a small extra fee, you can reserve this apartment instead of a private bedroom in the villa.
$2900 USD is the total cost for tuition, a private bedroom at Villa DiTrapano, all transportation (including to and from the airport and all field trips), breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The cost of airfare to Rome is the responsibility of the student, as is any alcohol beyond the wine that we provide at the villa. If you are accepted, a nonrefundable deposit of $1000 will be due by February 22, and the remaining $1900 will be due by March 22.
Financial aid is available to students in need—see application for more details, and feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss in further detail.
In the afternoons and evenings, our own personal tour guide and history expert (and also Giancarlo's husband) Giuseppe will join us as we embark on nearby excursions. Some of the activities from our previous workshops included: seeing the two thousand year old ruins and skeletons of Ercolano, eating a private four-course lunch at the top of a mountain in Roccagorga, swimming and drinking cocktails at the beach in Sperlonga, visiting the ancient Roman temples of Terracina, eating pizza and gelato in Naples, and more. This is the perfect trip for someone new to Italy, since all you have to do is get in the car and let Giancarlo drive you to the next tourist-free destination while Giuseppe tells you all about it.
On days when we have extra spare time at the villa, Chelsea will lead optional writing exercises with prompts designed to help you generate new material. Over meals, we will also have group discussions about things like the publishing and business aspects of writing as a career.
Each workshop participant will have the opportunity to have one-on-one meetings with both Giancarlo and Chelsea to discuss their manuscripts in more detail, go over personalized reading lists, and think about next steps.
SPECIAL GUESTS & EVENTS
For our first workshop in October 2017, we had the pleasure of a lunch with publicity extraordinaire Lauren Cerand, who was visiting from New York. For our second and third workshops, Tyrant Books hosted a reading at Otherwise Bookshop in Rome where Chelsea Hodson read with all of the workshop participants. Our fourth guest and/or reading will be announced closer to the workshop.