DiTrapano seeks emerging writers for Italy residency

Friday May 06 2022
Catherine Foulkrod, the director of the Travelling Foundation.

Catherine Foulkrod, the director of the Travelling Foundation. PHOTO | COURTESY


Catherine Foulkrod, the director of the Travelling Foundation, was in Kenya recently looking for local writers to participate in a residency in Italy

Where are you from?

I’m from Colorado in the US. For 11 years I lived and worked in New York City as a fact-checker for GQ magazine, and later as copy editor for Random House, as well as for the independent publisher Tyrant Books. I currently live in Naples, Italy.

How would you describe yourself?


I write short stories that have been widely published in literary magazines in the US. I also write creative non-fiction essays on contemporary art and culture for various magazines, museums, and galleries in the US, UK, and Europe. Currently, I am completing my first novel and also working on a book-length non-fiction project.

What brings you to Kenya?

When opportunities to expand my experience come around, I can’t say no. So when Mikhail Iossel, the director of the Summer Literary Seminars and Concordia University professor invited me to Kenya, I said yes without a second thought. I had never been to eastern Africa and wanted to experience both the cultural vitality and natural beauty of Kenya firsthand.

Also, I am on the board of directors of The Giancarlo DiTrapano Foundation for Literature and the Arts in Sezze, Italy, which offers writing residencies for writers and artists, providing time and space to produce new work and expand their community. The nonprofit foundation is to honour the late publisher Giancarlo DiTrapano. His publishing house, Tyrant Books, was called “the forefront of progressive literature” by the Washington Post. DiTrapano was always looking for new literary talent that challenged ideas of what literature could be. Likewise, I was hoping to perhaps find some fresh voices in the Kenyan literary scene — emerging writers who could be interested in a residency in Italy.

What are your impressions of Nairobi’s literary scene?

There is an enthusiasm and seriousness, which felt refreshing in comparison to the sometimes-jaded scene in New York. I felt a real energy of exploration, play, and mutual support. I also felt that there is a readership here that’s very hungry for new work.

What has been your experience of literary retreats?

My Summer Literary Seminar (SLS) in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2019, where I met Iossel was an inspirational and mind-expanding experience. I worked with a mentor, Dawn Raffel, whose insights helped me with my novel. Because writing is a solo sport, finding a community is one of the most important things a writer can do. I find that the community of SLS has helped my literary formation as much as the actual feedback on my novel.

Lossel said then that SLS has held month-long literary seminars for the past 20 years, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, to Montreal, Canada, and in Kenya, both in Nairobi and Lamu, working with writers like Binyavanga Wainaina (now late), Billy Kahora and Martin Kimani, the Kenyan ambassador to the UN.