Melissa Muldoon, a Lakeway writer and connoisseur of all things Italian, said her lifelong relationship with Italy had slowly developed since studying abroad there. Now, decades later, she has four novels and an active blog exploring different aspects of the Italian language and culture in order to share her love for the country with others.
“I studied in Florence and lived with a family. That was when I was a student and I came home and threw away my Italian dictionary because I thought I would never need it again, ”she said. “But Italy has a way of wrapping itself around your heart and I felt like I really regret not having learned the language well.”
Muldoon fixed this with the launch of their blog in 2010. Student Matta, which means “crazy student”, a name that comes from Muldoon’s language learning philosophy.
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“I think when you let go of your inhibitions you are much freer to embrace new things, to learn new things and have less fear of failure and can laugh a little at yourself.” She said. “I write about anything and everything on the blog, from politics to music to cooking pasta. As long as it’s in Italian and I’m getting on with the language. It got pretty popular. “
After years of blogging, Muldoon expanded her writing repertoire with her first novel “Dreaming Sophia”, which she self-published in 2016.
In all four of her books, Muldoon used her travel experience in Italy and her history and art history knowledge from her studies to tell stories about women in the Italian art world. With her training as a graphic designer, she also designed the covers herself, she says. Her second book, Waking Isabella, tells the story of Isabella de Medici and a painting of her that was lost during World War II. Her third novel “Eternally Artemisia” leads the reader into the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the most famous artists of the baroque era.
“I would say my books are for anyone interested in art history, anyone interested in Italy, anyone interested in a good story about a strong woman,” she said. “My stories are all about women and self-actualization. About how they can advance their lives, how they don’t have to sit in the shadows, how they can stand up. ”
Her most recent novel “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” is based on the life of a real woman who studied with Michelangelo and later became Philip II’s court painter in Spain.
“I’m very intrigued by stories about the art world and women who are champions,” she said. “I want a younger generation of women to know that women can rise and be very self-confident and have their own stories.”
The novel was published in December and she wrote a good chunk of it during the pandemic, she said. The coronavirus lockdown didn’t change her writing process significantly, but she said that fourth novel and the conversion of her first three books into audiobooks helped give her meaning during an uncertain and stressful time.
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Muldoon travels back to Italy for the first time since the pandemic broke out in late August as part of a trip she organized for people interested in learning about the Italian language and culture. These trips, which Muldoon takes regularly, were another endeavor that sprang from her blog. The adventures attract people from around the world looking to improve their Italian or get to know different parts of the country – often people from the United States with Italian ancestors looking to reconnect, Muldoon said.
For her part, Muldoon said she couldn’t wait to return to her adopted home, where she draws much of her inspiration.
“When I go to Italy and travel, I really get inspiration from stories, legends and things that I see,” she said. “I have several ideas for a fifth book. When I start writing it’s like a black hole that I’m drawn into and I write, write, write. I enjoy this creative process very much. “