Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud. --Emile Zola

Since 2008, Between the Lines (BTL) has hosted young writers, aged 16-19, at the University of Iowa for a cultural exchange program that focuses on the art and craft of creative writing. Participants come together for an intensive two-week session, living in campus dorms, and spending their days in creative writing workshops and global literature seminars designed to foster a love of world literatures. While the literature classes are taught in English, the workshops are conducted in the student’s native language—be it Russian, Arabic, English, Turkish, or Armenian. Evenings and weekends are spent on assorted adventures—attending literary and cultural events in Iowa City and nearby towns, touring the caves at Marquoketa Caves State Park, and exploring each other’s cultures through events such as Arabic and Russian 101, Translation a Go-Go, and the BTL Cinematheque.  Each session is led by a faculty of prize-winning poets and writers from the U.S. and abroad, who are also experienced creative writing teachers. 

  Join us next year!! 

Between the Lines will conduct two sessions in the summer of 2015, each focusing on Peace and the Writing Experience by bringing together young writers from diverse backgrounds, who will explore their many histories, traditions, and cultural practices while also thinking about how literature and writing can lead to empathy, dialogue, and a shared understanding of the human condition. The first session assembles students from Russia, Arabic-speaking countries, and the United States, followed by a special session uniting students from Armenia, Turkey, and the United States. Be sure to check back soon for additional information, application processes, and deadlines. 
Session 1: Russia/Arabic-speaking countries/United States
June 21-July 5th, 2015
Ages 16-19
Session 2: Armenia/Turkey/United States               
July 18-August 1st, 2015
Ages 17-20 

As countless alumni have expressed, “Between the Lines will change your life.” The immersive project of cultural exchange and creative writing leaves an indelible impression on participants. BTL ’14 alum Hannah from Arizona writes on the BTL Tumblr

“These two weeks opened up my eyes to a glimpse of a whole new world – and there’s so much I haven’t even seen yet. From cultural exchange at the Russian and Arabic 101s to learning about Russian hipsters (Stilyagi) and eating dinner at a mosque, I realized that there’s a whole entire universe out there just waiting to be explored. I don’t hope I’ll see these people again; I know I will. And if not in person, then on shelves, because the talent and promise of the writers I’ve encountered here will surely be noticed.

This isn’t goodbye. This is just the beginning.”

BTL 2013 playing foosball at the Seldom Seen art festival

Jacob Oet ’12 from Ohio recites his “Ode to BTL” in the video below.  


Ali Alawi, BTL Arabic ’12 from Bahrain: "The teachers [poet Marcus Jackson and writer Iman Humaydan] were inspiring. I learned so much from them. I loved how our relationship wasn’t strictly pragmatic. We got to learn so much about them and their journey in writing and they really got to know us. And of course I’m still in touch with my BTL friends. We did everything together, from . . ." Read Ali’s (BTL '12) full interview on the IWP's Shambaugh House blog.


 Want to Learn More? 

Don’t forget to check back with our website, visit our FAQs pages for American applicants and International Students, and follow Between the Lines on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  Also, visit our Past Sessions pages to gain a better understanding of Between the Lines and see more photographs.

International students are nominated by the U.S. embassy in their respective countries. Please look at the FAQ Sheet for International Students in early 2015 for a list of participating countries for the Russia/Arabic 2015 BTL.  Armenia/Turkey BTL is open to students currently residing in Armenia and Turkey.  

Both sessions welcome American students to apply via our secure application site. The application site, currently closed, will begin accepting applications in early 2015. Check back soon for more details! 

“Every day at BTL brings more and more information, joy, and friends. This is an overwhelming experience that stops only for a night and starts right again at breakfast.” 

                                      –Anton from Russia, BTL 2014



BTL is sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department.

For more information on BTL, contact:

International Writing Program
Shambaugh House
430 N. Clinton
Iowa City, IA 52242


(Please include "Between the Lines" in the subject line of your e-mail.)

BTL 2014 celebrating a Ramadan dinner at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids


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