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 Maquoketa 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.
“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.”
Jacob (BTL '12) from Ohio recites his “Ode to BTL” in the video below.
Ali (BTL ’12) from Bahrain writes on the Shambaugh House blog:
"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."
Anton (BTL '14) from Russia says:
“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.”
To date (2008-2014), the BTL alumni network includes (Country/Number of Participants from Country):
Algeria: 4, Bahrain: 10, Canada: 1, Egypt: 5, Israel: 9, Jordan: 8, Kuwait: 1, Lebanon: 9, Libya: 1, Morocco: 8, Oman: 1, Palestinian Territories: 12, Russia: 27, Saudi Arabia: 2, Sudan: 1, Syria: 7, Tunisia: 5, United States: 39, Yemen: 1.
We have also brought chaperones from:
Egypt: 2, Israel: 1, Jordan: 5, Kuwait: 1, Lebanon: 2, Morocco: 2, Russia: 3, Saudi Arabia: 1, and Syria: 1.
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.
BTL is sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department.
Roua SGHAIER's (BTL '11) The Memory of the Pavement was honored with the 2015 Arab Creativity Award in Literature.