2015 Between the Lines

Between the Lines conducted two sessions in the summer of 2015, each focusing on Peace and the Writing Experience by bringing together young writers from diverse backgrounds to 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.

BTL Russia Arabic hosted 35 young writers from 8 cities throughout Russia, 10 U.S. states, China, and 9 Arabic-speaking countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Oman. Additionally, two alumni from the National Student Poets Program joined BTL for a four-day mentorship. Taking place entirely during Ramadan, this session of BTL perfected the evening salon at Shambaugh House with participants gathering for Ramadan dinners, engaging conversations, and late night coffees. Most evenings turned into impromptu cultural exchange via dance and popular music after busy days filled with literature and writing classes. Special evening and weekend workshops included: Peace and Theatre, spoken word, translation, and digital storytelling. Students also hiked the Iowa landscape at Maquoketa Caves State Park, dipped their toes in the Mississippi River in Davenport (IA), visited the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids for Ramadan Dinner, and were able to celebrate the U.S.’s Independence Day in downtown Iowa City with the annual Jazz Festival and fireworks. Students’ writing efforts culminated in a Youth Open Mic Night at High Grounds Café where they read their work and a graduation ceremony at Shambaugh House. 

In addition to BTL Russia Arabic, a special session of BTL occurred, bringing together 18 young writers, ages 16-20, from Armenia, Turkey, and 7 states throughout the U.S. (including, for the first time, Hawaii!). The program opened with the symbolic gesture of an Armenian student giving a pomegranate necklace to a Turkish student, which very early cemented the close bonds that would form between participants. In the global literature seminar, students learned everything from Armenian feminist poetry and American persona poems to Turkish Ekphrasis. The writing workshops—conducted in Armenian, Turkish, and English—offered intimate and safe spaces to experiment with new and old genres alike. Special events and workshops included, a collaborative cooking evening, Armenian and Turkish 101, a visit to the Davenport Street Festival where we were able to watch the Ragbrai bicyclists arrive and share a picnic lunch along the Mississippi River. Other events featured a digital storytelling workshop where students made their own short poetic films (check them out on YouTube!), a Youth Open Mic Night, and a slam poetry workshop and reading hosted by founder of Louder Than a Bomb, Kevin Coval. Also, a special two-day Peace and Theatre workshop occurred, taught by distinguished playwright Catherine Filloux, which culminated in a public reading of one-act plays. 

BTL Russia Arabic: June 21-July 5, 2015

BTL Armenia Turkey: July 18-August 1, 2015

Meet the Instructors

Session 1

Karim Alrawi

Karim ALRAWI is an Egyptian novelist and playwright with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. In addition to many plays for stage, radio, and television, he is the author of two children’s books and, more recently, of the novel Book of Sand (2015), which won the HarperCollins/UBC Best New Fiction Prize. His international honors include the John Whiting Award for his stage plays, the Samuel Beckett Award for the Performing Arts and several Canada Council for the Arts awards. A former editor of the magazine Arabica, he has taught creative writing at the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, and the American University in Cairo.

Alisa Ganieva

Alisa GANIEVA is a fiction writer and essayist from Dagestan (southern Russia) now based in Moscow. A graduate of the Maxim Gorky Institute of Literature and Creative Writing, she published Salam Dalgat!, her controversial first book, under a male pseudonym, winning the 2009 national Debut Prize. Her next novel, Праздничная гора (2012) was published in the US in 2015 as The Mountain and The Wall. Her most recent novel, Жених и невеста [The Bride and the Bridegroom], shortlisted for the 2015 Russian Booker, will appear in US in 2016. In 2015 The Guardian listed her among the “30 most talented young people living in Moscow.” Her stories, articles, and reviews are widely published, translated, and anthologized.

Kiki Petrosino

Kiki PETROSINO is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Louisville, where she directs the Creative Writing Program. She is the author of two volumes of poetry, Fort Red Border (2009) and Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013), both from Sarabande Books. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Tin House, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writer's Workshop and an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago.

Session 2

Nazmi Ağıl

Poet and translator Nazmi AĞIL teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Koç University- Istanbul. His most recent collections include Yağmura Bunca Düşkün [So Fond of Rain], (2014), Yavaş Matematik [Slow Math] (2012), Babalar ve Oğullar: Umut’un Defteri [Fathers and Sons: Umut’s Notebook](2008, Kokarca Aramak [Looking for Skunks], (2005) and Aşk Küçücük, Kırılgan [Love is Little Fragile] ( 2002). Among his translations are Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.

Mary Hickman

Mary HICKMAN is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she received an Iowa Arts Fellowship. Her poems have been published in Boston Review, Colorado Review, jubilat, the PEN American Poetry Series, and elsewhere. She is the author of This Is the Homeland (Ahsahta Press, 2015) and teaches creative writing at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Armen Ohanyan

Armen of Armenia is a writer and activist. His first book The Return of Kikos (2013) is a collection of interactive short stories, which encourages readers to act as co-authors. An experimental writer, he co-authors some of his work, among others the story ”The Flying Bicycle” with Aram Pachyan, and “The Last Breakfast” with Lilit Karapetyan. His work has appeared in the literary almanac Inqnagir and the Gretert literary newspaper; he has received literary awards for both The Return of Kikos and Superstar Mario (2012).

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