IWP Distance Learning Coordinator Rebecca Boyle recently sat down to answer questions about the program and share some exciting opportunities on the horizon.
1) What is distance learning at the IWP?
The International Writing Program's Distance Learning (DL) program is designed to link American and international writers through online creative writing workshops and literature seminars. In collaboration with embassies, universities, and arts organizations, we deliver both introductory and advanced courses to communities with limited access to creative writing programs. Since the inception of the program, we have delivered courses to institutions based in a number of countries worldwide, including Jordan, Somalia, Iraq, New Zealand, Mexico, among others. Although fiction, poetry, and nonfiction workshops are at the core of our program, past course offerings have included topics in contemporary world literature such as immigration narratives, Spanish and American graphic novels, and Maori poetry. Distance Learning programming is most commonly delivered through Direct Video Conference (DVC), Skype, or Elluminate technologies.
2) What’s been going on in the past few months?
This fall featured an exciting array of creative writing programming, from literary seminars to creative writing workshops to interactive interviews. The DL program partnered with institutions based all across the world, connecting Iowa to students and scholars in Gaza, Iraq, and New Zealand.
In October, the DL program was delighted to offer a six-session introductory creative writing course in partnership with the American Corner at Al Azhar University in Gaza. Taught by Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate and poet Lauren Haldeman, this course featured weekly live sessions with the instructor, split evenly between poetry and fiction, and concluded with a reading of student work. Sampling writers as diverse as Rumi, Italo Calvino, and Derek Walcott, the course tackled fundamental questions in writing, such as writing about self, image-making, and form. While the class predominantly focused on the practice of writing through in-class writing exercises, readings by key American and international writers were assigned each week and discussed during class.
Shorter-term programming included a lecture on Maori literature from former IWP resident Hinemoana Baker and a live discussion with Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Hisham Matar during his visit to Iowa City in September.
3) What programs are going on currently?
Since September, the DL program has partnered with the American embassy in Baghdad to present an ongoing, multi-genre series on a monthly basis, featuring an American literature session as well as fiction, poetry, and dramatic writing workshops. IWP Director Christopher Merrill kicked off the series with his presentation on American literature, which featured Walt Whitman's “Song of Myself” as a base text for discussing the all-encompassing “I” and the pluralism this implies within the larger context of 19th century American poetry. Upcoming sessions in the series include an introductory fiction session in January, an advanced fiction session in February, and a comparative literature session in March.
4) What’s in the DL pipeline in terms of future programming? (What are you most excited about?)
This spring, the DL program is thrilled to offer its first open course of the year on poetry writing. Anyone with an internet connection is invited to apply. A full course description as well as instructions on how to apply for the course will be posted on the International Writing Program's Facebook page by the end of this month. The DL program is also proud to offer its first ever LGBT reading group this coming February. For more course offerings this spring, please make sure to check the IWP's website.
5) Who should teachers and students contact if they are interested in getting involved in DL?