We're proud to announce that our 2012 Fall Residents have arrived! Coming from far and wide, these incoming writers have spent this early part of the week getting acclimated to their new environment, have gone thorugh the IWP's orientation program, and have celebrated their arrival with a wonderful reception held at IWP Director Christopher Merrill's Iowa City home.
The opening reception featured remarks by University of Iowa President Sally Mason as well as Congressman Dave Loebsack. Each writer also took a turn at the microphone to introduce him- or herself to the audience of approximately 250 community members, friends, colleagues, administrators, and lovers of literature who had gathered to welcome them to Iowa.
In the coming weeks, we'll be posting regular updates here at the Shambaugh House blog as well as to our Facebook Page and our Twitter feed.
This Friday, our Shambaugh House Reading series will get its start with readings by Mohibullah Zegham (fiction writer, translator; Afghanistan) and Genevieve L. Asenjo (fiction writer, poet, translator; Philippines). The reading will begin at 5 p.m. and light refreshments (coffee, tea, bagels) will be served.
After the Shambaugh House Reading, two of our Fall Residents will be participating in the Anthology Reading series, which brings together writers from across writing programs and communities here in Iowa City. TJ Dema (poet; Botswana) and Bilal Tanweer (fiction writer; Pakistan) will read alongside Fatimah Espiritu, Thessaly La Force, and Deborah Taffa. 936 E. Bloomington at 7:30PM.
Then, on Sunday, Taleb Al Refai (fiction writer; Kuwait), TJ Dema (poet; Botswana) and Ariel Lewiton (from Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program) will read at Prairie Lights at 4 p.m.
Check back every Monday for a look at that week's events (Mon. through the following Sun.), and be sure to visit us on Facebook and Twitter.
Round III of the IWP's introduction to our 2012 Fall Residents includes writers from Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Maruitius, the Philippines, and Slovakia. More announcements will be made on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of next week!
Mohibullah Zegham (fiction writer, translator; Afghanistan) is a cardiologist practicing in Kabul, and the author of two short story collections, three children’s books, and the novels [The Suicide Bomber (Zanmargai ځانمرګی), 2009] and [The Order of the President (Da Olasmesher Farman د ولسمشر فرمان), 2012]. He regularly translates medical articles, children’s literature, and works of psychology into Pashto; he also directs the children’s-book publishing house Mosawer, and is the editor of the cultural magazine Sapida. He participates courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Genevieve L. ASENJO (fiction writer, poet, translator; Philippines) is the author of four books including Lumbay ng Dila (The Melancholy of the Tongue), winner of the country’s 2011 National Book Award. Her short stories and poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. She translates into the Philippine languages Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, and Filipino, and is the founder-director of Balay Sugidanun (Storytelling House). She is Associate Professor of literature and creative writing at De La Salle University-Manila. Her participation is made possible by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
CHAN Chi Tak 陳智德 (pen name:CHAN Mit陳滅.poet, essayist; Hong Kong) is an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, and co-founder of poetry journals《呼吸詩刊》 [Huxi Poetry](1996-2001) and《詩潮》 [Poetry Waves](2001-2003). He has three books of poetry, 《單聲道》[Life in Mono] (2002), 《低保真》[Lo-fi Sound] (2004), and 《市場, 去死吧》[To Hell With the Market] (2008), three essay collections, and edited three anthologies of Hong Kong literature. His work has twice won the Recommendation Prize for Chinese Literature at Hong Kong Biennial Awards and four times the Award for Creative Writing in Chinese. English translations of Chan’s poems have been featured in The Literary Review, West Coast Line, Renditions, and To Pierce the Material Screen: an Anthology 20th-century Hong Kong Literature. His participation is made possible by a grant from The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation in Hong Kong.
Barlen PYAMOOTOO (fiction writer; Mauritius) is the founder/director of publishing houses Alma and L’Atelier d’écriture, and leads the creative writing workshop at the Institut Français de Maurice. He has published three novels, including Le tour de Babylone (2002) and Salogi’s (2008). In 2006, Pyamootoo wrote the screenplay for and directed the feature film adapted from his novel Bénarès. He participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Jana BEŇOVÁ (poet, fiction writer; Slovakia) has written three books of poetry: Svetloplachý (1993), Lonochod (1997) and Nehota (1997). Beňová has also published the short story collection Dvanásť poviedok a Ján Med (2003), an essay collection, and the novels Parker (2000) and Plán odprevádzania (Café Hyena) [Seeing People Off] (2008); her most recent novel, Preč! Preč! [Away! Away!] was published earlier this year. Beňová currently works as an editor at the Slovak Theatre Institute. Her participation is made possible by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
It's Wednesday and, as promised, here's Round II of our 2012 Fall Residency Announcements!
Today's installment features writers from Kuwait, South Korea, Germany, Taiwan, and Greece. To learn when and where you can see these writers share their work, participate in panel discussions, and screen films, be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter (@UIIWP), and, of course, feel free to visit us at the IWP's Homepage.
Taleb AL REFAI (fiction writer; Kuwait) has published seven collections of short stories, a play, a number of critical works, and four novels, including the controversial [The Shadow of the Sun] ( ظل الشمس ( in 1998. His 2002 [The Scent of the Sea] ) ( رائحة البحر won the Kuwait National Award for Arts & Literature. Trained as an engineer, Al-Refai has since joined the staff of the National Council for Culture, Art and Literature, where he manages the Culture and Arts Department. His articles appear regularly in the Al-Hayat and Al-Jarida Kuwaiti newspapers; in 2009 he chaired the Arabic Booker Prize for Fiction. He participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
CHOI Myung sook (playwright; South Korea) is a lecturer of drama and modern culture at Soonchunhyang and Baeksuk Universities. She has written six staged plays, including 모텔 피아노 [Motel Piano] (2007), 두 아이 [Two Daughters](2011) and directed the [Actors Read Novels] series in Seoul from 2008 to 2012. The title play for her published collection, 그리고 또 하루 [And Again, Another Day] (2009), was staged at the 33rd Seoul Theatre Festival in 2012 and won the prize for drama. Her participation is funded by Arts Council Korea.
Lucy FRICKE (fiction writer; Germany) worked extensively in film and television before studying literature at the Deutsches Literaturinstitut in Leipzig. Fricke has gone on to publish the novels Durst ist schlimmer als Heimweh [Thirst is Worse Than Homesickness] (2007) and Ich habe Freunde mitgebracht [I Brought Friends] (2010). She has organized literary events for the Berlin International Poetry Festival, the Leipzig Book Fair, and currently directs the HAM.LIT festival in Hamburg. She participates courtesy the Max Kade Foundation.
LIN Chun Ying 林俊頴 (fiction writer; Taiwan) is the author of an essay collection and seven short story collections, including 大暑 [The Longest Summer] (1991), 焚燒創世紀 [A Burning Notebook] (1997), and 鏡花園 [The Garden of Mirrors] (2006). His novel 我不可告人的鄉愁[The Nostalgia That Dare Not Speak Its Name] (2011) received the 2012 Taipei International Book Exhibition Prize. Lin has worked as a copywriter, newspaper editor, and in television. His participation is made possible by the Council for Cultural Affairs in Taiwan.
Dimitris LYACOS (poet, playwright; Greece/Italy) is the author of the cross- genre trilogy Poena Damni, which includes Z213: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ [Z213: EXIT] (published in English in 2010), ΜΕ ΤΟΥΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥΣ ΑΠΟ ΤΗ ΓΕΦΥΡΑ [With the People From the Bridge], and Ο ΠΡΩΤΟΣ ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ [The First Death]. The trilogy has been translated into six languages, and staged in theatres across Europe and the U.S., inspiring works in various media including a sound and sculpture installation, paintings, and a dance adaptation. Lyacos’ participation is made possible by a grant from the Counting Art non profit organization and Athens-based ABOUT Cultural Venue.
In three weeks, the IWP's 46th annual Fall Residency will bring 32 writers from 29 countries to Iowa City where they will have time, space, and freedom to write. As ever, they'll also have ample opportunitiy to engage with the public, to travel to other cities and states, to give public readings of their work, and to immerse themselves in the writing life in North America's only UNESCO-designated City of Literature.
In anticipation of their arrival, we'll be posting information about this year's cohort of writers here at the Shambaugh House blog every other weekday for the next two weeks, roughly five writers at a time. Without further ado, here's a look at just a few of our 2012 Fall Residents:
Gulala NOURI (poet, fiction writer, translator; Iraq) has worked as a Kurdish-language teacher and in women’s issues and human rights. Currently, she is in charge of public relations and media for the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization. Nouri has published four collections of poetry, لحظة ينام الدولفين [While the Dolphin is Sleeping] (1999), لن يخصك هذا الضجيج [This Crowd is Not Up To You] (2001), تقاويم الوحشة [Calendars of Loneliness] (2005), and حطب [Firewood] (2009). Her translations of Vladimir Vysostky’s poetry into Kurdish and Arabic came out in 2011. Nouri has two books forthcoming, a translation of stories on the Halabja massacre, and her first story collection. Her participation was funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Bilal TANWEER (fiction writer, poet, translator; Pakistan) teaches creative writing at Lahore University of Management Sciences. His short stories, essays, and poetry have been published by Granta, Critical Muslim, Life’s Too Short Literary Review: New Writing From Pakistan, Vallum, Dawn, The Express Tribune, The News on Sunday, and The Caravan (India); his translations from the Urdu have appeared in Words Without Borders and The Annual of Urdu Studies. In 2010 he received the PEN Translation Fund Grant for Chakiwara Chronicles by Muhammad Khalid Akhtar; in 2011 he was selected as a Granta New Voice. He participates thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Federico FALCO (fiction writer, poet; Argentina) is the author of three short story collections, two poetry collections, and the 2011 novel Cielos de Córdoba. His La hora de los monos was chosen as one of the best Argentine books of 2010 by the magazine Revista Ñ. His stories are widely published and anthologized, including Open Letter’s 2012 The Future is Not Ours: New Latin American Fiction. In 2010, Falco was among Granta magazine’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists. Currently he teaches in the Department of Cinema, Literature and Contemporary Art History at the Universidad Blas Pascal. He participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
TJ DEMA (poet; Botswana), a founding member of her country’s spoken word movement and a member of Sonic Slam Chorus, former chair of the Writers Association of Botswana, and runs Sauti Arts and Performance Management. An editor and anthologized poet, she has produced a multilingual CD, “Dreaming Is A Gift For Me,” featuring twelve Batswana poets. This summer she took part in the Cultural Olympiad’s Poetry Parnassus. She participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Alisa GANIEVA (fiction writer, children’s writer, critic; Russia) edits NezavisimayaGazeta‘s weekly supplement ExLibris. Her stories, articles, and reviews have been widely published and anthologized. In 2009 Ganieva won the Debut Prize for her novel Салам тебе, Далгат! [Salam, Dalgat!] written under the pseudonym Gulla Khirachev. She is also the winner of the Gorky Literary Prize (2008), October magazine’s award for literary criticism (2009) and Triumph Prize for fiction. Her second novel Праздничная гора [Holiday Mountain] is due out later this year. She participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Stay tuned because on Wednesday, we'll introduce you to five more writers!
IWP intern extraordinnaire Emily Seiple has spent most of July assisting Between the Lines Coordinator Kecia Lynn, and boy have the two of them been busy. From June 30th through July 14th, the IWP hosted a wonderful group of Russian and American students who together participated in creative writing workshops, attended literary salons, film screenings, and readings, and who, when all was said and done, left Iowa City knowing something more of themselves as writers and of each other's cultures.
Last weekend, BTL Russia participants celebrated the end of their two weeks in Iowa City just as students for our BTL Arabic program hit town. We've got a wonderful wrap-up of BTL Russia to post soon, but first, here's Emily's day-to-day account of our current BTL program.
July 14: Goodbye BTL Russia, Hello BTL Arabic 2012!
By the time Kecia and I greeted the new class of Between the Lines Arabic at 9:00 a.m., we had already been awake for six hours. Exhausted from a late-night graduation celebration for the first-ever BTL Russia program and their early morning goodbye, we managed to lead the new students around Iowa City. The few minutes before the walk were the only moments the students seemed like strangers. Almost immediately, friendships formed across language lines, and the 18 representatives from Algeria, Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, the U.S., and Tunisia became a unified group. After a trip to Coralridge Mall, the students met Marcus Jackson and Iman Humaydan, both of whom refused the title “instructor.” The night ended with getting-to-know you games. Isobel McHattie gave a memorable and convincing 1-minute history of Canada in a game called “One Minute, Please!” As a result, some students may truly believe that the rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens began with an argument over whether the tail on a fur cap should be worn in the front or the back…
July 15: Class Begins
The group split for the first time into their separate Arabic and English writing workshops. The American (and Canadian) students have little choice about their workshop placement, but several of the others were torn over which to attend. Kecia, Marcus, and Iman devised a flexible schedule in order to offer multi-lingual students the chance to attend equal numbers of workshops in each language. They also added a once-weekly workshop for all students.
After five hours of class, the students retreated to the Coralville Reservoir. At the beach, forgotten swimsuits and towels became a non-issue. Innocent splashing progressed into an all-out water fight which ended in swimming with shorts and T-shirts... It was a welcome break from Iowa’s relentless heat and humidity.
July 16: A BTL Birthday
With a cake, candles, and a card filled with poetic birthday messages in English, Arabic, and French, the group celebrated Ali Kadhem of Bahrain’s 17th birthday. Once the cake was gone, students pushed chairs out of the way and began to dance. Students taught and learned a wide range of moves—from salsa steps to traditional Palestinian and Tunisian dances. The party ended only when curfew arrived.
July 17: A Typical Enlightening Weekday
Each day during the week, students attend a literature seminar in the morning and a writing workshop in the afternoon. Iman’s lectures encourage sociological analysis of the world surrounding the day’s text. Opinions and viewpoints clashed in discussions about women in Islam, as students from different countries and points of view read and responded to the same reading. Despite disagreements, the students have expressed enthusiasm over this opportunity to hear from others and share their own perspective. In the evening, students explored campus facilities and summertime Iowa City attractions, like salsa dancing in the Ped Mall and cold pie shakes from Hamburg Inn.
July 18: Bina Shah visits BTL
In the morning, students listened to the first of two online guest lecturers. Today’s guest was 2011 IWP resident, Bina Shah from Pakistan, who joined us via Skype. After discussing where writers find ideas and inspiration, students shared ideas they’d like to develop into prose or poetry pieces, inspired by their experience traveling to Iowa for Between the Lines. While receiving feedback from Shah, students discussed culture shock, the symbolism of airports, and how they have experienced times of belonging or not belonging in a culture, family, or group.
As our current cohort of Between the Lines students continue to live, write, study, and engage one another in Iowa City, we thought it was a great time to share this guest blog post from one of last year's BTL students, Maïsa Farid, who came to Iowa last summer from Morocco.
BTL changed me; I feel I've become another person. I've gained so much confidence in myself and become brave enough to call myself a writer. Indeed, I am a writer now; I gave myself a new definition of pen, blank paper, and written lines.
The pen is my sword, I control it, I can use it as a weapon, I can do whatever I want with it.
It's true I was afraid of a blank page of paper, thinking it meant failure, but in Iowa City, I learned that sometimes a blank paper reflects our thoughts for the moment. That blank white colour is not shameful; maybe our brain is blank, too. A blank paper also means freedom, of speech and thoughts.
Written lines are an achievement, a success. They show us that what we can do is limitless, that we have power over words.
Since I’ve been home, people have asked, “What did you learn during your ‘journey’?” Lost in the American dream, my answer is, "Well, many things!" Probably because I feel lazy speaking about the many things I've actually learned about writing, writers, the U.S., friends, living on my own, being independent and responsible for myself.
Returning to my motherland, I still feel so empty. I miss the friends I had, they were true friends, and I’m thankful I can find them by my side when I need them. Even though we’re miles apart, they can comfort me with words, and words have a magic effect that only writers can find. Although some of them are older than me, we’ve found a way to have a beautiful friendship. Writers have a beautiful liaison between themselves.
To be truthful, I was scared at first. It was my first time being away from my parents for such a long time. I also thought I'd not be taken seriously, but I was truly surprised: The staff was amazing, my teacher was awesome, and my fellow writers were young but experienced, pushing me to think I was experienced too. Eventually, words became a game for me, a serious game with no rules except the ones I make.
No matter what I write, I will never be able to describe my feelings, then and now. I'll always remember BTL as a program that helped me meet life outside. I'll also remember that BTL came at a time when I thought I was the least fortunate girl on the planet, drowning in my own problems.
If I could go back to Iowa City and Between the Lines, I would definitely book the first flight I could find. That’s going to be after graduation, God willing!
Maïsa Farid (BTL 2011) is from Morocco, where she is a student at the Faculty of Science and Technology in Tangier. She intends to study chemical engineering and is working on a novel she plans to title A Million Pictures of Love.
Currently in its fourth year, the Life of Discovery exchange program beween the International Writing Program (IWP) and the China Writers' Association (CWA) brings together young American and Chinese poets, fiction writers, and playwrights to discuss literature, translation, and culture, and to engage in mutual creative writing projects. Through exchange and dialogue, IWP and CWA writers learn something of the each country's literature, form friendships, and mutually create new work. Sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the first half of this year's Life of Discovery exchange program is currently being held in China (through July 7th) and will continue in the United States from Oct. 27th - Nov. 3rd, when the Chinese delegation visits Chicago and Iowa City.
The delegations have already visited a number of significant historical, literary, and artisitc sites in Beijing and Shanghai, including the 798 Art Zone and the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai's Pudon district, and the hisotric town of Zhouzhuang in Jiangsu Province. This week, the writers will engage in creative meeting sessions during which they will address a number of topics relevant to writers, including issues of genre, translation, pedagogy, and publishing.
Here's a look at the two delegations of writers:
Life of Discovery 2012: The American Writers
Amelia Gray is the author of AM/PM (Featherproof Books) and Museum of the Weird (FC2), for which she won the 2008 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize. Her first novel, THREATS, was published this spring by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, American Short Fiction, McSweeney's, and DIAGRAM, among others.
Dora Malech was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1981 and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. She earned a BA in Fine Arts from Yale College in 2003 and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2005. She has been the recipient of a Frederick M. Clapp Poetry Writing Fellowship from Yale, a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship from the Writers’ Workshop, a Glenn Schaeffer Poetry Award, a Writer’s Fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy, and a 2010 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. The Waywiser Press published her first full-length collection of poems, Shore Ordered Ocean, in 2009 and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center published her second collection, Say So, in 2011. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, Best New Poets, American Letters & Commentary, Poetry London, and The Yale Review. She was recently commissioned by the International Writing Program, in partnership with the Moscow Art Theatre, to create new work for the collaborative, bilingual “Book Wings” project. She has taught writing at institutions that include the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop; Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington, New Zealand; and Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, California, where she served as Distinguished Poet-in-Residence in 2010. She lives in Iowa City, where she writes, creates visual art, teaches, and directs the Iowa Youth Writing Project, an arts outreach program for children and teens.
Kaui Hart Hemmings was born and raised in Hawaii. She has degrees from Colorado College and Sarah Lawrence and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She is the author of the story collection House of Thieves and of the novel The Descendants, which has been published in fifteen countries and adapted for the screen by director by Alexander Payne in 2011.
Dan O’Brien’s current projects include The Body of an American, winner of the 2011 L. Arnold Weissberger Award, set to premiere at Portland Center Stage in 2012, and Theotokia / The War Reporter, an opera premiering at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University in 2013. Previous productions include The Cherry Sisters Revisited (Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival), The House in Hydesville (Geva Theatre Center), The Voyage of the Carcass (SoHo Playhouse; Page 73 Productions), The Dear Boy (Second Stage Theatre), and Moving Picture (Williamstown Theatre Festival). He has served as a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, the inaugural Djerassi Fellow in Playwriting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and twice the Tennessee Williams Fellow at The University of the South (Sewanee). Residencies include the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Yaddo, and the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. O’Brien’s poetry has appeared recently in Missouri Review, Malahat Review, Poetry Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. This summer he will teach playwriting at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Originally from New York, O’Brien lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actor and writer Jessica St. Clair.
Program Coordinator - Nate Brown
Life of Discovery 2012: The Chinese Writers
Liu Yewei（刘业伟), a Chinese author whose pen name is yewei, was born in Zaozhuang, Shandong province in 1977. He has studied in Qufu Normal University, Nanjing Normal University and Lu Xun Academy of Literature. He is currently a member of China Writers Association, is the director of Jiangsu provincial painting and Calligraphy Association, the vice chairman of Writers Association of Xuzhou City, as well as the head of editing department of Jiangsu Normal University News. Liu started writing literary works in 1990 and has published over three million characters in the form of medium-length and short stories in various literary periodicals such as Fiction Monthly. He has published a novel Rich Mine and a university.com series. Also, he has written several academic monographs such as “Analyzing Four Generations of Ye Shengtao Family in the View of Editing” and “Observing the Literary Circle from the Sidelines: between Universities and Media” etc. Liu has awarded Jiangsu Purple Mountain Literary Award, the top ten young poets Award of “Times Literature” among many other literary awards. Moreover, he has also awarded the best five achievements in the works of Drama, TV Soap Opera, Books, Songs and Critics of Xu Zhou city, and his calligraphy has been invited to the Chinese Writer calligraphy and painting exhibition and won the prize of honor named “Wen Xin Mo Yu”(which connotes the expression of one’s literal thought with Chinese calligraphy). Liu’s masterpiece, Rich Mine is widely acclaimed upon being published and has promoted the finalist in the 8th Mao Dun Literature Prize. Currently, Liu Yewei works for Jiangsu Normal University.
Zhang Yuntao（张运涛）was born in Zhengyang County, Henan province in February, 1968 and is one of the most popular young writers currently in China. After graduating from Huanghuai University, Zhang went to study further in Henan University. Last year, he attended the English class of Lu Xun Academy of Literature. In 1988, he made his debut in Poetry News. He had written almost one hundred essays for Youth Digest, Lover, Life and Companion, Shenzhen Youth, Marriage And Family, and other fashion journals from 2004 to 2007. In 2008, he started writing fiction, and since then his stories have appeared in numerous belles-lettres periodicals, including Mountain Flowers, Lotus, Clear-and-Bright, Apsaras, Literatures, Sichuan Literature Monthly, The Yalu River, Guangxi Literature Monthly, Tianjin Literature Monthly, The Yellow River Literature, Special Zone Literature, Novel Monthly, Contemporary Fiction, River, Anhui Literature Monthly, and others. Several stories have also been anthologized by Selected Stories Monthly, Works and Comment and elsewhere. His short story collection Warm Cotton was published by Modern Publishing House in 2011. His awards include the 20th Liang Bin Award for fiction by Tianjin, the First and Second Renaissance Literary Award, his city government award for literature and more. Zhang Yuntao had taught till 2009 at No. 2 Senior High School of Zhengyang County. And thanks to his achievements, he has worked in the County Federation of literary and art circles since 2009.
Sun Wei is a Chinese novelist, short-story writer and essayist. She was born in 1973 in Shanghai and grew up in a family of intellectuals. She received her B.A. in journalism from Fudan University in 1996 and her master in International Business Administration from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in 2001. She started writing fairy tales and novels in her teenage years. The theme of her examination is the ‘malaise’ in an increasingly materialistic world, with a fickle and fast-developing economy in China as the social background. She has published 13 books and over 20 novels and novelettes.
Mao Juzhen （毛菊珍), whose pen name is A Mao, is a poet, author, born in Xiantao, Hubei Province, China. A Mao lives in Wuhan now. She is the member of China Writers Association, Hubei Provincial Writers Association, and writer of Wuhan Academy of Literature. She is considered as one of the most influential poet in China. She graduated from the philosophy Department of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in 1989, and began writing poetry in the late 1980s. She has published more than ten literary works, including five collections of poems, such as Injured by Water (1992), Supreme Stars (1999), The song of my Time (1999), Rotating Mirror (2006), Variation (2010); three collections of prose: The Train of Images (1998), Stone's passion (2009), Apple's rule (2011); and the short story collections Apple on the Cup (1996), Desire (1999), Who Takes Me Home（2005), and The Eternal life in Love（2011). She has won several poetry awards including the Annual Poet Prize by Poetry Monthly in 2007, The 7th Chinese National Youth Poet Award by Poetry Periodical, The Best Love Poems for the Year 2009 in China, and from Aug 2009-Aug 2010,she was the poet-in-residence in Capital Normal University in Beijing.
Program Coordinator - Wu Xinwei（吴欣蔚）
On Going Home is the name we've given to a short series of essays by our 2011 fall residents. We commissioned the pieces because we wanted to keep in touch and because we were curious to know what the process of returning home was like for authors who'd spent nearly three months in the U.S. writing, researching, travelling, and interacting with Americans. We also asked the authors to send us a photograph that somehow represented "home" in some fundamental way. This latest installment comes from Jeremy Tiang, who has been travelling so extensively and over such a number of years that the term "home" doesn't hold quite the same meaning as it might for others.
My father is a Jaffna Tamil from Sri Lanka – although he was born in Singapore, and prefers not to acknowledge the existence of Sri Lanka (he refers to himself as “Ceylonese”). On my mother’s side, we were wealthy landowners in China until my great-great-uncle gambled away the family money (nice going, Unc!). Then my great-great-grandmother got religion and came to Malaysia as a bible-woman to spread the word of God, bringing my grandfather with her. She died out here, and he ended up in an orphanage. My mother was born in Malaysia after the war, and moved to Singapore in the fifties.
Given all this, it’s not surprising I’ve turned out pretty nomadic too. I left Singapore at nineteen to go to university in England, and since then have been wandering. A little while back in Singapore as a high school teacher, and then a few years in London as a moderately unsuccessful actor (my IMDB page is a graveyard of straight-to-video films). When I started writing, I realized I could do my job anywhere in the world, like the littlest hobo. So I gave away my cello, my bicycle and ninety per cent of my books, and packed my bags.
Since then, I have written a lot about the spaces between cultures, and the sense of dislocation we experience when we move into an unfamiliar space with new rules to be discovered. The things we think of as “normal” are often conditional, an idea that is difficult to grasp until you travel to a place where the norms are different. At the moment, I am working on a short story collection to be titled – if my agent will allow it – “Schwellenangst,” the German word for the fear of crossing boundaries.
When I was invited to Iowa in 2011, it seemed par for the course – I’d just finished travelling round Malaysia and Thailand speaking to survivors of the Malayan Emergency, in preparation for writing a novel about the region’s communist past. I’d been to North America several times before, but only the big cities. Here was my chance to experience the mid-west! The real America! I’d read Richard Ford, I thought I knew the score.
It turned out that America was far more complex than I’d ever imagined, an impression subsequently reinforced by the Republican primaries. I’m still reeling from, on one hand, the tremendous energy, intelligence and generosity I experienced and, on the other, seeing grade schools with anti-abortion displays in their front yards. (Even as I type these words, they sound so incredible I can’t help wondering if I’ve made this up – but no, the image is pretty well seared into my memory). All in all, an unforgettable experience, and one that I will always be grateful for.
The problem came when I was contacted, asking if I’d be interested in writing a piece for the IWP blog. Of course I would! It’s the least I could do after all that camaraderie over Pabst Blue Ribbon. Yet the topic gave me pause – “On Going Home.” All well and good for people with homes. But where did I fit in? My family is still in Singapore, and I put my parents’ address on forms because it’s the only permanent one I have, even though I haven’t lived there for sixteen years. So where is home?
After Iowa, I spent a month in a flophouse in the Bronx. Literally, a flophouse. It was like being in an O. Henry story. I spent Christmas in Singapore, then headed to Beijing, where I worked with the novelist Zhang Yueran to translate her novel The Promise Bird into English. (We met in Iowa – thanks again, IWP!) Next, a couple of months on the Baltic Coast of Germany, attending another residency in the seaside town of Kühlungsborn. After a flying visit to the London Book Fair, I'm preparing to head back home to Singapore - though it's anyone's guess how long I'll stay there. To quote Roxie Hart in Chicago: "I'm on my toes/ 'cause heaven knows/ a movin' target's hard to hit."
So, yes, home? My home at the moment is a series of hotel rooms, which quickly become personalized because I use hundreds of post-it notes to remind myself where I am in the story I’m currently writing. The cleaners probably think I’m a serial killer. It’s very liberating to be this mobile. Literally everything I own in the world fits into my suitcase. I’ve become very good at not acquiring stuff, and giving books away as soon as I’ve finished them. Drunken eBay shopping is a thing of the past – the question I ask myself now is not “Do I need X?” or “Can I afford X?” but “Do I really want to carry X across three continents?” It’s also shaped my reading habits. Most of Jonathan Franzen is out, for instance, because his books weigh so damn much.
Before you start: yes, thank you, I am aware that kindles exist. But (i) most Chinese books aren’t available in e-book format, and (ii) thanks to the murky world of copyright restrictions, amazon can’t really deal with you unless you’re permanently based in one country. And I prefer physical books, although that love is challenged when I find myself in a hotel with no elevator. Just me, three flights of stairs, and a suitcase full of paperbacks.
Don’t get me wrong. I would, one day, like to live in a proper house again. Somewhere with furniture and cats and neighbors who’ll stay long enough for me to learn their names. I’d like to be normal and have backyard barbecues and go to IKEA on weekends. Not to mention the lure of owning actual bookshelves! Maybe one day soon. At the moment, though, there’s such a lot of world to see, and I’m lucky enough to be in an eminently portable profession, one that allows me to see it.
Included are recordings of some of our alumni and friends: Khet Mar (IWP '07), Meena Kandasamy (IWP '09), Soheil Najm (IWP '09), Hind Shoufani (IWP '11), Terrance Hayes (one of four poets commissioned for the IWP's Book Wings performance), and Cornelius Eady, who will be travelling with the IWP to Brazil next month.
On Going Home is the name we've given to a short series of essays by our 2011 fall residents. We commissioned the pieces because we wanted to keep in touch and because we were curious to know what the process of returning home was like for authors who'd spent nearly three months in the U.S. writing, researching, travelling, and interacting with Americans. We also asked the authors to send us a photograph that somehow represented "home" in some fundamental way. This installment of the series comes from Zoë Strachan, a fiction writer who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and the photograph is the view from the front window of the author's flat.
Outside the train window, England sweeps by. I am returning from a speaking engagement at a university in the West Midlands. One landscape looks as flat as Iowa, but when I narrow my eyes I can just make out hills in the distance. The fields are green and there is a haze of buds on the trees. A whippet figure-eights through a field of ponies and chickens. The train rounds a corner and lurking in a valley is a derelict textile mill, enormous and uncanny. Calves give way to lambs as the hills grow more emphatic. Soon the fields are smaller and bound by dry stane dykes, as we call them in Scotland. This does not feel like another country. Will it still be home if we gain independence?
Washing flaps outside houses that would match a child’s drawing; solid, stone built like the dykes, windows twinkling, door smiling. Houses built for resilience, now bought for roses round the door, Sunday lunches and chaotic siblings. I imagine a writing room with plain plaster walls, a jug of wild flowers on the wooden desk. Bees making lazy circuits through the open window. When a sentence doesn’t come I’ll go outside and squeeze the cotton of the sheets on the line.
In Iowa City I wrote by an open window with a view of a church spire. Flannery O’Connor went there, someone told me, but I am not a churchgoer, nor do I idolise Flannery O’Connor. Still, it was pretty in the autumn sun, the clock a pleasing intimation of mortality. I don’t really get homesick when I’m away, if I’m writing, though one afternoon I sat on a bench in the Ped Mall and listened to a man shouting and swearing into his cellphone. It broke the gentility of the Midwest, reminded me of Glasgow. When I’m writing, I forget things. Not people but possessions, places. It is easy to feel landlocked so far from the sea, or so I’ve found, but the rippling corn fields of Iowa seemed ocean enough.
In Glasgow I live in the attic flat of a house conversion on a rundown square near the motorway that rips through the centre of the city. There are bees in the Victorian central garden but no cicadas. A gap site where a home for wayward girls burned down – fifty years ago, more - has been turned into a community garden. Nearby someone once carved a huge penis in the still-wet concrete of the pavement. My local bar does not have the Zombies on its jukebox and I have never seen a Filipino poet writing in one of the booths, or a Pakistani author dancing round the pool table. There is no pool table; dominoes is the game. At home I write in a narrow room at the back of the house that I think might once have been the toilet. (My partner disagrees.)
When I left Iowa City I knew I was going back to a period of not writing. I was teaching, travelling to Toronto and Berlin, catching up. While I wasn’t writing, memories of Iowa tided me over. I thought of friends and fellow writers, of sitting in a rocking chair on Barbara’s porch and reading, of walking under the shade of the trees that line those wide, sleepy streets. The editorial meetings I had with Louise over rough wine and hot nuts in George’s. But then I took another job, got ill, and the not-writing kept on. The memories retreated, although I could still picture myself sitting by the open window in that attic conversion on Jefferson, looking out at the church spire and then down at the pages in front of me.
My stay in Iowa City was too short. I would have liked to see the seasons change, and my novel gain a couple more chapters. With a few extra weeks maybe I’d have grown sick enough of people to ease the farewells. Residencies like this are an idyll, and then you go back to the everyday. Perhaps in time you stop pretending that you will see your friends from Korea or India again.
It is five and a half months since I packed up my notebooks and manuscripts and had one last late night drink in the Foxhead. The journey has taken longer than I imagined but now, on this train hurtling towards Glasgow and my little room at the back of the house, I am picking up my pen and coming home.