Creative Writing Series (Baghdad, Iraq)

Series Description

Students and scholars in Baghdad, Iraq, will gather for a multi-genre series of lessons, discussions, and workshops in creative writing.

Series Schedule

September 19th: American Literature with Christopher Merrill

October 11th: Introduction to Poetry with Blueberry Morningsnow

November 19th: Advanced Poetry with Daniel Khalastchi

December: Playwriting with Sean Lewis

January 21st: Introduction to Fiction with Mark Mayer

March 26th: Advanced Fiction with Hugh Ferrer

April 29th: Comparative Literature with Hugh Ferrer


Christopher Merrill has published seven collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and translations; and six books of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, and Self-Portrait with Dogwood. His writings have been translated into nearly forty languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French government, numerous translation awards, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and Ingram Merrill Foundations. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa since 2000, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries. He served on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO from 2011-2018, and in April 2012 President Barack Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities.

Blueberry MORNINGSNOW, an Alberta Metcalf-Kelly fellow, earned her MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2008 and has taught college composition and creative writing for the past five years in Iowa at various institutions. In 2011, her first book of poems, Whale in the Woods, won the Black Poetry Prize from Rescue Press.

Daniel KHALASTCHI is a first-generation Iraqi American from Iowa. He received his MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was awarded a writing fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown in 2006. Khalastchi currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Undergraduate Certificate in Writing Program at the University of Iowa and as a founder and co-editor of Rescue Press. His first book of poems, Manoleria, was published in 2011 after winning the Tupelo Press/Crazyhorse First Book Prize.

Sean LEWIS is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s MFA Program in Playwriting and a founding member of Working Group Theatre, an Iowa City arts organization that produces plays and educational programming. He is the recipient of the National New Play Network’s Smith Prize for Drama, the Kennedy Center's Rosa Parks Award, and the William Inge Fellowship, among others.

Mark MAYER is the Robert P. Dana Emerging Writer Fellow at Cornell College. A former Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is winner of the John Leggett Fiction Prize and the Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His fiction has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and anthologized in New Stories from the Midwest.

Associate Director

Hugh Ferrer, on staff since 2001, serves as a Senior Editor of the Iowa Review, and on the boards of Iowa City’s UNESCO City of Literature and the University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights. For many years, he has been on faculty at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival; and the UI courses he has taught have introduced undergraduates to fiction writing, international literature, journal publishing, and Iowa City’s literary culture.

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