2021 Between the Lines


June 19 – July 3, 2021 (online) 

BTL: Identity & Belonging is for U.S.-based participants, ages 15-18, and brings together 20 Muslim and non-Muslim youth hosted online by IWP and the University of Iowa. Over a rigorous two weeks of BTL summer programming, young writers can expect to spend 2-4 hours daily in synchronized online workshops, plus additional time on assignments. Led by esteemed Muslim and non-Muslim poets, writers, artists, and filmmakers, this session is packed with writing workshops and literature seminars that explore multiple genres, plus special events and relaxed social activities. Participants read, write, and engage in discussions designed to encourage complex conversations around identity, narrative, and what it means to belong. They also experience writing as a form of action––a personal and empowering skill that can be utilized for social change.  

Students who are first- or second-generation immigrants, or from refugee communities, low-income households, or other marginalized positions are particularly encouraged to apply.  

Made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program, BTL: Identity and Belonging aims to work through cultural biases and promote understanding across communities for mutual well-being.  

Zelda (U.S., BTL: Identity and Belonging 2020 virtual session): 

“Participating in BTL has become the highlight of my day[.] It makes me so happy to know there are other people my age who feel and value things the same way as I do, even if they are on the other side of the country.”  



July 10 – July 24, 2021 (online) 

BTL: Peace and the Writing Experience will bring together 40 international and 10 U.S.-based students, ages 15-18, for two weeks of intensive BTL summer programming hosted online by IWP and the University of Iowa.

U.S. Embassies/Consulates in the following countries are invited to nominate young writers for the 2021 BTL virtual program: Algeria, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Ukraine, and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

All programming is conducted in English and includes creative writing workshops, world literature seminars, literary readings and Q&As with visiting authors, youth and mentor conversation sessions, social opportunities for cultural exchange, group and individual writing assignments outside of class, and more.  

“Another day of BTL and it was just as magical as the rest.”   — Farah (Azerbaijan, Virtual BTL: Peace and the Writing Experience 2020)

Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience is sponsored through a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Programming partners include the University of Iowa (UI), Prairie Lights Bookstore, and other local groups and UI departments. 

How to Apply & Deadlines Here >

Want more insight into BTL?

Listen along with BTL alumni on Ad Aster, the podcast companion to Aster Lit, projects created by 2020 BTL alumni working together with support of BTL 2020 microgrants (their projects also include @aster.lit on Instagram and TikTok): “Come aboard as we cross cultural boundaries and traverse the creative universe together. Through Ad Aster, we hope to share the camaraderie, zeal for writing, and intercultural understanding we gained from BTL with a wider global audience.”  

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This showcase highlights thirty short films created by some of our 2020 participants from the U.S., Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, and UAE, to name a few. It gives a snapshot of BTL participants’ creative work while offering viewers a glimpse into lives of youth around the world facing the pandemic.  

Happening Now

  • To mark PEN International’s centennial, Words Without Borders has published a sampler of works by writers committed to freedom of expression. Algerian novelist and scholar Med MAGANI is among them.

  • A fall harvest of book reviews coming in: of The Others by Sarah BLAU (translated from the Hebrew by Daniella Zamir); of LO Yi-Chin’s Farewell, translated from the Chinese by Jeremy TIANG; of Véronique TADJO’s In the Company of Men

  • A fascinating interview with IWP’s Senior Advisor, professor Peter Nazareth, retired from UI’s English Department in spring 2021, after nearly five decades of teaching.

  • Word reaches us that poet HU Xudong  胡续冬, who also taught comparative and world literatures at Peking University (Beida), specializing in Latin American literatures, passed away unexpectedly. RIP, Hu Xudong…

  • We note with sadness the passing of Hiroshi SAKAGAMI 坂上 弘, whose long novelistic career garnered him major literary and cultural honors. A former president of the Japan Writers’ Association, he was until his retirement also the director of Keio University Press.

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