Between the Lines

Between the Lines
Due to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, we expect to make a decision about our 2021 programming in early 2021. Please sign up for our email list to be in the loop here.
**Applications are currently closed**

Between the Lines: Identity and Belonging: June 20 – July 4, 2020

Read the session Anthology here >

Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience: July 11 – July 25, 2020

Read the session Anthology here >

Program overviews are below and application details are here:
If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you:
I am here to live out loud.
—Emile Zola

Since 2008, Between the Lines (BTL) has hosted young writers at the University of Iowa for a cultural exchange program that focuses on the art and craft of creative writing. Participants, aged 15-18, come together in Iowa City for an intensive two-week session. During the session, they live in campus dorms and spend their days in creative writing workshops and global literature seminars designed to broaden their literary horizons and deepen their empathy for and understanding of one another’s identities and stories.

Evenings and weekends are spent on assorted adventures—attending literary and cultural events in Iowa City, swimming and hiking in nearby Lake MacBride State Park, and exploring each other’s cultures through an open-mic night and collaborative filmmaking. At the program’s end, participants have the opportunity to publish their new work in the annual camp anthology. Each session is led by a faculty of prize-winning poets and writers from the U.S. and abroad, who are also experienced creative writing teachers.

BTL offers two summer sessions—Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience (for students from the U.S. and 28 countries) & Between the Lines: Identity and Belonging (for students from the U.S. only). Read on to learn more.

Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience

July 11 – July 25, 2020
BTL: Peace and the Writing Experience joins 30 international students with 10-14 U.S.-based peers (all age 15-18) for two weeks of rigorous BTL summer programming at the University of Iowa. U.S. Embassies/Consulates in the following countries are invited to nominate students and chaperones for the 2020 BTL program: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Uzbekistan.

With professional U.S. and international writers as their teachers, participants broaden their literary horizons, deepen their empathy and their understanding of one another’s cultures, and improve their communication skills. All programming is conducted in English. 
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. State Department. Programming partners include the University of Iowa, Prairie Lights Bookstore, and other local groups and university departments.

Between the Lines: Identity and Belonging

June 20 – July 4, 2020
BTL: Identity & Belonging, for American students ages 15-18, is free for all accepted applicants. 10 spots will be reserved for Muslim students. Students who are first- or second-generation immigrants, or from refugee communities, low-income households, or other marginalized positions are particularly encouraged to apply.
Participants come to the University of Iowa (UI) for a rigorous two weeks of BTL summer programming packed with workshops, seminars, and special events.
Living together in a UI residence hall, participants will share meals at Burge Dining Hall, and embark on an exciting exploration of creative writing, literature, and intercultural exchange. In addition to creative writing workshops led by esteemed Muslim and non-Muslim faculty, participants engage in discussions designed to work through cultural biases and promote team-building and collaboration.
BTL: Identity and Belonging is sponsored through grant funds provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program. The IWP BTL staff collaborate with The University of Iowa, the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, the Iowa Youth Writing Project, the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, Prairie Lights bookstore, and other local groups and university departments to enrich programming and encourage complex conversations around identity, narrative, and what it means to belong.

Why Between the Lines?

As countless BTL alumni have expressed, “Between the Lines will change your life.” The immersive project of cultural exchange and creative writing leaves an indelible impression on participants.
Hannah (BTL '14) from Arizona, U.S., writes on the BTL Tumblr:
“These two weeks opened up my eyes to a glimpse of a whole new worldand there’s so much I haven’t even seen yet. From cultural exchange at the Russian and Arabic 101 [session]s to learning about Russian hipsters (Stilyagi) and eating dinner at a mosque, I realized that there’s a whole entire universe out there just waiting to be explored. I don’t hope I’ll see these people again; I know I will. And if not in person, then on shelves, because the talent and promise of the writers I’ve encountered here will surely be noticed. This isn’t goodbye. This is just the beginning.”
Another participant (BTL ’17) wrote in their post-program survey:
“Studying and writing with my international peers was beyond all my expectations. I plunged into literary and cross-cultural discussions and interactions. BTL broadened my perspectives and allowed me to look at literary works from a different angle.”
And a third participant (BTL ’18) had this to say at the end of their session:
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would ever feel this way. I feel more comfortable in my skin. I now know that I am valid the way I am and I don’t have to change a thing. I have more confidence and passion towards writing more than anything. I also learned that it’s OK not to know. It’s OK to be confused and it’s OK to ask questions. I never expected to find a family and leave it. I never expected that home wouldn’t feel like my own anymore. The only home my soul now knows is 7 thousand miles away, tucked carefully in Iowa.”

Learn More About BTL

Visit our FAQ pages, find application details here, and follow Between the Lines on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Also, visit our Past Sessions pages to gain a better understanding of BTL and see more photos. For more detailed information, please email

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