Between the Lines

Students sitting and talking under trees by the Iowa River in the beautiful light of magic hour.

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
Applications are closed for 2021.

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Given the ongoing uncertainties about health safety, travel restrictions, and the availability of vaccines for youth worldwide by June and July, both sessions of Between the Lines 2021 will be virtual and free of cost for all U.S. and international participants.


2021 session dates:


  • Between the Lines: Identity and Belonging: June 19 – July 3, 2021 (for students from the U.S. only) 
  • Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience: July 10 – July 24, 2021 (for students from the U.S. and 20 select countries that change year to year – eligible countries listed below)

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 ages 15-18 come together in Iowa City for an intensive two-week session. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our sessions went virtual in 2020 for the first time ever—and were a huge success! 

From a 2020 virtual BTL  participant:

“These past two weeks studying/learning with my international peers has been life-changing... I never thought I'd find such a vibrant, cool community of writers, and even though it was online I feel like I know these people well enough to hug them in real life.”  

Daily synchronized meetings spanned thousands of miles and up to 12 time zones. As always, participants and faculty journeyed across cultures through writing to make real connections.

Online BTL 2021 will transcend social distances by offering an intensive creative writing program combined with the exciting discoveries of intercultural exchange. Through honing their craft together and engaging in open-hearted discussions, a new community of young writers will connect the dots between their home cultures, sparking friendships throughout the U.S. and around the globe.  

From a participant in the 2020 BTL: Peace and the Writing Experience virtual session: 

“My interactions and connections with my international peers have definitely exceeded my expectations—I was worried that I would feel disconnected from them because we weren't together in person, but talking with them over Zoom and Zoom chat made me feel so close to them in a way that I've been missing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Virtually together, BTL writers will spend 2-4 hours of 14 consecutive days (many 2020 participants considered these hours their favorite hours each day!) in creative writing workshops and global literature seminars. Each step is designed to broaden their literary horizons and deepen their empathy for and understanding of one another’s identities and stories. 

From a participant in the 2020 BTL: Identity and Belonging virtual session: 

“I would definitely recommend this program to a friend... I have never been in a group where I felt I could share my thoughts and beliefs free of any judgment [before this experience in BTL]—and I believe everyone should have a chance to experience that.”

Both sessions will be led by a faculty of prize-winning poets and writers from the U.S. and abroad, who are also experienced creative writing teachers. Guest artists will bring focus to special craft topics, participants will perform in an open mic, and a faculty reading webinar is hosted by Iowa City’s iconic bookstore, Prairie Lights. Whether it’s a “roommate” chat or a movie night, plenty of fun social and cultural activities encourage dialogue and strengthen the bonds we build into a vibrant BTL community. At the program’s end, everyone’s new work will be published in the annual camp anthology and each participant will receive a graduation certificate.  

BTL offers two, two-week summer sessions—Between the Lines: Identity and Belonging (for students from the U.S. only) & Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience (for students from the U.S. and 20 select countries that change year to year). Learn more about the sessions here > 

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