The Life of Discovery: 2010 文化探寻

In 2009, the International Writing Program (IWP), in cooperation with the Chinese Writers' Association, began a pilot exchange project, the Life of Discovery (LOD), between writers and artists from the United States and from the minority ethnic communities in the western regions of the People's Republic of China. The project was sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

Five American and five Chinese writers and artists, all aged 25-40, were invited to join two senior artists, one from each country, in a series of collaborative, bilingual/translator-assisted projects, conducted first in Western China May 12-26, 2009 and continued and elaborated upon in the US between October 11 and 24, 2009. In 2010, delegates conducted collaborative writing activities first in Iowa City May 16-24 and in Beijing, Kunming, and Shanghai June 24-July 9, 2010.

The Creative Process!

American and Chinese counterparts worked together in programs tailored to each place. Collaborations during the May trip included joint projects such as the composition of a collective poem, in the manner of the Surrealist games, in English and Chinese; and writing in response to a shared experience or from a selection of cultural artifacts. Between visits the writers participated in a two-part colloquium around the core theme of Collaboration: Space of Encounter for which each participant drafted work based on five themes central to the collaborative act. Some elements were completed in the individual locations; others connected the session in China and the session in the United States..


Each of the two visits involved a mix of readings, lectures, formal discussion sessions with local and visiting professional arts figures/groups, breakout sessions, performances, and informal gatherings with members of the local literary and arts scenes. The schedules were intense, and the emphasis in each location was on cultural exchange; but time was set aside for cultural tourism, to deepen visitors’ understanding of the host region, and to increase the two-way flow of the exchange. A typical week involved daily morning work sessions on the collaborative project, with some free afternoons for optional group trips to local sites of interest. Evening programming included readings, lectures, screenings, performance sessions, and/or tickets to a cultural event. While each visit was based in one location, the exchanges included several days of joint regional travel, to broaden participants’ understanding of the host countries.

Life of Discovery: The 2010 Tour. A film by Tucker Capps.

Locations and Dates 2010

U.S. (May 13-26)

The main work of the May exchange took place in Iowa City and at the University of Iowa, the home to the International Writing Program as well as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Playwrights’ Workshop, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the Center for the Book. In 2008, UNESCO designated this busy, picturesque college town with its bookstores, coffee houses, movie theaters, clubs and shops as a “City of Literature,” and included in its Creative Cities network.

Western China (June 24-July 9)

The Chinese portion of the program began with visits to Beijing and Shanghai. The site for the main collaborative activities in Western China was Kunming, the beautiful “Spring City” where for a millennium traders and spiritual travelers, artists and explorers have met and mingled.

2010 Chinese Participants

Distinguished Sr. Artists

  • LIU Zhenyun (刘震云b. 1958, Han ethnicity, fiction). Senior artist, distinguished novelist. He is a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association, consultant at the Film Script Center of China’s National Radio Film and Television Bureau, and editor of the newspaper Peasant Daily. He is the author of Tapu Township (塔铺), The New Soldier Company (新兵连), The Unit (单位), and Chicken Feathers Everywhere (一地鸡毛) as well as the novella which became the famous movie Cell Phone(手机), directed by the reputable filmmaker Feng Xiaogang (冯小刚). He has been selected by China Reading Journal (中华读书报) as one of “Twenty Most Influential Literary Figures” in China in 2000. His novel Yellow Flowers, All of Homeland (故乡天下黄花) was selected as one of the “One Hundred Most Influential Books in Twentieth Century China” by Sanlian Publishers in 2000. In 2003, he was selected as the “Chinese Writer of the Year” by a hundred media institutions in China. Many of his works have been adapted into popular TV series.
  • PENG Xueming (彭学明 b. 1964, Hunan province, Tujia ethnicity, fiction). Senior artist, distinguished novelist. His published works include My Xiangxi (我的湘西), Ancestral Songs and Dances (祖先歌舞), Households in Xiangxi (湘西人家). His works have been translated into English, French and Russian and have been introduced widely to other countries. Among his writings, many were selected as curricular materials including Old Grandma in the Field (庄稼地里的老母亲), Dancing Hands (跳舞的手), Drum Dance (鼓舞), White River (白河), The Dark Wuzhen County (一墨乌镇), Sunlight (阳光), Women from Xiangxi (湘西女人), The Eternal Phoenix (永远的的凤凰) and The Frontier City (边城). His works have received major awards including China’s National Award, China’s Radio Film and Television Bureau Starlight Award and the Stallion Award for Minority Literatures in China.


  • FAN Jizu (范继祖b. 1982, Shanghai, Han ethnicity, fiction). Penname Xiao Fan. He graduated from the Philosophy Department of the East China Normal University. After graduation he has been working at Wanzhong Media and Communication Company and Shanghai Jiujiu Reader’s Cultural Cooperation. Currently he is a column writer for Youth Daily (青年报), The Bund (外滩画报), Shanghai Week (上海一周) and other media. Since 2000, his works have appeared in journals including Harvest (收获), Shanghai Literature (上海文学), October(十月), The New Weekly(新周刊), and Three Union Weekly (三联生活周刊). In 2002 he was selected as a representative of young Chinese writers and invited to the Cross-strait Youth Arts Camp in Taiwan. In 2003, he received the “China’s Emerging Literary Figure Award.” In 2004, he was invited by Hong Kong Trade and Development Bureau to attend “Forum of Young Writers from Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. His published works include My Bald Teacher (我的秃头老师), A Prodigy of Poison (毒药神童), and Ants (蚂蚁).
  • HE Xiaomei (和晓梅b. 1975, female, Naxi ethnicity, poetry). After she graduated from the Department of Chinese of Yunnan University, she has taught Chinese Literature at the Lijiang First Middle School. In 2008 she studied at the Lu Xun Academy. In November 2008, she was formally employed by the Lijiang City Writers’ Association. Her debut work Deep is the Ancient Well Alley (深深古井巷) was published in the journal Frontier Literature, selected in Fiction Selections (小说选刊), and was included in the anthology Best Medium Length Fiction Writings of the Nation in 2000. Her novel Women is Honey (女人是蜜) was anthologized by Fiction Selections. Her novel City of Water (水之城) was published in Chinese Writers (中国作家). Other medium-length works have appeared in journals such as Ethnic Literatures and Celebrated Writers. After she joined the Writers’ Association she began to experiment on poetry writing. Her poem series Missing(错过)has been published in The Poetry Journal (诗刊) and selected in Selections of Poetry (诗选刊).
  • LU Qin (禄琴b. 1965 in Guizhou Province, female, Yi ethnicity, poetry). She is the chair of the Bijie District of Guizhou Province. Her published poetry collections include: Facing Sunlight(面向阳光), Three-colored Dream Scene(三色梦境), Plum in the Water(水中之梅). She has received the National Stallion Award for Minority Literatures, Excellent Poetry Collection (by Journal of Poetry诗刊) and the Guizhou Province Literature and Art Award.
  • YANG Guoqing (杨国庆b. 1969, Qiang ethnicity, poetry). After he graduated from the Chinese Department of the Sichuan Normal University, he has worked as an editor of the ethnic literature journal Qiang Ethnic Literature(羌族文学). He is the Vice Chairman of the Aba District Writers’ Association (阿坝州作家协会), an affiliated writer at the Bajin Literary College of the Sichuan Writers’ Association, and a member of the ethnic writers’ class at the prestigious Luxun Writers’ Academy. He has published two poetry anthologies, respectively entitled A Fledging Phoenix (一只凤凰飞起来) and Fire Site in the Mountains (大山里的火塘). His poetry collection A fledging Phoenix received the Sichuan Ethnic Literature Award and has been retained in the collection of China’s National Library. Yang is also an award-winning songwriter.
  • ZHANG Gencui (张根粹b. 1976, Ningxia Province, Dongxiang ethnicity), pen name Liao Yirong (了一容). His fiction writings have appeared in the Selection of Short Stories (小说选刊), Journal of Selected Novellas(小说精选) and many other journals. Some of his writings have been translated into other languages. His short story collection The Road to Galeng (去尕楞的路上) and other works have been published by the People’s Literature Publishing House. His short story collection The Copper Kettle in the Moonlight (挂在月光中的铜汤瓶) was awarded the Stallion Award for Minority Ethnic Writers. His short story “The Green Land” (绿地) was included in the “Minority Literature Volume” in the Anthology of Chinese Literature in the 21st Century (21st 世纪中国当代文学书库), which was published in English and selected for exhibition at the Frankfurt International Book Fair. He is currently an editor for the journal Suofang (朔方s

2010 American Participants

Distinguished Sr. Artist:

  • Christopher Merrill has published four collections of poetry, including Brilliant Water and Watch Fire, for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations of Aleš Debeljak’s Anxious Moments and The City and the Child; several edited volumes, among them, The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature and From the Faraway Nearby: Georgia O’Keeffe as Icon; and four books of nonfiction, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer, The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, and Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages, his journalism appears in many publications, and he is the book critic for the daily radio news program, The World. He has held the William H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, and now directs the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa.


  • Vu Tran (b.1975). His short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2009, A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years, The Southern Review, and Glimmer Train, and has received honors such as an O. Henry Prizeanda 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award. His first novel, This Or Any Desert, is forthcoming from WW. Norton & Company. He was born in Saigon, Vietnam and raised in Oklahoma, and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he was a Glenn Schaeffer Fellow in Fiction and currently teaches literature and creative writing.
  • Matt Hart (b.1969) is the author of the poetry collections Who's Who Vivid (Slope Editions) and YOU ARE MIST (MOOR Books, forthcoming), as well as several chapbooks, including The Hours (Cinematheque Press, forthcoming), Deafening Leafening (Pilot Books), which he wrote in collaboration with Ethan Paquin, and Late Makeup Years and Decline (1979-1983) (Hell Yes! Press, forthcoming), which he wrote in collaboration with Dobby Gibson. Additionally, Hart's poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, jubilat and Ploughshares. He has received fellowships from both The Breadloaf Writers’ Conference and the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. A co-founder, and the editor-in-chief, of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking & Light Industrial Safety, he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
  • Kiki Petrosino (b. 1979) holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut poetry collection, Fort Red Border, was published by Sarabande Books in 2009. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets, FENCE, VerseDaily, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She has received awards from Rolex, the University of Iowa, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Her background also includes five years’ experience in arts administration, including grant management, at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
  • Amanda Nadelberg (b. 1982) is the author of Isa the Truck Named Isadore, winner of the 2005 Slope Editions Book Prize, and Bright Brave Phenomena, forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2012, as well as a chapbook, Building Castles in Spain, Getting Married, published by The Song Cave in 2009. Her poems have appeared in Conduit, jubilat, No: a journal of the arts, The Cultural Society, Vanitas, and elsewhere. A recipient of grants from the Fund for Poetry and the Iowa Arts Council, she is a graduate of Carleton College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship. Raised in Newton, Massachusetts, she has lived in Minneapolis and Iowa City.
  • Kyle Dargan (b. 1980) is the author of two collections of poems, Bouquet of Hungers (University of Georgia Press, 2007) and The Listening (University of Georgia Press, 2004), winner of the Cave Canem Prize. His poems have also appeared in Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Denver Quarterly, Poet Lore, Callaloo, and other journals. He is an assistant professor of literature at American University and Editor of Post No Ills Magazine (online), which he founded in 2008. In 2008, he won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. The University of Virginia, Indiana University, and American University are the institutions where he received his undergraduate and graduate education. He was born in Newark, New Jersey and currently resides in Washington, D.C.).

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