Ann HOOD's books include nine novels, Somewhere off the Coast of Maine, Waiting to Vanish, Three-Legged Horse, Places to Stay the Night, The Properties of Water, Ruby, The Knitting Circle, The Red Thread, and The Obituary Writer; a collection of short stories, An Ornithologist's Guide to Life; and two books of non-fiction, Do Not Go Gentle: My Search for Miracles in A Cynical Time and Comfort: A Journey through Grief, which was a New York Times Editors' Choice and was chosen as one of the top ten non-fiction books of 2008 by Entertainment Weekly. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times, and writes frequently for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, Tin House, and many other journals and newspapers. She has won the Paul Bowles Prize for Short Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes, and been included in Best American Spiritual Writing, Best American Food Writing, and Best American Travel Writing.
May 17th – 26th, 2013, the IWP brought a delegation of four American writers on a reading tour to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to foster greater understanding and stronger creative ties with the Central Asian nations, which are off the beaten path for most Americans. Uzbekistan is one of only two “doubly landlocked” countries in the world (a landlocked country surrounded entirely by other landlocked countries—the other is Liechtenstein) while Turkmenistan, which receives only 7,000 tourists a year (Afghanistan and North Korea host more), is one of the least visited countries in the world. The American writers ventured outside of the capitals of Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), visited literary institutions, engaged in conversation about creative writing techniques, contemporary literature, storytelling, art’s ability to bring down walls and borders and more, and participated in literary exchanges with writers, journalists, cultural ambassadors, and students of all ages. They also led writing workshops, gave public readings of their work, and visited cultural sites, including the ancient Silk Road city of Merv, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stephen KUUSISTO is the author of the memoirs Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”) and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light, and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, and The Ohio State University. He currently directs the Renée Crown Honors Program at Syracuse University where he holds a professorship in the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages and he is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and is a frequent speaker on disability and diversity issues around the US and abroad.
Christopher Merrill has published six 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. www.christophermerrillbooks.com
Chinelo OKPARANTA is the author of Happiness, Like Water, a collection of short stories listed as one of the Huffington Post's picks for best books of 2013. In 2012, Okparanta was nominated for a United States Artists Fellowship in literature. She has been interviewed by the BBC’s The Forum (UK), New African Woman magazine (UK), GRANTA (New Voices), RTÉ Arena (Ireland), The Sun (Nigeria), and others. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in GRANTA, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Conjunctions, Subtropics, TriQuarterly, The Coffin Factory, and others. Currently, Okparanta is the 2012-2013 Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Fiction at Colgate University. In the 2013-2014 academic year she will be Visiting Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Purdue University. She is at work on her debut novel, tentatively entitled Under the Udala Trees.
IWP Staff Coordinator: Kelly Bedeian
In Their Own Words:
- Ann Hood blogging about tasting plov, national dish of Uzbekistan
- Stephen Kuusisto blogging about meeting with disability advocates in Uzbekistan
- Chinelo Okparanta on The Other Side of Reality: A Visit to Turkmenistan
- Christopher Merrill on Cultural Diplomacy's "Strange Truths"