2018 Rwanda Tour


Left to Right: Ross Gay, Christopher Merrill, Elizabeth Crane, Wayne Slappy, & Gerald Early

Rwanda, mar. 17-24, 2018

Lines & Spaces: American Writers on Tour

Between March 17 th and 24th American writers Elizabeth Crane, Gerald Early, Ross Gay and Christopher Merrill, and legendary basketball coach Wayne Slappy traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, on the first Lines & Space tour of 2018.  Over the course of one week, the group conducted writing workshops with nearly 300 students, writers, and artists.  Arts diplomacy met sports diplomacy as Wayne Slappy began each basketball clinic with a discussion about the Langston Hughes poem “Motto” and an assignment for the basketball players to create their own motto. 


Gerald Lyn Early, an American essayist and culture critic, is the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters, and professor of English and African and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He was the founding director of the university's Humanities center, and is currently the chair of the African and African American Studies Department.  Twice nominated for Grammy Award, he also served as a consultant on Ken Burns' documentary films Baseball, Jazz, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, Jackie Robinson, and The War.  His essays have appeared in numerous editions of Best American Essays; his most recent book is The Cambridge Companion to Boxing, due out in 2018.

Ross Gay, who teaches at Indiana University, is the author of Against Which, Bringing the Shovel Down, and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.  Catalog was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, the Ohioana Book Award, the Balcones Poetry Prize, the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, and a nominee for an NAACP Image Award. A founding co-editor of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin',  and an editor at the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press,  Ross is also a founding member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ross.  

Elizabeth Crane is the author of four collections of short stories  and two novels. Her work has been translated into several languages, and featured in numerous anthologies and publications, including Other Voices, Guernica, LitHub, Chicago Magazine and The Believer. Crane's stories have been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts; she is a recipient of the Chicago Public Library 21st Century Award. Her work has been adapted for the stage by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company; a feature film adaptation of We Only Know So Much is set for a 2018 release. She teaches in the UCR-Palm Desert low-residency MFA program.

At 22, in 1974, Wayne Slappy became the youngest head basketball coach in the history of his alma mater, Weequahic High School; subsequently he taught in the Newark public school system for nineteen years. He has been associated with the Five-Star Basketball Camp network of coaches ever since he coached Michael Jordan there; after moving to Los Angeles, Wayne has provided skills training and advice to a host of professional athletes who have played or currently are on NBA rosters. He has also helped hundreds of high school athletes to gain collegiate scholarships.

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

Lines & Spaces Coordinator:

Kelly Bedeian received a degree in Linguistics from the University of Iowa, after which she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Ukraine. She went on to work on a variety of professional development and exchange programs, first for CONNECT/US-RUSSIA, then for IREX as the Country Manager for the IREX/Armenia office, and as the Regional Manager for the Internet Access and Training Program in the Caucasus Region. Kelly joined the IWP staff in 2004.

Happening Now

  • Behind the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature, shared by novelists Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke, are translators--one key among them Jennifer CROFT, translator from the Polish, the Ukrainian, and the Spanish. Congratulations!

  • "Resisting English": at NYRB, Adam Kirsch reviews three decades of the translated work of the Japanese novelist and essayist Minae MIZUMURA (IWP '03).

  • Just out in Beirut, the intriguingly titled ['Laughter as Destructive History'] by the Iraqi poet, translator, and editor Soheil NAJM (IWP '07).

  • Death is Hard Work, the fifth title of the Syrian novelist Khaled KHALIFA (IWP '07), published by FSG in Leri Price's translation, is on the long list of the 2019 National Book Awards, in the Translated Literature category.

  • In the travel journal Off Assignment,  journalist and novelist Milagros SOCORRO (Venezuela, IWP '12) recalls a snowy day in Iowa City, and one woman's special gesture.

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