Meet the Participants

For centuries, the trade routes of the ancient Silk Road were a vital conduit in the flow of people, goods, technologies, and ideas across South and Central Asia, enabling the spread of everything from gun powder to moveable type. March 16-22, 2014 twelve writers, teachers, literary organizers, and cultural entrepreneurs from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the United States will convene for a week-long symposium in the Maldives to discuss the shared cultural heritage of the Silk Route through the lens of the themes, traditions, and practice of creative writing.


United States

Ron CARLSON is the author of ten books of fiction and a volume of poems. His short stories have appeared in Esquire, Harpers, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and other journals, as well as in The Best American Short Stories, The O.Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction and other anthologies. Ron Carlson Writes a Story, his book on writing, is taught widely. He has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Cohen Prize at Ploughshares, the McGinnis Award at The Iowa Review, and the Aspen Literary Award. He is the Director of the Graduate Program in Fiction at the University of California, Irvine.


Jamby DJUSUBALIEVA is an essayist and a frequent contributor to the Kyrgyz and Russian press.  Since 2009 she has taught philosophy and art at American University in Central Asia (Bishkek) and at the Academy of the State Management of Kyrgyzstan. Her research includes studies of Buddhism’s impact on Central Asia. She currently hosts a cultural interview show for the Kyrgyz Public TV (Channel One).

Sri Lanka

Ameena HUSSEIN is a publisher and writer. Her debut novel The Moon in the Water was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary and the Dublin IMPAC prizes; her story collection, Fifteen, was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize; a second, Zillij, won the State Literary Prize. She edited Sri Lanka’s first-ever collection of adult stories, and children’s collections MilkRice, MilkRice 2 and Vampire Umpire.  The author of the study Sometimes There Is No Blood, based on her sociological research on violence against women in rural Sri Lanka, she has extensive experience in community organizing. In addition to directing the publishing house Hussein-Perrera, which she co-founded, she works on reforestation, planting hardwood trees, coconuts and cashew.


The books of Amma Raj JOSHI include a collection of short stories, A Night’s Drama, a collection of poetry, Man and River, two volumes of critical essays on art and literature, Reflections on Nature, Culture and Literature, and Deuda Songs: Poetry and Performance, a book on writing, Writing Skills for All, and many research articles.  Around 20 of his poems have appeared in the journal Of Nepalese Clay. He is currently the Head of the Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University, Nepal.


Shandana MINHAS has had her novel Tunnel Vision nominated for the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book; a second title, Survival Tips for Lunatics, will be published in 2014. She has also written for stage, screen and print, and is currently working on a collection of short stories and another novel.


Kavery NAMBISAN is a surgeon and novelist.  Her novels are The Truth (almost) About Bharat, The Scent of Pepper, Mango-Coloured Fish, On Wings of Butterflies, The Hills of Angheri and The Story that Must not be Told (shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the DSC South Asian Literature Prize), all published by Penguin India.  An active member of the Association of the Rural Surgeons of India, she currently works as a surgeon and chief medical officer in Ammathi, Kodagu, in southern Karnataka.


Farkhonda Arzooaby RAJABE  is a poet, journalist and human rights activist. The author of the short story collection Cold Hands (2008) she has also edited poetry collections of young regional poets, among them Drang dar Rang (Focus on Color) and Farda Waraq Bezan (Look Forward to the Future). She directs the Partaw Cultural House in Mazar-i-Sharif, whose Dari-language monthly Partaw she edits. Her articles have been published and broadcast by the Dari daily Hasht-i-Subh, and by Deutsche Welle. She is a graduate student in the Department of Dari Literature at the Faculty of Languages and Literature of Balkh University.

Barbara Ras is the author of the poetry collections Bite Every Sorrow, recipient of the Walt Whitman and the Kate Tufts Discovery awards; One Hidden Stuff, and The Last Skin, which won the Award for Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters; and the editor of a collection of short fiction in translation, Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, TriQuarterly, American Scholar, Massachusetts Review, Orion and elsewhere. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and the Rockefeller foundations, Ras directs Trinity University Press in San Antonio.


Suvani SINGH runs a book business. She is also the publisher of La.Lit magazine (, and the co- founder and director of the international literary festival Kathmandu Literary Jatra.  An Asia Society Asia 21 Fellow, she has served as a jury member for the DSC South Asian Literature Prize, and is currently on the board of Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS) in Kathmandu.


Sridala SWAMI had her first poem collection, A Reluctant Survivor, shortlisted for the 2007 Shakti Bhatt First Book Award; a second collection, Escape Artist, is forthcoming in 2014. She has also written four books for very young children. Working across media, she has had an exhibition of photography and text, Posting the Light: Dispatches from Hamburg, and curated the show “Poetry Mohalla” for the University of Hyderabad’s community radio. In 2011 Swami was the Charles Wallace Writer-in-Residence at The University of Stirling, Scotland.


Bilal TANWEER is a writer and translator whose fiction, poetry and translations have appeared in GrantaVallumCritical Muslim and Words Without Borders, among others. One of Granta's "New Voices for 2011," a recipient of a PEN Translation Fund Grant and of a Fulbright, he holds an MFA in Writing (fiction) from Columbia University. His first novel, The Scatter Here Is Too Great, appeared in 2013, and will be published in French translation in 2014. He teaches courses in creative writing and contemporary literature at LUMS, Lahore.


Rabi THAPA is a writer and editor from Kathmandu, Nepal. He was the Editor of the weekly paper Nepali Times from 2010 to 2011, and is currently the Editor of La.Lit, the bilingual literary magazine from Nepal. In 2011, he published the short story collection Nothing to Declare (Penguin India). Rabi will be working with Silk Routes participant Suvani Singh.


Christopher MERRILL has published six books of poetry, including Watch Fire, which received the Lavan Younger Poets Award; many edited volumes and books of translations; and five works of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars and Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain. His latest, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, chronicles his travels in Asia and the Middle East in the wake of the war on terror. His writings have been translated into twenty-five languages; his journalism appears widely. A member of the National Council on the Humanities and the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, he directs the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

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