In April 2011, the International Writing Program launched Writers in Motion, a study tour of the Mid-Atlantic and the American South, where eight international writers explored the theme of "Fall and Recovery." The writers traveled to Gettysburg, New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, Birmingham, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. to examine the different challenges presented by historical crises and upheavals, both natural and social.
There is a notion of creative destruction and self-determination at the heart of one vision of America: people are infinitely capable of rising from the ashes, and are actually strengthened by it. Not all recovery is speedy—wounds to the social fabric and the environment heal slowly—but disasters reveal how communities and countries approach the complicated issue of regeneration.
Writers in Motion introduced writers to such crucial historical events as the Civil War, Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, and the Civil Rights movement, through all of which the writers will engage issues of race, class, and federal (versus local) governance. The visiting writers met with local writers, scientists, historians, and citizens, visited creative writing departments, and toured local landmarks, museums and civic gathering places in an effort to deepen their understanding of both the complexity of United States history and the challenges of writing cohesively and comprehensively about disaster worldwide. A filmmaker accompanied the delegation. Throughout, the tour was also documented on a daily blog. In addition to the documentary film covering the group's experiences (below), an e-volume of the participants' essays is forthcoming.
Writers in Motion was sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State.
- Adisa Basić, born in 1979, studied Comparative Literature, German and Librarianship at the University of Sarajevo, earned an M.A. in Human Rights and Democracy, and published a first poetry collection at the age of nineteen. Her second poetry volume, Trauma-Market, appeared in 2004 and the award-winning collection “A Promo Clip for my Homeland” in 2010. She has participated in many regional and European poetry events, and is widely published in regional literary magazines. She writes on cultural affairs for the independent weekly Slobodna Bosna.
- Vicente Garcia Groyon won the Manila Critics Circle National Book Award both for the novel The Sky Over Dimas (2004) and for On Cursed Ground and Other Stories (2005); he is the editor of several anthologies and collections of Filipino fiction. He has written four film scripts, including Agaton and Mindy (2009) and Namets! (2008), and directed several shorts. He teaches creative writing at De La Salle University in Manila.
- Eduardo Halfon, born in Guatemala City in 1971, has an engineering degree from North Carolina State University . His novels include Esto no es una pipa, Saturno, De cabo roto, El ángel literario, El boxeador polaco, and La pirueta, which won the José María de Pereda Prize for Short Novel in Santander, Spain. His short fiction has been published in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, and Dutch. He has taught literature at Guatemala’s Universidad Francisco Marroquín; in 2007 the Bogotá Hay Festival listed him as one of ‘39 best young Latin American writers.'
- Billy Karanja Kahora is the managing editor of the Kenya-based journal Kwani? and of the Picha Mtaani/Kwani book project, and has edited the collection Kenya Burning. His writings have been published in Granta, Kwani? and Vanity Fair; he has a book of creative nonfiction, The True Story of David Munyakei (2009) and the script credit for Soul Boy (2010, Dir. Tom Tykwer) and Nairobi Half-Life (2011).
- Khet Mar is a journalist, novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist born in Burma. Author of the novel Wild Snowy Night, three collections of short stories and a volume of essays, she has had work translated into Japanese, Spanish and English, broadcast, and made into a film. In 2009 she was a featured writer at the PEN Word Voices Festival, and is currently writer-in-residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, which provides sanctuary to writers exiled under threat of severe persecution in their native countries.
- Kei Miller is the author of three books of poetry, two novels and a collection of short stories, and the editor of the anthology New Caribbean Poetry (Carcanet, 2007). Short-listed for a number of major literary awards, he is the recipient of Jamaica's Silver Musgrave medal and the Una Marson Prize for Literature. He teaches creative writing at the University of Glasgow.
- Alice Pung was born in Melbourne to Cambodian parents. Her memoir Unpolished Gem won the 2006 Australian Book Industry Association award for Newcomer of the Year, and other prizes. Her work was included in Best Australian Short Stories 2007, and a story collection, Growing Up Asian in Australia, appeared in 2008. My Father's Daughter will come out in 2011. A lawyer by trade, she contributes regularly to The Monthly and The Age.
- Madeleine Thien is the author of Simple Recipes, a collection of stories, and Certainty, a novel, which was a finalist for the Kiriyama Prize and won the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Her work has appeared in Granta,The Walrus, Five Dials, Brick, and the Asia Literary Review, and been translated into sixteen languages. In 2010 she received the Ovid Festival Prize, awarded to an international writer of promise. A novel, Dogs at the Perimeter, is forthcoming in 2011.