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Creative Writing, Virtually

The IWP is taking creative writing abroad, virtually. For the past few years we’ve been developing a distance learning program in order to better and more continually reach the international community. The program utilizes the latest hardware and software in information technology to host events and classes that are delivered free of charge to international locations ranging from Haiti and Scotland to New Zealand and Iraq. All are based in Iowa City, and local writers lead each class in conjunction with an international instructor, usually a former IWP resident. Full courses are available to University of Iowa students either as credit or non-credit. This semester the IWP has offered creative writing seminars to students in the Gaza Strip via direct video conference and full classes on Young Adult Fiction and Graphic Novels to students in Egypt and Spain. Those who might be interested in Young Adult Fiction should note that the class is still enrolling for free, and that all are invited to take part. Direct questions to Jimmy O’Brien at  In the upcoming months the IWP will offer additional courses and events centered on the relationship between creative writing international trans-cultural issues with the intent of fostering a deeper dialogue between nations.


With web-enabled video chat systems like Elluminate Live! at our disposal, the IWP is able to recreate the community found in traditional workshop settings. Students and instructors can see each other face to face in real-time, and engage in the same rapid-fire conversation that creates constructive seminars and a sense of community. Most full courses are additionally supported by ICON, The University of Iowa’s learning management system. Often used in traditional classroom settings as a repository for course documents and assignment drop-off, ICON’s potential as a full-scale classroom becomes realized when employed in distance learning—students interact regularly via message boards, instructors post videos that students respond to, and other multimedia, movie trailers to PowerPoint’s, are continually accessible. The result is a learning environment that mirrors the traditional in-person format in terms of its sense of community, but allows for additional points of reference and resources to engage students who may live thousands of miles apart.


In much the same manner, the IWP’s more condensed programs provide short-term learning opportunities to those interested in the creative arts. These take the form of Direct Video Conferences (DVCs) that are hosted by University of Iowa’s IT services in a specially designed multimedia room. Using the highest speed internet connection available, IT is able to transfer high definition video and sound from Iowa City to any technologically capable location in the world. The IWP has delivered one-time literary readings to several locations and, in the near future, will connect acclaimed American writers and universities in The United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, and Iraq for individual virtual readings.

 Each semester, we offer five week intro to creative writing seminars, often to young adults, in partnership with regional NGOs and nonprofits such as AmidEast. These are designed to give young people who have expressed an interest in creative writing the opportunity to experience workshop and exchange ideas with peer writers and experienced instructors on a weekly basis. Recently, the IWP has partnered with institutions in Jordan and the Gaza Strip to run such courses.


As the IWP’s distance learning program continues to broaden its reach and expand its offerings we hope to involve as many residents, writers, and community members as possible. To stay informed of our events and plans make sure to watch this blog and our website, or contact the DL coordinator, Jimmy O’Brien, at for more information about classes and events both this and coming semesters.

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