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The IWP in Sierra Leone

During the week of October 24th the IWP visited Sierra Leone to conduct a series of creative writing seminars with local groups including PEN Sierra Leone, the Instituit Francais Film School, the Sentinel English Language Institute, and the Falui Poets Society. The writers also visited the American International School and Forouh Bay College. All seminars were hosted at the US Embassy in Freetown and were facilitated by IWP writers Jenny Browne (poetry) and James O’Brien (fiction). During their weeklong visit, Browne and O’Brien led a diverse number of sessions on constructing character, plot, narrative, and setting in fiction and, in poetry, establishing images, creating rhythm, and performing pieces to an audience. Other topics included close reading, the rhetorical implications of stylistic choices, and revision. The IWP writers additionally discussed with facilitators, teachers, and the potentials and possibilities of integrating creative writing in the classroom and curriculum, and with emerging writers the nature of the publishing world, funding opportunities, and professionalization of the writing career. The trip terminated with an event hosted by the US ambassador, Michael S. Owen, at his residence that included music, stand-up comedy, and readings from the students and the IWP writers.


The outcomes of the visit were illuminating and encouraging; Browne and O’Brien connected with the facilitators and students, and were grateful for the ongoing and sincere support of the US Embassy. Resultantly, the IWP Distance Learning Program, which offers creative writing classes and events to nations and regions that might not otherwise have access to it, decided to pioneer a new, virtual endeavor to maintain relationships with the groups encountered on reading tours and through programs by developing and hosting secure, individualized websites that offer additional creative writing exercises and opportunities for interaction through message boards in order to foster ongoing dialogue between the IWP and writers in Sierra Leone.

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