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New Orleans versus San Francisco

(Click to Enlarge) Sampling food truck offerings in New Orleans: frog legs, alligator on a stick... (Photo: Patricia Portela)
(Click to Enlarge) Sampling food truck offerings in New Orleans: frog legs, alligator on a stick... (Photo: Patricia Portela)
Soon after arriving in Iowa City in late August, IWP fall residents were given the choice of visiting either New Orleans or San Francisco during the mid-residency travel period—then five weeks away. For many it was a tough decision.

“The Beat Generation,” said fiction writer Muhamed “Nebo” Abdelnabi of Egypt, when asked what ultimately persuaded him to choose San Francisco.

(Click to Enlarge) San Francisco Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America.
(Click to Enlarge) San Francisco Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America.
Novelist Ali Al Saeed of Bahrain also selected San Francisco: “On my way to the States, I began reading a novel that was set in San Francisco and the idea of comparing the real San Francisco to the San Francisco in fiction appeals to me.”

“The people who draw me to New Orleans: Professor Longhair, Dr. John, The Meters, Walker Percy, John Kennedy Toole. Not necessarily in that order,” said Israeli writer Erez Volk.

“A lot of the coverage [of New Orleans] internationally in recent years has been related to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. I'm interested to see with my own eyes and to talk to locals about their experiences then and now,” said Craig Cliff of New Zealand.

(Click to Enlarge) Poet, critic, and scholar Teemu Manninen at the podium in Prairie Lights Bookstore.
(Click to Enlarge) Poet, critic, and scholar Teemu Manninen at the podium in Prairie Lights Bookstore.
On Sunday afternoon, fourteen fall residents appeared at Prairie Lights Bookstore bearing backpacks and duffle bags, prepared to catch an evening flight to New Orleans, but not before hearing Teemu Manninen (Finland) and Muhamed “Nebo” Abdelnabi bring down the house at a well-attended afternoon reading, accompanied by Iowa Writers’ Workshop student Yaa Gyasi.

After the reading, another group of fall residents headed back to Iowa House to pack, squeeze in a few hours of writing, or run last minute errands before catching a red-eye flight to San Francisco.

(Click to Enlarge) Sridala Swami, Roland Rugero, and Patricia Portela speak to students at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
(Click to Enlarge) Sridala Swami, Roland Rugero, and Patricia Portela speak to students at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
So far in New Orleans, writers have been received at Faulkner House Books, explored the French Quarter, sampled the po’ boys and beignets, and spoken with students at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, a regional, pre-professional arts training center that offers intensive instruction in many disciplines, including creative writing, and whose alumni include legendary jazz musicians Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and actor and musician Harry Connick, Jr..

(Click to Enlarge) The line-up for the Press Street reading in New Orleans.
(Click to Enlarge) The line-up for the Press Street reading in New Orleans.
 “New Orleans feels like nowhere else I've been in the US. On many streets the mix of the colonial architecture and the climate and the constant presence of live music makes me feel like I'm back in Trinidad, Cuba,” says Tom Crosshill (Latvia).

Thursday, October 3rd at 7pm,  Dénes Krusovszky (Hungary), Dmitry Golynko (Russia), Sridala Swami (India), and Amanda Lee Koe (Singapore)) will give a reading for the public in New Orleans at Press Street  literary and visual arts collective (3718 St. Claude Ave.). The itinerary also includes a stop at Snug Harbor jazz club and a bayou tour of Barataria Swamps and Wetlands.

(Click to Enlarge) A moment of jumping joy for the writers in San Francisco.
(Click to Enlarge) A moment of jumping joy for the writers in San Francisco.
  In San Francisco, writers are exploring Chinatown, Golden Gate Park and literary landmarks such as City Lights Books.  Thursday, October 3, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass will host Burmese poet Zeyar Lynn at the Lunch Poems poetry reading series on the University of California Berkeley campus (the event is free and open to the public).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Iowa City is gearing up to host the Iowa City Book Festival, with IWP writers set to participate in a number of panels and events upon their return.  Click here for the full Festival schedule. More information on upcoming events is available on the IWP calendar.

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