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Calling All Young Writers: Between the Lines is Now Accepting Applications

By Alyssa Cokinis, Between the Lines ICRU Fellow

Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience (BTL) is the International Writing Program’s creative writing and cultural exchange program for teenage writers between the ages of 16 and 19. This summer, two sessions will convene in Iowa City, IA for BTL’s ninth year: Russian/Arabic, which will bring together 32 students from across Russia, the Middle East and North Africa, and the U.S.; and the Silk Routes session—a first ever—will unite 20 students from the U.S., India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Maldives.

By attending BTL, you are joining a growing international family of writers that stretches beyond borders. Students who participated in the 2015 session took time for a video project called "Between the Lines: Spotlight Series." In one interview, Orwa (BTL ’15) discusses not only his own views on writing, but also what attending BTL meant to him: “…here, everyone is talking the same language I am.”

Session 1: Russian/Arabic

Nominations are now being accepted for the first session, Russian/Arabic (June 25-July 9). Instructors are Egyptian playwright and novelist Karim Alrawi, Russian fiction writer Alisa Ganieva, and American poet and visual artist Dora Malech.

Participants from Palestine, Egypt, and the U.S. hang out at Shambaugh House.

At the beginning of each day, we split the BTLers in half to send them off to Global Literature Seminars, where each instructor specializes in teaching about literature from their home region. Through this seminar, BTLers are able to immerse themselves in literature from all over the word, discovering both differences and similarities between our literary heritages.

In the afternoon, writers split off with Alrawi, Ganieva, or Malech to attend writing workshops in Arabic, Russian, or English respectively. The work and feedback generated in this class is designed to encourage BTLers to focus on their own writing while discussing the writing of their peers.

The day ends with post-dinner activities, such as translation workshops, student-led cultural and language lectures, and nightly writing salons during Ramadan dinners. Weekend trips include visits to the Maquoketa Caves and the Mississippi River.

Session 2: Silk Routes

Nominations for a special Silk Routes session (July 16-July 30) are currently in the works. Students from the following countries are eligible to apply: India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Bangladesh, and the United States. Instructors for this session are Ameena Hussein, a fiction and nonfiction writer from Sri Lanka, and Mary Hickman, a poet from the U.S.

Armenian, Turkish, and American BTL participants gather at the Black Angel for stories.

The day begins with Hussein and Hickman co-teaching the Global Literature Seminar, which will explore writings and translations from Silk Routes countries and the United States. Students are invited to highlight literature from their own country. After lunch, BTLers will reconvene with Hussein and Hickman for a writing workshop in English, empowering students to work on their own writing while understanding how their life experiences contribute to the creative process.

As with the first session, each day ends with post-dinner activities such as a world cooking night, instructor readings at Prairie Lights Bookstore, and a Storytelling Across Cultures night which takes near the infamous Black Angel statue. Weekend trips include visits to the Maquoketa Caves and the Mississippi River.

How to Apply

BTL is hosted by the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and receives grant funds by the U.S. State Department’s Bureaus of Educational and Cultural Affairs and South and Central Asian Affairs. Those interested in applying can visit BTL’s How to Apply page for additional information. We can’t wait to see what you write!


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