• The "On Going Home" series offers a glimpse of what returning home means for authors who have spent three months in the U.S. as part of the International Writing Program's Fall Residency. This installment comes to us from Samuel Kolawole:

    On the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Abuja, two Nigerian men argued over where to put what in the overhead luggage compartment....

  • The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will offer the #Flashwrite Teen Poetry MOOC, its first open online course designed exclusively for teenage students, from March 30-May 3, 2016. Students 13-19 years old are invited to write, share, and discuss poetry with Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates and fellow teenage writers...

  • Narrative Witness: Indigenous Peoples, Australia-United States, a publication from the International Writing Program, is now available.

    The collection features work created during an online exchange that brought together 32 indigenous writers and photographers living in Australia and the United States in fall 2015. During the two-month exchange, the artists created...

  • By Laura Wang, a current student at the University of Iowa, originally published on laurayingwang.wordpress.comThe Shambaugh House in Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. It was originally the home of Professor Benjamin F. Shambaugh. After passing away in 1940, he gave his home to the University of Iowa, and the Honors Program moved in....

  • 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...

  • Written by Karen Villeda, 2015 Fall Residency Outreach Fellow, in November, 2015

    “He always thought of the sea, as ”la mar,” which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had... more
  • The "On Going Home" series offers a glimpse of what returning home means for authors who have spent three months in the U.S. as part of the International Writing Program's Fall Residency. This installment comes to us from Rochelle Potkar:

    Iowa is affixed in my mind as this cool place of beauty, sprawling gold fields, the rippling river blue, the talcum sky above, the bridges...

  • On Thursday January 14th, 2016, IWP joined dozens of literary organizations and hundreds of writers in a Worldwide Reading event, coordinated by the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin to draw attention to the dire situation of the Palestinian-born poet and curator Ashraf Fayadh.  A long-time resident of Saudi-Arabia, Fayadh was arrested in 2014 for “spreading blasphemous ideas among...

  • The "On Going Home" series offers a glimpse of what returning home means for authors who have spent three months in the U.S. as part of the International Writing Program's Fall Residency. This week's installment comes to us from Raed Anis Al-Jishi:

    I lived in Iowa for more than 12 weeks. It felt like home—a dream home for a writer.

    Libraries with enormous resources. An...

  • By Karen Villeda, 2015 Fall Residency Outreach Fellow

    In the course of the fall 2015 semester, in my role as the International Writing Program’s Outreach Fellow, I developed a web-based project, titled INTERNATIONAL WRITING PROGRAM: WRITING LIVES!

    First off, the site is a documentary combining text with multimedia (images, videos) generated by some of the IWP 2015...


Book Wings 2013: IWP seeks hosts for “viewing parties” around the world!

What is Book Wings?

Collaborative bilingual digitally-connected theatre that brings specially commissioned literary works by young, distinguished authors to the stage and to internet viewers around the world. This March, the IWP links up with the Moscow Art Theatre (established by Stanislavsky, home stage of Chekhov) and with the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre for two separate collaborative theatre performances. Using the latest videoconferencing technology, we’ll bring together actors, playwrights, directors, dramaturges, and stages thousands of miles apart to produce two unified performances known as Book Wings China and Book Wings Russia.

Building on the success of the Book Wings model pioneered in 2012 by IWP and the Moscow Art Theatre, which featured poetry, Book Wings 2013 commissioned 10-minute plays from twelve distinguished young playwrights (six English-language, three Chinese, and three Russian) who collaborated with translators to refine translations of their counterparts’ work. Student actors in Iowa City, Moscow, and Shanghai will perform the plays.

Attend in Person, Watch via Live Stream

Book Wings China: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 (9pm CST | 10am Wednesday, March 13, 2013 Shanghai time) in Theatre B, Univ. of Iowa Theatre Building & at Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, central theme: Migration.

Book Wings Russia: Thursday, March 14, 2013 (10am CST | 7pm Moscow time) in Theatre B, Univ. of Iowa Theatre Building & at Moscow Art Theatre, central theme: Contact.

Both performances are free, open to the public, bilingual (translation provided), and accessible worldwide via live internet stream at www.writinguniversity.org.

Videoconferencing technology will enable the audience in Iowa City to see and hear the Moscow and Shanghai stages, and the Moscow and Shanghai audiences to see and hear the Iowa City stage. Audience members and internet viewers may Tweet comments and questions for the live talk-back sessions following the events using the hashtag #bookw.

Working in conjunction with the UI Department of Theatre Arts, the Virtual Writing University, Information Technology Services, and UITV, these ambitious literary and theatrical events will connect stages 5,000 (Moscow) and 7,000 (Shanghai) miles apart.

Host a Viewing Party

The IWP is actively forming partnerships with arts institutions, theatres, literary organizations, high schools, colleges, and universities to arrange live viewings of the Book Wings 2013 performances. What better way to take in an evening (or morning) of theatre than in the company of other literature-lovers? Interested in hosting a viewing party or know someone who might be? Contact Book Wings Program Coordinator Ashley Davidson at ashley-r-davidson@uiowa.edu. IWP is happy to provide tech support, if needed.

Made possible by grant funds from the U.S. Department of State, Book Wings is a three-year collaborative exchange and performance initiative designed to bring together writers, actors, directors, and new media professionals in a virtual environment to foster cross-cultural conversation, spark new literary and dramatic ideas, and create an enduring body of work . In 2014, Book Wings will feature Russian, American, and Iraqi prose writers. Stay tuned for more on Book Wings in coming weeks.

Introducing "Where Are They Now?" with Ali Alawi, BTL Arabic ’12, Bahrain

Since 2008, the International Writing Program has hosted Between the Lines (BTL), a program that brings young writers, ages 16-19, to the University of Iowa for creative writing study and cultural exchange. As young people from the U.S., Russia, and 17 Arabic-speaking countries prepare to apply for BTL 2013, we’ll be profiling BTL alumni in a new blog series, Where Are They Now?

We begin this week with Colgate University-bound Ali Alawi of Bahrain, who participated in BTL Arabic 2012. Ali was 16 when he entered the program, and celebrated his 17th birthday (party and all) with BTL friends in Iowa City.

IWP: What was your BTL experience like?

ALI: It was honestly life-changing. I learned so much and got to meet so many amazing people who offered me so many different perspectives on life generally and writing specifically. One of my favorite BTL memories is of visiting the Black Angel sculpture in Oakland Cemetery. I remember being so obsessed with this urban myth that I even went to the public library and did some research about it. And on the last day of the program, a bunch of my close friends and I went there early in the morning, to pay tribute and say our farewell. It felt cinematic—the kind of memory that beckons to be turned into a piece of writing.

IWP: Had you visited the United States before?

ALI: No. This was my first time. When I first learned that I’ll be staying at Iowa, I was a little disappointed. I mean, when you hear the USA, you think about New York City or Chicago, these major cities. But when I got to Iowa, it amazed me how different it is from the way the media depicts it. It’s a beautiful place and the people are the nicest. And no they don’t have that hardcore accent! My favorite place in Iowa City was the Java House. An Iowan School of Athens, it’s where writers and artists gather to drink coffee and share their musings. 

IWP: How would you describe your BTL cohort?

ALI: The teachers [Marcus Jackson and Iman Humaydan] were inspiring. I learned so much from them. I loved how our relationship wasn’t strictly pragmatic. We got to learn so much about them and their journey in writing and they really got to know us. And of course I’m still in touch with my BTL friends. We did everything together, from a failed fossil hunt to a shopping spree. We shared our writings and maybe, indirectly, wrote about each other.

IWP: Why did you come to BTL?

ALI: I came to hone my writing ability and to become more confident about my craftsmanship. But I got so much more. I met friends who I’ll never forget and it changed my perspective on the purpose of writing.

IWP: How have your goals/your writing/your writing life changed since BTL?

ALI: It’s funny how, before this program, I’d never dared call myself a writer. Even though I started writing at an early age, it just intimidated me. This word. But now, not only do I call myself a writer, I’m even considering majoring in English literature with an emphasis on creative writing.

IWP: What are you doing now? Any writing projects?

ALI: I’m still a senior in high school. I have numerous writing projects, but they’re still too premature to talk about.

IWP: What advice would you offer to young people applying to BTL?

ALI: Don’t procrastinate about writing and editing your writing samples. Please. I was unfortunate. I only learned about the program two day before the deadline. Guess who didn’t sleep for two days? Guess who started mildly hallucinating?

Ali Alawi will enter Colgate University in the fall of 2013.

This summer, IWP will host two sessions of BTL:  BTL Arabic, which brings U.S. participants together with Arabic-speaking youth representing up to 17 different countries in the Near East; and BTL Russia. For more information, please visit: http://iwp.uiowa.edu/programs/between-the-lines

Best field trip ever: Guadalajara International Book Fair

A guest post from Lisa Gardinier.

At 5am on the day after Thanksgiving, when most of Iowa City was either soundly asleep for the holiday weekend or wide awake for Black Friday sales, I was somewhere in between and on my way to the airport and headed to Mexico. This was no holiday getaway, but a working trip. I attended the 26th “edition” of the Guadalajara International Book Fair (Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara, FIL) as the University of Iowa’s new Latin American & Iberian Studies Librarian.

The FIL is the Spanish-language publishing industry’s largest trade fair and is held annually from the last weekend in November to the first weekend in December in the Expo Guadalajara, the largest convention center in Latin America, in Mexico’s second largest city. During nine days, over 700,000 people attend the FIL, which probably becomes the largest bookstore in the world in that given week, with over 1,000 stands representing publishers, bookstores, and national publishing associations, as well as a very full schedule of panel talks, book presentations, and even a free concert series. The FIL has a special invited country of honor every year and this year was Chile. Over 100 librarians from the United States and all types of libraries – public, academic, and school libraries – attend with support from the FIL and the American Library Association.

IWP was well-represented by its alumni, with 13 on the schedule from throughout the history of the program, though I didn’t get to see nearly as many as I would have liked. Leopoldo Brizuela (Argentina, ’03) presented Una misma noche, his latest novel and the book for which he received the Premio Alfaguara de Novela 2012. Alberto Fuguet (Chile, ’94) presented the 20th-anniversary edition of his early novel, Mala onda [Bad vibes], alongside his latest book, Cinépata (una bitácora), a collection of writing on film. He also participated in two panels, including one on adapting literature to film. Luisa Valenzuela (Argentina, ’69) presented her own new novel, La máscara sarda: El profundo secreto de Perón, as well as participated in panels honoring the late Carlos Fuentes and presenting his posthumously published novel, Federico en su balcón. The Fuentes panel was briefly upstaged when a fellow participant pointed out former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos in the audience.  Even Etgar Keret (Israel, ’01) attended the FIL, as the Spanish translations of his works have been very popular and Israel is next year’s invited country.

As a new librarian at UI, I try to meet the faculty in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese when possible. Of course, Roberto Ampuero (Chile, ’96), University of Iowa assistant professor of Spanish and current Chilean ambassador to Mexico, was at the FIL, both in his official capacity as ambassador and in his more familiar role as a writer. He was gracious enough to find time in his very busy schedule to meet with me for a few moments. As the ambassador of the invited country of honor to the host country of the FIL, Ampuero led a delegation of over 300 professionals from the Chilean publishing industry, including editors, translators, agents, over 100 authors, and even a chef. In his literary role, Ampuero presented his latest novel, El último tango de Salvador Allende, with premier Mexican historian Enrique Krauze. Needless to say, the experience of meeting a faculty member currently serving as an ambassador in the middle of a large international book fair is a professional experience that won’t be forgotten.

The general public – who pay only 20 Mexican pesos, or about US$1.50, for a day pass – not only see the exhibit hall and official panels and presentations, but have the opportunity to run into the chance encounters that happen when hundreds of authors and intellectuals are brought together. Jorge Edwards, Chilean writer and ambassador to France, attended Ampuero’s presentation and then spent a few minutes afterward chatting with Krauze in the hallway, and thankfully no one seemed to mind that they were blocking most of it. Or, on Friday when thousands of schoolchildren attended the FIL – best field trip ever? – and I got stuck in the middle of a crowd of teenagers screaming over an actor or singer walking by. I asked a dozen people and never got an answer on who that might have been. The invited country coordinates the free concert series which included Los Jaivas, Javiera Mena, and Los Bunkers. While Los Bunkers attracted seemingly every teenager in Guadalajara, I’d wager Los Jaivas brought in every expatriate Chilean within a day’s drive of the city.

Professionally, my purpose at the FIL was to buy books, learn about the Spanish-language publishing industry, and, maybe, make a few connections. Buying books is the easy part. (Shipping them, however, is another story and would be a dull blog post.) Among the 133kg of books to be added to the University of Iowa Libraries’ collection, are several new IWP alumni publications, including Alberto Fuguet, Pilar Quintana, and Fabián Casas. Just as Tim Shipe’s IWP connections were important to the success of his trip through the Balkans in early 2012, IWP was crucial to meeting publishers and writers at the FIL. Matías Correa (Chile, ’12) introduced me to his publisher, Diego Álamos of Chancacazo Publicaciones, through e-mail and we set up a meeting for early in the week of the book fair. Álamos in turn introduced me to a few other publishers, which eventually snowballed into meeting six independent Chilean publishers, many of them writers themselves.

Of course an event as large as the FIL impacts the city of Guadalajara, and more than just snarling traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods. Many local groups take advantage of the influx of literary-minded visitors to stage their own parallel events and festivals. Two that came to my attention, especially as opportunities to buy interesting and unique materials for the UI Libraries collections, were La Otra FIL and Noches Cartoneras. La Otra FIL [The Other FIL] organized small independent publishers and authors in cultural centers around Guadalajara each night for the duration of the FIL. Noches Cartoneras [Cardboard Nights] was hosted by a small cultural center on the edge of downtown and focused on the cartonera format, books that are published with hand-decorated recycled cardboard covers. The FIL also organizes events curated by the host country. This year included a Chilean film series at the Universidad de Guadalajara and an exhibit of Mapuche silver at the Museo Regional de Guadalajara, among others.

All in all, it was one of the busiest work weeks I’ve had as a librarian – this was not the beach-and-margarita trip to Mexico – but one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in professional travel. It was made possible by the American Library Association and the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara through the ALA-FIL Free Pass Program, with additional support from the University of Iowa Libraries.

Between the Lines 2013 Now Accepting Applications!

Since 2008, the International Writing Program has hosted Between the Lines (BTL), a program that brings young writers, ages 16-19, to the University of Iowa for creative writing study and cultural exchange. Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the International Writing Program (IWP), and the University of Iowa,  Between the Lines is a unique summer writing program. It offers students the opportunity to interact with young writers from other cultures, receive writing instruction from distinguished professionals, and experience the literary life of Iowa City (the only UNESCO-designated City of Literature in the United States),

Between the Lines 2013 is now accepting applications:

  • BTL Russia (June 22-July 6): 10 students from across Russia will be invited to join 10 American      students.
  • BTL Arabic (July 13-July 27): 12 students from selected Arabic-speaking countries will be invited      to join 12 American students.

Both sessions will include a literature seminar and a language-specific creative writing workshop taught by faculty who are renowned writers in their own right. Students will live in a dorm on the University of Iowa campus along with university-trained counselors, who help foster a strong sense of creative community.

International students must be nominated by the US embassy in their respective countries; American students are invited to apply directly for either session. Application details and a link to the online application are available here. Completed applications are due by April 8, 2013 for American students.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions are available here for American students and here for international students.

Visit the Shambaugh House blog again in the coming weeks for profiles and interviews with former BTL students speaking about their experiences and what they’ve gone on to achieve.

Want to keep up to date with what’s going on at the IWP? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

On the Fly Fridays: Writers on Writing

Since 2010, City of Literature (the organization dedicated to stewarding Iowa City’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature, part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network) has been producing a series of short video interviews with writers on the craft of writing called On the Fly.

“Is there a word or phrase you always cut from drafts?” southern American writer Allen Gurganus is asked.

“Adverbs!” Gurganus declares. “Adverbs are toxic! [...] Adverbs are the monosodium glutamate of speech! They’re cheesy […] You don’t need Adolph’s meat tenderizer if you’ve got sirloin from the top!”

So far, more than 60 writers, visiting Iowa City on book tour, as guests of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop or as part of the International Writing Program’s fall residency, have sat down to answer a series of questions about writing and craft ("What question are you most often asked, and how do you respond? Is there something you want to include in your work that you haven’t found a place for yet? How do you recharge your batteries?"). The result is a video gallery of short interviews that offer a rare personal glimpse into the writing life and philosophy of some of today’s most exciting authors, including Roberto Ampuero, Yann Martel, and many others. Whether you’re in need of a dose of inspiration or simply curious about an author’s current influences, the interviews are a fantastic literary resource.

So, in celebration of this ongoing series (which received a 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chairman’s Grant), every Friday for the next 12 weeks, the International Writing Program will be posting a selected On the Fly interview to our Facebook page for your enjoyment. Can’t wait? The interviews are all archived here, with 50 new interviews to be filmed and released throughout 2013 and 2014. See you Friday!

 Want to keep up to date on what's happening at the IWP? "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Start 2013 with a Free Poetry Course

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Why not start 2013 off with a free poetry writing course?

What is it? When can I start?

From February 18th to April 1st, IWP Distance Learning will offer a free 7-week Virtual Poetry Seminar. Poet Margaret Ross will lead the weekly live online sessions and offer students regular feedback on their writing.

In the seminar (taught in English), students will read and discuss modern and contemporary poems that convey complex experience through a wide range of formal strategies. Readings will include poems by Francis Ponge, Gertrude Stein, Elizabeth Bishop, Michael Palmer, and others. Students will also complete writing exercises designed to broaden the scope of their own poetry and generate vivid new work through formal, rhythmic, and imagistic discovery. [Work will not be graded, and is not eligible for University of Iowa credit.]

Who is eligible?

Since this course is offered entirely online, anyone with an internet connection is encouraged to apply. The course is designed for advanced writers with an active commitment to reading poetry and refining their craft, though no previous experience is required. The course will be limited to fifteen writers by application only. International writers are encouraged to apply.

Who is the instructor?

Margaret Ross is a graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and author of the recent poetry chapbook Decay Constant. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Iowa Review, and Volt. She has taught poetry courses at the University of Iowa and at Cornell College.

How do I apply?

Submit a resume, a statement of purpose, and a writing sample (in English, no more than 5 pages of poems) to iwpapplications@gmail.com. The deadline for submitting an application is January 28th, 2013. Questions? Email them to iwpapplications@gmail.com. For more information about IWP Distance Learning, see our December 20thblog interview with distance learning coordinator Rebecca Boyle.

Shambaugh House Quarterly Roundup—Winter 2012

2012 wouldn’t be complete without the October-December Shambaugh House Roundup, in which we share good news from our associates, friends, and alumni, as well as a few choice bits from within the walls of Shambaugh House, home of the International Writing Program. As always, if you have news to share, send it our way and we'll include it in an upcoming post.

IWP co-founder Hualing Nieh Engle was honored with a 2012 University of Iowa Impact Award. The award, which recognized Hualing both for her writing and for her role in creating and stewarding the IWP, was presented during a 2-hour live radio broadcast celebration. One Tree Three Lives, a film about Hualing’s life and work by Hong Kong Director Angie Chen, was also screened at the event.                          

Orhan Pamuk (IWP ‘85, Turkey) and Kim Young-ha (IWP ‘03, South Korea) have both been long-listed for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize. Kim Young-ha also has a non-fiction essay, “Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga’s Korea, and Korean Literature” in the December 2012 issue of Words Without Borders, where he selects and introduces works from Korea.

Maria Galina (IWP Visitor ’07, Russia) was named a finalist for the Big Book Awards for her novel Медведки (Mole-Crickets), and received a readers’ choice award.

Nihad Sirees (IWP ’05, Syria) has an English translation of his 2004 novel “الصمت والصخب” — The Silence and the Roar —due out from Pushkin Press in January 2013. The English translation is by Max Weiss.

New York-based filmmaker Ram Devineni’s short film Postcards from the Earth’s Whisper, chronicling IWP’s 2011 Nepal/Pakistan/UAE/Afghanistan Reading Tour and Sahar Sarshar’s film, Writing in Motion: A Nation Divided, documenting an IWP study tour of the Mid-Atlantic and the American South, were official selections at the 2012 Landlocked Film Festival.

Poet, essayist, and activist Meena Kandasamy (IWP '09, India) was featured in a recent Atlantic piece about the complexity of gender politics in India's social media.

Xi Chuan (IWP ’02, China), Etger Keret (IWP ’01, Israel), Roberto Ampuero (IWP ’96, Chile), and the Bones Will Crow anthology featuring Pandora (IWP ’12, Burma) were included in World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations 2012.

Poet, fiction writer, blogger, activist, and former political prisoner Nay Phone Latt (IWP ’12, Burma) was profiled in Sampsonia Way.

Jenny Zhang, who taught at IYWS in 2011, spoke with Between the Lines alum Roula Seghaier (Tunisia) for “Notes From a Revolution: An Interview With Roula Seghaier,” published in Rookie, a web magazine for teenage girls.

Milagros Socorro (IWP ’12, Venezuala) wrote about her experience of the 2012 US presidential Election for the Iowa City Press Citizen.

Dina Nayeri’s book, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, will be released by Riverhead Books in February 2013. Nayeri, an Iowa Writers’ Workshop student, read with IWP writers at Prairie Lights Bookstore during the 2012 fall residency.

Have good news to share? Send it to ashley-r-davidson[at]uiowa.edu and we’ll include it in the next Shambaugh House Roundup.

Distance Learning: A Sneak Peek

IWP Distance Learning Coordinator Rebecca Boyle recently sat down to answer questions about the program and share some exciting opportunities on the horizon.

1) What is distance learning at the IWP? 

The International Writing Program's Distance Learning (DL) program is designed to link American and international writers through online creative writing workshops and literature seminars. In collaboration with embassies, universities, and arts organizations, we deliver both introductory and advanced courses to communities with limited access to creative writing programs. Since the inception of the program, we have delivered courses to institutions based in a number of countries worldwide, including Jordan, Somalia, Iraq, New Zealand, Mexico, among others. Although fiction, poetry, and nonfiction workshops are at the core of our program, past course offerings have included topics in contemporary world literature such as immigration narratives, Spanish and American graphic novels, and Maori poetry. Distance Learning programming is most commonly delivered through Direct Video Conference (DVC), Skype, or Elluminate technologies. 

2) What’s been going on in the past few months?

This fall featured an exciting array of creative writing programming, from literary seminars to creative writing workshops to interactive interviews. The DL program partnered with institutions based all across the world, connecting Iowa to students and scholars in Gaza, Iraq, and New Zealand. 

In October, the DL program was delighted to offer a six-session introductory creative writing course in partnership with the American Corner at Al Azhar University in Gaza. Taught by Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate and poet Lauren Haldeman, this course featured weekly live sessions with the instructor, split evenly between poetry and fiction, and concluded with a reading of student work. Sampling writers as diverse as Rumi, Italo Calvino, and Derek Walcott, the course tackled fundamental questions in writing, such as writing about self, image-making, and form. While the class predominantly focused on the practice of writing through in-class writing exercises, readings by key American and international writers were assigned each week and discussed during class. 

Shorter-term programming included a lecture on Maori literature from former IWP resident Hinemoana Baker and a live discussion with Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Hisham Matar during his visit to Iowa City in September.  

3) What programs are going on currently?

Since September, the DL program has partnered with the American embassy in Baghdad to present an ongoing, multi-genre series on a monthly basis, featuring an American literature session as well as fiction, poetry, and dramatic writing workshops. IWP Director Christopher Merrill kicked off the series with his presentation on American literature, which featured Walt Whitman's “Song of Myself” as a base text for discussing the all-encompassing “I” and the pluralism this implies within the larger context of 19th century American poetry. Upcoming sessions in the series include an introductory fiction session in January, an advanced fiction session in February, and a comparative literature session in March.  

4) What’s in the DL pipeline in terms of future programming? (What are you most excited about?)

This spring, the DL program is thrilled to offer its first open course of the year on poetry writing. Anyone with an internet connection is invited to apply. A full course description as well as instructions on how to apply for the course will be posted on the International Writing Program's Facebook page by the end of this month. The DL program is also proud to offer its first ever LGBT reading group this coming February. For more course offerings this spring, please make sure to check the IWP's website.

5) Who should teachers and students contact if they are interested in getting involved in DL?

Please use the IWP contact form (http://iwp.uiowa.edu/contact) and make sure to specify the category as "Distance Learning Courses." We'd love to hear from you!

To find out what else is happening at the IWP, visit us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See you soon!

A Tribute to Allie Dane

Note to reader: Allie Dane, a longtime friend of the IWP, passed away last month. In this guest post, IWP Program Advisor Peter Nazareth, a personal friend of the Dane family, offers his rembrances

            “We are on farmland and we are only meeting writers,” Mary and I said to Jean Hood of the university administration in February 1974.  “We also wanted to meet farmers.”  We had come to Iowa City from Uganda via New Haven. “Iowa City is the place for you to be,” said Charles Davis at Yale, responsible for my getting the Seymour Lustman Fellowship, so he arranged for Paul Engle to invite us to the IWP.  We arrived in August, a month before the 1973 session was to begin.  In those days, the program lasted over two semesters.  Jean Hood spoke to John Dane at the Kiwanis club, and he and his wife Allie offered to be our host family.  We still remember the day they came to meet us at the Mayflower and take us to their home on a hill on the outskirts of the city.

          John and Allie were warm and friendly and generous, and remained so all the years we knew them. Dinner at the Dane household always began with John giving thanks to God for the food and the company with whom the food was being shared.  And Mary and I always gave thanks to Allie for the food and  particularly the pies she prepared.  I remember that first meal, when our younger daughter Monique, then seven, asked for a “serviette” and Allie did not know what it was so she said to Monique, “If you can see it, please take it.”  Monique did.  “Oh, you mean napkin!” Allie said.  American English was not the English we had learned in Uganda.

The Danes were progressive farmers.  Not just in farming, though when Vladimir Soloukhin the Russian writer, visited the Dane farm and saw their milking techniques, he told John that in Russia, he would have been declared “A Hero of the Republic.”  It was that the Danes had a great curiosity about the world and loved meeting people from all over.  As Simon Tay of Singapore wrote in his Alien Asian, a book referencing Thoreau’s Walden, John took out his globe and asked him to identify his country (Simon called him “Farmer Doone”, perhaps to protect him from the sensitivity of Singaporeans).  John was to go on to make videotapes of writers who  after they gave them good food and a tour of the farms.  I cannot forget my disbelief when I first saw pigs that were as big as cows in Uganda, it seemed to me then.

          Once we met the Danes, we were friends for life.  We saw their five children grow up, they saw our daughters grow up, and then was the time of grandchildren.  We went to their weddings, they came to ours.

          Allie and John became very close to the International Writing Program.  They had an annual Harvest Party for the writers and took them for a hayride and gave them a full and filling feast where they meet many people from various professions.  In accordance with their tradition, they had a big Harvest dinner on October 26, at the end of which the writer from Kuwait, Taleb al Refai, gave a long speech in which he said this was the best getting-to-know-the-real-Americans event he had attended. 

          On November 19, the Danes had a big Thanksgiving and Christmas Party for their family, twenty-six of them, and the family photograph reveals a laughing, loving Allie.  After the party was over and everyone had left, Allie phoned her closest friends to talk to them.  And then she collapsed.  John and Donna did what they could to revive her.  She was taken to Mercy hospital.  Family came back to see her.  Mary and I spoke to her to thank her for all the love she had given us and all she had done to fill our hearts.  We were told that she had no brain waves so could not hear us, but we believed she could because her eyelids and lips moved.

Allie passed on the 20th.  The viewing was on the 23rd, and the funeral and was on the 24th at the First United Methodist church, attended by many, many friends.  The Dane children and older grandchildren spoke about her life and achievements.  There was joy and humor and lots of jokes that went with information we did not know—such as that her name was Allegra from a poem by Longfellow.  Reverend Doctor Barrie Trittle officiated.  Samuel Kwok played the keyboards.  He could not help himself: the sad music segued into Jerry Lee Lewis rock ‘n’ roll riffs.

          After the service, there was food for everyone in the basement of the church.  That was Allie: people had to be fed.  And we were all given that fine icecream from Dane’s Dairy.

          Soon after we met in 1974, Allie and John arranged for me to speak about Uganda to a group of farmers, their friends, in their home.  I spoke to them in familiar terms, about the land, the resources, the dairy cattle, and soy beans except that I called them “soya beans”.  A decade later, Allie asked Mary and me to work on a small patch of land to grow vegetables.  And we did!  Tomatoes.  Potatoes. Cucumbers.  Beans.  We felt the great joy of growing something from the earth .  The potatoes and tomatoes had a flavor we never got from store-bought substitutes.  Allie and John gave us what we were seeking from the beginning: a grounding, without which we would have been like balloons floating to wherever the wind took us instead of people rooted in the land from which we could reach out to the world and the world would come to us.  And feel at home.

          We had to let her go, John said to Mary and me at the hospital.  It was tough.  But she has remained with all of us.  She is the music of her name.

Creative Collaboration, Cultural Exchange, and the World’s Largest Amana-Style Rocking Chair

It’s about time we shared some of the highlights of this year’s Life of Discovery exchange between IWP and the China Writers’ Association (CWA). Four writers: Mao Juzhen, Sun Wei, Liu Yewei, and Zhang Yuntao, traveled from China to Iowa City for ten days in late October to meet and collaborate with other writers, participate in cultural exchange, and soak up some of the literary atmosphere of Iowa City.

Writing and Creativity

Mao Juzhen, who writes under the pen name A Mao, produced a flurry of poems during the trip, scribbling them in a small black notebook on the Celebration Belle river boat that took the writers up the Mississippi River; in response to a collaborative theatre workshop put on by University of Iowa theatre arts graduate students; during a Halloween-day discussion of writing and ghosts with IWP writers; on a hayride at the Dane family farm outside Iowa City; even seated in the world’s largest Amana-style rocking chair during a tour of the nearby Amana Colonies, thus proving that writers truly can write anywhere.


While in Iowa, the CWA writers paid a visit to University of Iowa instructor Bo Sun’s Fifth Year Chinese class, where they discussed the writing process, their work, and the current state of Chinese literature with enthusiastic undergraduates, entirely in Chinese. The visit was followed by tea and a sampling of traditional American pies at the home of Chinese novelist and IWP co-founder Hualing Nieh Engle. The tea was also an opportunity for CWA writers to meet with IWP writers Chan Chi Tak (Hong Kong) and Lin Chun Ying (Taiwan) as well as Hong Kong filmmaker Angie Chen, in town for the screening of her documentary film, One Tree Three Lives, in conjunction with the Impact Award Ceremony honoring Hualing.  Writer Sun Wei participated in the World Canvass radio broadcast of the ceremony, sharing her thoughts on China, Chinese literature, and Iowa City.


While in Iowa City, the writers gave two public readings, one at Shambaugh House and one at Prairie Lights Bookstore, and donated copies of their books to the Iowa City Public Library as well as the University of Iowa Library. The writers also met with City of Literature director John Kenyon and observed a University of Iowa undergraduate creative writing workshop. CWA writer Liu Yewei, who teaches at Jiangsu Normal University, was particularly interested in how creative writing is taught at Iowa and how the model might be exported and adapted to universities in China.


Toward the end of their trip, the writers participated in an after-school writing workshop at Horace Mann Elementary School organized by the Iowa Youth Writing Project, directed by poet Dora Malech, one of four American writers who traveled to China in July as part of the first leg of the 2012 Life of Discovery bi-lateral exchange. The children, ages eight to eleven, interviewed the CWA writers, asking everything from “what kind of holidays do you have in China?” to “does it snow?” then wrote up short articles based on what they learned.

“Today I met Zhang Yuntao and he does not like pizza,” one little boy wrote. “In China they have zoos in every city. China has many festivals; they are like ours in Iowa City, but with different names.”

            “What do you think of China?” Zhang, a former teacher, asked, engaging the children and listening to their ideas with interest. The conversation epitomized what Life of Discovery is all about: giving writers the opportunity to learn something of each country's literature, form friendships, and create new work through artistic exchange and dialogue. For photos of this event, and others, visit us on Facebook.

Life of Discovery is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State and conducted in partnership with the China Writers’ Association.


Drupal theme by pixeljets.com D7 ver.1.1