• 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...


On Going Home: An Introduction

The morning of November 8th, 2011 was a drizzly one in Iowa City. Snow had been predicted for later in the week, but the IWP's fall residents were going to miss it as they were headed to Washington D.C. and New York City. As is does each year, the trip to the east coast would mark the official end of the IWP's fall residency.

For nearly three months, these residents had lived in the U.S., had travelled domestically, and had experienced so much of the culture and literature of the U.S. and the Midwest. But it was hard not to wonder what it would be like for them to return home. What would the journey home be to someone like Josephine Rowe, who'd be trading her Iowa autumn for an Australian spring? What about Usha K.R., who'd found Iowa a chilly contrast to the climate of her native Bangalore? Would she miss the crisp air even a little?

In an attempt to answer those questions and many more, the IWP asked a handful of our 2011 fall residents if they’d be willing to write about the experience of returning home. We sent them a link to Joan Didion’s essay “On Going Home” as a sort of starting point, thinking that perhaps Didion’s ambivalence, excitement, nostalgia, and regret regarding her familial home might resonate for a writer who’d just travelled halfway around the globe to attend a writing residency in the heart of the U.S.

Happily, many of our writers agreed to tell us about returning home after the residency, and for the next several week, we’ll be periodically posting these short essays here on the Shambaugh House Blog. We’ll also be pairing the short essays with a representative photograph chosen by the author, something that captures what “home” means to them. Accordingly, we’ve posted this beautiful 1920s photograph of Shambaugh House, home to the IWP.

The first installment of this series of essays comes from Lynley Hood (New Zealand). We've got more pieces from around the globe in the coming weeks, so check back in for more!



One Course, Ten Nations

Lithuania. Spain. Mexico. Bali. Puerto Rico. Hong Kong.

These are just some of the nations represented in “International Issues in Creative Nonfiction,” one of the IWP’s spring semester distance learning classes.

The students, UI undergrads to professional journalists, come from ten countries. Texts include books by Dave Eggers, Luis Alberto Urrea, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Suketu Meha. Students consider these and other exemplars of world literature academically and artistically, writing critical and creative work and engaging in live discussions through Elluminate Live, a group video conferencing system. By the end of the course, students will have generated numerous pieces of nonfiction and engaged in extensive collaboration and workshopping.

“International Issues in Creative Nonfiction” operates on a structure similar to courses offered in earlier semesters. The audience, however, marks a paradigmatic shift. Modeled on the IWP’s fall residency, “International Issues in Creative Nonfiction” seeks to bring together persons of numerous nationalities in one setting. The goal: to reach and unite a broader community of writers in a single virtual space.

Previous distance learning classes linked two locations: one domestic, one international. Though bilateral offerings will continue to comprise the bulk of the IWP’s programs, we will open one class a semester open to the global writing community at large. Though the IWP will continue to offer targeted classes with exclusive educational partners, we hope this new endeavor will allow us to provide our programs to a broader population of students, whether adult learners or writers outside of the academy.

Keep an eye on the IWP’s blog and Facebook page for fall semester offerings, and contact distance learning coordinator James O’Brien at james-obrien@uiowa.edu if you’d like to be added to a list of interested parties.

Building Book Wings

Since last fall, a team of professionals from across divisions at the University of Iowa has been working with the creative and technical staff of the Moscow Art Theatre to produce Book Wings, a collaboratively staged live reading of commissioned work from eight accomplished Russian and American poets*, Maxim Amelin, Quan Barry, Linor Goralik, Terrance Hayes, Inga Kuznetsova, Dora Malech, Anna Russ, and Matthew Zapruder. 

The idea—to connect writers, performers, directors, new media professionals and audiences from the U.S. and Russia—sprang from the Culture Sub-Working Group of the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission and is made possible with grant funds provided by the U.S. Department of state. The project—part literary commission, part performance, part new media collaboration—represents a unique opportunity for the University of Iowa to co-produce a performance with one of Europe’s most revered stages .

But implementing a high-definition, multi-stage show at a distance of over 5,000 miles is no simple feat and has required the resources and expertise of many people in Moscow and here at the University of Iowa. Beginning last November, faculty and staff from the International Writing Program, the Department of Theatre Arts, Information Technology Services, University of Iowa Television, the Writing University began to address the unique challenges of connecting performers and audiences who spoke different languages and who lived 10 time zones apart.

“Apart from the considerable technical challenges,” says IWP Director Christopher Merrill, “there is the challenge implicit in any cultural exchange: to find a fruitful means of communication, which engages artists from different cultures at their deepest levels, where new ideas and insights may come into being.”

Over the six-month period in which the show was developed, a variety of challenges (foreseen and unforeseen) cropped up. For the poets, the act of writing a commission to the theme of “contact” presented particular challenges, as did the process of helping to refine translations of one another’s work. For the technical staff—who are responsible for operating the high-definition videoconferencing units that are making the exchange possible—the challenges of building Book Wings were myriad.

According to Lauren Haldeman, editor at the Writing University the most difficult element of producing the show has been has been troubleshooting the technical problems between continents. “Working those out from across the globe is challenging," says Haldeman, who is managing the live streaming of the event over the internet. She is quick to note, however, that "I have loved working with the different departments and specialists that this project has brought together. It is really exciting to be in the same room with experts in the written word, performing arts, technology, and diplomacy. Wild!"

"It’s exciting to see the outcome of everyone's efforts turn an idea into reality," adds Les Finken, the videoconferencing and technical project lead for Book Wings. Finken, an IT professional with the University of Iowa, has dealt with the dual challenges of organizing his individual workload for the show (including securing the appropriate videoconferencing technologies, testing those technologies, and managing them in the theatre space) and making sure that the technologic needs of the other divisions involved with the program were being met. “Providing solutions for individual components [of the show]— stage production, theatre works, broadcast production, audio production, web streaming and videoconferencing, writing, graphic design, communication, etc.—is not difficult to do,” says Finken, though, he says, “Solving the problems required bringing all of the components together into one production. That was the most challenging thing and, for me, the most interesting.”

Of course, the technical requirements of the show—while complex—are only half of the story. Once the International Writing Program had commissioned the poems and had them translated and formatted appropriately, there was still the creative staging to do. Alan MacVey, chair of the University of Iowa’s department of Theatre Arts, has been involved with the artistic direction of Book Wings since its inception and has spent the nights leading up to this week's production directing the show’s rehearsal process.

“It’s a wonderful challenge for actors and directors to bring a poem to life on stage,” says MacVey. “A poem is not a play, after all.  So the challenge is to use the actor’s voice and body to reveal something about the poem that might be hidden on the page.” The specific content of those revelations won’t be known to the public until Friday morning, when the show is performed live in Iowa City and Moscow and broadcast over the internet. The anticipation for the show is high, both in Theatre B where the show will be performed, and among the cast, crew, technical staff, and administrators of the program.

As MacVey succinctly puts it: “The most rewarding aspect of Book Wings is yet to come – being in the room with fellow artists from thousands of miles away.”

Viewers in Iowa City can do just that on Friday, March 9th. A reception with light refreshments will begin at 9:15 a.m. and the show will begin at 10 a.m. in Theatre B of the Theatre Arts Building at the University of Iowa. 

Off-site viewers can see the show and download the program for the event at the Writing University's streaming website, here.




* In 2013 Book Wings will feature Russian and American playwrights, and in 2014 the project will welcome American and Russian fiction writers

Shambaugh House Roundup: Midwinter 2012

We're overdue for a Shambaugh House Roundup, in which we share news from inside of Shambaugh House and from our associates, friends, and alumni. That said, here's a very full midwinter roundup for you. As always, if you have news to share, send it our way and we'll include it in an upcoming post.


Filmmaker Sahar Sarshar, who documented the IWP’s tour of the American South last spring has written about her documentary Writing in Motion: A Nation Divided (and has made the film available) at The Mantle.

This month, IWP Director Christopher Merrill travelled to Afghanistan on behalf of the IWP, and he’s written about his trip for Granta. Merrill was also recently interviewed about his experiences there on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River program.

Khet Mar’s (IWP '07) The Souls of Fallen Flowers recently made the news. And an interview with Mar about the project by David Henry Sterry is up at the Huffington Post.

Former IWP Special Projects Assistant and Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate B.J. Love has written about our Book Wings initiative over at Coldfront Magazine, and the story was picked up by the Poetry Foundation.

The new issue of Transom is themed around the work of Tomaž Šalamun (IWP '71) and includes work by IWP Director Christopher Merrill, among others. This excellent new journal is co-edited by former IWP coordinator and poet Kiki Petrosino.

‎"A Year of Reading the World" is a terrific undertaking by Ann Morgan, a writer and editor who, in preparation for the 2012 Olympics in London, is delving into international literature in a major way. As in the U.S., only a small percentage of books published each year in the U.K. are translations, and the attention she's bringing to the issue is admirable. Our own recent alumni including Ajit Baral and Oonya Kempadoo  (both IWP 2011 fall residents) have made Morgan's list.

Penelope Todd (IWP '07) has started a publishing house, Rosa Mira Books. Rosa Mira Books also has an interesting blog that includes author interviews, information about their publications, and other book-related posts. 

Michael McKimm (IWP '10) has three lovely poems in the winter issue of Prairie Schooner.

Alex Epstein (IWP '07) has digitally published a new collection of short-short stories on Facebook. He’s also discussed the project over at The Outlet, the blog of the great journal Electric Literature, who is publishing excerpted translations of Epstein’s work here.

The Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) longlist for fiction was recently released, and included were titles by David Albahari (IWP '86), Thomas Pletzinger (IWP '06).

Last, but certainly not least, longtime friend and associate of the IWP Zlatko Anguelov will see his first collection of fiction, Erotic Memories, published this month by Bulgarian publisher Ciela. 


Vintage photo of Shambaugh House: [F.W. Kent Collection of Photographs (RG 30.01.01), Buildings Series, Folder “Shambaugh House,” University Archives, Department of Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries]


Introducing Book Wings

An historic partnership between the International Writing Program and the Moscow Art Theatre, Book Wings is a collaborative performance that will take place simultaneously in Moscow and Iowa City on March 9th, 2012.

Working in conjunction with the University of Iowa's Department of Theatre Arts, the Virtual Writing University, Information Technology Services, and UITV, this ambitious literary and theatrical endeavor is made possible with grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and will bring together two stages and theatre companies to produce (in real time and with 5,000 miles between them) a collaborative, bilingual performance of new work commissioned for the project. That we know of, this production is a first in the world of theatre and represents a breakthrough in the leveraging of technology for the purposes of artistic cooperation, exchange, and engagement.

A three-year initiative, this first year of Book Wings features commissioned work by distinguished, young American and Russian poets: Matthew Zapruder, Dora Malech, Terrance Hayes, Quan Barry, Inga Kuznetsova, Anna Russ, Linor Goralik, and Maxim Amelin. The commissioned poems have been translated and serve as the basis for the staged performances on March 9th.

In 2013, Book Wings will feature Russian and American playwrights, and in 2014, the commissions will come from American and Russian fiction writers. 

Viewers around the globe will be able to watch the performance live on March 9th here and can submit questions about the project immediately following the performance by Tweeting the IWP at @UIIWP. 


The Live Event:

What: Book Wings Performance

When: Friday, March 9th, 2012

Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (U.S. central time),  8 p.m. Moscow time

Where: Theatre B, University of Iowa Theatre Arts Building & The Moscow Art Theatre, Moscow, Russia

Streaming the Show Live!: http://www.writinguniversity.org/page/book-wings-live-streaming



In addition to the project’s purely artistic goals, Book Wings represents a great opportunity for instructors to address issues of translation, performance, collaboration, and the utilization of new media technologies in the arts. To that end, we’re thrilled to invite you to host a viewing of the live event on March 9th via a live video stream.   

Plans for off-site viewings are currently in the works with Columbia College in Chicago, IL and Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, among others. Interested schools, universities, arts organizations, and theatres can contact the IWP's Nate Brown for further information about hosting a viewing on March 9th. It's as simple as visiting the Virtual Writing University's streaming site and pressing play!

If you have any questions about the project or to set up a viewing at your institution, please contact:


Nate Brown

Publicity Coordinator

International Writing Program

Shambaugh House

430 North Clinton Street

Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2020

Office:   319-335-2817




Apply Now: Between the Lines 2012!

The deadline for this summer's Between the Lines summer writing program is fast approaching. American high school students have until this Thursday, Feb. 24th to apply. 

Since 2008, the International Writing Program has hosted Between the Lines (BTL), a program that brings young writers, aged 16-19, to the University of Iowa for creative writing study and cultural interaction.

We are excited to announce that for 2012, there will be two BTL sessions:

  • BTL Russia (June 30-July 13): Students from across Russia will be invited to join American students.
  • BTL Arabic (July 14-28): Students from selected Arabic-speaking countries will be invited to join American students.

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. Sessions will include literature seminars and language-specific creative writing workshops taught by faculty who are renowned writers in their own right.


  • BTL Russia: Alan Cherchesov and Camille T. Dungy
  • BTL Arabic: Iman Humaydan and Marcus Jackson


International students are nominated by the American embassy in their respective countries.

American students are invited to apply for either session. The application deadline has been extended to Friday, February 24. Please see this page for application details.

BTL is sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department.


For more information on BTL, contact:


Kecia Lynn, BTL Coordinator

International Writing Program

Shambaugh House

430 N. Clinton Street

Iowa City, IA 52245

(319) 384-3296


Tenzing Rigdol's "Kirti -- From the Ashes of Agony"

Last fall, the International Writing Program, in partnership with the University of Iowa Museum of Art(UIMA) and through the support the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, welcomed Tibetan poet and visual artist Tenzing Rigdol to Iowa City for a special six-week residency. Since the 2008 flood and its damage to the university’s arts campus, the UIMA has been encouraging artists to respond to its centerpiece holding, Jackson Pollock's “Mural, 1943,” a seminal work of abstract expressionism donated to the University of Iowa by Peggy Guggenheim in 1951.  The black-and-white “Kirti – From the Ashes of Agony”—Rigdol considers it “visual poetry”—addresses the recent wave of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule. 


“In 2011 [at the same time he was in residence in Iowa], there were 12 self-immolation cases by Tibetans and they could all be traced back to the Kirti monastery in Tibet,” writes Rigdol on his gallery’s website. “These episodes of unfortunate and desperate events deeply disturbed me and made me rethink about Tibet. And the result is this painting.”

Here's Rigdol's painting, alongside the Pollock for comparison. More information about Rigdol and his work is available at his gallerist's website: Rossi & Rossi.

Tenzing Rigdol's 'Kriti - From the Ashes of Agony'
Tenzing Rigdol's 'Kriti - From the Ashes of Agony'


Jackson Pollock's 'Mural, 1943'
Jackson Pollock's 'Mural, 1943'


Between the Lines 2012 Now Accepting Applications

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

We are excited to announce that for 2012, there will be two BTL sessions:

  • BTL Russia (June 30-July 13): Ten students from across Russia will be invited to join 10 American students.
  • BTL Arabic (July 14-28): Twelve 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 are nominated by the American embassy in their respective countries, and American students are invited to apply for either session. Please see this page for application details and a link to the online application. Completed applications are due Februrary, 15, 2012.

UPDATE: Registration is Closed: International Issues in Creative Nonfiction

UPDATE: Our upcoming distance-learning course "International Issues in Creative Nonfiction" is now filled!

Thanks for all of you who expressed interest, and keep your eyes here on the the Shambaugh House Blog, the IWP's Facebook page, and on the IWP's new website for more information about distance-learning offerings from the IWP, including an upcoming fiction workshop!

The International Writing Program is offering another credit-optional distance education course this spring. The topic: International Issues in Creative Nonfiction. The instructor: Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of Mexican Enough and Around the Bloc. You can take it from anywhere, and you can take it for free.

For more information about the class and to register, contact the IWP's Distance Learning Coordinator, Jimmy O’Brien at james-obrien@uiowa.edu.


International Issues in Creative Nonfiction

Where does the subjective terminate, the objective commence? What are the boundaries between domestic and global, personal and political, fiction and nonfiction?

International Issues in Creative Nonfiction will address such questions through academic and creative means. We’ll investigate ongoing global concerns through the lens of creative nonfiction by reading some of the most challenging and innovative nonfiction from throughout the world and composing our own in response. Students will read a variety of texts ranging from literary journalism to fragmentary personal narratives, potentially including authors such as Terry Tempest Williams, Arundhati Roy, Dave Eggers, and Li-Young Lee, among many others drawn from recent literary publications. This class will be delivered online through the International Writing Program and will link a cohort of domestic students with another group based in Tijuana, Mexico.

International Issues in Creative Nonfiction is credit optional, and can be taken for free if audited. It’s for students who aren’t afraid of technology—who are interested in Skyping, working on message boards, and exchanging multimedia responses with students from throughout the world, and working with international peers to examine the most pressing social, environmental, and creative issues we face.


Happy Holidays from the IWP



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