• 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...


A Francophone's Microphone

For anyone (as we all are) missing Mabrouck, here's ten minutes of his IWP adventures (in French, bien sur):

Scout work:

Here's a project to keep track of: "Translate This Book!" Is there a title you think really ought to be translated into English? Check out the list, then pitch a title of your own. Or add in Comments below!

Between the Lines 2009: Gone but never forgotten


Sadly I don't have time to write a longer post but for now I wanted to present the BTL class of 2009, as photographed by Tarek Eltayeb, one of their teachers. And yes, they are just as cool as they look.

Top row, L to R: Iya Ghassib (Jordan), Nadia El Malt (Lebanon), Hussein Youneiss (Lebanon), Ahmad Ezery (Israel), Majd Iwidat (Palestinian Authority), Irene Ghattas (Palestinian Authority), Lora Abaza (Syria), Bana Aassy (Israel). Bottom row, L to R: Bashar Al-Sawaftah (Jordan), Nael Roby (Israel), Zaid Al-Nassir (Jordan), Yara Abou Fakher (Syria).

--Kecia Lynn

Between the lines of "Between the Lines": One year ago today

Why the inaugural session of Between the Lines happened in Chicago rather than Iowa City.

Take some teenagers from the Middle East and bring them to Iowa for two weeks to study creative writing alongside American teenagers. That's Between the Lines in a nutshell. (Check out the site for details.)

It was the first year of the program, and as the coordinator, I had spent the previous six months helping to put the whole thing together. Students and chaperones had been chosen,  teachers had been hired, visas and plane tickets were secured, classes and activities were scheduled, rooms were reserved and waiting.

Meanwhile, the water was rising.

I’ve spent my entire life in the Midwest, so I know what weather is. (There are those who question whether Cleveland, my childhood home, counts as “Midwest.” When it comes to weather at least, I offer two words: lake effect.) However, living in Iowa has brought new and unique weather adventures. It was here that a tornado came within half a mile of my apartment building. It was here that I first experienced a hail storm severe enough to make me fear for my windshield. It was here that I first had to buy lock de-icer. (Considering how long I lived in Chicago, I know that may sound hard to believe. Then again, things are a little more spread out here.)

The winter of 2007-2008 was the worst winter I’ve ever suffered through. When born-and-bred Iowans say it’s a bad winter, it’s a really bad winter. Imagine ice storms and snowstorms in rapid succession. Trees coated in thick ice that glittered at night and crackled during the day. Driving around what would normally be considered potholes if streets were made of ice and packed snow. (The city had run out of salt sometime in February.) Even walking was dangerous without Yaktrax or cleats; I loudly blessed the few houses with residents conscientious enough to clear their sidewalks. This record amount of precipitation kept coming after the temperatures rose above freezing. So not only did we have icemelt and snowmelt, we had rain. Lots of it. And the Iowa River bisected the campus.

First e-mail, June 11, approximately 2:30 pm: Iowa House Hotel (where our teachers were going to stay) closed indefinitely.

There are several B&Bs in the area; we’ll find someplace for them to stay. No problem.

Second e-mail, June 11, approximately 4:00 pm: The university fueling station shut down. Fortunately we already had the maxivans we needed to pick them up in Chicago.

We can still refill the maxivans at regular gas stations; we just have to use the van credit card. Simple procedure. Full steam ahead.

At approximately 2:00 pm on June 12: All youth camps canceled for the next 10 days. Dorms closed.

Eight time zones ahead, our three West Bank students were spending their last night at home, preparing to leave the next morning for Amman. Their trip would require them to pass through several checkpoints, adding time to an already long journey. They were being accompanied by the father and brother of one of the students. They would spend the night at a hotel in Amman, and then catch the June 14 flight to Chicago along with most of the rest of the group.

We had everything ready. We just needed someplace to put them all. At 6:00 pm we called the State Department and asked: Do we cancel? What do we do?

The State Department replied: Make it work.

And somehow, through the magic and power of connections both personal and electronic that I still can’t completely define, we did.

Within 24 hours we found two teachers, Danny Khalastchi and Anjali Sachdeva, who were willing to teach the English-language writing workshops. And with the help of Hull House-Chicago, we found a place to stay: the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). One of our staff members, Steve, made it over to the Rental Pool (on the other side of the river) to pick up 15 laptops and bring them to Shambaugh House before the last bridge was closed. Another staff member, Joe, was scheduled to fly to Newark to meet the two students who were traveling alone from Tel Aviv. He made it to the airport in Cedar Rapids right before Interstate 380 was shut down.

On June 14, parts of eastbound Interstate 80 were shut down as well, so we had to drive an extra hour just to get to the Illinois line. It was a mostly sunny day; in fact it looked like any summer day in June except for the various puddles, ponds, and lakes appearing where cropland used to be. They were calling it a “500-year flood,” which, I was disappointed to learn, was a mathematical rather than an historical term: This particular type and size of flood has a 1-in-500 chance of happening in any given year.

Ninety minutes into Illinois we stopped at a Wal-Mart to buy linens and towels since UIC wasn’t going to be able to get us any before Monday. Watching all the people doing what people normally do at a Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon, I had a moment of disconnect: Don’t they know there’s a disaster going on?

We went to UIC, dropped off our stuff, and then went to O’Hare Airport to meet our group. The international terminal is not that big, yet it took us a while to find them.

“We’re not going to Iowa,” we told them. “We’re staying here.”

--Kecia Lynn

Life of Discovery


The first half of the Life of Discovery project has come to a close in Beijing. To our surprise the jet lag is working to our advantage. The delegation is already sharing images of the exchange.


A Formal Introduction...

The question seemingly on everybody’s minds around here lately is “Why Iowa City?” Home to the world’s top writing programs, the first public university to admit women, and the third UNESCO City of Literature; in a state ranked second overall in 2008 state-by-state Happiness (!?), and recently the third state in the nation to declare banning gay marriage unconstitutional. A city nicknamed by some the “Athens of the Midwest;” in a state often confused for Ohio or Idaho, Iowa has largely been unable to claim much more for, or excuse, itself beyond “Is this heaven? No…”

But it was a series of recent space-negotiations that got me most thinking I’d better have an answer to that question at some point. I’ve lived in Iowa City long enough to have one in my holster, but it took the misgivings of a Swedish singer-songwriter and a Scottish cultural liaison before I had the proper caliber for the fight. Fresh off recent big-city stops on his American tour, dressed in the highlights and hoopla he’d created at the South by Southwest music festival, the Tallest Man on Earth (consequently revealed to be the smallest musician on earth) took one early look at the basement-setting of the Public Space One concert he’d later be mesmerizing, and according to that look on his face during sound check, thought to himself, “Why, of all places, here?” And Ali Bowden, the ever-graceful Creative Queen of Edinburgh’s UNESCO City of Literature designation, danced around errant Englert lighting and video projection malfunctions during our Iowa City C.O.L. ceremony in order to, amongst other pursuits, show a wanting crowd “Why Iowa City?” by way of “Why Edinburgh?” To be honest to Place, the question is quite natural. Iowa City’s reputation hardly precedes it, and though it may not be New York, it may not be Edinburgh, and it may not even be Austin, Texas, parts of the world continuously pulse through our streets more than they may ever know. But it is where two-hundred chest-to-shoulder, air-conditionless fans sat silenced and grateful by one of the greatest solo performances in memory in a downtown basement, and where an auditorium adopted a Scot as one of its own when they’ve so graciously accepted Iowa City as their literary sister-city-in-arms.

Currently at the IWP our roster for the Fall’s Residency of writers from around the world is beginning to take shape, and with those 40 honorary-citizens-to-be on their way we’re asking ourselves, ‘How will they each fare in our town?’ by way of ‘How does one exactly fit into a new space?’ How does the translation of the self take shape into a part of the new whole, and vice versa, how does the whole translate and take shape with new parts?

On the dawning of a UNESCO designation, in the company of the world’s greatest cities, we have a moment to appreciate that Iowa City is a sum of manifold parts. It’s on our sidewalks where you can walk on literary worlds and connect the dots to the city’s literary history, where mere days apart a stage hosted both Rap legend GZA and State Poet Laureate Marvin Bell. Where a music festival attracts the talents of artists we otherwise wouldn’t be able to salute, and at a ceremony where the brightest of Edinburgh reminds us, exactly, Why Iowa City. We accept, with hospitality, and we celebrate. We ARE where the world comes to write. We ARE a City of Literature. We couldn’t be more grateful for the time of those passing through, and we will celebrate the only way we know how, because it’s not that something is in the air, but rather that something is below our feet…

joe tiefenthaler, program assistant



Given the static—packed, but still static—nature of the iwp home page, it seemed right to also have a space where the ongoing buzz, hum, talk, traffic, and sheer adrenaline inside the Shambaugh House would be visible even between the residencies.

Hence @ SHSE, a house blog co-authored by everyone with a chair, a keyboard and a job on 430 N. Clinton, whether on the first, the second or the third floor.

At the moment we're beginning to receive the files of the 2009 residency applicants, preparing for a reading tour and conference in the Middle East (Tunis, Morocco), corresponding with Chinese writers' organizations to fine-tune an exchange trip to Western China, grading mid-term papers for "Readings for Writers," figuring out where the best place in Iowa City will be to drop a Lost Book on behalf of the Edinburgh Lost Book project, and—most immediately—dusting off our formal gear for the Tuesday 5PM party at the Englert Theatre to toast Iowa City's ascent as the third UNESCO City of Literature.

But right now it's spring outside and we should stash away the huge bag of Ice Melt that's been sitting on the back staircase, waiting for one last prairie snow storm....


Contributors to @Shambaugh House

Melissa Schiek
Melissa Schiek
Hugh Ferrer
Hugh Ferrer
Kelly Bedeian
Kelly Bedeian
Kecia Lynn
Kecia Lynn
Joe Tiefenthaler
Joe Tiefenthaler
Tammy J. Petro
Tammy Petro
Natasa Durovicova
Natasa Durovicova
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