About the Silk Routes

Silk Routes: Heritage, Trade, Practice is a three-year (2014-2016) project of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, made possible by a grant from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

The purpose of the grant is to foster long-term, region-wide networks among writers in South and Central Asia as they work in their own traditions, yet are united by a common engagement with the craft and art of literary writing. This collaboration should also build person-to-person links among teachers and writing students across national borders and showcase ways in which regional literatures and writing traditions enhance socioeconomic developments in the Silk Road countries. These real and virtual exchanges should yield a core of resources for students, teachers, and others interested in creative writing, both within the region and globally.

Our website thus wishes to become a “virtual Silk Route,” a place where writers in the regions traditionally associated with “the silk routes” can meet on an interactive map to learn from, collaborate, and be inspired by each other. Each participant contributes artistic materials documenting everyday life in her or his place and time, be they images, texts literary or non-fictional, or sound and video clips. In the project’s first phase English is the shared working language; the long-term plan is to feature materials in a variety of regional languages. 

To launch the project, twelve writers, teachers, literary organizers, and cultural entrepreneurs from Afghanistan, India, the Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the United States met in early 2014 for a week-long Symposium in the Maldives, where they compared the writing traditions, pedagogies, and practices in their respective countries. This core group has continued to collaborate, developing an array of Local Projects with creative writing at their center.

To encourage and sustain this exchange, in the summer of 2016 the International Writing Program will be bringing  a group of 16 to 19 year old students from Silk Routes countries to Iowa City, where they will join U.S. students in the program’s annual cultural exchange program Between the Lines.

Archiving & Updates

As of September 2016, the Silk Routes: Heritage, Trade, Practice grant came to a close. We are no longer taking new contributors, but please go to the Facebook page (Silk Routes Writers) to connect with others or visit the Internatioanl Writing Program's website. If you have any questions or concerns, you may reach the IWP at iwp@uiowa.edu . We have immensely enjoyed this project and hope you will spend some time reading the phenomenal work from writers, filmmakers, poets, playwrights, and much more. 

At the conclusion of the Silk Routes grant, the project has 82 contributors, 12 of whom are youth contributors from the Between the Lines Silk Routes program. These contributors are from 47 cities and 29 countries, featuring over 135 reading recommendations, 200 images, nearly 450 texts, and a plethora of resources, including literary journals, poetic forms, writing residencies, and curriculum materials.