Between the Lines Reflection

As the co-teacher for the Between the Lines: Silk Routes Program held during the summer of 2016, I had the chance of meeting creative and talented youth from seven different countries. The essence of the Silk Routes program, for me was to bring together young students from some of the Silk Route countries to America and teach them the craft of creative writing in a residential workshop, together with American students. While during the day, they were engaged in structured lessons, the evenings had them experience different aspects of the literary world, be it listening to award winning writers, to engaging in translation, to learning the basics of how to make a physical book.

I am not a teacher. I am a writer and a publisher and I was initially hesitant to take on the mantle of education. In retrospect it was the best decision I made. For the two weeks we were together, I learnt from them as much as I hope they learnt from me. Living in the 21st Century where much of our World News focuses on the differences and disconnects of the world, it was utterly refreshing to find examples where the human spirit bonded on the pure essence of love and friendship. The twenty students, 8 from America and the rest from countries a world away – Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, formed such a tight and close bond, it was a lesson for all of us observing and one that I will certainly take back and apply to my personal life. Those who were initially shy found an extroverted kindred spirit to bring them out of their shell. Ideas flew between them and they communicated with ease breaking boundaries of language and culture. Humour, gentle banter, games, group work, even charades brought out the best of each of them. The best of all of them. I was honored to be a part of the program.

 The University of Iowa, in Iowa City, has a special place in my heart. I was part of the IWP in 2005. Coming back after eleven years, only showed me that it is a corner of the world that is a jewel of creativity and harmony. Mary Hickman, the award winning poet, was my wonderful, talented and joyous co-teacher. Having her teach with me, completed the wonderful experience I had with the Between the Lines, Silk Routes project.