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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 23, 2005

UI International Writing Program Assembles 2005 Global Literary Community

The literary world is once again converging on the American heartland, where the University of Iowa is a catalyst for the unpredictable cross-cultural chemistry of creative minds and hearts. The UI International Writing program (IWP) is continuing its unique residency program by welcoming 36 writers -- representing 29 countries -- who will join the UI literary community for three months, Aug. 27 through Nov. 21.

The busy, three-month schedule will provide numerous opportunities to meet and interact with the writers in social events, formal and informal readings, lectures, performances, film screenings and panel discussions. The evolving calendar of events is accessible at and on the IWP website,

Serial events throughout September and October will include joint IWP/Iowa Writers' Workshop readings most Sunday afternoons in the Prairie Lights bookstore in downtown Iowa City and panel discussions most Wednesday afternoons in the Iowa City Public Library. Other IWP readings will take place in the Shambaugh House, the IWP's on-campus headquarters at the corner of Clinton and Fairchild streets.

Biographies of all the writers are also accessible on the IWP site. The community, with a heavy representation of writers from the Middle East, will include the IWP's first participants from Kuwait, Libya and Kazakhstan.

Included in this year's group are a Syrian screenwriter who will be working on a 30-episode series about Kahlil Gibran; a Burmese writer/activist/surgeon who was held in solitary confinement for six years as a result of her literary works; a poet who is also one of the most influential female political figures in Kosovo; a fiction writer whose work bridges the worlds of his Iraqi Kurdish father and his German mother; the director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival; the founder of Malaysia's foremost political satire theatrical group; and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter from China.

During residency period the IWP will be visited by several prominent translators, including Gregory Rabassa, whose translation of Garcia Marquez's "100 Years of Solitude" almost single-handedly put Latin American fiction on the literary map for English-language readers.

The IWP introduces talented writers to American life; enables them to take part in American university life; and provides them with time, in a setting congenial to their efforts, for the production of literary work. Since 1967, more than a thousand writers from more than 120 countries have attended the IWP, including poets, fiction writers, dramatists, screenwriters and non-fiction writers.

The UI is the nation's premier center for creative writing. On campus, the writers become part of the UI's uniquely-rich literary life, which includes not only the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop, but also the graduate program in creative non-fiction, the Translation Workshop and the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

The writers also contribute to an undergraduate course, "International Literature Today," attend readings, collaborate with students in the UI Translation Workshop, visit literature classes, learn firsthand about Iowa's rural heritage, attend performances in Hancher Auditorium and interact with faculty and students in a variety of academic departments.

But participants in the IWP do not take classes at the UI, and no degree is conferred by the program. All the activities offered by the IWP are optional, and the writers are free to use their time as they wish, to write, interact or conduct research.

Giving and attending talks and readings, and meeting with well-known and emerging visiting American writers gives the international writers broad exposure to currents in American literature. Each writer is also provided the opportunity to present his or her work in a public forum, and many of these events are broadcast on television or radio, and through the IWP many visiting writers have been able to arrange English-language translation and publication.

The IWP writers are housed in the Iowa House of the Iowa Memorial Union, locating them in the center of UI campus life and a short walk from the Shambaugh House.

In addition to activities on campus, groups of writers will travel to Chicago for the Chicago Humanities Festival and to Des Moines for events associated with Drake University and the Des Moines Art Center; and individual writers will visit communities and institutions throughout the country.

The IWP, which functions as a United Nations of writers, stresses the common interests of writers everywhere, in an atmosphere that puts political differences into perspective. For writers who live under repressive regimes, the IWP has provided an unprecedented opportunity to write, speak and interact freely.

The importance of the IWP to international understanding was recognized as early as 1976, when former senator, diplomat and UN Ambassador Averrill Harriman nominated founders Paul and Hualing Nieh Engle for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1995 the program was honored with the Governor's Award for distinguished service to the State of Iowa.

Nearly four decades of residencies have enabled the IWP to accumulate an unparalleled collection of resources on international literature, which have been organized in a library in the Shambaugh House. The IWP remains in contact with former participants, creating an unprecedented literary and intellectual network without national boundaries.

The IWP is staffed and housed by the UI. IWP writers are financed through bilateral agreements with numerous countries; by grants given by cultural institutions and governments abroad; and by private funds that are donated by a variety of American corporations, foundations and individuals. The activities of the IWP are assisted financially by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State under the authority of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, as amended.

The IWP is directed by poet and essayist Christopher Merrill, a faculty member in the UI English department, and the international literature commentator for the syndicated radio program "The World." Merrill is the author of "Only the Nails Remain," a first-hand account of the tragedy in the Balkans, and his most recent book is "Things of the Hidden God," reflections on his pilgrimage to Greece's Mt. Athos, a region sacred in the Eastern Orthodox church.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,