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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 2, 2005

IWP And Writers' Workshop Begin Joint Reading Series Sept. 11

The University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) and the Iowa Writers' Workshop will begin their 2005 series of joint readings with a free event at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

Burmese fiction writer Ma Thida and Austrian novelist and fiction writer Josef  Haslinger will be joined by poet Kiki Petrosino, a second-year graduate student from the Writers' Workshop.

Ma Thida was in medical school when Burma's military junta shut down the universities. She then served as a health care provider as well as an editor for the non-violent National League for Democracy. Her many short stories containing disguised criticism of the Burmese government led to six years in solitary confinement, without access to reading or writing materials. In 1999 she was pardoned and released on humanitarian grounds She is now the editor of a youth magazine as well as a surgeon at the Muslim Free Hospital, which treats poor patients at no cost.

Haslinger is an IWP returner, having first participated in the IWP in 1994. In his home country he is respected for his willingness to confront Austria's past in writing that contemplates the last world war's effects on Europe's current social and political forces. "Opernball," a bestseller in Germany, was translated into 13 languages and adapted for television. A subsequent novel, "Das  Vaterspiel," portrays Holocaust survivors and perpetrators living in the United States. Haslinger is a professor of literary aesthetics at Leipzig University.

Petrosino graduated cum laude in 2001 from the University of Virginia, where she majored in English and minored in Italian. She spent two years as a classroom teacher at an American boarding school in Lugano, Switzerland, before returning to the U.S. to complete a master's degree in humanities at the University of Chicago, where her thesis -- a manuscript of original poems entitled "Star Silo" -- received the university's Catherine Ham Best Thesis Award for 2004.

Through the IWP 36 writers from 29 countries will be members of the UI community for the next three months. Biographies of all the writers are accessible on the IWP site,

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 a thousand writers from more than 120 countries have attended the IWP, including poets, fiction writers, dramatists, screenwriters and non-fiction writers.

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.

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