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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 11, 2006

UI International Writing Program Assembles 2006 Global Literary Community

The "United Nation of Writing" will soon be in session. Prominent writers from around the world are converging on the American heartland, where the University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) is headquartered.

This one-of-a-kind residency program will welcome 30 writers -- representing 23 countries -- who will become part of the UI's rich literary culture for three months, late August through late November.

This year's roster of well-established poets, fiction writers, screenwriters, translators, editors, essayists, journalists, playwrights and literary critics includes writers from current news hot spots including Sri Lanka, Palestine and Iraq. All the world's populated continents are represented.

"What an exciting, innovative, and important group of writers this is," IWP Director Christopher Merrill comments. "And what a good boon this will be for our literary community. I can't wait to hear what enduring truths they will tell us about what it means to be alive today."

Biographies of all the writers are accessible on the IWP website,

The IWP schedule will provide numerous opportunities for the public 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 site. These calendars will be updated regularly as new events are added.

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, panel discussions at noon most Fridays in the Iowa City Public Library and Friday afternoon readings in the Shambaugh House, the IWP's on-campus home at the corner of Clinton and Fairchild streets.

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.

The UI is the nation's premier academic 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 Non-Fiction Writing Program, 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 artistic performances in Hancher Auditorium and other venues, 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 and downtown Iowa City.

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 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.

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 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 "Things of the Hidden God," his most recent book, containing reflections on his pilgrimage to Greece's Mt. Athos, a region sacred in the Eastern Orthodox church.

In 2005 he was a member of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy for the U.S. State Department. And in May 2006 he moderated "The New Symposium," a think-tank for global writers and intellectuals organized by the IWP on the island of Paros in Greece.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

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,

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