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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 6, 2007

University Of Iowa International Writing Program Celebrates 40 Years

The University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP), the unique "United Nations of Writing," will begin the celebration of its 40th anniversary by welcoming writers from 31 countries to a busy fall residency on the UI campus in Iowa City.

Most of the writers will become part of the UI's rich literary culture for three months, late August through late November, and a few of the writers will make shorter visits.

All the world's populated continents are represented, and this year's roster includes the first IWP participants from Malta and Montenegro, as well as the first Iranian participant since the early 1990s. The group's cumulative expertise includes fiction, journalism, poetry, criticism, translation, playwriting, nonfiction, screenwriting and editing.

The languages represented in this year's IWP group include Czech, Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, Afrikaans, English, Arabic, Hungarian, Russian, Mongolian, Burmese, Korean, Chinese, Marathi, French, Malay, Turkish, Maltese, German and Farsi.

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

The IWP fall schedule will provide many 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 40th anniversary will be formally celebrated Oct. 8-12, with events including screenings of films written and/or directed by IWP alumni; "Global Play," in which IWP playwrights around the world will collaborate to write a play in 24 hours, with a staging at the UI and possibly other cities the following day; panel discussions; language-specific readings by IWP veterans; and the Paul Engle Memorial Reading, featuring IWP alumnus and Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Tomaž Šalamun from Slovenia.

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 1,100 writers from more than 120 countries have attended the IWP, including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk from Turkey.

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 Nonfiction 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, 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.

Talks and readings by, and meetings with, visiting American writers give IWP participants 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. Through the resources of the program, the literary work of many IWP participants is translated for the first time into English.

Most of the 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, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Santa Fe, New York and Washington, D.C., 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 Averill 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 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 books including "Only the Nails Remain," a first-hand account of the tragedy in the Balkans, and most recently "Things of the Hidden God," containing reflections on his pilgrimage to Greece's Mt. Athos, a region sacred in the Eastern Orthodox church.

In 2005 Merrill was a member of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy for the U.S. State Department. And in May 2006 and 2007 he moderated "The New Symposium," a think-tank for global writers and intellectuals organized by the IWP on the island of Paros in Greece.

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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,