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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 18, 2008

Films chronicling UI writing programs premiere Feb. 22 at Old Capitol Museum

Two new films about the history and excellence of writing programs at the University of Iowa will premiere at the Old Capitol Museum at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. The films are being shown in conjunction with the museum's year-long exhibit, "A Community of Writers: Creative Writing at the University of Iowa."

"A Community of Writers" a documentary short by exhibit curator Jennifer New, features a detailed history of the writing programs at the UI. Narrated by Maggie Conroy, the film includes images from the workshop's earliest days and chronicles the evolution of other writing programs at the UI, including the International Writing Program (IWP), the Nonfiction Writing Program (NWP), the Center for the Book, the Playwrights' Workshop and the Translation Program. Interviews with current program directors, Samantha Chang of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Christopher Merrill of the IWP, are also included.

"A License to Write" is based on interviews with 16 recent graduates of the Writers' Workshop and the NWP and was directed by New and Jennifer Proctor, who earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in cinema and comparative literature from the UI in 2007.

Workshop students share their thoughts on the late Director Frank Conroy, authors Marilynne Robinson and James McPherson and other Workshop faculty. Other interview subjects include Chang and authors and workshop alumni Nathan Englander, Thisbe Nissen, Faith Adiele and Hope Edelman. Questions explored include, "What makes a good workshop?" "What brought you to Iowa?" "Can writing be taught?" and "How does Iowa remain with you when you write today?"

The students' comments are funny, poignant and honest, says New, who wanted to make a documentary about the workshop experience because she didn't think a description would suffice.

"It's such a complex process, from the competition to getting in, to the mentorship of the faculty and the camaraderie and stress that occur around a workshop table," she said. "It's a unique experience."

Both films will be available for viewing after the premiere in the Discovery Center in the lower level of the Old Capitol Museum. The "A Community of Writers" exhibit is supported by a grant from Humanities Iowa, the National Endowment for the Humanities.

All events at the Old Capitol Museum are free and open to the public. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. For accommodations, contact the Old Capitol Museum at 319-335-0548.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Katherine Moermond, Pentacrest Museums, 319-335-0548,; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,; Writer: Brittany Piehl