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University of Iowa News Release


June 29, 2011

Novel Iowa City event allows community to write book via Twitter

In conjunction with the July 15-17 Iowa City Book Festival, Iowa City's literary community will participate in Novel Iowa City, an experimental writing project produced and displayed on Twitter. The project will launch at noon Friday, July 15 and continue through 5 p.m. Sunday, July 17 on the final day of the festival. Throughout the festival, commissioned authors and interested community members will contribute tweets to create a text that can be read in real time via the Internet.

Iowa City residents can follow the project at home, on their smart phones, and around town in public spaces and businesses that will display the project on video screens.

"This project is a great representation of Iowa City's literary culture," festival co-director Greg Prickman said. "Even when you aren't directly contributing to it, you're immersed in it. Being able to see the text on screens around town allows everyone to be involved in Novel Iowa City in this same way."

Anyone with a Twitter account is welcome to contribute to the project, and can do so by using the hash tag #icbfn in their tweets. There are no strict guidelines for the content of contributions, other than the 140-character limit of tweets. While Novel Iowa City is expected to develop on its own, commissioned authors will help shape its structure and narrative arc through the characters and locations they create. Editors will track the project as it evolves and will help to form the final completed work, which will subsequently be published online.

The Iowa City Book Festival began in 2009 when the University of Iowa Libraries was in search of an event to commemorate the acquisition of the Libraries' 5 millionth volume. The UI Press was also celebrating its 40th anniversary. To recognize these events and celebrate a longstanding partnership, the UI Libraries launched a book festival to celebrate these activities in the newly designated UNESCO City of Literature, with the intention of developing an annual event celebrating books, writing and reading.

For more than 80 years, Iowa City has been teaching the world to write. The UI Writers' Workshop pioneered the teaching of creative writing at the university level. With its deeply elaborated literary cultural assets, Iowa City was designated the third City of Literature in the world and the only one in the United states by the United Nations Education, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) in 2008, as part of the Creative Cities Network.

Based in San Francisco, Twitter came to life in March 2006 when its creator Jack Dorsey published a first message that read: "just setting up my twttr." Twitter launched publicly that July, and has since gained about 200 million users worldwide, generating 190 million tweets and over 1.6 billion search queries per day. Twitter allows users to send and receive information via 140-character posts called "tweets." Like text messages, the small character limit requires a more creative use of word-choice. And because Twitter is most effective when many people are using it at once, it functions as a worldwide collaborative project.

Novel Iowa City is directed by UI School of Art and Art History associate professor Jon Winet. The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Organization is executive producer of the project, with The Virtual Writing University and Virtual Writing University Experimental Wing acting as co-producers. Iowa graduate and undergraduate researchers are involved in the planning, promotion and execution of the project.

The Iowa City Book Festival is presented by the UI Libraries, and is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Humanities Iowa, Iowa City Public Library, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, Lensing Funeral & Cremation Services, Prairie Lights Books, MidWestOne, Friends of Old Time Music, UI Press and the UI Libraries.

Additional information is available at project Novel Iowa City,

Event Title: Novel Iowa City
Location: Around Iowa City
Project dates: July 15-17, 24/7

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Greg Prickman, co-director, Iowa City Book Festival, UI Libraries, 319-335-6433,; Jon Winet, director of Novel Iowa City, 510-967-6977,; Jeanette Pilak, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, 319-356-5245,