From June 21 to July 5, Henry M. Gunn High School student Nicholas Datta of Palo Alto will travel to Iowa City, IA, a UNESCO City of Literature and home of the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop (recently featured on HBO’s Girls), to take part in Between the Lines (BTL), a creative writing and cultural exchange program for promising young writers ages 16 to 19.
BTL is organized by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Datta, who has family ties to India, is one of 34 successful applicants from 10 Arabic-speaking countries and territories (including Syria and, for the first time ever, Sudan), nine U.S. states, and cities across the Russian Federation.
“I find it interesting how different cultures lead to different values,” says Datta. “The values we hold strongly affects our actions and the choices we make. As a writer, that fascinates me.”
Since the program’s launch in 2008, alumni of BTL have published writing in Teen Ink, Fugue, and more than 60 other literary journals and magazines, and have been admitted to a number of prestigious universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Oxford University (UK).
FINDING COMMON GROUND
At Iowa, BTLers will participate in intensive writing workshops and seminars, attend literary events, and even give a public reading of their work.
“What better way to open up new possibilities for communication than to bring together young writers from three vibrant literary traditions?” says IWP’s director Christopher Merrill.
“BTL encourages students to engage around a shared interest—writing; they hone their craft, but they also learn about the world through their peers,” says BTL coordinator Kelly Morse. “How often do we encounter creative voices from Syria, Russia, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the U.S. all together in the same room?”Datta will work closely with three accomplished instructors: poet Kiki Petrosino who teaches at the University of Louisville, Russian novelist Alan Cherchesov, and Lebanese novelist and screenwriter Iman Hymaydan.
Students an also talk writing with the program’s six counselors and chaperones, many of whom have substantial university-level creative writing teaching experience