Iowa City, Iowa-From June 22-July 6, 2013, Sadie Walton, of Reinbeck, will travel to Iowa City-an international hub for creative writing-to take part in Between the Lines (BTL) Arab World, a creative writing and cultural exchange program that brings talented young writers ages 16-19 together with peers from across the Middle East for two weeks of intensive creative study. 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.
"Sadie pours her soul into every piece of writing, [and] her love of writing is coupled with a love of people and cultural diversity," says Gladbrook-Reinbeck English and Drama teacher Ellen Wagner, who recommended Walton for the program.
INTENSIVE CREATIVE WRITING
Walton, a rising senior at Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School in Reinbeck, will spend two weeks on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, (home of the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop and the only in the United States). Walton will participate in intensive writing workshops and seminars, attend literary events, and even have an opportunity to give a public reading of her work at local literary landmark, The Haunted Bookshop. During the intensive two-week program, Walton will work closely with instructors John Murillo and Ghada Abdel Aal. Murillo, an award-winning poet, serves on the creative writing faculty at New York University, while Abdel Aal is a bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and blogger from Egypt, and an alumna of the International Writing Program's Fall Residency.
"Having passionate instructors who are successful writers themselves is part of what makes BTL such a unique program," BTL coordinator Kelly Morse says. "They encourage students like Sadie to consider writing and literature from new angles and help students to bring their own writing to the next level."
JOINING TALENTED YOUNG WRITERS FROM 10 COUNTRIES AND 7 U.S. STATES
Walton, a gifted playwright with a talent for public speaking, will join 21 other young writers from 10 Near East countries and 7 U.S. states. Participants will travel from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen as well as California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Pennsylvania to read each other's work, collaborate, and share ideas, rooming together in dorms on the University of Iowa campus and forging long-term literary friendships.
BTL Arab World received applications from 11 countries in 2013. "The quality of the applications-and of the creative writing samples in particular-was impressive. We had to make some very tough decisions," Morse says. American students submitted their applications to the program directly, while international students had to first be nominated by their respective embassies, with dozens of students competing for the coveted slots.
"I live in a town of less than 2,000 people," says Walton. "Writing is a way for me to entertain and express myself. Being able to write is being able to travel I love writing, and I would love to pursue it as a career."
BTL Arab World offered Walton a chance to get to know instructor John Murillo and her American peers by using Blackboard technology to connect to a virtual classroom last week, before meeting everyone in person in Iowa City on June 22nd.
"By going over workshop basics in a virtual classroom environment before they arrive, students really hit the ground running," Morse says.