Saudi Arabia: Opportunity for Teen International Writing Workshop in America

Between the Lines

July 11-25, 2011

For the fourth year in a row, the International Writing Program, in cooperation with the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio (IYWS), will host the Between the Lines (BTL) program. Twelve young writers from Arabic-speaking countries, aged 16-19, will be invited to the University of Iowa, where they will participate in writing workshops, visit local sights, and deepen their understanding of the United States through interactions with fellow students and the community. Workshops will be led by teachers who are respected writers in their own right.


Accommodations are in Currier Hall, a dormitory within easy walking distance of the Writers’ Workshop, the International Writing Program, and other UI sites. Boys and girls reside in separate areas under the supervision of adult chaperones.


Participating students will have their travel, room/board, and most cultural expenses covered.

BTL is sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department.

The Curriculum


Just about every writing program offers some variation of the workshop; it is the only way a writer can get direct feedback from his or her readers. Workshopping is not writing by committee. Instead, constructive criticism helps a writer to see his/her work through the eyes of good readers. The text for this class is the writing that students generate. Workshop inevitably precipitates in-depth, thoughtful meditations on what it is that writers do. Instructors ensure that workshops present a supportive environment. In BTL, students participate in two workshops: one in Arabic and one in English. In the English-language workshop, students will learn alongside their American peers.

More Daily Activities

Structure is a writer’s best friend. Each day begins with Morning Reports, a chance to make sure everyone is up to speed, to announce readings, and to cover logistics. The Studio occasionally hosts speakers during this meeting.

  • Every morning students get together to write as a group. Instructors will introduce favorite writing exercises.
  • Evening activities include visits and readings with established writers and trips to interesting places around Iowa City. There is at least one featured literary activity each night.

Iowa City, Iowa

With a literary pedigree rivaling that of Chicago and New York, Iowa City is home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Nonfiction Writing Program, as well as the International Writing Program, the Playwrights’ Workshop, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the Center for the Book. That’s quite a resume for a town of 60,000. To see how much Iowa City values its writers, all you need to do is stroll down its main street, Iowa Avenue, and look at the Literary Walk, a series of bronze relief panels that honor 49 writers with ties to Iowa, including Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, and Rita Dove. This is a busy, picturesque college town with several coffee houses, movie theaters, a mall, and shops to visit. It should come as no surprise that in 2008, the United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) named Iowa City the world’s third City of Literature, joining Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia.

Visiting writers will give informal talks and presentations about the craft of writing and the writing life. Staff will organize outings to local attractions, plays and concerts. The Writers’ Workshop and Prairie Lights Bookstore offer their own reading series, which provide alternate readings several times a week.


The Residence Hall

Participants live in Currier Residence Hall. Stately, newly-renovated, but traditional, Currier is located on a tree-lined street near the heart of the University’s campus. Some of its amenities include courtyard, several lounges, laundry rooms, vending machines, a pool table and game room, a grand piano, and – most importantly – a spacious new computer lab. The residence hall and its surroundings are well lit. Currier’s doors are locked each night and university security officers make regular rounds of each floor. Each student room can be locked from the inside. A Residence Hall Coordinator is available 24 hours a day.

Chaperones and Counselors

Students are escorted to and from a designated city by adult chaperones who are fluent in both Arabic and English. These chaperones act as Arabic-speaking liaisons between the students and the BTL and IYWS staff. They also work with the IWP on BTL-related projects, and attend an Iowa Summer Writing Festival class of their choice.

During the session, adult, university-trained counselors live on each floor. They are there to listen to students’ concerns, solve problems that may arise, and help ensure the safety of every BTL and IYWS student. They are also writers themselves, and can give writing advice and foster a strong sense of creative community.


In order to ensure a safe and enjoyable living experience, there are a number of rules that all BTL participants must follow. Some of these rules are:

  1. Smoking and/or the use of alcohol or other illegal substances is strictly prohibited.
  2. Nightly room checks and morning roll call are mandatory.
  3. Students must be on their hall by 10:30 pm.

In order to participate in BTL, all participants, as well as a parent or guardian, must sign forms indicating that the participants have read the rules and will agree to live by them during the residency.

Chicago, Illinois

BTL participants will spend July 23-25 in Chicago, where they will have a chance to apply some of what they’ve learned during their time in Iowa City. One of the great American cities, Chicago has a wealth of cultural and artistic resources to explore, and never more than in the summer, when fairs and festivals occur almost every weekend. Students will participate in at least one writing workshop while there.

Questions and Answers

Who teaches the classes?
Workshop leaders are professional writers; their work is published in literary magazines and many have books published or under contract. They are also experienced teachers, both at the high school and college level. They are selected based on their knowledge, teaching ability, and enthusiasm. IYWS instructors are required to hold, or to be within one year of completing, master’s degrees in fine arts, which is the degree required to teach creative writing at the collegiate level in the United States.

Is college credit given for participating in BTL?
BTL does not offer college credit for any of the classes.

How are students admitted?
Embassies in Middle East countries are responsible for providing the International Writing Program with a pool of qualified applicants. Each applicant must provide the following:

  • 7-8 pages of prose and/or poetry written in Arabic
  • 7-8 pages of prose and/or poetry written in English
  • A one-paragraph personal statement (in English) describing why they are interested in participating in BTL.

International Writing Program staff and BTL faculty will review the writing samples and personal statements and then choose 12 students from the pool of all qualified applicants.

Contact Information

For more information on BTL, contact:

Kecia Lynn, BTL Coordinator
International Writing Program
Shambaugh House
430 N. Clinton
Iowa City, IA 52245


Education Advising Office


U.S. Embassy – Riyadh |Education Advising Office

P.O. Box 94309 |Riyadh 11693 | Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

phone: +966.1.488.3800, ext. 4207|fax: +966.1.488.3988|

http://riyadh.usembassy.gov |


**Please note the weekend in Saudi Arabia is Thursday-Friday


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: