“If you want to be in the theater, you go to New York City. If you want to be in television or the movies, you go to Los Angeles. But if you want to be a writer, you come to Iowa City.”
University of Iowa President Sally Mason, welcome address to the 46th annual cohort of writers at the International Writing Program.
So I'm here, in Iowa City, a UNESCO designated city of literature. For the next ten or so weeks I'm participating in the 46th annual International Writing Program courtesy of the University of Iowa and the US Department of State via the lovely people at the US Embassy in Gaborone. There are about 29 or 30 writers from atleast 28 countries, everytime I count I get a different number. I could ask the IWP staff but where oh where is the fun in that? No doubt the fantastic team of coordinators and drivers, program directors and librarians - everyone in this town seems to be a graduate of a writing program - have lots of stuff to do between updating websites and keeping us all in check (Iowa has some pretty interesting laws, and writers, well we rather prefer to make up our own laws if any as we go along). At any rate a full list of participating (and currently behaving) writers as well as samples of their work can be found at http://iwp.uiowa.edu/residency.
So far I've had two readings including one at the Prairie Lights bookstore - gem of a place, do stop by if ever you are in Iowa city- as well as another night of literature in someone's backyard :) I'm told that was part of a series of gatherings known as the Anthology Readings curated by former China Daily editor and all round talent Ariel Lewiton who read an excerpt from her Diamond City, alongside Kuwait's Taleb Al Refai (who added a healthy dose of gravitas to the day's event) and myself at the PL bookstore.
Today was/is Labour Day, one assumes this is the equivalent of May Day in Botswana and so I've been to Wilson's Orchard and not picked a single apple, and therefore have nothing to show for my sincere efforts at leisure except a Cheshire cat smile and a tummy full of apple turnover and cinnamon icecream. Earlier in the day, I hung out on Lake Macbride's beach pretending to read quietly as I engaged in a bit of anthropological reconnaissance on the species Homo-Americanus...after all if one is to do as the Romans do I suppose one must first know what it is the Romans do do - today it was a bit of eat, love, read, swim, not necessarily in that order and all a little too loud-thuastically and definitely a lot of play as well, methinks holidays are serious business here.
When do I write you ask? Well it is now 1119pm I will be in bed before midnight and will inexplicably wake around 430am (my body clock is ticking to its own unswayable rhythm) at which point I will stare at a blank sheet, most likely read Cyril Wong's Tilting our plates to catch the light before a word leaps at me from behind this half awake space.
I have missed many a breakfast this past week and eaten way too many dinners a day but this is what it is all about for me, a little space to test the silence, maybe snap a leash or two.