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Iowa City is the kind of place where you’re likely to run into someone you know twice in the same day. It rarely makes it onto a double-paged map of the United States. But walk into any bookshop anywhere in the country and you’re likely to find a smattering of recent titles penned by writers who have lived here.
“Throw a rock, hit a poet,” someone told me when I first moved to Iowa City. The sheer density of writers really is astounding, and though the list could take up an entire blog post (or book), I’ll rattle off a few names: Kurt Vonnegut, T.C. Boyle, Raymond Carver but also Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, and contemporary rising stars like Garth Greenwell, Carmen Maria Machado and Yaa Gyasi.
But more than publishing, Iowa City is also where writers learn from other writers: the reason that brought me here was the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the country’s oldest graduate program in creative writing. Across the street, I found the International Writing Program, which hosts writers from all over the world each fall. Prairie Lights, the local bookstore a few blocks further down, runs so many readings that it has become a de-facto second living room for writers in town. In the hottest months, a number of summer schools and camps meet, including the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio where I teach.
Here’s four pieces of advice on writing from this hot-bed of transmission, drawn from writers currently or formerly based in Iowa City:
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