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After suspending its programs because of COVID-19, Iowa Writers’ House is making a major change

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Iowa Writers’ House Founder and Executive Director Andrea Wilson, April 2020. — Iowa Writers House on Facebook

The Iowa Writers’ House is leaving its house as part of some major changes the nonprofit is making because of COVID-19.

“After five wonderful years at our historic house on Davenport Street, the organization will be leaving the space and taking a break to assess our mission and consider our best options for the future,” according to a message posted on the Iowa Writers’ House site by its founder and executive director Andrea Wilson.

“COVID-19 has affected us all and is changing our world by the day. For arts organizations, the impact is great, especially for those of us who offer live events as the center of our programming,” Wilson explained. “A month ago, we canceled the majority of our spring season, hoping for the best; however, as the situation pushes on, and with no programming in the foreseeable future, we must make drastic changes.”

Wilson founded the nonprofit in March 2015 to provide what she saw a “missing piece in Iowa’s lit world” — a place for writers to connect and collaborate. Wilson believed that lack of connection between writers led many talented artists to leave Iowa.

Wilson herself grew up in Columbus Junction and attended Iowa State University, but like many Iowans, she moved out of the state following college. Although she had always been interested in writing, it wasn’t until she was living in Toronto, working for a digital advertising company, that she began to write seriously.

“I created a blog called the Foreign Citizen that was all about living among people from all over the world. I was trying to shed a light on the fact that when people are provided safety and their basic needs are covered, we can all live together very easily,” Wilson said in a 2017 profile published on the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature site. “It was post 9/11 and I was living among cultures from all over the world. This perspective seemed essential to share.”

In 2014, she moved to Iowa City to focus on her writing. She soon decided writers from all parts of Iowa City’s literary community needed a place to meet.

By the summer of 2016, the Iowa Writers’ House was holding community writing events and offering its first classes. It has become well-known for bringing together writers of different backgrounds, creating the Bicultural Iowa Writers’ Fellowship. The work produced by that fellowship program has been published in two anthologies titled We the Interwoven: An Anthology of Bicultural Iowa. The fellowship program has continued despite the pandemic, and later this year a third volume of We the Interwoven will be published, featuring six new writers.

“Five years have brought thousands of people through our space from all walks of life to share their stories,” Wilson said in her post. “From famed writers to elementary children, from representatives of the UNESCO Cities of Literature to university students, from hospice writing groups to festival events, you have come and shared with us.”

In her post, Wilson thanked everyone who has supported the Iowa Writers’ House over the years.

“It takes a village, and without all of you who attended a workshop, made a donation, purchased a book, came to one of our events, or just cheered us on, none of this would have been possible,” she said.

Wilson concluded her message, “It’s hard to turn this page, but every good story leaves you wishing there were more.”

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