Reading: We the Interwoven
Prairie Lights Books & Cafe — Saturday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m.
The inaugural fellows with the Iowa Writers’ House Bicultural Iowa Writers Fellowship (BIWF) — Jesus “Chuy” Renteria, Mexican-American from West Liberty; Sadagat Aliyeva, Azerbaijani-American from Des Moines; and Melissa Palma, Filipino-American from Waterloo — will be reading at Prairie Lights on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. The readings will be from We the Interwoven, the anthology released by the Iowa Writers’ House this year as the culmination of its inaugural fellowship class.
It’s the perfect opportunity for immigrant, first- or second-generation Iowans to discover more concretely what the fellowship is about. Writers interested in applying for the 2019 BIWF now have until Nov. 5 to submit their materials. Preference is given to nonfiction writers, but writers from all genres will be considered with the understanding that at least one nonfiction essay will be required during the fellowship, and one nonfiction writing sample is required as part of the application.
Over the course of six months in 2019, the fellows chosen for the program will develop a collection of five pieces. If a writer is more comfortable in a native language other than English, they can work with a translator from the University of Iowa to help them navigate between languages. In addition to three extended-weekend residencies at the Iowa Writers House, workshop opportunities and an honorarium ($500), the fellowship will culminate in the publication of the next volume of the We the Interwoven anthology.
In her forward to the anthology from which 2018 fellows will be reading on Oct. 26, Iowa Writers’ House founder and anthology editor Andrea Wilson wrote, “While often overlooked as a flyover state, our fields of opportunity quietly house the dreams of residents from all backgrounds as we continue to evolve what it means to be of this place.”
The anthology is a beautifully collected work, featuring artist statements from each writer, essays in each writer’s native language as well as in English and a personal glossary for each at the end of the book. That last touch is so telling of the care that went into the physical book, and it is a fantastic place for interested writers to begin their exploration of whether this fellowship might be a good fit for them.
What would your personal glossary contain? What mix of memories and moments; what balance of English phrases and native language terms? Renteria’s glossary goes from pinche (an intensifying curse) to Rage Against the Machine; Palma’s includes both ukay-ukay (a Tagalog term for a specific sort of second-hand store) and RAGBRAI.
Aliyeva, whose third of the publication includes her incredibly beautiful pencil sketches, has a thoughtful exploration of her birth and current homes that exemplifies the essence of the anthology and the fellowship.
“Azerbaijan planted a storyteller in me,” she wrote in her Artist Statement, “and Iowa watered and cared for this plant, helping it to grow and bloom … I’m telling the stories of my ancestors in a new language.”
All Iowans who live in the balance of two cultures, who believe they are ready to tell the stories of their ancestors in a new language, are encouraged to apply for his opportunity.