"Will the words make it across the water?"

Iowa Summer Writing Festival

I've been teaching at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for so long that I can't remember when I started. When I asked my friend Kelly who runs the Human Resources part of the Festival what year I started, she said, "I don't know, our records don't go back that far." (...which did not exactly make me feel young...) I've only missed two summers since I began: in 2012 and 2016, when I taught in Scotland, at the Wisconsin in Scotland summer program for college students in the University of Wisconsin system. Yep, I only gave up Iowa to live in a palace for the summer.

I was slated to teach two weekend workshops and two weeklong workshops this summer, but of course, the Festival, like so much else, was cancelled  for everyone's health and safety. I know that a cancelled festival is not among the worst things that has happened in the world since any of us first heard the words Covid-19, but I still miss my colleagues, my friends, the teaching and learning environment, and the writers/students I would have seen again and/or gotten to know in my classes very much. Iowa City is an inspiring town, and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival is such an inspiring environment for writers, that I think any of us involved with this magical summer phenomenon are feeling its absence this year.

But I am trying to make good use of my time by finishing my novel and working with other writers on their manuscripts. And the manuscripts I'm reading and editing are terrific. Many of these writers I in fact met in Iowa, and I can't wait for you to "meet" them one day: through their books that will undoubtedly one day be published.

The cover of the 2020 catalogue of the ISWF asks: "Will the words make it across the water? Will anyone on the other side even care if they do?" As the Festival director replies: "Yes and Yes." And I would only add: "Yes and Yes... and now more than ever."

Photo by Kelly McComb from Spirit Lake Review Magazine, 2020

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