University of Iowa

Call and Response: A Workshop in Correspondence Writing

Weeklong June 23 to June 28 2019

What can you say in a 500-word paragraph? Or in 200 words? When you show that paragraph to another writer, what might they create, sparked by a memory or a phrase of yours they have just now read? Whatever it is, you can’t wait to see it. You can’t wait to write back. There. You have begun a different way of responding to the work of another. Can we write a whole book like this? Yes, we can. During this writing retreat, we will not read manuscripts. We will not so much comment on others’ work directly, although we may have suggestions. Rather, we will respond with work of our own, producing paragraphs some might call prose poems. Others might feel more like anecdotes. In any case, your writing will shine and deepen, as fellow writers awaken what Philip Lopate calls “that shiver of self-recognition.” Read After the Fact, a correspondence between Marvin Bell and Chris Merrill. Read Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Blue.” Read Rita Dove’s “Quaker Oats” or Patricia Ikeda’s “Three Churches.” Before we meet in Iowa City, I’ll send you examples and prompts to start you off, so you’ll hit the ground running, with paragraphs ready to be read and answered in kind.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts; provide feedback on writing you bring from home or produce in our week.