Anyone can write. And everyone who wants to write should have access to the wealth of Iowa City’s Writing Culture.
The Free Generative Writing Workshop provides a space for career writers, curious beginners, writers of all income levels and stages of life. Our goal is to make it easy to meet and learn from some of the most talented writer/teachers living in or passing through Iowa City. Every month a new writer leads a generative workshop, presenting a prompt inspired by their own preoccupations, passions, or interests. Prompts have run the gamut of writing from Tarot cards, to finding inspiration in the villanelle; from ekphrasis to open letters of resistance to government officials. It has been an adventure, and we are continually inspired by the creative concentration of participants, and the powerful beginnings the workshop generates.
As we enter our fifth year, we have created a new space to publish not only some of the prompts of our leaders, but responses to those prompts, written by participants. We hope this publishing platform provides incentive to writers to revise, expand, continue in whatever way their imaginations lead, and then perhaps to send us their pieces and let us share them with the world.
Free Generative Writing Workshops meet on the 3rd Sunday of every month, and you’re always invited.
Workshops run from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in Public Space One. That’s the community art space downstairs in The Wesley Center at 120 North Dubuque Street in Iowa City.
Workshops are always free, and adults writing in all genres at all levels are welcome.
Jennifer MacBain-Stephens lives in Iowa City and is the author of four full length poetry collections: "Your Best Asset is a White Lace Dress," (Yellow Chair Press, 2016) "The Messenger is Already Dead," (Stalking Horse Press, 2017,) “We’re Going to Need a Higher Fence,” tied for first place in the 2017 Lit Fest Book Competition, and “The Vitamix and the Murder of Crows,” is recently out from Apocalypse Party. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She is also the author of ten chapbooks. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Black Lawrence Press, Quiddity, Prelude, Cleaver, Yalobusha Review, decomp, and Inter/rupture.
Ryan Collins is the author of a book of poems, A New American Field Guide & Song Book, and several chapbooks. His poems have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine; Asymptote; Columbia Poetry Review; Diagram; Forklift, Ohio; Handsome; Ninth Letter; PEN Poetry Series; Verse Daily; and many other places. Recent prose poems have appeared in The Pinch, Poor Claudia, sidereal magazine, and Zócalo Public Square. He is an English instructor at St. Ambrose University and the Executive Director of the Midwest Writing Center. He hosts the Spectra Reading Series in Rock Island, IL, where he lives.
Stephen Lovely was born in Dallas, Texas and spent most of his childhood in Ohio. He attended Kenyon College, where he majored in English, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he studied with Deborah Eisenberg, Margot Livesey, Ethan Canin, and Frank Conroy. His first novel, Irreplaceable, was published by Hyperion/Voice in 2009 and translated into German, Dutch, and Chinese.Irreplaceable received the Dana Award for the Novel and a James Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award. Since 2005 Stephen has been the director of the Iowa Young Writers' Studio, a summer, residential creative writing program for high school students at The University of Iowa. He currently lives in Iowa City with his wife and dog and cats. He is working on a second novel. It is taking longer than he expected.
Kerry Howley is the author of Thrown, a New York Times Notable Book, New York Times Editor’s Choice, and pick for best-of-the-year lists in Time, Salon, Slate, and many other venues. Writing in Salon, critic Lydia Kiesling called Thrown “extraordinary,” “incredibly bracing,” and reminiscent of “some of the boldest voices of twentieth-century fiction.” Novelist Lev Grossman called it “probably the most bizarre and fascinating book I’ve read this year” in the pages of Time, adding: “The precision of Howley’s prose reminds me of Joan Didion or David Foster Wallace…. She writes like somebody in ecstasy.” Thrown has been translated into four languages and optioned by the actress Rebecca Hall.
Howley is a frequent contributor to New York Magazine. Her fiction and essays have also appeared in The Paris Review, Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, Granta, and Bookforum. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program and currently at work on a nonfiction thriller about the American surveillance state, forthcoming from Knopf.
Derek Nnuro is a Ghanaian-American fiction writer based in Iowa City. He is a graduate of the fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a recipient of the Meta Rosenberg Memorial Fellowship and a Teaching Writing Fellowship. He was awarded the Robert J. Schulze Fellowship in 2016. He is working on an untitled novel set in Ghana, West Africa; Houston, Texas; and Alexandria, Virginia, and teaches novel writing at the University of Iowa