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Summer writing program helps youth broaden horizons

BY ALLIE BISCUPSKI | JULY 22, 2015 5:00 AM

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From the eclectic architecture of Istanbul to the medieval churches of Armenia and the farmlands of Idaho, Iowa attracts a wealth of young writers to the state.

Between the Lines, a summer session hosted by the International Writing Program, is a two-week session for high-school age writers. The program also helps build relations between Turkey and Armenia.

In an event sponsored by the program, Between the Lines instructors and authors Mary Hickman, Nazmi Agil, and Armen of Armenia read from some of their works Tuesday night at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St.

For Hickman, poetry allowed her to connect with her family, setting off a lifelong passion for writing.

“When I was young, my father used to leave me poems,” she said. “So for me, writing is about connection and being able to connect with others.”

Agil said listening to poems and conversations people had while talking sparked his love of literature.

“It was a love of language,” he said. “Since my childhood, I was interested in the way people talked, the way they said things. I was trying to imitate [poets] since I was a child.”

Armen said he has long felt a call to be a writer, and he couldn’t see himself doing any other job.
“You are who you are,” he said.

Hickman read from her new book, This is the Homeland, and also read excerpts from a second collection due to come out in 2017.

Agil read a selection of poems from his books of poetry, and Armen read a short story from his book The Return of Kikos.

Hickman said she hopes the reading offered listeners a chance to hear the same theme from three different perspectives.

“I think we have similar interests,” she said. “The three of us reading together will be a very typhonic reading, and it will present a range of style but with similar concerns; that will be exciting for the audience.”

Agil said he branched out from his roots with his work.

“My books are thematically based, which is not common in Turkish poetry,” he said. “I love the idea of taking one concept and weaving my works around them.”

Armen said his short stories from his book play with the reader, allowing them to make decisions and “co-write” the stories.

For Agil, the IWP has changed his perspective on writing and what being a writer means.

“This is a unique place where everybody is a writer,” he said. “Everybody finds a friendly soul sharing the same things. You go to breakfast, and everyone is talking about [literature].”

From Istanbul to Armenia to Idaho, Agil said, Iowa City has a special knack for connecting the world through literature.

“In the Middle East, there’s a saying: It will come to you. So we don’t go and search for it,” he said. “But now, I see here they work hard, they write a lot. Now I understand.”


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