Between the Lines

23 June 2018

An HHHS Winner in Between the Lines 2018, a Creative Writing Competition Organized by Iowa University through the US Embassy, Beirut
“Between the Lines is a component of the International Writing Program (IWP) that brings young writers from Russia, Arabic-speaking countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and the United States to the University of Iowa, USA, to attend a creative writing study and cultural interaction program. Students live in a dorm on the University of Iowa campus along with university-trained counselors, who help foster a strong sense of creative community. Sessions include literature seminars and language-specific creative writing workshops taught by faculty who are renowned writers in their own right.” (US Department of State, 2018. Retrieved from: https://exchanges.state.gov/non-us/program/international-writing-program-between-lines) Once we read this announcement on the US Embassy page, we were in a haste to conduct a thorough research about the program. We felt glad to discover that it “focuses on Peace and the Writing Experience by bringing together young writers from diverse backgrounds to explore distinct histories, languages, and cultures while also approaching world literatures and writing as a dialogue that leads to empathy and a shared understanding of the human condition. For two exciting weeks, participants learn from one another through creative writing workshops, global literature seminars, and special events featuring international authors, guest speakers, and cultural exchange activities. BTL is a small, structured program run by experienced staff of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature and home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.” (Iowa University, 2018. Retrieved from: https://iwp.uiowa.edu/programs/between-the-lines/2018 ). Immediately, we took a confident stride to spread the news among high school students especially those in the International or IB Diploma Programs. As usual, a group of fluent writers who meet the program requirements of being between the ages of 16 and 19 years old, showing proficiency in English, demonstrating passion about creative writing, and characterized with both openness towards learning about the different lifestyles of people around the world and willingness to share their own life experiences and unique points of view were more than enthusiastic to participate. In no time, the participants were able to inscribe their original short stories of six to eight pages, write a statement of 2-4 pages depicting their viewpoints on the issue of culture and identity and prepare a personal statement describing the importance of writing to the participants and their expectations from the two-week program taking placing this summer in the Iowa University. To our surprise, two of the participants, Reine Akkouch from Grade 10 B and Tanya Chehab from Grade 10 IP, were among the finalists who received emails from the embassy appointing interviews that would help decide upon the winners of the BTL 2018. Bearing a few long days of tension, we eventually received the great news of having Tanya Chehab selected along with another student from Lebanon to attend the fully funded summer writing program, so we were overwhelmed with feelings of exhilaration, pride and contentment. Sincere wishes of more distinction are bestowed to Tanya, hoping this summer program would be quite beneficial and intriguing just as the program organizers state, “by the end of the program, participants will have grown not only as creative writers but also as knowledgeable citizens of the world, becoming part of a tight-knit international network!”

Nimat Dandashly_ English Language Teacher and Coordinator/ Writing Center Director/ IBDP Language and Literature Instructor