UNESCO Creative Cities Network statement on New Zealand terror attacks

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature stands in solidarity with our colleagues and we wish the best for our friends in Dunedin, Auckland, and Utrecht. UCCN Statement on New Zealand terror attacks.

One Book Two Book: February 22-24, 2019

One Book Two Book is an annual celebration of children’s literature in the City of Literature. This year’s special guest is award winning author and illustrator, Claudia McGehee!

Claudia McGehee is an American children’s picture book author and illustrator. Her mission is to create art and writings that inspire and connect people, especially children, with their natural world. McGehee works in scratchboard, a medium that mimics traditional wood-cuts. She scratches out images from an ink-coated board, removing layers and revealing stories.

We’ll kick things off Friday evening, February 22, with our Once Upon a Time dinner at the Hotel Vetro.  “Once Upon a Time” is a magical literary experience created to celebrate stories written and performed by children from each elementary school in Iowa City.

Saturday hundreds of young readers and writers will converge downtown at the Hotel Vetro for the Children’s Book Fair.  Non-stop activities including the Mississippi River Museum, Absolute Science, Claudia McGehee, face painting, author readings and signings, Brio and Duplo trains, arts and crafts, and costumed characters will make for an extraordinary day.  Attendees can meet with authors, discover new books, play with storybook characters, watch a play and be inspired by fun programming and writing workshops throughout the day!

On Sunday we invite the community to come together and celebrate creative writing by outstanding “up and coming” young authors. Two students from each grade will be honored for “Excellence” in one of the following categories, The Write Stuff and From the Heart, and they will read their work on stage at Macbride Auditorium. Other student “Writers of Distinction” will be presented certificates for their writing.  Thanks to generous donations from community members and local businesses, each student author is eligible to win amazing prizes including e-readers, tablets, and gift certificates.

2018 City of Literature Gift Guide

Still searching for the perfect gift for the lit-lover in your life? Check out our literary gift guide for all of your last minute gift needs.

For the Bookaholic

Does your aunt Sally seem to eat up novels faster than Santa sneaking Christmas cookies? Luckily, Iowa City has a plethora of local bookshops filled with a genre for every readers’ appetite.
Prairie LightsFrom Poetry to fiction head to this cozy shop to find signed copies from their most recent readings! Grab a gift card if you’re unsure what is up next in your loved-one’s “To Be Read” stack.
Iowa BookThis Iowa City staple isn’t just for textbooks. With a delightful selection of books in the basement you’re sure to find something for both the readers and the Hawkeyes in your home.
The Book EndDid you know the Iowa City Public Library has their own bookstore? Find the Book End on the second floor of the ICPL, and enjoy their wide range of gently used books, and audio-books.
The Haunted BookshopNot only is The Haunted Bookshop full of books (and cats), but they also have the best toys! Cross two people off your list in one spooky stop.

For the Coffee Connoisseur

Whether you’ve got a writer that practically lives at their local coffee shop, or a student that needs a little motivation to get through finals week we’ve listed our favorite local coffee shops to grab a gift card from!
Java House Cozy ambiance, antique furniture, and piping hot coffee, what else do you need to get in the creative spirit? You’ll find it all in the Java House! Gift cards available, as well as beans for at home brewing.
High Ground CafeWith coffee, tea, smoothies, a full lunch menu, and a wide selection of beers and wine you could spend the whole day at High Ground…and you just might! High Ground also has locations in Coralville, if your giftee prefers to stay away from the downtown scene.
Prairie Lights CafeAs if you didn’t need another reason to go to Prairie Lights head up to their second floor coffee shop. Featuring pastries from Deluxe Iowa City, and staff created lattes this spot is a favorite of writers from all over Iowa City.
CortadoNeed a place you can really zen out and focus in? Cortado may just be the spot. Bright comfortable lighting and a WIFI-free coffee shop means you’ll have no distractions from getting your writing or reading done. (Try out the Peppermint Mocha featured in this photo!)


For the Artist

Still haven’t found the perfect gift idea? Iowa City is full of local shops that offer a variety of literary gifts!
RSVPHere you’ll find a notebook for every type of writer, and pens that come in every color. They also carry a series of note cards featuring local authors! This is the store to head to whether you’ve got a budding author on your hands, or someone that wants to explore bullet journaling!
White RabbitFor the fashion and book lover this women’s store carries both vintage and new clothes, as well as cheeky posters, and City of Lit hoodies and prints.
Artisans GalleryJewelry and art from local artists the Artisans Gallery has gifts you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Check out the City of Literature bookmarks near the front of the store!
Raygun If you haven’t bought someone a tee-shirt from Raygun as a gift yet, are you even a true Iowa Citian? Check out our “Iowa City is Lit-erature” shirt.
BlickBlick not only has notebooks, and all the art supplies you could ever dream of, but they also carry calligraphy sets! Set up your loved one with their new favorite writing hobby.
The Iowa Writers’ HouseWith workshops starting in January and going on throughout spring give your loved one the gift of creativity this year! The IWH has gift cards, and workshops available for purchase.


Entries for Poetry in Public 2019 Now Being Accepted

It’s time once again for local writers to submit poems for consideration in the 17th annual Poetry in Public Program, sponsored by the Iowa City Public Art Program.

Johnson County writers of all ages and all levels of writing ability and experience are encouraged to submit entries to the contest. The program was initiated in 2002 to celebrate, promote, and nurture the rich writing culture that exists in Iowa City.

A panel of local judges will review entries and then select poems that will be displayed throughout the Iowa City community and on local and literary websites. The winning poems will be on display on Iowa City buses, at the Iowa City Public Library and the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center from May through the fall. Selected poets will also have the opportunity to read their poem during the Iowa Arts Festival in June. Rules for the competition are as follows:

  • Entrants must be residents of Johnson County.
  • Only one poem per author will be considered. Submitted poems will not be returned.
  • The poem can be no more than seven lines in length (not including title), and can be either an existing or new work.
  • An excerpt from a longer poem will be considered if it can stand alone.
  • Poems are generally published as is. Teachers and/or parents are encouraged to work with students on proper spelling and punctuation before submission.
  • Poems will be judged on quality of writing, as well as accessibility and suitability for public display before a general audience.
  • Avoid special complex formatting, layouts, “word art,” and use of non-standard typefaces.
  • If reprint permissions are required, please get permission prior to submitting your work.

Entries should be submitted using the online form posted on the Poetry in Public website atwww.icgov.org/pip. A printable form is also available on the website or by request.

Poetry in Public entries must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019.

Read a New Book Month: Iowa Writers’ Workshop Grads’ 2018 Debuts

Whether it means curling up with a fresh release or simply a new-to-you classic, December is ‘Read a New Book’ month.

Here at the City of Literature, we’ve put together a list of book recommendations that are not only new releases from 2018, but also are debut works for each of the authors. Can you make it through the list before 2018 ends?

How to Love a Jamaican- Alexia Arthurs


Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret-Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.

“This dazzling debut marks the emergence of a knockout new voice.”-O: The Oprah Magazine 

Atrophy- Jackson Burgess


In his moving debut collection, Jackson Burgess examines heartbreak, depression, and empathy through a lens of rigorous introspection. Atrophy’s poems vary in location, mostly between Los Angeles and Iowa City, with reoccurring characters serving as touchstones, forming the book’s narrative. Atrophy wrestles with loneliness, substance abuse, and dissociation, utilizing lists, letters, prose poems, and free verse. These poems celebrate the past while mourning it, armed with the advantage of retrospect. Prescription drugs, dog fights, dance parties, love letters, and ghosts–the world depicted is at times dark, at times humorous, but always human. Atrophy is vulnerable and cinematic, a series of manic meditations exploring what it means to love and be loved, to hurt and be hurt.

“Jackson Burgess is the most dazzling, urgently urban and unfailingly inventive young chronicler of lost highways and avenues of broken dreams since the early poems of Denis  Johnson and the ballads of Tom Waits.” -David St. John, Chancellor of the Academy of  American Poets

The Dependents- Katharine Dion


After the sudden death of his wife, Maida, Gene is haunted by the fear that their marriage was not all it appeared to be. Alongside Ed and Gayle Donnelly, friends since college days, he tries to resurrect happy memories of the times the two couples shared, raising their children in a small New Hampshire town and vacationing together at a lake house every summer. Meanwhile, his daughter, Dary, challenges not only his happy version of the past but also his view of Maida. As a long-standing rift between them deepens, Gene starts to understand how unknown his daughter is to him’and how enigmatic his wife was as well. Katharine Dion’s assured debut moves seamlessly between Gene’s present-day journey and the long history of a marriage and friendship. Rich and wonderfully alive, The Dependents is the most moving kind of drama, an intimate glance into the expanse of family life and the way we must all eventually bridge the chasm between what we want to believe and what we know to be true.

How Are You Going To Save Yourself- J.M. Holmes


Bound together by shared experience but pulled apart by their changing fortunes, four young friends coming of age in the postindustrial enclave of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, struggle to liberate themselves from the legacies left to them as black men in America. With potent immediacy and bracing candor, this provocative debut follows a decade in the lives of Dub, Rolls, Rye, and Gio as they each grapple with the complexity of their family histories, the newfound power of sex and drugs, and the ferocity of their desires.

How Are You Going to Save Yourself illuminates in breathtaking detail an entire world-one that has been underrepresented in American fiction. At times funny, often uncomfortable, occasionally disturbing, these stories fearlessly engage with issues of race, sex, drugs, class, and family. Holmes’s blistering and timely new voice, richly infused with the unmistakable rhythms of hip-hop that form the sound track to his characters’ lives, delivers an indelible fiction that has never been more vital and necessary.

“As up-to the-minute as a Kendrick Lamar track and as ruefully steeped in eternal truths as a Gogol tale” (Kirkus, starred review).

Fall Together- Sarah Strickley


Sarah Strickley’s work is bold, honest, and confident. Her language is the perfect combination of lyricism and directness. Fall Together is remarkable for its inventive stories that carry the reader into dark territory. The sensibility overseeing these powerful stories is quirky and playful; Strickley is a connoisseur of a myriad of source materials, from contemporary tabloid fodder to age-old literature and legend.

“In each piece, a wholly human character comes to life to delight and instruct the reader, to make her revisit what she thought was the familiar world and find it, somehow, faintly shifted and newly fresh.” -Antonya Nelson, author of Bound and Funny Once

Other People’s Love Affairs- D. Wystan Owen


In the ten luminous stories of D. Wystan Owen’s debut collection, the people of Glass, a picturesque village on the rugged English coast, are haunted by longings and deeply held secrets, captive to pasts that remain as alive as the present. Each story takes us into the lives of characters reaching earnestly and often courageously for connection to the people they have loved.

Owen observes their heartbreaks, their small triumphs, and their generous capacity for grace. A young nurse, reeling from the disappearance of her mother, forges an unlikely friendship with a local vagrant. A young boy is by turns dazzled and disillusioned by a trip to the circus with a family friend. A widower revisits the cinema where, as a teenager, he and an older woman shared trysts that both thrilled and baffled him. A woman is offered fragile, uneasy forgiveness for a cruel act from years ago. And in the title story, a shopkeeper’s vision of the woman she loved is upended by the startling revelation of a secret life. Surprising and powerful, and in the classic tradition of fiction by James Joyce, William Trevor, and Elizabeth Strout, Owen’s interconnected stories strike a deep and resounding emotional chord.

“Owen writes exquisite stories that lodge somewhere in my chest and keep detonating–loudly, devastatingly–again and again.”–Garth Greenwell

Ohio- Stephen Markley


On one fateful summer night in 2013, four former classmates converge on the rust belt town where they grew up, each of them with a mission, all of them haunted by regrets, secrets, lost loves. There’s Bill Ashcraft, an alcoholic, drug-abusing activist, whose fruitless ambitions have taken him from Cambodia to Zuccotti Park to New Orleans, and now back to “The Cane” with a mysterious package strapped to the underside of his truck;

Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate reluctantly confronting the mother of her former lover; Dan Eaton, a shy veteran of three tours in Iraq, home for a dinner date with the high school sweetheart he’s tried to forget; and the beautiful, fragile Tina Ross, whose rendezvous with the captain of the football team triggers the novel’s shocking climax.

At once a murder mystery and a social critique, Ohio ingeniously captures the fractured zeitgeist of a nation through the viewfinder of an embattled Midwestern town and offers a prescient vision for America at the dawn of a turbulent new age.

Bindi: A Novel- Paul Matthew Maisano


Kerala, 1993: Eight-year-old Birendra suddenly loses his mother, but he refuses to believe he’s an orphan. He’s certain that his mother’s twin sister, the troubled but winning Nayana, will come for him all the way from West London. But when the letter informing Nayana of her sister’s death goes missing, numerous lives are forever altered, and Birendra is set adrift.

Madeline, a Los Angeles native and interior designer to the stars, is floundering in her personal life. In the aftermath of a failed attempt to get pregnant, she flies to India where she finds herself face-to-face with Birendra. In a moment of sudden certainty, she decides she must adopt the boy in order to save them both.

As Nayana falls deeper into crisis at work and in her marriage in London, Birendra learns to make himself at home in Los Angeles, forging an especially close bond with Madeline’s younger brother, Edward, who begins to worry that his sister may have met her match in motherhood. When he learns of his adopted nephew’s family in London, Edward is faced with an impossible choice. If he can find Nayana and reunite her with her nephew, should he? Even if in doing so he would risk unwittingly setting the two women who love the boy most against each other?

Written in stirring prose, and infused with keen emotional insight, Bindi is about our search for family and for home, and an exploration of the ways that loss and longing can be converted into hope, connection, and love.