Kevin Brockmeier, “A Chronological List of Statements People Made to Me at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 1995-1997”

~ For me it’s the opposite. You feel like a little kid, I feel like an old woman.

~ I really like your last paragraph. Why don’t you take that idea and use it to write a story?

~ “Half of Rumpelstiltskin”’s kind of a mouthful, isn’t it? Maybe after you introduce him, you can just call him “Rumpelstiltskin.”

~ To me you look like a person who can’t get enough Heidegger.

~ I’ll say this much — you know how to eff the ineffable.

~ The question is whether or not we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator here, and [turning to look me in the eyes] that is important….

Kevin Brockmeier, from "A Chronological List of Statements People Made to Me at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 1995-1997," in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Joyelle McSweeney, “Iowa Occult: a Mütter Pedagogy; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Vomit Art”

What is Knowledge? What shape does Knowledge take? It’s not a question we expect to find raised in an Iowa-style workshop, where we turn our attention to concrete things: form, craft, the page, the neat crosses and channels of a line break or an ellipsis or/and especially the poem’s earned/unearned ending. No ideas but in things—Wms. But the inverse of this craftiness, this roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work-with-your-hands shop-class affect of the Iowa-style workshop, is the unspeakable pressure of a counterpresence…

Joyelle McSweeney, from "Iowa Occult: a Mütter Pedagogy; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Vomit Art," in N + 1

I killed a bird in Iowa City. It was lying, dying, on the concrete steps that led to my apartment, a basement lair whose drains sometimes backed up and belched black ooze everywhere. The bird was gasping and twitching and its eyes were shut very tight. It was a titmouse. I stepped over it and went inside…
Anna North, "Birds of Iowa City," from The Common

"Game Night," by Maggie Shipstead

My friend Justin is one of those eerily competent people who masters difficult physical skills with offhand assurance and minimal effort. He can sail a boat, build a boat, frame a house, rock climb, ski anything, cook anything. He won our BB gun shoot-out at Lake Michigan by hitting an absurdly distant beer can in the dark on his first attempt. (A shot, a pause, a faraway ping, incredulous applause from me and Dave.) After we finished at Iowa, he struck up a conversation with a guy in a bar who had finished 18th at the World Buck Hunter Championships. The conversation led to a challenge. Justin won…

From “Game Night,” by Maggie Shipstead, in The Iowa Review

"Giving Up," by Anthony Marra


I arrived at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall of 2009 having written only a handful of short stories in my life. Most were from high school. Most had puns for titles.One was called “The Last of the Bohemians,” which was one and a half pages about a man walking up a staircase, which The New Yorker rejected, which I could not believe…

From "Giving Up," by Anthony Marra, in The Rumpus

"Playing House," by Leslie Jamison

During my second year at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I lived at 715 Iowa Ave., Iowa City, Iowa. In case my friends on the coasts didn’t get it, my address had to say it three times: I’m in the middle. Another workshop writer probably lives in that apartment now—a third-floor nest with peeling linoleum and rattling windows—because workshop apartments tend to be passed down this way, writer-to-writer, acquiring thick skins of dust, layers of heartache and epiphany and drunken stupor and all the other mythologies that are supposed to play out at the Workshop and, as it turns out, actually do…

Leslie Jamison, from “Playing House," in A Public Space