Ever since 2016 (except for 2020, when the trip was canceled at the last minute due to Covid-19, and in 2021, when the program went virtual), roughly 20 students have traveled to Iowa City to engage in two days of sight-seeing and creative nonfiction writing workshops. The workshops are led by graduate students in the university’s NWP who apply to be “Buckley Fellows” by proposing a workshop to lead with those on Buckley’s trip. Every year, the workshop titles change, as do the fellows.
“Being in Iowa is important because it's liberating,” says English teacher Mitch Kohn, who developed the partnership with NWP’s then-director John D’Agata (now the department’s F. Wendell Miller Professor of English). “The students are willing to take risks with their writing; the atmosphere demands it. The students are in a new setting, working with workshop leaders who are new to them, and trying out new ways to write.
“This year's group, made up of juniors and sophomores, was so impressive,” Kohn adds. “Literally every student took part in the conversations and was willing to share some of their writing.”
This year’s fellows and workshops:
Anti-Hero: The Essayist and the Pop Song, led by Spencer Jones
How to Ask a Question, led by Wyatt Williams
Writing from the Head and the Heart: Emotion and Memory in Creative Nonfiction, led by Fi Okupe
B(l)ack Down South: How Writing Can Transform Perception, led by Grace Morse
Ekphrastic Writing, led by Jesse Kraemer
“I really enjoyed the Anti-Hero workshop, which was about songs and artists that we hate to love,” shared junior Zach K. “I wrote about ‘Perfect,’ by Ed Sheeran, because it's super corny, but also a beautiful song. I would say my writing improved because we learned and analyzed different forms of writing, especially emotional writing, and how powerful and fulfilling it can be.”