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Inside Creative Writing’s Premier Talent Factory

nytimes.com – Sunday March 24, 2019

The remarkable number of notable writers who have studied or taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop includes Flannery O’Connor, Robert Lowell, Dylan Thomas, Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving and Marilynne Robinson. In “A Delicate Aggression,” David O. Dowling, an associate professor at Iowa’s journalism school, tells the “cultural and industrial history” of the workshop through a series of biographical portraits. He captures writers “in their formative years taking their first tentative steps toward professional careers, forming alliances and rivalries among intimidating world-renowned faculty and high-powered peers.” He writes about the program’s blend of mentoring and marketing, its rigor and its wiles. Below, he discusses the workshop’s founder, Irving defending Vonnegut’s honor in a fight, how Ralph Waldo Emerson helped to inspire this book and more.

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