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Iowa Writers' Workshop Records

Identifier: RG06.0012.008

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Iowa Writers' Workshop consist of thirteen series.


Series I: Student Coursework, Student Coursework, consists of photocopies of students' works arranged by semester and class section within each semester. It is the largest series in the collection, dating from Fall 1965 to the present. Note that a few of the semesters are filed out of chronological sequence. Restricted Access.


Series II, Award Competitions, consists of writing entries from individuals vying for scholarships and other awards.Restricted Access.


Series III, Students and Alumni, consists of files containing correspondence, applications, and other material, arranged alphabetically by name of individual within each accrual. Note that accrual dates cover academic years  e.g., 1986-91 covers the 1986-87 to 1991-92 academic years. Restricted access.


Series IV, Faculty, is arranged alphabetically by name of individual. Restricted access


Series V, Director's Files, consists of correspondence and other material created and received by the Office of the Director. Restricted access.


Series VI, Administrative Files. Restricted access.


Series VII, Accepted  Not Coming. Restricted access


Series VIII, Rejected Applicants' Evaluation Sheets. Restricted access


Series IX, Applicants' Letters of Recommendation. Restricted access.


Series X, Ephemera, includes posters and other printed matter, dating from 1982 to present.


Series XI, Stephen Wilbers Project, consists of correspondence and interview notes prepared by an alumnus of the Workshop who prepared a history of the program in 1980.


Series XII, Jean Wylder Project, consists of survey responses obtained from numerous alumni during the early 1970's as part of a history project. The responses are arranged by era of attendance/graduation.


Series XIII, Newsletters, consists of newsletters released once or twice yearly since 1970 chronicling the publishing activity of Workshop alumni and students, as well as Workshop programs and events.


  • 1965-


Conditions Governing Access

Requests to access records in Series I-IX must be submitted to the University of Iowa Office of Transparency for consideration. Series X- XIII are open for research. These materials are stored at an offsite location, please allow two business days for retrieval and arrive to Special Collections reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

The Iowa Writers' Workshop, long distinguished as America's premier program in creative writing, was founded in 1936. It was the nation's first creative writing degree program, a result of the University of Iowa's pioneering decision in 1922 to accept creative work as a means to fulfill graduate degree requirements. The following is excerpted from the Workshop's Web site (

Verse-Making, the first creative writing class at Iowa, was offered in the spring semester of 1897. In 1922, Carl Seashore, dean of the Graduate College, introduced a new model for the academic study of the arts when he announced that the University of Iowa would accept creative work as theses for advanced degrees. The School of Letters began to offer regular courses in writing in which selected students were tutored by resident and visiting writers. The Workshop as an entity began in 1936, with the gathering together of poets and fiction writers under the direction of Wilbur Schramm. From the outset the program enjoyed a series of distinguished visitors, among them Robert Frost and Robert Penn Warren, who would lecture and stay for several weeks to discuss students' work. John Berryman, Robert Lowell, and others came to teach for a full year.

One of the first students to receive an M.A. in creative writing was Paul Engle. He offered as his dissertation a collection of poems, Worn Earth, which won him the Yale Younger Poets prize. Paul Engle assumed the directorship of the Workshop in 1941 and held it for 25 years, a period which saw it flourish and become a significant force in American letters. During World War II enrollment was no more than a dozen students, but after the war it grew, attaining in a few years a strength of over a hundred students, and dividing into the fiction and poetry sections which exist today.


736.00 linear feet

Language of Materials


Method of Acquisition

These materials have been transferred to the University Archives from the Iowa Writers' Workshop administrative office at various times. Additions to the collection continue to accrue. Preliminary inventory prepared by David McCartney 2004; guide posted to the Internet 2004, revised January 2007 and October 2009.

Related Materials

Papers of Paul Engle (MsC 514)

Papers of John Towner Frederick (MsC 513)

Papers of Jack Leggett (MsC 503)

Papers of Wilbur Schramm (RG 99.0118)

Conroy, Frank, editor. The Eleventh Draft: Craft and the Writing Life From the Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1999, 235 pp.

Dana, Robert, ed. A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. University of Iowa Press, 1999. 294 pp.

Wilbers, Stephen McCoy. "Emergence of the Iowa Writers' Workshop." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1978. 210 pp. Dissertation Abstracts International 39: 3587-A.

Wilbers, Steve. "Inside the Iowa Writers' Workshop: Interviews with Three of Its Teachers." North American Review 262, no. 2 (summer 1977): 7-15, illus. Marvin Bell, Vance Bourjaily, and Donald Justice.

Wilbers, Stephen. The Iowa Writers' Workshop: Origins, Emergence, & Growth. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1980. 153 pp., illus., notes, bibliog.

In addition, numerous biographies of noted graduates of the Workshop have been published, many of which include references to the Workshop and the Iowa City community. See the Archives' online bibliography, Writing Programs category.

David McCartney
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242