The University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival


An annual event, the Festival consists of 136 different non-credit workshops, open to writers 21 years and older (no previous experience necessary). One-week and weekend long workshop format sessions are offered throughout June and July in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essay, and more. This summer, I led two workshops: People, Emotion, Dialogue, Place and the  Senses: Five Basic Tools No Matter the Genre, as well as The Why and How of Reflective Writing. As is the case every year, the experience — for students and instructor alike — is so worthy of our time. Here’s what some of the participants have to say:


Iowa City is a magical place, an oasis for literary arts — even the sidewalks are adorned with brass plaques celebrating the words of authors. Surround yourself with writers and receive instruction by the best in the country. Mary Kay is a warm, spirited teacher who uses her love of great writing to inspire her lessons. I learned essential tools to strengthen my work in an honest, yet supportive, atmosphere.


-Ellen Austin-Li, Cincinnati, OH

Thank you so much for the informative class at the Iowa Writer’s Festival.  The class not only improved my writing skills, it was a blast.  Your non threatening approach coupled with humor couldn’t have been better.


-Dave Bartemes, Des Moines, IA

I had a great time and learned much. My husband said what I brought home was my best writing!  I plan to submit one of the stories in "River Teeth."  Mary Kay is a gifted teacher who shares her gifts.


-Mary Bernier , Omaha, NE

This 2017 was my first "writer's workshop"  experience, and I'm very happy I went. Not only did I gain a lot of practical, hands-on knowledge, but I also gained new friends and a few critique buddies. The staff and the students were universally cheerful and helpful, and the location was great. Iowa City is very walkable, with lots of shops and restaurants nearby. Mary Kay’s class provided opportunities for writing and sharing with classmates, and I left with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the craft. For anyone considering the ISWF, I highly recommend it.


-Mike Klapheke, Balwinsville, NY

I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed my first writers conference. The company was superb and you provided the best instruction and supervision I could have hoped for. I have been writing most days and have found it to be joyful.


- Joyce LoFiego, Standardsville, OH

We are what seemed an interesting variety of women bringing much life experience to the workshop and certainly the gift of writing.  My jaw is still open, having dropped during some of the readings.  And, not surprising from past Iowa Workshops, we as a group were wonderfully open to each other and among ourselves, sharing. 


-Vi Steinmeyer,  Chesterfield, MO