Local writers join DC march – The Daily Iowan
By Natalie Betz
Iowa City writers made sure their voices of discontent were heard in the political heart of the country.
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs held its 50th-annual Conference & Bookfair in which several writers’ marches were conducted to promote free speech in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 8 through Feb. 11.
Writers and editors from publications associated with the University of Iowa such as Ink Lit Mag and earthwords took part in the conference and march.
“The conference is the biggest convergence in America and possibly the world,” said Harrison Cook, the managing editor of Ink Lit Mag and drama editor for earthwords. “It’s a great networking opportunity.”
According to the association’s website, more than 12,000 people attend the conference every year.
“There were several undergrads, interns, and published authors all combating the issue,” Cook said. “Established authors sent letters to Congress.”
One of those authors was poet and director of the march D.A. Powell of the Poetry Foundation, who contacted Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to support the event, said Lauren Himan, a graphic designer for earthwords.
Originally, there was only supposed to be one big march, although there was some miscommunication among the writers. So there were several spur of the moment marches because some people thought they were meeting in the lobby during the time of the first march, Cook said.
“Some information on timing was off, so the march broke into separate groups, but I was in the first group, which was biggest with about 200 to 250 people,” Himan said.
The marches didn’t have a definitive goal. It was more of a statement as a community of writers, Cook said. He said he feels greater action needs to be taken by the public more than the writers because writers are not going to support censorship in their words.
“The march was a Writers Resist, so it was a group of artistic people marching against the wall, the ban, education, women’s, and refugees’ rights,” Himan said. “Of course, we also protested the cut of the National Endowment for the Arts.”
Cook marched to promote “less policy [and] more empathy.” He said people needed to listen to one another’s viewpoints, because he doesn’t believe in silencing people.
The march was not the only political statement in the conference; there were speakers and panels that spoke about how writers can use their platforms for political use, Cook said.
“At the Bookfair, several people lined up and held hands while chanting ‘black lives matter,’ ” said Charlotte Elsasser, an earthwords nonfiction editor.
Besides providing a platform for political activism, the UI students who attended also found the event rewarding.
“Overall, it was a great experience, and I hope to be able to do it again,” Himan said. “I’ve never been to D.C. before, and it felt good to get my voice out there even as a young 19- year-old. It was a great way to get my voice heard to many more people than I could do in Iowa City.”