Special Workshop Offered at MWC 4/13: “The Self-Made Writer” led by Davenport Native Deb Vanasse

MWC is happy to announce this special workshop opportunity on Monday, April 13th, 6:30 p.m., at MWC. Davenport native Deb Vanasse, author of sixteen books, will lead this unique workshop, which we are able to offer to the public at no cost. Here’s a full description:

“As writers, we enjoy the freedom to innovate, in our work and also in the ways we learn and grow. How do we make the most of that freedom? Author of sixteen books, Deb Vanasse has been named by Library Journal as “one of Alaska’s leading storytellers.” A graduate of Davenport West High School, Deb will present a lively program that features creative ways for writers to think about craft, a writer’s education, and the topsy-turvy world of publishing.”

This workshop will last approx. 90 minutes, and it will be free and open to the public. RSVPs to mwc@midwestwritingcenter.org are welcome, but not required. Please contact MWC if you have any questions about the event.

deb vanasseCo-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored sixteen books. Her most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion; and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier.


SPECTRA Returns Friday, March 13th with Gordon, Svalina, Wilkinson and musical guests Crystal City

flier for 031315The SPECTRA Reading Series, voted a top 10 reading series in the Midwest by LitBridge, returns to Rozz-Tox on Friday the 13th of March with three of the most exciting poets working in America today: Noah Eli Gordon, Mathias Svalina, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson.

 Noah Eli Gordon is the author of eight books, including The Year of the Rooster (Ahsahta Press, 2013), The Source (Futurepoem, 2011), and Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007), which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series and subsequently chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award. He is the co-publisher of Letter Machine Editions, an editor withThe Volta, and an Assistant Professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Colorado–Boulder, where he currently directs Subito Press.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson grew up in Seattle. He’s the author of Swamp IsthmusThe Courier’s Archive & Hymnal, and Meadow Slasher (from Black Ocean and Sidebrow Books). He runs a journal called The Volta and a press called Letter Machine Editions. He lives in Tucson, where he teaches at the University of Arizona.

Mathias Svalina was born in Chicago. He is the author of WASTOID (Big Lucks Books, 2014), THE EXPLOSIONS (Subito Press, 2012), I AM A VERY PRODUCTIVE ENTREPRENEUR (Mud Luscious Press, 2011) and DESTRUCTION MYTH (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2009). With Zachary Schomburg, he co-edits Octopus Magazine and Octopus Books. He currently teaches writing and literature in Denver, Colorado.

In 2009, Dave Helmer teamed up with choral singer Sam Drella to form his current project, Crystal City. The group draws its name from the Gram Parson’s song “Las Vegas”, and finds inspiration from the strong, interdependent harmonies of Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Helmer regularly performs on unique instruments that he built himself, like his slope-shoulder dreadnought guitar embellished with brass bridge pins by Drella – a finely crafted complement to his songs. Currently based out of Iowa City, IA, Crystal City’s full-length album “Change” is available now.

This event is free and open to the public. Donations gratefully accepted to support touring poets and musicians.

SPECTRA is also open to submissions from local writers to read as openers at upcoming events, including 3/13. If you would like to considered for a SPECTRA reading, please send up to 3 poems or 1 prose piece (fiction/nonfiction, 2000 words max) to mwc@midwestwritingcenter.org with the phrase “SPECTRA Submissions” in the subject line. We look forward to reading your work.

Upcoming Spring 2015 SPECTRA Events:

Tuesday, April 14th, 8:00 p.m. featuring Erika Jo Brown, B.J. Love, and Kyle McCord

The 2015 season of SPECTRA manifests thanks to the generous support of the Riverboat Development Authority and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Award-winning Poets Lead a Day of Workshops at MWC’s Pen in Hand “Poetry: From Page to Stage” mini-conference on March 28

Source: Elvert Barnes, Flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/68534343/
Source: Elvert Barnes, Flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/68534343/

April is National Poetry Month, and we’ve lined up a terrific slate of four poetry workshops, and a panel discussion, for our bi-annual Pen In Hand mini-conference March 28th to get everyone ready and writing.

Award-winning poets Farah Marklevits, Aubrey Jane Ryan, and Dale G. Haake will join MWC Executive Director and poet Ryan Collins in leading four workshops that will look different aspects of poetry, including getting started, finding inspiration, writing in persona, and writing about the everyday; then they will finish the day together in a panel discussion and Q+A which will look at different possibilities available for poets when performing their work for different audiences.

 Schedule for Spring 2015 Pen in Hand –
Poetry: From Page to Stage

Doors open at 8:30 a.m.

9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. – Writing the First Poem: Beginnings, Ryan Collins

10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. – Poetic Duet (Part I: Whence the Inspiration? / Part II: Thence to Consummation), Dale G. Haake

11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Lunch Break

12:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Hearing Voices: Persona Poems, Aubrey Jane Ryan

2:15 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. – The Luminous Life, Farah Marklevits

3:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Poetry Performance Panel + Q & A

Participants are responsible for their own lunches.  Pricing for the “Poetry: From Page to Stage” Pen in Hand mini-conference is as follows:

-For members: $10 per workshop, $30 for all four

-For non-members: $15 per workshop, $45 for all four

The “Poetry & Performance” Panel + Q & A is free and open to the public

Registration bonus—the first five people to register for the entire conference (all four workshops) will receive a free MWC Press poetry title of their choice.

Click here to register online.

Please contact Ryan Collins at the MWC more information: (563) 324-1410, mwc@midwestwritingcenter.org

Pen in Hand is made possible with the support of the Riverboat Development Authority and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Results of the 2015 Iron Pen Contest

Without any further ado, here are the winners of the 2015 Iron Pen contest by category:


1st Place: Shelley Little
2nd Place: Andy Pavey
3rd Place: Heather Powell-Van Fleet

Honorable Mention: Allan Hutson


1st Place: Rebekah Buchanan
2nd Place: Emily Kingery
3rd Place: Scott Kinsman


1st place: Michelle Ladwig
2nd place: Pablo Haake
3rd place: Steve Robinson

Honorable Mention: Lynn Daczyk

Congrats to all of our winners! The judges had a lot of positive things to say about what they read, which we will share with everyone this Saturday February 28th, 1pm, here at the MWC. The winners, 2nd, 3rd Places and Honorable mentions will be our featured readers, but anyone who participated is welcome to come and read their entry to this year’s contest. Please let us know if you plan to attend, and if you plan to read, so we have an idea of the schedule. Thanks!

We will have some light refreshments and will hand out the medals and certificates for our winners this Saturday, and we’ll also have our drawing for the full registration to the David R. Collins Writing Conference (please note that you do not need to be present to win the conference registration—anyone with a paid Iron Pen Entry will be included in the raffle). You are of course welcome to bring family & friends to help us celebrate all of your creative efforts.

We hope you had fun with this year’s prompt—everyone certainly did a great job of going from zero to finished piece in a mere 24 hours! Thank you all so much again for participating!

Truman Re-Enactment Actor Luncheon

Harry and Bess at Foxwood Ridge Retirement Center, Raymore, MO, 9/23/14. From left: Judy Turner of Truman Library Institute, Dr. Niel Johnson at Harry, Nancy Cramer as Bess
Harry and Bess at Foxwood Ridge Retirement Center, Raymore, MO, 9/23/14. From left: Judy Turner of Truman Library Institute, Dr. Niel Johnson at Harry, Nancy Cramer as Bess

MWC presents President Harry Truman and First Lady Bess Truman at a special lunch on April 15, 2015, at the Radisson in Downtown Davenport, Iowa. Lunch begins at 12:00 p.m. with the presentation starting approximately 12:45 p.m., after which (@ 1:30 p.m.), the President and Mrs. will be available to sell and sign their books. What better way to celebrate Tax Day?

truman3Harry Truman will be potrayed by Dr. Niel Johnson and Bess Truman by Nancy Cramer, both authors (see bios below). Cost is $25 per person, or take advantage of our membership reservation special: reserve your seat and become a MWC member or renew your membership (it doesn’t matter if it’s up for renewal or not – we’ll just extend it) for only $40, saving $15! Pre-registration by Friday, April 10th is required. Space will be limited. Register via PayPal below. You can also call Ryan Collins at 563-324-1410 or email him to register or ask any questions.

Please choose one


Nancy has been a teacher and counselor of both children and adults for 30 years. Then she owned and operated a fire suppression business inherited from her late husband for 17 years. Upon retirement four years ago, she has involved herself in studying and writing about World War I based on her work as a volunteer at the National World War One Museum in Kansas City. She has published three books on the topic and has two more books in the writing process. She has served in many leadership roles in the areas of teaching and teacher related politics, and also presented numerous talks on various subjects of travel and World War One.truman2


Niel Johnson grew up on a farm in Illinois, and moved with his parents and brothers to Moline in 1944. He has a B.A. from Augustana college in 1953 and his advanced degrees,  including  a Ph.D., from the University  of lowa in 1971.

He has taught in public school, and served as historian of the Army Weapons Command headquarters and Rock Island Arsenal, from 1957-63. He taught history at the college level from 1967-1976. In 1977, he began a fifteen-year career as an archivist and oral historian at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, MO. Following his retirement from the Library in December 1992, he began teaching evening courses for Park College, including  one on the legacy of President Truman. (By the way, he had heard  the President give a whistle-stop speech at the Rock Island, Illinois, depot on September 18, 1948.  He also attended the Hoover Library dedication in August 1962, leading him to say, “I met Truman twice, but he never met me.”)

Dr. Niel Johnson & David McCollough, May 1993
Dr. Niel Johnson & David McCollough, May 1993

In May 1993, he impersonated Truman during a brunch and book signing by author David McCullough. The following year he portrayed Truman at the 50th anniversary of the Democratic convention in Chicago. Since then, until 2015, he has performed as an impersonator of our 33rd President over six hundred times in many states. In 1999, he published  the first edition of his book, Power, Money, and  Women: Words to the  Wise  from  Harry S.  Truman. A second edition was published  in  2007.

He has told President Truman’s oldest grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, “I agree with your grandfather at least ninety-seven percent of the time.” In brief, Dr. Johnson does not have to pretend that he is a proponent of Truman’s values and fair deal political policies, since he has sincere and great respect for one of  our top tier Presidents.

Get Your Collins Poetry Residency Application in by April 1st

Broadside by Aubrey Jane Ryan, 2013 Poet-in-Residence
Broadside by Aubrey Jane Ryan, 2013 Poet-in-Residence

The Midwest Writing Center is currently seeking applications to be the Fall 2015 Collins Poet-in-Residence. The Collins Poetry Residency is established in honor of the Richard Collins family and their contributions to and encouragement of poets and poetry in the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities and the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

The residency supports community-based poetry and a regional poet who has not yet published a full-length poetry collection and who resides in the six-county Quad City area (Rock Island, Henry, Mercer in Illinois; Scott, Clinton, and Muscatine in Iowa). The residency is coordinated by the Midwest Writing Center and will take place between September-November 2015. Applications are being accepted January 1, 2015 through April 1, 2015.

The application requirements for the 2015 Collins Poet-in-Residence are as follows:

1. Cover page, including your name, address, preferred email and phone number.

2. Introduction/Bio: Introduce yourself and tell us about your experiences as a reader and writer of poetry, and anything you think might be relevant to your poetical experience, be it work, education, travel, publication; no more than one (1) page.

3. Writing sample: five (5) of your strongest, most representative poems.  No more than one (1) poem to a page, no more than 10 pages total.

4. Residency Proposal: What are your goals for the residency? How do you plan to promote poetry (your work and the work of others) during the residency? How would you like to help grow the poetic community in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas? Limit proposal to 2 pages, double-spaced.

5. Your availability for September-November 2015, with as much detail as possible. Resident must participate in/host at least 2 readings (at least 1 in Illinois, 1 in Iowa), visit at least 2 schools (at least 1 in Illinois, 1 in Iowa), conduct at least one poetry workshop, edit/curate a poetry blog during the residency at communitybasedpoetry.blogspot.com, and launch a limited-edition broadside of a single poem, to be published by MWC Press.

In addition to the limited-edition broadside, the Collins Poet-In-Residence will also receive a stipend of $250 and travel reimbursement up to $100.

To apply via mail—Drop off or send 3 copies of all application materials (double-sided photo copies OK) to:

                Collins Poetry Residency Application
Midwest Writing Center
225 East 2nd Street, Suite #303
Davenport, IA 52801

Include SASE for notification.  Manuscripts will be recycled at the conclusion of the residency; please save a copy for your records.

To apply via email—Send application in a single file attachment to mwc@midwestwritingcenter.org (accepted formats: .doc, .docx, .pdf, .otd, .rtf).  The subject line should read as follows: “Application for 2015 Collins Poetry Residency”

Please contact Ryan Collins at the MWC if you have any questions about the application process.

The Collins Poetry Residency is generously sponsored by 918studio (www.918studio.net)

Kick Start Valentine’s Day with SPECTRA Local Lover’s Open Mic

Source: Susana Fernandez, Flickr Creative Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/susivinh/8472021959/
Source: Susana Fernandez, Flickr Creative Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/susivinh/8472021959/

The SPECTRA Reading Series, voted a top 10 reading series in the Midwest by LitBridge, returns to Rozz-Tox on Thursday, February 12th with an all local, all lovers event.

By local, we mean anyone in or around the greater Quad City area on Feb. 12 who has an original poem, song, story, soliloquy, bit, rant, performance art piece, etc. they are willing/burning to share with the one(s) they love & a loving audience at the enigmatic Rozz-Tox.

By lovers, we mean humans with any relationship with the idea/experience/emotion/harness that you might define as “love”, even if that relationship is love/hate. Have something poetic you want to share with your special lady? Want to sing a song about your love for your line-walking man? Have a hilarious & terrible Valentine’s Day story about love gone wrong? Then we have a stage & a microphone & a welcoming audience ready to love anyone with the courage get up & testify their “love” for the people.

If you would like to submit a poem/song/story/etc. in advance, email your submissions/proposals to mwc@midwestwritingcenter.org with the phrase “Local Lovers” in the subject line. If you’re more spontaneous, not to worry—there will be a sign-up sheet at the event, and performers will be summoned on a first come, first serve basis. Please note that all performers will be limited to one (1) poem/song/story/etc. & no more than 5 minutes of stage time per performance.    

Please contact Ryan Collins at the Midwest Writing Center for more information about SPECTRA or any other MWC programs: (563) 324-1410 | mwc@midwestwritingcenter.org.

The 2015 season of SPECTRA manifests thanks to the generous support of the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Lock and Load – Iron Pen is Coming Up. Register now!

Iron Pen LogoRegistrations are open for our 7th annual Iron Pen Contest. We will supply a prompt to all contestants at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 20th and you will have 24 hours (entries due Saturday, February 21st at 5 p.m.) to write and submit your best fiction, non-fiction or poetry pieces.

The cost to enter is $10 per entry, per category. Contestant entries will be judged blind in genre categories—Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction. The Iron Pen contest is open to all ages. Register via the PayPal button below. To register by other means, please call 563-324-1410.

Everyone who participates in the 2015 Iron Pen Contest will have a chance to win a paid-in-full tuition with a value of $225 for the 2015 David R. Collins Writing Conference in June 25-27 at St. Ambrose University.

Contests are also invited to attend the awards ceremony at MWC on February 28th, from 1 to 3 p.m. Winners will read their winning entries and, at the end, we will draw for the conference tuition. The awards ceremony is open to everyone, free, and accompanied by light refreshments.



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