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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 9, 2009

UI writers help Cedar Rapids Library recover from flood damage

The University of Iowa Main Library escaped major damage in the flood of June 2008 but the Cedar Rapids Public Library was not as lucky. Now members of the writing community at the UI are showing their Iowa literary solidarity with "Writers & Readers Rebuilt," a benefit reading and silent auction of books signed by the authors, 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, in the Stewart Memorial Library of Coe College.

Admission will be $20. All the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Cedar Rapids Public Library.

Participants from the Iowa Writers' Workshop will be faculty members Marvin Bell, former Iowa Poet Laureate; Director Lan Samantha Chang; poets James Galvin and Cole Swensen; and Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson. The Nonfiction Writing Program will be represented by David Hamilton, editor of the Iowa Review; and John D'Agata, who is also an alumnus of the Writers' Workshop.

The event was organized by UI International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill, a poet and nonfiction writer who will also read and contribute to the silent auction. "Writers live by and in their books," Merrill said, "and so we feel a particular responsibility to help the Cedar Rapids Public Library rebuild, book by book."

Signed books available in the silent auction will include Bell's "Drawn By Stones, By Earth, By Things That Have Been in The Fire," "Iris of Creation," "Nightworks" and "Rampant"; D'Agata's "Halls of Fame" and "The Next American Essay"; Galvin's novel "Fencing The Sky" and poetry collections "Imaginary Timber" and "X"; Hamilton's "Deep River: A Memoir of a Missouri Farm," "Hard Choices: An Iowa Review Reader" and "Ossabaw -- Poems"; Swensen's "Ours," "The Book of a Hundred Hands" and "The Glass Age"; and Merrill's "Only the Nails Remain: Scenes From The Balkan Wars," "The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer" and "Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain."

The 85,000-square-foot Cedar Rapids Public Library was flooded June 11-13, 2008, resulting in what has been described as the largest public library disaster in the country. River water containing raw sewage, petroleum and other pollutants rose five to seven feet on the first floor of the library, destroying the entire adult and young adult collections as well as reference materials, the check-out and security system, public access computers and a computer laboratory.

The loss included approximately 160,000 items: fiction and nonfiction books, CDs, reference materials, magazines, DVDs, journals, display racks, electronic equipment, microfilm, tables, carts, chairs, copiers, change machines, display racks, newspapers and many other items. The library is now operating out of two storefronts in the Westdale Mall, where it is expected to remain for at least three years.

A Web site has been dedicated to the flood and recovery:

The Writers' Workshop and the Nonfiction Writing Program are graduate programs in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),