Our first week was full-on. On our first day together all of the IWP participants went on an excursion through the rural outskirts of Iowa City to the Redbird Farms Wildlife Area, which featured prairie grasslands and woodland. This was where I spotted my first wildlife specimen - a little brown frog. Since then, I have seen rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels, but no bears or deer yet. Do you think I need to get out of the city more?
Our official orientation began with a welcome party and Mexican dinner at the home of IWP director Christopher Merrill, where we introduced ourselves in front of 300 people. What a night! These people seem to think we're superstars. It's really quite bizarre. There was a congressman there giving a speech, and a representative from the Iowan Dept of Foreign Relations. I was speaking quite casually with both of them before I knew who they were.
The foreign relations man, in a very Iowan checked shirt, chatted to me for quite a while and said he was looking for a writer who is politically motivated to speak at a function. I didn't click into gear straight away, but I went back to him later and told him I'm politically-motivated about the use of a deadly poison called 1080 which is manufactured in Alabama, that 85% of the world's production is being used in pest control operations in clean green 100% pure New Zealand, and that I'm prepared to talk about it (deep breath). I get the feeling it isn't quite what he had in mind, but we'll see what comes out of it.
I must have talked about it to a few more people than that because I'm now scheduled to introduce and show the documentary Poisoning Paradise at the Cinematheque in early October. The Cinematheque features a fabulous line-up of films and documentaries from around the world. It also showcases the work of some of the scriptwriters in the writing program - their short films, features and docos.