People interested in writing in the Quad Cities might look at the list of organizations that offer classes in dance, music, art, and theatre and wonder: What about me?

For better or worse, there's only one organization in the Quad Cities that offers writing instruction to the community at-large: the Midwest Writing Center.

Most visibly, the organization hosts the David R. Collins Writers' Conference each summer.

Down to the River: Portraits of Iowa MusiciansIowa roots musician Greg Brown gazes out from the sepia dust-jacket of Sandra Dyas's Down to the River: Portraits of Iowa Musicians as if he were part of a modern-day American Gothic, setting the tone for a book filled with earthy photographs. This picture is found inside in black and white, opposite a posed shot of Kevin Gordon in front of a door haloed with postcards.

Reader issue #635 For the River Cities' Reader's fourth-annual short-fiction contest, we got mean. Diabolical. Bound-for-hell cruel.

Oh, sure, in the past we gave the challenge of starting or ending with a particular line, or including seven specific words in a story. We've limited you to 200 words.

This year, in addition to the relatively mundane prompts of a photograph and a fortune cookie, we devised what we called the "Wheel of Fortune challenge," in which authors could not use the letters R, S, T, L, N, and E. As you'll see from the winners and other selected entries, that nasty constraint gave us our most creative and playful entries.



The Midwest Writing Center has announced the winners of the 34th Annual Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, and the River Cities' Reader, as one of the contest's sponsors, is pleased to publish selected entries. Other sponsors of the contest were the Sam's Club Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council (a state agency).

The awards will be presented at 7 p.m. on May 19 at the Butterworth Center in Moline.


Reader Short Fiction Contest What do a fortune cookie, a photograph, and a few missing letters have in common?

They're the Starting Points for the River Cities' Reader 2007 Short Fiction Contest.


Kathleen Lawless Cox - Journal of the Unconscious Kathleen Lawless Cox's new book, Journal of the Unconscious, is a necessarily self-indulgent affair. The title is perfectly descriptive rather than being arty, and the volume - less than 80 pages - is a collection of recorded "visions" from 1973 and 1974.

Reader issue #608 Kathleen Lawless Cox's novel Maeve was written over 29 years. Her new book, the poetry collection Citizen of the Earth, has been four decades in the making.

The 68-year-old author - born in England, raised in Ireland, a U.S. resident since 1961, and a Quad Cities citizen for the bulk of the past 45 years - is matter-of-fact about the book's creation.

"I had approximately 40 years' worth of poetry sitting around," she said this week, "and I decided I would like to do a book that covered those 40 years but with the best poems that I could muster out of the pile."

If you visit the Web site for local not-for-profit-organizer-turned-author Jane Wagoner (, you'll be able to read passages from her recent historical fiction, Bells of May, which follows five generations of women rooted in the Harz Mountains of Germany. Here's what you'll find on the site's first page:

Jane Wagoner"The kiss, begun in sorrow, ignited into passion, a passion born of desperation and loss, wild and unstoppable ... . They came together desperately, without nuance or soft caress. But Katherine, still virgin, was no stranger to orgasm and responded wildly to Christoph's thrusts ... ."

And trust me, things just get racier from there.

Issue 583 Cover We've tortured you with tiny word limits before, but this year we were in a really foul mood. So we decided to have some fun at your expense and see how many suckers would try to put "llama" and "ramekin" in a 200-word story dealing with an odoriferous canine abode and lumpy breakfast food.

Super Granny

For a current Virginian, Beverly van Hook knows her Quad Cities. The author was selected by the Midwest Writing Center to be the guest speaker at the organization's Silver Anniversary Awards Banquet - at the Outing Club on Saturday, March 11 - and the decision makes sense.