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

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.

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.



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).

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


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

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


Kathleen Lawless Cox - Journal of the Unconscious
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
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.

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.

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.