Guidelines - Iowa Prison Writing Project


Good writing exists everywhere, and that holds true for Iowa’s prisons. The Prison Writing Project was founded on the belief that all writing deserves to be celebrated, honored, and shared. This is why the PWP is hosting a creative writing open reading period, inviting submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from people who are currently incarcerated in the state of Iowa. All submissions will be read by a team of editors and selected pieces will be published online for a wider audience to connect with.

How to Submit Work

  • There is no fee to submit work.
  • Submission period: September 1 through October 31, 2019
  • Submit a manuscript of up to 6 poems (totaling no more than 10 pages, with each poem presented on a separate page) or up to 15 pages for fiction and creative nonfiction.
  • All submissions will be considered for online publication.
  • Accepted submissions will be chosen by an editor of The Iowa Review and the PWP reading team.
  • To submit, please send to the following address:

[Fiction, Poetry, or Nonfiction] Editor
Prison Writing Project
305N CC
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242

The Reading Process
It will take our readers 4 to 6 months to select work and respond to those whose pieces are accepted. At this time, we are unable to send notices to those whose work we aren’t able to publish. While we understand your interest in and commitment to your writing, please do not have friends and family call or contact the PWP regarding work under consideration; administrators within the prison are welcome to contact the PWP if there are questions, or you can send a note by paper mail.

Who Reads the Work?
The team of volunteer readers who will consider work include faculty, staff, and students from the University of Iowa’s writing programs and publications. Leading the reading team is the deputy managing editor for The Iowa Review, a world-renowned literary journal out of the UI Department of English.

What Happens if Your Work Is Selected?
Those whose work is selected for publication will receive notice from The Iowa Review via paper mail. Selected work will be published and showcased on the University of Iowa’s webpage. Authors will be sent printed copies of their published work. Some select work may also be published in print anthologies or in the UI Literary Kiosks. Authors will be alerted if their work is selected for publication. Please note that there is no financial payment for published work.

Anyone who is incarcerated in the state of Iowa is eligible to enter. All submissions should be accompanied by a cover letter with the author’s name, identification number, and complete mailing address. Handwritten submissions are accepted. Authors may not submit more than one entry per reading period. Only unpublished manuscripts will be considered, with the exception of pieces that have appeared in prison-only publications. At the present time, the Prison Writing Project is unable to return manuscripts back to their respective authors. Send in a copy of your work and keep the original. Please include a return address.

About the University of Iowa Prison Writing Project
The University of Iowa Prison Writing Project is a collaboration between the University of Iowa’s award-winning literary magazine The Iowa Review, the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing, and the UI Writing University. The PWP connects the writing community on campus with prison writing communities in Iowa and beyond. The project seeks to foster and support the writing and self-expression of incarcerated individuals and is grounded in the belief that these voices offer unique contributions to the literary landscape.

About the Writing University

The Virtual Writing University is a collaborative, interdisciplinary initiative sponsored by the Graduate College and the Office of the Provost at the University of Iowa. The project launched in fall, 2006, with the mandate to create a virtual space for the University of Iowa’s writing community. 

About the Literary Kiosk

The University of Iowa Libraries Literary Kiosk offer anyone a free one-, three-, or five-minute piece of fiction, poetry, or nonfiction to read. Cosponsored by Iowa City, UNESCO City of Literature, the kiosks are set up at the Iowa City Public Library, University of Iowa Main Library, Stead Children’s Hospital, Coralville, the Eastern Iowa Airport, and throughout the state of Iowa.

UI Non-Discrimination Statement

The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The University also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to University facilities.

Please contact with any questions.