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Nonfiction Undergrads Take Manhattan

Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor Bobby Cannavale with UI students

You may have heard the exciting news that last fall NWP Director John D’Agata’s The Lifespan of a Fact was adapted into a Broadway show, debuting in October. You may have heard, too, that the cast included none other than Daniel Radcliffe, Bobby Cannavale (as D’Agata himself), and Cherry Jones.

The story you may not know is that a group of twenty Iowa undergrads traveled to New York to celebrate the show, catching a matinee performance and meeting with writers and cast members afterward backstage.

Not only did these lucky undergrad writers experience the play adaptation firsthand, they also spent a Friday meeting with generous publishing and media professionals at VICE Media, WME, and Norton. At each New York office they were given a tour and an in-depth discussion of the field.

The NWP connection here was strong—they met with VICE Media’s Eric Sundermann, an NWP alum and editor-in-chief of Noisey; and learned about WME courtesy of another NWP alum, WME agent Dorian Karchmar, NWP ‘98.

NWP students Cassandra Jensen, NWP ’20, and M.K. Brake, NWP ’19, accompanied the undergrad writers on their trip. Jensen looked at it this way: “I was surprised and impressed by the generosity of the publishing professionals toward our student group. At each of the stops – Vice, WME, and Norton – our contacts and their colleagues greeted us enthusiastically, provided guided tours, and made time for detailed Q&A sessions. They even gave us free books!”

Clarissa Klosterman, a senior creative writing major and a dedicated nonfiction student, called the trip “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I feel like we got a behind-the scenes glimpse at how the publishing world works,” said Klosterman. “I’m so grateful to The Nonfiction Writing Program for sharing this with us and opening doors that we probably wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see behind as undergraduate students. This was an awesome experience!”

Already some undergrads report they’ll apply for summer internships in New York to spend more time in the excitement of the publishing and media world.