IOWA Magazine | 12-09-2019

Iowa Writers Celebrate 'the Heart and Soul of the Workshop'

Literary greats gather in honor of Connie Brothers' retirement after 45 years as chief administrator of the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Connie Brothers PHOTO: DAN ROLLING Former workshop chief administrator Connie Brothers

Iowa Writers' Workshop Director Lan Samantha Chang called her the program's "secret superpower." Novelist and former faculty member Francine Prose described her as a "model human being," while professor emeritus and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson made the case for "world historical phenomenon."

Full of praise, more than 300 UI-affiliated writers traveled from as far as Paris and Dubai this past October to celebrate the retirement of workshop chief administrator Connie Brothers. Workshop students, faculty, staff, and alumni dating back as far as 1967 gathered in Macbride Auditorium to honor the woman Chang (93MFA) said has been "the heart and soul" of the program for 45 years.

Brothers joined the workshop in 1974 and served under three directors: Jack Leggett, Frank Conroy, and Chang. Many novelists, short story writers, poets, and screenwriters recall receiving that first, life-changing phone call from Brothers that ushered them into the prestigious workshop. Once in Iowa City, workshop students saw Brothers as a mentor and advisor who helped them navigate one of the most formative times of their lives.

"She was a force for equality in many ways," Chang said during the celebration. "She was also a tireless champion for the voices of women at a time when the workshop was 60 to 70% men."

Building lasting relationships with many writers over the years, Brothers served as the tie that bound the workshop community. "Where can we place the limits of her influence when she has contributed to the emergence of so many writers, so very many books, a body of literature that is a presence and an influence globally?" Robinson (17LHD) said at the event. "Connie Brothers is a blessing to us all, and, without hyberbole, a blessing to literature."

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Hundreds of UI-affiliated writers convened in Iowa City in October 2019 to celebrate the retirement of Iowa Writers’ Workshop chief administrator Connie Brothers.

To donate to the Connie Brothers Discretionary Fund in support of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, visit

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