Monday, May 13, 2019


By Vanessa Miller, The Gazette

IOWA CITY — Nearly two decades ago in his home state of Massachusetts, Christopher Merrill found himself in the “really sweet position” of distinguished writer-in-residence on the manicured campus of the College of the Holy Cross, where he held the William H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters.

He was negotiating a deal that would keep him in Worcester for the long-term. “I wasn’t looking for another job,” Merrill, 62, said,

But another job was looking for him — 1,110 miles away in Iowa, a state he’d only driven through. A phone call from the University of Iowa piqued his interest in directing the then-struggling International Writing Program.

“It seemed like too good a challenge to pass up,” he said.

So Merrill — a widely published author and poet who espoused writing as a journey — opened himself up to another adventure and applied.

He got the job and never looked back.

“I was born in Massachusetts, raised in New Jersey, my family moved to North Carolina,” he said. “I lived everywhere, East Coast, West Coast, except in the Midwest. Now I’ve lived in Iowa longer than any other place that I’ve lived in my life.”