Q&A with International Writing Program alumnus Walid Rachedi
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Walid Rachedi

Based in Paris, France, Walid Hajar Rachedi, co-founder and managing editor of the online magazine Frictions, participated in the University of Iowa (UI) International Writing Program (IWP) spring 2022 residency program. A digital media entrepreneur at heart, Rachedi initiated a collaboration between Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program and Paris 8 University’s MFA Program in creative writing, which started as a virtual exchange and became a joint nonfiction podcast in English and French. Learn more about Rachedi and this collaboration from the Q&A piece below.

Why did you choose to attend the IWP’s residency program at Iowa? 

The University of Iowa is very well known for its Iowa Writers’ Workshop and its excellence in the field of creative writing. IWP’s residency program is a unique opportunity to benefit from this outstanding environment and to confront one’s literary practice to top-notch writers and poets coming from all over the world. This is really the United Nations of writers. 

How did the IWP prepare you to be a better writer and leader in the industry? 

The IWP helped me to get a better understanding of the global scene of the literary world and to connect with great writers and scholars from different backgrounds, both from a genre and geographical point of view. The conferences and lectures held during my stay were really insightful and made me reflect on my own writing and vision of literature. 

How did collaboration between Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program and Paris 8’s MFA Program in creative writing start?
When Frictions was created in 2020, one of our first ambitions was to create a bridge between young writers from different countries; getting them to reflect on a common theme and their writing practice. Telling what makes us singular and what brings us together. 

When I lived in New York between 2007 and 2009, I discovered the master's in creative writing programs and this fascinating 'fabric' of writers in the U.S. This was not part of French literary tradition until recently. In 2013, I was pleasantly surprised to see champions in the field emerge in France, with the creation of the master's in creative writing at Paris 8 University, directed by Lionel Ruffel. And it was only natural that the idea of a collaboration between these two countries with their strong literary traditions came to mind.

In 2022, my participation in IWP at the University of Iowa, boosted the possibility of this transatlantic collaboration - and was made possible thanks to the support of the U.S. Embassy in Paris.   

Can you tell us about the new project to develop a joint nonfiction podcast in English and French? 

In 2023, the first "season" of this project resulted in the production and publication of 11 podcasts on the common theme of "sense of belonging." That was the opportunity to explore both nonfiction and podcast genres from an American and French perspective.

For the second edition, Paris 8 and Iowa are taking the lead and will have the students working on a new topic and deepening their collaboration. Frictions will support the initiative by helping the students to craft their podcasts and publishing a selection of them on its platform. The project has been awarded a French-American Cultural Exchange grant and some matching funds with assistance from International Programs at the University of Iowa.   

What is your reflection on this collaboration? 

What I observed regarding “the fabric of writers” is that each country has specificities regarding the way they teach literature and creative writing and the way the literary scene is structured. This is important to understand what makes each system singular and also what common ground can exist with other institutions to bridge the gap. You should be able to define achievable objectives for all the participants and how they can benefit from this collaboration - and also make it fun, indeed! 

What is your favorite memory of living in Iowa City? 

The discussion with the writers and the staff of the IWP’s residency program during the conferences and lectures held at the Shambaugh House, the Iowa City Public Library, or more informal moments in the common room of the Iowa House Hotel. 


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.