Almaty Writing Residency is an international project organized by Olga Markova Open Literature School of Almaty (OLSA) and the renowned IWP International Writing Program. With the pilot Writers Residency in Kazakhstan taking place in 2021, it has become an annual event for Kazakhstani writers, poets, and authors from near and far.

ALmaty writING residency - iwp international writers program

Almaty Writing Residency is a collaborative international project of the OLSA and the renowned IWP Writers Residency.   

The IWP was founded by Paul Engle and Hualing Nieh Engle as a non-academic, internationally focused counterpart to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Since 2014, the program offers online courses to many writers and poets across the world. Since its inception in 1967, the IWP has hosted over 1,500 emerging and established poets, novelists, dramatists, essayists, and journalists from more than 150 countries. Its primary goal is to introduce talented writers to the writing community at the University of Iowa, and to provide for the writers a period of optimal conditions for their creative work. Since 2000, the IWP has been directed by poet and journalist Christopher Merrill.


To make for an immersive creative environment, residents will live on the territory of one space. Participants will work together on writing projects, discuss literary and literature-related issues, partake in creative meetings and public events, and take tours of the city and the surrounding area. Any author can become a participant on the basis of competitive admission. Both established prose writers and poets, as well as those taking their first steps, are invited to submit their proposals. Experienced authors will be given preference. The residency events will be held in three languages  English, Kazakh, and Russian, with our interpreters available at all timesTravel costs to Almaty and back, as well as accommodation and per diem will be covered for the writers admitted into the program. The basic requirement for the authors is active participation in the activities of the residency.  


The organizers of the Almaty Writing Residency will announce the theme of the Residency for every year. In 2022, the theme will be: “Multiculturality in children’s and youth literature/Children’s literature in times of change.” Resident writers, guest masters and the audience will discuss multiculturality issues, international experience, issues of children’s and youth literature, and experiences of working in the Kazakh and Russian languages in Kazakhstan. Networking and exchange between Kazakh-speaking and Russian-speaking Kazakhstani authors is one of the main goals of this residency. We are looking forward to productive collaboration, which will help writers to further their creative endeavor and promote their work in Kazakhstan and abroad.

Christopher Merrill’s online lecture. Kazakh and Russian subtitles.

OUR INSTRUCTORS and lecturers FOR 2022:


Kelly Dwyer is a graduate of The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the author of two novels, The Tracks of Angels and Self-Portrait with Ghosts, and two children’s books; her monologues and short plays have been produced in Madison, Boston, New York and Glasgow, Scotland.  She grew up in California and lives in Baraboo (near Madison), Wisconsin, where she teaches creative writing part-time, does freelance manuscript editing, and is working on a novel, more plays, and flash fiction inspired by the Disney Princesses at middle age. А longtime teacher, writing coach, and editor, passionate about helping other writers achieve success. 


Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and translations; and six books of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, and Self-Portrait with Dogwood. His writings have been translated into nearly forty languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French government, numerous translation awards, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and Ingram Merrill Foundations. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa since 2000, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries. He served on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO from 2011-2018, and in April 2012 President Barack Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities.


Nina Murray was born and raised in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv. She holds advanced degrees in linguistics and creative writing. She is the author of the poetry collection Alcestis in the Underworld (Circling Rivers Press, 2019) as well as chapbooks Minimize Considered (Finishing Line Press, 2018), Minor Heresies (Heartland Review Press, 2020), and Damascus Electric (Pen & Anvil Press, 2020). Her translations from Russian and Ukrainian include Peter Aleshkovsky’s Stargorod, Oksana Zabuzhko’s Museum of Abandoned Secrets, and Oksana Lutsyshyna’s Ivan and Phoebe (forthcoming from Deep Vellum). 

She speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Lithuanian, and English.



The United States inaugurated the Consulate General in Almaty – the only American Consulate in Central Asia – in December 2009.  The Consulate General hosts offices of the Department of State (including Consular, Public Affairs and Political/Economic Sections), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This consular district encompasses the four southern regions (oblasti) of Kazakhstan, although many Consulate agencies and sections have broader mandates in Kazakhstan and in Central Asia.

The U.S. Consulate General in Almaty works on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, such as trade, commerce, economic development, democracy and governance, humanitarian assistance, health promotion and disease control, counter-narcotics and environmental protection. The Consulate General also provides services to American citizens and businesses in Kazakhstan.


Chevron Corporation, headquartered in San Ramon, California, is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries operating worldwide.  The company is involved in literally every area of energy development, including the exploration, production and transportation of crude oil and natural gas; the refining, marketing and distribution of transportation fuels and other energy products; the manufacture and sale of petrochemical products; the production of electricity and geothermal energy; the development of energy efficiency solutions; and the development of future energy resources, including biofuels. Chevron supports several socially-oriented and cultural projects in Kazakhstan, including the Almaty Writing Residency, launching in 2021.


In Kazakh, Angime [Ahn-Ghee-Mae] means conversation. In the spirit of this word, Angime promotes international, multilingual, and multidisciplinary literary and artistic conversations. Edited by the diverse faculty of Nazarbayev University and independent editors, Angime takes advantage of its distinctive intellectual and creative context in Kazakhstan.



Yuriy Serebriansky is a Kazakhstani author of Polish origin, and cultural researcher. His prose, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in Kazakh, Russian, and American literary journals, and been translated into Kazakh, Polish, English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French and German. In 2010 and 2014, he was awarded the Russkaya Premia literary award; in 2017, his [Kazakhstani Fairy Tales] was recognized as the best bilingual book for a young audience at the Silk Road Book Fair; in 2019, his novel [Black Star], co-written with Bakhytzhan Momyshuly (1941-2012) received the Altyn Kalam literary prize. Editor-in-Chief of Esquire Kazakhstan from 2016 to 2018, he is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Kazakhstani Polish diaspora magazine Ałmatyński Kurier Polonijny, and the prose editor of the Russian literary magazine  Literatura. In 2019, he was one of the instructors for IWP’s Between the Lines youth program.


Valeria Krutova is a novelist. Born in 1988, she received a degree in law. She took part in the 18th and 19th Young Writers’Forums of the SEIP Foundation. Her work was published in the journal “Friendship of Peoples,” “Youth,” in the literary online magazines “Daktil,” “Лиterraтура,” “Formaslov,” the literary magazine “Autograph,” the literary almanac “LiterraNova”(2018), in the prose collection “The Road without End.”


Dina Makhmetova is a playwright, theatre historian, translator. Graduated from Zhurgenov National Academy of Arts with a major in Theatre Studies and from the translation department of Abylai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages. She is a graduate of the writers’ master class of the Mussagetes PF. Readings of her plays took place at ARTiShock theatre (Almaty, 2005 –2006), the festival of Ilkhom theatre organized by “Status Plus” studio (Tashkent, 2009). In the Open Literary School of Almaty she runs a playwriting and screenwriting seminar, creative writing for youth workshop. Her works were published in the online magazine Text Only, in the literary almanac “Literra Nova”.


Anton Platonov is a translator and art manager. He graduated from the translation department at St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts, a student of translator and writer Vera Reznik. Participant of the poetry seminars of the Open Literary School Almaty season 2015-2016. He translates contemporary prose from English, Spanish, and German, researches and translates beatnik poetry, with the special focus on Gregory Corso. He writes and translates texts about contemporary art and philosophy. His translations and essays have been published in the electronic publication Лиterraтура, Esquire, Sygma, etc. One of the founders and head of the projects “Illustrated Guide to the Meanings of Almaty” and editor-in-chief at ariadna.media — a media about contemporary art in Central Asia. Co-founder and co-head of the Laboratory for Literary Translation (supported by the U.S. Mission to Kazakhstan). He lives and works in Almaty.

Аlyona timofeyeva, volunteer

is a writer, essayist, and drama critic from Kazakhstan. She is an alumna of Open Literature School of Almaty second-level prose and young writers programs. Alyona participated in Word/Movement  workshop by the International Writing Program. Her work has appeared in “Daktil” literary magazine,  «Литературная Алма-Ата» almanac, and on the internet (Manshuq, Әдеби портал, 5Q Media, Steppe, Orda). She studies international affairs at the KIMEP University. She was shortlisted for the Qalamdas Literary Prize, dedicated to the memory of Olga Markova, in the Literary Criticism nomination.  

JURY 2022:


Zira Nauryzbai is a researcher of Kazakh mythology, writer, screenwriter, translator from Kazakh to Russian, Ph.D. In 1989, shegraduated from the faculty of political economy of the Kirov Kazakh State University (now Al-Farabi Kazakh National University). The topic of her dissertation was “Mythological and Ritualistic Foundations of the Kazakh Culture (1994).  In 2014, she won the national award-competition Altyn Adam Man of the Year for the cycle of radio programs about Kazakh traditional music “Tylsym perne” (The Magic Key). In 2019, her short story Rival” was translated into English won the Best Asian Short Stories award in the United States. The books “Eternal Sky of the Kazakhs,” “In Search of the Golden Bowl: Adventures of Batu and His Friends” (co-authored with Liliya Kalaus) were included in the top ten Kazakh bestsellers list, according to Meloman” bookstore.


Farkhat Tamendarov was born in the city of Alma-Ata. He graduated from Alma-Ata Power Engineering Institute. His first book “Three pearls” was published in 1990. The second book of poems “Sunshine” was published in 2002. In 2005, a collection of “Mirror in Hand” came out. A colorful publication of 2009 with the poem-tale “Golden Rose of Gulistan” was intended for children. A collection of poems “In a breath” was released in 2012. An adventure novel for teens “HUNTING DOGS” was written in 2018 (translated into English and published in London in 2021). He is a winner of the international literary contest “Ak-Torna,” Ufa, Russia (2012), a finalist of the third international festival “Open Central Asia Book Forum & Literature Festival” in London (2013). He took the first place in the category of literary translation at the literary festival in Brussels (2019), won Yuri Kazakov International PenClub Literary Award (2022). His literary works were published in the almanacs “Literary Asia,” “Poet of the Year” (Moscow), in the newspapers “Vecherny Almaty,” “Kazakhstanskaya Pravda,” “Literary Newspaper” (Moscow), in national magazines “Prostor,” “Niva.” In 2012, he graduated from the Open School of Literature in Almaty (OLSHA). He is the vice president of “Kazakh PEN Club,member of the Writers’ Union of Kazakhstan, editor-in-chief of the literary almanac “LITERANOVA” (Almaty), chairman of the jury of the international children’s literary and art competition “Let’s draw a fairy tale,member of the Board of Trustees of A. Seleznev Choreographic School of Almaty.


Lilya Kalaus was born in 1969 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She is a philologist (graduated from the philological faculty of KazSU in 1991), writer, literary editor, critic, screenwriter, radio host, and artist. From 2001 to 2014, she served as the editor-in-chief of theKazakhstani literary magazine “Knigolyub” (Book Lover). She teaches courses on literary craftsmanship.

Her novels, short stories, and articles were published in the magazines “Prostor” (Kazakhstan), “Niva” (Kazakhstan), “Apollinariy” (Kazakhstan), “Literary Alma-Ata” (Kazakhstan), “Druzhba Narodov” (Russia), “Novaya Yunost” (Russia), “Kreshchatik” (Ukraine), “Lampa i Dymokhod” (Russia), “Vostok Vyshe” (Uzbekistan), “Chaika” (USA), “New Magazine” (USA). Her articles, essays, poems, and drawings have been published in literary journals of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, USA, Germany, and Finland.

The children’s story “In Search of the Golden Bowl: Adventures of Batu and His Friends,” co-authored with Zira Naurzbai will be published in English in the USA by “Amazon Publishing” in 2022. She is the author of 11 books, winner of the 1st and 3rd awards of the literary contest “Soros-Kazakhstan-Debut” (1996), winner of the Third Open Book Forum and Literature Festival of Central Asia (2014), winner of the international literary contest “Rukh” (2017, the 1st prize in the category “Children’s Literature. Prose”).

She is a member of the Union of Writers of Kazakhstan and the Kazakh PEN Club.


Esei Zhenisuly was born on January 9, 1978 in the village of Kegen of Kegen district in Almaty region. In 1994, he graduated from Akay Nusipbekov Secondary School in Kishi Zhalanash aul. From 1994 to 2000, he took the Bachelor’s Degree at the Faculty of Journalism of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. Since 1988, his poems have been published in district, regional and republican editions. In 2009, his book of poems “Bir zharyk” was published,  followed by a socio-politically themed collection “Sender barin zhaksysyndar, adamdar” (“You are all good people”) in 2012. In 2015, his collection of children’s stories“Mynau gaziz dүnie” (“This beautiful world”) came out, and then a collection of poetry and prose “Shuak” (“Sunny side”). He’s been a member of the Union of Journalists since 2007, member of the Writers’ Union of Kazakhstan since 2014. He is the winner of the Seydakhmet Berdikulov Award, winner of a number of national poetry contests and the Daraboz Children’s Literature Award.

Events 2021:

20.08.2021 — Almaty Writing Residency 2021 — This year residency participants list.




The former capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, called in different periods Alma-Ata and Verny, has been the cultural center of the country. The city’s literary history is rich and spans many cultures. The great writers and poets of Kazakhstan worked here. Some made the city the setting for their books.  The monumental building of the Union of Writers, Mukhtar Auezov house-museum, the monuments to Abai, Zhambyl, Gerold Belger, memorial plaques on the houses where the writers lived and worked — all this is part of the city’s literary history.  Today, the literary history of Almaty continues through contemporary authors.