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 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.  

ALmaty writING residency 2024

This year’s theme of the residency is:“Non-Fiction Literature and Documentary Poetry in Search of Kazakhstani Identity.”

AWR events 2024

  • March 4 at 18.00 - Meet the participants of the AWR 24 residence. Poet Aigerim Tazhi, an IWP’23 participant, will be featured as a guest.
  • March 5 at 18.00 - The works of Ryshard Kapuscinski - Online lecture and discussion with Krzysztof Hoffman, PhD (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland).
  • March 6 at 18.00 - Meeting with Kazakhstani publishers and media.
  • March 7 at 18.00 - online lecture and discussion with Christopher Merrill, writer and journalist, the director of the International Writing Program (USA).
  • March 8 at 18.00 – open discussion about feminism in the literature of Kazakhstan
All events are held in Kazakh, Russian, and English languages with interpretation.
Events hosted by American Space & Makerspace Almaty, Baizakova, 280. SmArt.Point

OUR Participants:

Ainel Amirhan

A PR specialist, independent journalist, and podcaster. Ainel has twenty years of experience in the field of PR, having worked as a PR specialist in non-governmental organizations at different times. Currently, she is the host of the podcast OY-DETOX and the YouTube project “Тасадағы әйелдер” (“Women in the Shadows”).

OY-DETOX is a Kazakh-language podcast with new episodes coming out regularly for the past four years. With over 60 episodes, it covers topics related to culture, literature, education, human rights, and other important social issues. OY-DETOX is available on all podcast platforms, and there’s the YouTube video version.

In 2023, the OY-DETOX project won in the “Best Podcast” category at the URKER National Award in the field of publishing, radio, and internet journalism. In the same year, in collaboration with Bakytgul Salikhova, Ainel released the book “атың шықпаса, ПОДКАСТ ЖАСА” (“if you’re not famous yet, MAKE A PODCAST”).

Ainel graduated from the journalism faculty of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and holds a master’s degree in political science. In 2013, she completed a qualification course in PR at the Graduate School of Management at Saint Petersburg State University. Ainel is also a master’s student at the School of Creativity and Culture at the University of Robert Gordon (Scotland), specializing in “Corporate Communication and Public Relations” (July 2022).

Alina Gatina

Alina was born in 1984 in Shymkent. She graduated from Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and the Literary Institute named after A.M. Gorky (the seminar of Oleg Pavlov). She is a laureate of literary awards such as the “Altyn Tobylgy”, “FIKSHN35”, and the  “Friendship of Nations” magazine’s prize.

In 2019, she launched her literary courses and now teaches an author’s course on writing skills for aspiring prose writers and publicists. Alina also leads a Literary Workshop where authors work on writing books.

In 2021, she nominated the story “Kara” by Nurayn Satpayeva, written in the Literary Workshop, for the International Literary Award “Danko”, where it took third place. Alina was also a jury member of AWR-2021, the literary award Qalamdas.

She works as an invited literary and managing editor at publishing houses in Almaty, preparing books for publication. Alina is collecting material for her future novel.

Kokbori Mubarak

Born on February 10, 1994, in a place known as “Holm Ospan-batyr” in Koktogay district of Altai, he is a graduate of the Faculty of History, Archaeology, and Ethnology at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (2018) and a member of the Writers’ Union of Kazakhstan.

His first work, the story “Қуқыл тартқан боз дала” (“The Overgrown Pale Steppe”), was published in the magazine “Aqjelken” in 2008. In the same year, the magazine featured his poems “Қылмысым” (“My Crime”) and “Ғасырмен сырласу” (“Talking with the Century”). In 2020 and 2021, he published 18 poetry collections, including “Аққудың иісі” (“Scent of Swans”), “Ақ меңді айлар” (“Months with White Moles”), “Далалар – нағыз бабалар” (“Steppes — True Ancestors”), “Арманға жылқы жерлеу” (“Burying a Horse in a Dream”), “Қара уыққа толы ғаламшар” (“Planet Full of Black Cranes”), “Құшақта мені, адамдар” (“Hug Me, People”), “Сен неге әлем емессің” (“Why Aren’t You the Whole World”), “Үндістің рухы қайнаған уақыт” (“Time When the Spirit of India Boiled”), “Қарлығаштар еліндегі құлазу” (“Desolation in the Land of Swallows”). In 2022, he published the book “Кетенің кіндік тарихы” (“History of the Ket Clan”), representing a genealogical study of one of the clans of the Junior Horde.

He has won awards in various competitions, including the Poetry Festival (Өнер фестивалі, 2013, 2015), the Short Story Competition (2016), the Republican Poetry Competition named after Keiki-batyr (2017), the “Poets on Facebook” Poetry Competition (Shymkent, 2018), the Republican Poetry Competition named after Adil Botpanov (2019), the Poetry Competition at NurmuBarak University (2019), the Poetry Competition named after Ketbuga-zhyrau (2022), the Short Story Competition (ceremony held at the Writers’ Union in 2022), the special Mendekeshev Prize of the Makhambet Poetry Competition (Atyrau, 2022), first place in the “My Homeland” competition (Turkestan, 2022), and the Tolgen Aybargenov Medal. In the fall of 2023, he won the main prize in the “Prose” category of the Republican competition “Әдебиет. Рух. Қоғам” (“Literature. Spirit. Society”) with his story “Көкшұбар аттың иісі” (“Scent of the Chubar Horse”).

Assem Anykbekkyzy

A student at the Open Literary School of Almaty (OLSHA), she is participating in the residency for the second time.

Assem writes childrens literature. Following the advice of her mentors, she has submitted a work to publishers that was written as part of the OLSHA course and is currently waiting for a response.

Ana Maskevich

Ana Maskevich is a Kazakhstani author and philologist (Moscow State University). She is the winner of the first “Book Workshop” (a writing competition organized by the Writers’ Club of Kazakhstan and the Literary Club “451 Degrees”). In the spring of 2018, she presented her family novel “Anastasia,” dedicated to her great-grandmother. In the summer of 2019, she became the organizer of the Writers’ Community in Astana. During that time, she also enrolled in the master’s program at Nazarbayev University to study the topic of the deportation of Poles to Kazakhstan and to write a novel on the subject.

She is also the author of the prose course “WRITING A STORY.” In November 2021, she became a participant in the writer’s residency at the House of Creativity “Peredelkino.”

Currently, Ana has suspended her organizational activities to focus on her own creative work. However, shecontinues to write occasionally for well-known Kazakhstani publications, including literary ones.

Almira Ismailova

Almira Ismailova is a playwright, curator of the festival of contemporary Kazakhstani drama “Drama.KZ” 2019/2020, editor of the “Dramaturgy” section of the online journal “Dactyl”, and a documentary film director.

She studied at the Yekaterinburg State Theater Institute specializing in “Literary Creativity” under the mentorship of N. Kolyada. She is a graduate of the theater and film dramaturgy courses at the Open Literary School of Almaty (OLSHA), the “Fundamentals of Film Dramaturgy” course at the T. K. Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Arts, and the contemporary dramaturgy laboratory of Olzhas Zhanaydarov. She was a long-lister at the “Nim-2018” drama festival and the School of Documentary Film. She participated in city projects such as “Two Days of Theater” and “Dramathon” with the plays “Mystery of Tuu-uf” and “Euripides and the Christmas Tree,” respectively. She was involved in the project #цензурасыз (Kazakh for “uncensored”) at the ARTMEKEN gallery with the play “Kul-tyagin”. She produced readings of the plays “X-ray” and “Uncle Kolya’s Tulip Breeder” at the theater-cafe La Boheme. She participated in the Central Asian Screenwriting Masterclass (CASL) organized by the UNESCO Cluster Office in Almaty as part of the “Strengthening the Film Industry in Central Asia” project.

She is currently directing her debut feature film “Ystyq Zher” (Warm Earth).

Nauryzbek Sarsha

He was born on March 21, 1992 in the village of Shaidana, Zhambyl district of Zhambyl region. He is the winner of several regional and republican poetry competitions. He is also a laureate of the special prize named after Bukhara-zhyrau. His poems are frequently featured in regional and national periodicals.

Aliya Rysimbetova

Aliya was born in 1994 in the city of Shymkent. She has been writing poetry since childhood. She graduated from the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communications at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA, Bishkek) and attended a poetry seminar at the Open Literary School of Almaty. Aliya worked as a journalist for Kazakhstani television channels. She participated in the festival of young writers from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan organized by the S.A. Filatov SEIP Foundation. Her works have been published in the newspaper “Panorama Shymkent” and the online journal “Dactyl”. Currently, she is attending a prose seminar at OLSHA.



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.


Nataša Ďurovičová

Nataša Ďurovičová divides her time between editing, teaching, scholarly work, and translating. The editor of  IWP’s imprint 91st Meridian Books at Autumn Hill Books, and the program’s journal 91st Meridian. She has also co-edited WorldCinemas,Transnational Perspectives (2010; the winner of SCMS’s 2011 Best Edited Collection award) and the essay collection At Translation’s Edge  (2019), and is one of the two translators of André Bazin on Adaptation: Cinema’s Literary Imagination (2022). In 2023, she co-curated the exhibit ”A Hub, A Network, an Archive: 55 Years of International Writers in Iowa City.”


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.

Krzysztof Hoffmann

Krzysztof Hoffmann, PhD, critic, translator. He works at the Department of Poetics and Literary Criticism at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland) and is the director of Literature Affirmation Centre at the same university. He co-founded AMU MA program in Creative Writing and now directs the Creative Writing BA track. He is the author and co-author of 2 books and over 200 texts (reviews, interviews, research papers, etc.), translated to English, Russian, Danish and other languages; he is a past columnist for Gazeta Wyborcza.


Bigeldy Gabdullin

Writer, literary critic, and journalist,

He serves as the President of the Kazakhstan branch of the International PEN Club. His career includes notable tenures as the editor-in-chief of Central Asia Monitor, Vremya, New Generation, and TRK Tan, among others. He is the author of “Serious Talk,” “Great Nomad,” “Sizo,” and over 300 journalistic works. His translations into Russian include K. Zhumadilov’s “Land of Fathers,” X. Rakhimov’s “Secrets of Sengir,” and T. Zhurtbaev’s “Kalleki.” A recipient of multiple accolades, Gabdullin is also a laureate of the esteemed “Kurmet” and “Parasat” state awards.


Ismailzhan Iminov

Ismailzhan Iminov, an esteemed Uyghur writer and local historian, has authored over 12 books along with a multitude of essays and sketches. He is an active member of both the Kazakh PEN-club and the Kazakhstan National Geographical Society.

As the head of research expeditions, he has a number of scholarly dedicated to the history of Kazakhstan, with a particular focus on Uyghur history and the environmental issues facing the Aral Sea. His works’ translations are available in Kazakh, Uyghur, and English.

Anuar Duisenbinov

Anuar Duisenbinov is a Kazakhstani poet, translator, and creative producer. He studied economics at the Eurasian National University in Astana and poetry at the Open Literary School of Almaty. His texts have been published in Russian-language online publications such as Литература, Polutona, TextOnly, Soloneba, Articulation, DOXA, Esquire, as well as in the Latvian Satori, Lithuanian Satenai, Polish Helikopter, the English-language Asymptote and in Kazakh-language The Bilge.

“A Spectral Path in the Azure or Testimonies about Tea”, a collection written for the Hayward Gallery as a reflection on the work of the Slavs & Tatars art group “Samovar”, was included in the National Library of Poetry’s collection in London.

He participated in Kazakhstan festivals such as Сөзыв, Polyfonia, Astana Art Show, Go Viral, Bookfest, ‘STYQ’, and also in Latvian festivals – Dzejas Dienas and Dzejnieka Asinis. In 2017, he was the winner of the Great Almaty Slam.

Anuar is actively involved in cultural projects like bULt and SteppeSpace. He coordinates the publishing program at the Tselinniy Center for Contemporary Culture in Almaty and is a member of the Artcom Platform community.

He writes in both Russian and Kazakh, creating multilingual poetry that captures the linguistic and thematic essence of Kazakhstan’s burgeoning new literature.

His first collection of poems, Рухани кенгуру, was published in Almaty in 2022.

Tilek Yrysbek

He is a poet and translator, born in 1995 in the Ile-Kazakh region, Mungulkure district (the Mongolian Road), in what is known as the New Frontier. His works have been published in the magazines Tamyr, Daktil, Sygma, and Angime. He co-authored the Friedrich Schegirtke project. He translated into Kazakh the collection of articles by M. Tlostanova “Decoloniality of Being, Knowledge and Sensation”. He is the author of the poem nursultan. Currently lives in Almaty.



Writer and culturologist, born in Alma-Ata in 1975, graduated from the Kazakh National University named after Al-Farabi and the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland. He has been published in literary magazines such as Prostor, Knigolub, Druzhba Narodov, Znamya, Novy Mir, Vozdukh, Day and Night, Novaya Yunost, Prologue, Yunost, Iowa Magazine, Barzakh, New Reality, Polutona, Liteggatura, Promegalit, and others. He has participated in forums for young writers in Lipki and is a winner of the «Russian Prize» in the category of short prose in 2010 and 2014, the national prize Altyn Kalam, and the state prize of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. He is a Knight of the Order «Kurmet» and participated in the IWP 2017 international writer’s residency in the USA. He has served as the editor of the journal for the Polish diaspora in Kazakhstan, Ałmatyński Kurier Polonijny, and as editor of the prose department of the magazine Лиterraтура. He leads a prose seminar at the Open Literary School of Almaty (OLSA) and creative workshops at the IWP University of Iowa. He is the Vice-President of the Kazakh Pen Club, a member of the Council on Russian and Russian-language literature of the Union of Writers of Kazakhstan, and is working on his doctoral dissertation at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland.


Valeria Krutova is a prose writer, coordinator of the Almaty Open Literary School, and the first Almaty Writing Residency in Central Asia. She authored the short story collection “Наверность”, published in the Daktil literary magazine book series. Krutova’s short stories have been translated into Kazakh, English, and German.


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, event coordinator

She is a novelist, publicist, and theater reviewer. She completed three courses at the Open Literary School of Almaty and participated in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, as well as a literary translators’ workshop at the Almaty Writing Residency (2022). She took part in the Forum of Young Writers from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan (2021). She is the editor-in-chief of The Alma Review, a blog about Kazakhstani literature. Her work has been published in journals such as Daktil, Polutona, Formaslov, Chetyrehlistnik, Angime, and in the almanacs Articulation and LiterraNova. She was shortlisted for the Qalamdas Literary Prize in 2022 and works as a journalist for Orda.kz, Forbes,Esquire, Manshuq, and other platforms.

Official media:

The Alma Review is the residency’s official media representative.

The mission of this blog is to make this literature more visible by writing reviews of new works, interviewing authors, celebrating good news, etc.

Daktyl magazine is the residency’s official media representative.

“Daktyl” is a magazine that seeks to expand the space of literature in Kazakhstan. We publish texts in Russian and Kazakh languages.

Almaty Writing Residency Official Catalog

Supporting literature is a long-term investment, but some results have already become evident: new works of the participants are coming out, a media about Kazakhstani literature has appeared, the residency is becoming part of the literary process and part of the cultural landscape of our beloved city. This shows that there is a demand for the AWR and that we have found our niche. The AWR is a unique program for Kazakhstan.



sonnet mondal

Sonnet Mondal is an award-winning Indian poet, editor, and author of An Afternoon in My Mind (Copper Coin 2022/Bite-Sized Books, U.K.), Karmic Chanting (Copper Coin 2018), Ink and Line (Dhauli Books 2018) and five other books of poetry. He has read as an invited poet at literary festivals in USA, Macedonia, Ireland, Turkey, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Hungary, Madagascar, South Africa, and Slovakia. He was awarded Gayatri Gamarsh Memorial Award for literary excellence in 2016, Godyoo Podyo Probondho Award in 2023, and was shortlisted for Tagore Literary Prize in 2020.  His writings have appeared in publications across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia. His recent works have appeared in the Harper’s Bazaar, Virginia Quarterly Review, Stand Magazine, Words Without Borders, Singing in the Dark (Penguin Random House), Luvina magazine (University of Guadalajara, Mexico), La Otra (University of Mexico), Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), Stand magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review (University of Salzburg), and Mascara Literary Review among others.  Mondal was one of the authors of the Silk Routes project of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa from 2014 to 2016. Founder director of Chair Poetry Evenings – Kolkata’s International Poetry Festival, Mondal edits the Indian section of Lyrikline (Haus für Poesie, Berlin) and serves as managing editor of Verseville. He has been a guest editor for Words Without Borders, New York, and Poetry at Sangam, India. His works have been translated in over twenty languages.

Olga Markova Almaty Open Literary School and Almaty Writing Residency presents the guest in 2023 – Sonnet Mondal, poet, India.

He took part in the AWR Kazakhstani literary translators’ workshop from 09/29/23 to 10/04/23; publication of Sonnet Mondal’s poems in Kazakh and Russian will be the result of translator’s work.

Public meeting with Sonnet Mondal and poetry reading at the American Space and Maker Space Almaty, 03.10.2023.


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

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.