Laura Sweeney, MS/MPA/MFA, facilitates Writers for Life in Iowa and Illinois. She represented the Iowa Arts Council at the First International Teaching Artist's Conference in Oslo, Norway. Her poems and prose appear in sixty plus journals and ten anthologies in the States, Canada, Britain, Indonesia, and China. Her recent awards include a scholarship to the Sewanee Writer's Conference.  In 2021, she received an Editor's Prize in Flash Discourse from Open: Journal of Arts & Letters; Poetry Society of Michigan's Barbara Sykes Memorial Humor Award; and two of her poems appear in the anthology Impact: Personal Portraits of Activism, an Indie Book Awards finalist.  She is a PhD candidate, English/Creative Writing, at Illinois State University. 


Teaching Artist, Writers for Life & Iowa Arts Council

My focus can best be captured by my writing enterprise’s name, Writers for Life. I believe that writing is a way to improve a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being across the lifespan. To this end, I blend my unique interdisciplinary talents to assist people of all ages and abilities develop their inner writer. I design genre-bender short courses that take a thematic approach to each session, using themes such as humor, heroism, and healing to inspire writers to consider their world in a new light. Through this approach, writers improve their ability to reflect upon and share their unique life histories, leading to a greater self-awareness.

Writers for Life, on the Iowa Arts Council Teaching Artist’s Roster, strives to deliver quality instruction across the lifespan. I’ve worked for the Grinnell Area Arts Council, leading their teen Write-On program, compiling the Write-On Review anthology, and creating and implementing a summer arts academy comic book writing course for elementary and middle schoolers. As a guest artist for the University of Iowa’s Patient Voice Project, I conducted an expressive writing group for the Center for Independent Living, a writing to wellness workshop for the Ames National Alliance for Mental Illness, and individual sessions for people living with chronic health conditions. In addition to teaching writing courses at SIU, I’ve also taught honors seminars at Iowa State University, such as Global Social Issues in Graphic Novels, to help students expand their global awareness. Additionally, I’ve worked as a poet partner for the Poetry Out Loud program, coaching high school students in poetry recitation.

My techniques have possibilities for a variety of learning environments, from ELL (English language learners) to people with disabilities, to seniors, and students, grades 6-16 and beyond. Writing, listening, and reading, combined with thoughtful feedback, rewriting, and polishing─ it sounds simple but requires skill and patience. The results are worth it, though, and can be seen in the proud faces of newly-minted writers and in the pieces that find their way into public readings or publications.

My innovative writing enterprise has worked with people of all ages and ability levels, including:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa
  • Central Iowa Center for Independent Living
  • Des Moines Metro Arts Alliance GreenArts Program
  • Friends of International Women
  • Grinnell Area Arts Council
  • Iowa Department for the Blind
  • ISU Office of Precollegiate Programs for Talented and Gifted
  • Latino Cultural Institute of the Midwest
  • Margaret Sloss Women’s Center
  • Midwest Veterans Writing Workshop
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness - Central Iowa
  • Story County Community Life Program
  • The Workspace
  • University of Iowa's Arts Share Patient Voice Project