For more than 70 years, the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop has been one of the most prestigious programs of its kind in the United States. Celebrated writers and poets such as Michael Cunningham, Jane Smiley and Rita Dove are among the long list of the workshop's esteemed alumni.

Ayana Mathis, author of Oprah's Book Club 2.0's second selection The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, attended the workshop in 2009 and began to work on a fictionalized memoir. But after getting a reality check on a story she wrote -- a critique from her instructor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson -- Ayana decided to work on some short stories instead... not knowing that they would become the beginnings of the The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.

Click through the slideshow to see some of the literary luminaries -- both faculty and graduates -- who have been a part of the Iowa Writers' Workshop over the years.

To learn more about Ayana Mathis' debut novel and how to participate in Oprah's Book Club 2.0, click here.

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  • Ayana Mathis

    Mathis' debut novel <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Tribes-Hattie-Oprahs-Book/dp/0385350287">The Twelve Tribes of Hattie</a></em> is the second selection for Oprah's Book Club 2.0.

  • Kurt Vonnegut

    Vonnegut became a bestselling author during his professorship at The Iowa's Writer's Workshop. His most famous works include <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Slaughterhouse-Five-Kurt-Vonnegut/dp/0440180295">Slaughterhouse-Five</a></em> and <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Breakfast-Champions-Novel-Kurt-Vonnegut/dp/0385334206">Breakfast of Champions</a></em>.

  • Philip Roth

    Roth is the author of dozens of acclaimed novels, including <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Portnoys-Complaint-Philip-Roth/dp/0679756450">Portnoy's Complaint</a> </em>and <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/American-Pastoral-Philip-Roth/dp/0375701427/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355248806&sr=1-1&keywords=American+Pastoral">American Pastoral</a></em>, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature in 1998.

  • Flannery O’Connor

    O’Connor won the <a href="http://www.nbafictionblog.org/nba-winning-books-blog/1972.html">1972 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction</a> for her <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Complete-Stories-Flannery-OConnor/dp/0374515360">Complete Stories</a></em>.

  • John Irving

    Irving wrote best-sellers <a href="http://www.amazon.com/World-According-Garp-John-Irving/dp/034536676X"><em>The World According to Garp</em></a>, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Prayer-Owen-Meany-John-Irving/dp/006220422X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355246377&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Prayer+for+Owen+Meany"><em>A Prayer for Owen Meany</em></a> and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Widow-Modern-Library-Worlds-Books/dp/0812968573/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355246402&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Widow+for+One+Year">A Widow for One Year</a>. He was a student of Kurt Vonnegut's at The Iowa Writers' Workshop.

  • Michael Cunningham

    In 2002, Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning book <a href="http://www.michaelcunninghamwriter.com/books/the_hours"><em>The Hours</em></a> was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman.

  • Rita Dove

    Dove received her MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1977 and went on to <a href="http://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate-1991-2000.htm">serve as U.S. poet laureate</a> from 1993 to 1995.

  • Frank Conroy

    Conroy is the author of the acclaimed memoir <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Time-Memoir-Frank-Conroy/dp/0140044469"><em>Stop-Time</em></a>. The Iowa Writers' Workshop named <a href="http://www.writinguniversity.org/location/frank-conroy-reading-room">The Frank Conroy Reading Room in the Dey House </a>after him.

  • John Berryman

    Berryman was one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century and is best known for his collection <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Songs-John-Berryman/dp/0374530661/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355250772&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Dream+Songs">The Dream Songs</a></em>.

  • Robert Lowell

    Lowell was a critically acclaimed poets <a href="http://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate-1937-1960.html"> and served as U.S. poet laureate</a> in 1947-1948.

  • Marilynne Robinson

    Robinson is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gilead-Novel-Marilynne-Robinson/dp/031242440X"><em>Gilead</em></a> and the critically acclaimed <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Home-A-Novel-Marilynne-Robinson/dp/B002N2XHU8">Home</a></em>. She currently <a href="http://www.uiowa.edu/~iww/faculty/fiction.htm">teaches at the workshop. </a>

  • Karl Shapiro

    Karl Shapiro was an American poet who was <a href="http://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate-1937-1960.html">appointed the U.S. poet laureate in 1946-1947. </a>

  • Smiley <a href="http://www.iowalum.com/pulitzerPrize/smiley.html">received her MA, MFA and PhD at the University of Iowa</a>. Her novel <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Acres-Novel-Jane-Smiley/dp/1400033837/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355249062&sr=1-1&keywords=a+thousand+acres">A Thousand Acres</a></em> won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

  • Richard Yates

    Yates wrote <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Revolutionary-Road-ebook/dp/B001CBMX9C">Revolutionary Road</a></em>, which was later adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.