30 September 2015: Yale-NUS and SMU co-host American Writers Festival 2015

Written by Clare Isabel Ee | Images provided by the US Embassy Singapore

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Singaporean actor, Adrian Pang (left), hosted Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson (right) during the American Writers Festival 2015 opening event

Since 2010, the American Writers Festival (AWF) has become a staple in Singapore’s literary circuit, known for bringing in notable names such as Caryl Philips, Matthew Bloomfield, Rowena Torrevillas, Moira Crone, Shawn Wong, Ravi Shankar, among others.

This year’s AWF was the second year Yale-NUS College co-hosted the event alongside the Wee Kim Wee Centre at Singapore Management University (SMU) and with the generous support of the US Embassy Singapore and the Singapore American School.

“I was gratified to see so many enthusiastic members of the audience at each event,” Professor of Humanities and Director of the Yale-NUS Writing Programme, Robin Hemley, said. “Such events are a work-in-progress and we learn from them one year to the next.”

AWF 2015 welcomed Pulitzer Prize winner Professor Adam Johnson, who gave the opening reading on 14 September at the National Library. Other speakers included two poets, Ms Tina Chang and Ms Lisa Wells, two playwrights, Mr Rajiv Joseph and Ms Eleanor Wong, two nonfiction writers, Mr Michael Meyer and Mr Nisid Hajari, novelist Mr Jon Fasman, and writer Mr Desmond Kon.

“The writers were chosen by members of the committee last year, including representatives from SMU, Yale-NUS and the US Embassy, after much discussion,” shared Dr Heidi Stalla, Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of the Writing Programme at Yale-NUS.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a diverse group of dynamic, award-winning writers across genres who shared an interest in writing about Asia.”

By and large, the event was greatly beneficial and enjoyable for the Yale-NUS student body, faculty and administration.

“I’ve had people take the time to write to me to let me know they were impressed by the high quality of every single event,” Dr Stalla said. “Some events were sold out – all were just about filled to capacity.”

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Yale-NUS staff from the Writers Centre enjoying themselves during the American Writers Festival

Adlin Binti Zainal, Class of 2017, who helped to plan the event as part of the Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre, was very excited to have met Professor Adam Johnson, and to attend all the AWF events.

“This year’s AWF was absolutely amazing! It was the first time we had four co-sponsors on board, and each brought something unique to the table so the festival was well-planned, well-executed and an overall success,” she said. “It was also great that our students were given the fantastic opportunity to tap onto the talent of our keynotes through private workshops.”

Professor Hemley shared that the organisers may look into partnering with other established literary festivals in Singapore, such as the Singapore Writers Festival, and to perhaps even pool resources for next year. Stay tuned to find out more!

For more information on AWF, head over to www.americanwritfest.org!