4 August 2017: Inaugural Writers’ Centre Literary Awards celebrate students’ writing

By Wen Kin Lim | Image by Melissa Wang

In April this year, the Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre held its inaugural Literary Awards, recognising exceptional work of individual students and the accomplishments of the creative writing community at Yale-NUS College.

Professor Robin Hemley, Director of the Writing Programme at Yale-NUS explained the motivation behind setting up the Awards.

“The Writers’ Centre Literary Awards honour and celebrate the achievements of student writers. Before our first class graduated, we wanted to start this tradition at Yale-NUS,” he said.

The Literary Awards are presented in four categories, Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Playwriting. The first round of selection was done by internal Yale-NUS judges and the winners eventually chosen by external judges, who included bestselling authors like T Geronimo Johnson and Lisa Zeidner, and Director of Creative Writing at Yale University, Richard Deming.

Bryant Chan (Class of 2017) was awarded first place in Fiction for his story, Deus Ex Olympia. The story is a humorous piece about Greek gods living amongst normal humans in New York City and having to adjust to mortal life. It was inspired by his semester abroad in Columbia University, where he produced many of his other favourite writings. .

Bryant majored in Arts and Humanities with a specialisation in creative writing. In his senior year, he served as a peer tutor in the Writers’ Centre and found the experience to be very formative. He shared, “Helping my peers with their writing assignments has really helped hone my interpersonal skills – I feel like after a semester, I’m a lot better at understanding what people need help with, and how to better explain it to them.”

For Myle Yan Tay (Class of 2019), who was awarded second place in both Fiction and Playwriting categories, “Writing is a way for me to explore worlds that exist and those that don’t. It’s a form of escape, to imagine something else out there and to find meaning in action.”

Yan’s writing, for which he was awarded second place in the Playwriting category, Growing Up Green is about a military family sitcom. In the play, Yan explores the themes of rebellion and resistance, pushing the rules of the conventional sitcom such as typical canned laughter and family melodrama,.

Yan explained he drew his inspiration from a Kurt Cobain t-shirt he saw in clothing retailer Uniqlo, “It was weird to see this iconic t-shirt in American pop-culture mass produced, made by a Japanese clothing company and then exported to Singapore. So from there, I wanted to look at rebellion and what it looks like when it isn’t easy to resist.”

On 17 April, students gathered in the Black Box Theatre to celebrate the achievements of the prize winners, and the accomplishments of the creative writing community at Yale-NUS. A reading by the group of the prize winners also accompanied the celebration.

The Yale-NUS Literary Awards will be held annually. The submission guidelines for the Academic Year 2017-2018 Literary Awards Competition will be available in September 2017.