Yale literary festival celebrates Windham-Campbell prizewinners, features keynote by Patti Smith

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Pictured are this year’s winners (top row) C.E. Morgan, Tessa Hadley, Helen Garner, (middle row) Jerry Pinto, Hilton Als, Hannah Moscovitch, (bottom row) Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Abbie Spallen, and Stanley Crouch.

The 2016 winners of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes will gather at Yale on Monday, Sept. 19, for a three-day international festival celebrating their work and the craft of writing.

Musician, songwriter, and National Book Award-winning author Patti Smith will deliver the keynote address at a prize ceremony on Sept. 19 at 5 p.m. at Sprague Hall, located at 470 College St. Smith, whose 2010 memoir, “Just Kids,” won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, will deliver a lecture titled “Devotion,” which will be published by Yale University Press in 2017 as part of the prize’s “Why Write” series.

The 2016 prizewinners, announced on March 1, are in drama: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (United States), Hannah Moscovitch (Canada), and Abbie Spallen (Ireland); in fiction, Tessa Hadley (United Kingdom), C.E. Morgan (United States), and Jerry Pinto (India); and in nonfiction, Hilton Als (United States), Stanley Crouch (United States), and Helen Garner (Australia). Each receives $150,000 to support their work.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate this group of extraordinary writers and provide a forum for them to share their work, experiences, and insights,” said Michael Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. “The sense of community that develops among the prizewinners and festival-goers is always inspiring.”

Festival highlights include talks by nonfiction winner Hilton Als on the legacy of James Baldwin in the 21st century; nonfiction winner Stanley Crouch on Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” and its place in the history of jazz; and fiction winner C.E. Morgan on literary excess; as well as staged readings by each of the drama winners. 

The New Haven Free Public Library, continuing a partnership with the Windham-Campbell Prizes, will host two events: On Tuesday, Sept. 20, novelists C.E. Morgan, Jerry Pinto, and Tessa Hadley will discuss the role that libraries played in the development of their imaginative work; and on Wednesday, Sept. 21, Hilton Als, Helen Garner, and Tessa Hadley will examine how resisting fixed identities comes to shape the work of the writer.

This year’s festival features close collaboration with the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) and the Yale University Art Gallery, with each hosting several events. The YCBA is hosting three “Close Looking” sessions in which a prizewinner discusses the work of a specific artist. Yale undergraduates will moderate.

Visit windhamcampbell.org for a complete schedule of events. All events are free and open to the public.

Three prizewinners — Garner, Pinto, and Hadley — will be featured at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Launched in 2013, the Windham-Campbell Prizes are administered by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses the Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell Papers. The prizes, each worth $150,000, are awarded in three categories — fiction, nonfiction, and drama — to honor and support writers anywhere in the world writing in English. The prizes can recognize merit or promise.

The roster of 2017 winners, which will include a poetry category for the first time, will be announced on March 1.

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