DIY: Supporting The Asian American Writers' Workshop

Monday, August 03, 2009

While we all know that technically I'm kind of book illiterate these days - although I did finish up The Great Slanty Read-A-Thon early thank you very much - I still know the power that a good book, a poem, or the written word in all its forms can have, and while a good narrative from any author can cross color lines, ethnicity, gender, or religious backgrounds, it's important that there're organizations out there that help foster Asian American writers no matter what their story is, and no matter what level they're at - because it's important that we're heard.

So with that being said, I'm going to re-print a letter from the Asian American Writers' Workshop that their Executive Director Ken Chen pointed me too, and while hopefully you'll be able to support their organization, even if you can't, I at least hope you give it a read.

Dear Friend,

In the year since I took over as Executive Director of The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, one thing I’ve learned is: you are unique.

You are a reader at a time when most Americans no longer read for fun. You are the one who stay up past your bedtime, devouring stories and poems. And you’re not just any kind of reader. You are a reader of Asian American literature, even though less than one percent of books are written by Asian Americans.

We are writing you because you are the unique few who believe in the vision of the Workshop. We believe in nurturing writers of promise, whether they’re Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, whose first book party we hosted, or a struggling young writer just graduating from high school. As novelist Ed Lin writes:

“Having grown up with the programs and the people of The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, I feel that they’re not only my family but indeed my homeland. The Workshop helped me get my book published. It encourages a lifelong love of writing and reading. It’s a crucial organization not only for our community, but for the ongoing global narrative as well.”

We believe in showing every American, no matter what the color of her skin, that the Asian American story is a central chapter of the American story. We are asking you to invest in our efforts to build a national home for Asian American ideas.

Last year, we hosted 30% more writers than we did in 2006 and 2007 combined. That’s more than 120 authors from nearly twenty ethnicities.

My first priority has been putting the Workshop’s house in order. We’re applying for a grant a week. We’ve recruited five new board members, started a young professionals group, and collaborated with 40 different organizations.

We’re laying the groundwork for the future. We’re working on a website overhaul that’ll turn into a national intellectual center, oral storytelling workshops in Flushing and Brooklyn, and a revamped writer fellowship program with artist residencies at Yaddo and Beijing University.

Unfortunately, the Workshop faces a perfect storm that’s left us fighting for our survival. While the recession has affected everyone, we were also hit with a lawsuit from our landlord, who sued to evict us for a more profitable tenant. We’ve successfully settled the suit, but find ourselves forced to start an emergency campaign to support the Workshop. Many of our stalwart funders still believe in the Workshop but find themselves with less money to give. So, just as the Workshop began as a grass-roots community of friends, we once again depend on you—the individual readers and writers who’ve made the Workshop what it is—to step in and nurture us.

Have you ever recognized yourself in an Asian American novel? Have you ever faced a blank page and mustered up the courage to write? Do you still read, when the majority of Americans choose not to? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I ask you to donate using the attached card or via Our goal is to raise $130,000. If we do not meet this challenge, we will be forced to cut our programming, severely restrict our operations, and close our reading room. We’ve raised a fifth of this amount this month and we’ll reach our goal if you each donate at least $20.

We are so confident that the Workshop can survive these growing pains that we’re already planning for this winter’s Annual Asian American Literary Festival, which will be the only national festival of its kind. We want this to be a special celebration of your story, whether you’ve just landed at the shores of this country or if your family has lived here for generations. We want to be your Workshop. We seek to nurture anyone who has a story to tell.

You’re holding this letter because you believe that Asian Americans have something to offer American culture. Maybe you get our letters every year and each time you think, “I’ll just donate next year.” If you’ve ever had this thought, if you’ve ever wondered how you can help out, I ask you to donate now. And if you’ve donated before, think about whether you can contribute more in this hour of need. Donors who contribute $500 or more will be honored in the program for our Twelfth Annual Asian American Literary Awards.

Thank you,

Ken Chen
Executive Director

Want to donate the pain-free way? Did you know you can automatically contribute a small amount every month? Simply go to and click “I want to make a recurring donation” and enter the amount you want deducted from your credit card on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Just skip that one cappuccino. Rent a movie instead of hitting the summer blockbusters. If you contribute just $5 to $10 a month, you can ensure that Asian American stories have a future.


Three ways to donate to the Workshop:

1) Using your credit card on our secure online donation system

Donate Now

2) To make a gift by mail, please dowload the PDF and send it with your check to:

The Asian American Writers' Workshop
16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A
New York NY 10001

Download a contribution form

3) Phone in your donation by calling us at 212.494.0061

Thanks in advance for supporting the Workshop!

Your donation is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. We will send you appropriate acknowledgement by mail.

The programs of The Asian American Writers' Workshop are supported by ABC, The Asian Women Giving Circle, The C.J. Huang Foundation, The Edward & Sally Van Lier Fund of the NY Community Trust, The Jerome Foundation, The Lila Acheson Wallace Theater Fund of the NY Community Trust, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Newman's Own Foundation, The New York State Council on the Arts, The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York Foundation for the Arts, The Ford Foundation, The Ong Family Foundation, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Union Square Awards of the Tides Foundation, Lee Anav Chung, and the generosity of our individual donors.