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  • NYS Writers Institute

"Telling the Truth 2020" kicks off today

"In the age that we're living in, we see a decline in empathy across the boards,

and I think that has consequences."

-- Elif Shafak

Welcome to Telling the Truth 2020, the New York State Writers Institute's virtual symposium on politics, tribalism, polarization, and the future of democracy.

We launch our seven-day program today with award-winning British-Turkish novelist and essayist Elif Shafak, who brings a much-needed global perspective to the conversation.

Elif Shafak 

Elif Shafak How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division Video Premiere 11 a.m. Wednesday, November 11 - Link to video

Elif Shafak is celebrated throughout the world for her advocacy of free speech, the safety of journalists, and the rights of women, the LGBT community, and minorities. Translated into 54 languages, she is also the best-known female author within her native Turkey. Her new book is How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division (August 2020), a pocket-sized manifesto. The Guardian named it one of the "Best Books to Inspire Compassion," and Cosmopolitan named it a "Revolutionary Read."

Shafak writes in both Turkish and English, and has published 18 books, 11 of which are novels. Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and chosen Blackwell’s Book of the Year.

Her previous novel, The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. 

How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division is available from the UK through Waterstones:

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, is available to order from The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza:

Read more about Elif Shafak at


“It’s our hope that Telling the Truth 2020 will be a force for good and will provide a public service by bringing together experts with a wide range of perspective. We want these events to be conversations of healing, of finding common ground, and of listening respectfully to viewpoints different than our own. We hope this weeklong symposium will build bridges of empathy rather than erecting more walls of fear and hatred.”

-- Paul Grondahl, Director of the NYS Writers Institute.

All events are free and open to the public. No registration required.

Events will be available at ​Videos will premiere at 11 a.m. and can be viewed at your convenience at any time following their launch. Many of the conversations were recorded before Election Day. More at at

Telling the Truth 2020 is the Writers Institute’s third major event of the fall season, following the Albany Book Festival in September and the Time for Reckoning Symposium in October. It is also the third time the Institute has turned its attention to issues of truth-telling, journalism, and ethics. A three-day Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World event was held in 2017 and Telling the Truth: A Symposium on the Craft of Nonfiction took place in 1991.

Telling the Truth 2020 is presented by the New York State Writers Institute with special thanks to The Maguire Family Endowment at the NYSWI, The Opalka Family Endowment, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, The University at Albany Foundation, and WAMC Northeast Public Radio.


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