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Release: Sept. 24, 1999

Torrevillas of UI International Writing Program wins Philippine National Book Award

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Rowena Torrevillas, program associate of the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa, is a 1999 winner of the Philippines' National Book Award for her 1998 essay collection, "Flying Over Kansas: Personal Views." All the essays, published as a collection by Giraffe Books, were written in Iowa City.

The award citation praised the book "for its consistently felicitous articulation of insights, recollections, and incisive commentary on personal and literary memorabilia, marked by parallel elegance of thought and depth of feeling."

Torrevillas explains, "The title essay is an autobiographic 'meditation' on a cross-cultural upbringing, and on growing up with chunks of my childhood scattered over different parts of the U.S., the Pacific ocean stretching between my putative homes, and my return to the family writing roots in Iowa when I came back as an adult to take part in the IWP."

Her parents, Edilberto K. and Edith L. Tiempo, founded the Philippines' National Writers' Workshop, Asia's first center for creative writing, after attending the UI Writers' Workshop. They were the first foreign writers to attend the workshop, and Rowena was born shortly after their course of study at the UI.

Torrevillas represented the Philippines at the IWP in the University of Iowa in 1984 and joined the IWP staff in 1985. Before coming to the United States, she was an assistant professor at Silliman University in the Philippines.

Her other works include "Upon the Willows and Other Stories," the poetry collection "Mountain Sacraments" and three books forthcoming: the poetry collections "The Sea Gypsies Stay" and "Generic Dreams," and "Three Times Three: Three Genres by Three Generations of Tiempo Women," a collaboration with her mother and her 18-year-old daughter, Lauren, a senior at Iowa City West High School.

Torrevillas' work has appeared widely in anthologies and periodicals. Her short fiction and poetry have been translated into Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Chinese, Hungarian, Hebrew, Russian, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malaya, Romanian, Czech, Slovak and Ibo.

The recipient of a doctorate in English literature from Silliman University, she is a six-time recipient of the Philippines' highest literary prize, the Palanca Award, for fiction and poetry, and she has also received the Distinguished Author award from the Writers Union of the Philippines.

She edited the Philippines issue of "Modern Poetry in Translation", and, with Paul Engle, she edited "The World Comes to Iowa." She is currently involved in the compilation of an anthology for the IWP, "Writing from the World III.