Thursday, March 26, 2015

Writer Richard Russo on Public Funding for Education

“I’m a product of public education, government-backed student loans, and publicly funded institutions like the Gloversville Free Library. If you’ve lost faith in them, you’ve lost faith in basic democratic principles.”

--Richard Russo, Gloversville novelist, quoted in the New York Times in an article by Steven Greenhouse about a campaign to renovate the Gloversville Library, March 24, 2105

More about Richard Russo:

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The Paris Review: James Lasdun, Lydia Davis

Two NYS Writers Institute Writing Fellows are featured prominently in the Spring 2015 issue of The Paris Review.

James Lasdun has a 70-page novella, Feathered Glory:

Lydia Davis is interviewed:

Other featured authors who have appeared as part of the Institute's Visiting Writers Series include Major Jackson, Charles Simic and Stephen Dunn.

And, incidentally, the Capital Region's own Bernie Conners, former publisher of The Paris Review, has a new memoir, Cruising with Kate: A Parvenu in Xanadu (2015). Read Paul Grondahl's interview in the Times Union:

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Alice McDermott: Giving Voice to the Unheard

Elizabeth Floyd Mair of the Times Union interviews Alice McDermott who will appear at RPI to discuss her new book Someone on April 15, cosponsored by the NYS Writers Institute's Visiting Writers Series, and who will be the first author featured in the new Times Union Book Club.

Q: How much revision and crafting of the sentences goes into your writing?

A: A great deal. For me, story arises out of the sentences: rhythm, word choice, detail. I don't begin with story and then try to find the words — I begin with words and try to find the story. Strange, right?

More in the Times Union:

More about the Times Union Book Club:

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Elisa Albert's "After Birth" in the NY Times

Elisa Albert shares the stage with Yelena Akhtiorskaya on Thursday, March 26.

More about their events:

Merritt Tierce reviews Elisa Albert's new novel After Birth in the New York Times Book Review:

"Albert has inherited the house Grace Paley built, with its narrow doorways just wide enough for wit and tragedy and blistering, exasperated love. And no one is better suited to manage that ­estate, to keep it unapologetically going, to keep its rooms of inquiry open. Paley found the seam where the important and the madcap are stitched together on the ­underside of life, and here is Albert working that same territory. Her Ari is bold enough to put motherhood up on a pedestal because its sanctity is as undeniable as it is dangerous. But she also wants to be sure you know the pedestal is made of ­excrement and tears and vomit and breast milk and the very selves of a billion unknown women."

"No doubt After Birth will be ­shunted into one of the lesser subcanons of ­contemporary literature, like 'women’s fiction,' but it ought to be as essential as The Red Badge of Courage. Just ­because so much of mothering happens inside a house doesn’t mean it’s not a war: a battle for sovereignty over your heart, your mind, your life — and one you can’t bear for the other side to lose."

More in the New York Times:

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Times Union Book Club with NYS Writers Institute!

The Times Union is launching a new book club in partnership with the New York State Writers Institute.

Alice McDermott's novel Someone (2014) will be the first featured book. Someone tells the story of one woman's "ordinary" life across the decades of the 20th century in an Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn. McDermott received the 1998 National Book Award for her novel, Charming Billy.

To register for the Book Club go to

The following events will take place in association with the Book Club:

Book Club discussion hosted by Times Union staff
• When: 7 p.m. April 8
• Where: Times Union, 645 Albany Shaker Road, Colonie
• Note: Copies of "Someone" can be purchased at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland or at Market Block Books in Troy.

Reading, Q&A , book- signing and McKinney Writing Contest award ceremony
• When: 8 p.m. April 15
• Where: Biotech Auditorium, Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Building at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.
• Note: The event is free and open to the public, and cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute in conjunction with Rensselaer's 74th Annual McKinney Writing Contest and Reading.

Q&A and meet-and-greet with McDermott
• What: In conjunction with the institute, McDermott will answer questions and sign books at an event for Times Union Plus members (those with print or digital subscriptions). Light refreshments will be served.
• When: 11 a.m. April 16
• Where: Times Union, 645 Albany Shaker Road, Colonie
• Note: The event is free. Register at to attend.

More about the Book Club:

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New Event-- Bill Nye the Science Guy!

Bill Nye "The Science Guy"March 25 (Wednesday)
Reading — 5:00 p.m., SEFCU Arena
For FREE tickets, see below

Bill Nye “The Science Guy,”
celebrated public television personality, is a pioneer in the field of science education and a leading defender of science in the public arena. His television series, Bill Nye the Science Guy, ran on PBS stations nationwide from 1993 to 1998, and continues to be widely distributed in syndication. Exactly 100 episodes addressed topics as diverse as garbage and music, comets and caves, and chemistry and communication. The show received 18 Emmy Awards, with Nye himself taking seven for his various roles as writer, performer and producer. Nye is the author of the new book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (November, 2014), edited by Corey S. Powell. A wide-ranging presentation of the evidence that supports the theory of evolution, the new book grew out of a much-publicized debate between Nye and leading Creationist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Petersburg Kentucky in February 2014. Narrated with Nye’s trademark clarity, simplicity, enthusiasm and sense of fun, Undeniable demonstrates how organisms evolved and continue to evolve, with examples drawn from agriculture, dog breeding, human courtship, and the fossil record. 

Sponsored by the University at Albany Student Association in partnership with the New York State Writers Institute
Tickets will be made available as follows:  On Friday, March 13 and then again on Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24, tickets will be available for the general public in the Campus Center West Lounge from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., with a  4 ticket maximum. On Wednesday, March 25, tickets will be available to the general public in the Campus Center West Lounge from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. If any tickets are remaining, they will be distributed in Physical Education (PE) building lobby across from SEFCU Arena beginning at 3 p.m.
For more information contact the Student Association at 518-442-5640.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

"Gorgeously crafted and emotionally shattering."

Here is the Kirkus Reviews capsule review of The Lost Child (2015) by Caryl Phillips, who visits the Writers Institute tomorrow, Tuesday, March 10:

"Award-winning novelist, essayist and playwright Phillips (Color Me English, 2011, etc.) responds to Wuthering Heights. A difficult daughter and an unhappy wife, Monica Johnson is contrary, self-destructive and—finally—mad. That Monica, in her broad outlines, resembles Cathy Earnshaw is no accident. Her story—as well as that of her husband and their sons—is interwoven with scenes inspired by Wuthering Heights and the life of its author. This is not to say that Monica is Cathy, transplanted from the moors to Oxford in the late 1950s. This is not a retelling. The interplay between this novel and Emily Brontë’s masterpiece is much more interesting than that. For example, Phillips imagines Heathcliff before Mr. Earnshaw takes him to the Heights. This boy is the son of a slave, a woman who worked a sugar plantation before being transported to England. Phillips isn’t the first to read Brontë’s “dark-skinned” antihero as black, but he also connects the boy to Monica’s husband, Julius—a man who gives up academic life in order to take up the cause of anti-colonialism in his West Indian home country—and to their neglected, dispossessed sons. The thematic links between the modern story and Wuthering Heights only become clear over time, and—even then—they’re too rich and subtle to work as simple allegory. Empire and race are among Phillips’ concerns, but he also offers heartbreaking depictions of alienation and the fragility of human relationships. While it would be easy to identify Heathcliff as the lost child of the title, it could also refer to Monica’s younger son—or her older boy. But Monica is lost, too. And then there’s Brontë, drifting further and further into her invented world as she dies. What Phillips seems to be saying, in the end, is that the lost child could be any of us—perhaps even that the lost child is all of us. Gorgeously crafted and emotionally shattering."


More about the visit:

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Ill-Tempered White Dudes & Their Loss of Power

Journalist Kent Russell, who visits us on Thursday 3/12, talks to the Times Union's Elizabeth Floyd Mair about his new book, I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son (2015).

Q: Did the essays in this book start out as separate essays, or was the idea to write a book-length exploration of masculinity?

A: [S]ubconsciously, I was always chasing the same subject matter: ill-tempered white dudes and their strategies for coping with the loss of power. Subconsciously, I was always writing the book.

More in the Times Union:

More about Russell's upcoming visit:

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

RESCHEDULED: Tonight's Event with Barbara Smith, Due to Weather

Tonight’s event with Barbara Smith and Susan Arbetter will be RESCHEDULED to Tuesday, March 31st , same time (7PM, note early start time) and same location (Milne 200, Downtown Campus).
Barbara Smith, pioneering activist, will discuss the new book, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith (2014). The book, edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, combines historical documents with new interviews to uncover the deep roots of today’s “identity politics” and serves as an essential primer for practicing solidarity and resistance. Smith, organizer, writer, and publisher, has played key roles in multiple social justice movements. She is Public Service Professor in the School of Social Welfare at UAlbany, and a former member of Albany’s Common Council.
Cosponsored by SUNY Press and Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy
If you would like to attend the rescheduled event, please RSVP to Rockefeller College Director of Communications, as space is limited:

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