Thursday, December 18, 2014

NY Times Book Critics' Top Ten Lists of 2014

Six books by past visitors to UAlbany, under the sponsorship of the New York State Writers Institute, appear on the new top ten lists of New York Times book critics Michiko Kakutani, Janet Maslin and Dwight Garner.

They include Country Girl by Edna O'Brien, The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, Lila by Marilynne Robinson, and All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu.

Picture:  Edna O'Brien.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

NY Times "100 Notable Books of 2014"

Visitors to the New York State Writers Institute whose books appear among the newly released "100 Notable Books of 2014" of the New York Times include:

Dinaw Mengestu, Rivka Galchen (who is in the office as we speak, but as a spouse), Lorrie Moore, Siri Hustvedt, Institute Fellow Lydia Davis, Joseph O'Neill (also here in the office at the moment), Louise Gluck, Akhil Sharma, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, Marilynne Robinson, Francine Prose, Colm Toibin, Susan Minot, James McPherson, Diane Ackerman, Gary Shteyngart and Elizabeth Kolbert.

Complete list here:

Picture: Rivka Galchen.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

50 Writers You Need to See Read Live

The hip and influential webzine Flavorwire posted a list yesterday of "50 Writers You Need to See Read Live." Not to sound smug or anything, but 20 of them have appeared at the New York State Writers Institute (although we have a very unfair advantage in that 2 of them are part of our "family").

One them of course is our own Bill Kennedy, NYSWI Founder and Executive Director. Another is Elisa Albert, who lives in Albany, and is married to NYSWI Writing Fellow Ed Schwarzschild.

The rest are regular NYS Summer Writers Institute visitor Paul Harding, as well as Gay Talese, Claire Messud, Colson Whitehead, Gary Shteyngart, Mary Gaitskill, Denis Johnson, Shalom Auslander, J. M. Coetzee, Marilynne Robinson, Sigrid Nunez, Sherman Alexie, Isabel Wilkerson, Charles Simic, Karen Russell, Chang-Rae Lee, James Salter, and Jonathan Ames.

Picture:  Mary Gaitskill.

Full list here:

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Richard Norton Smith, C-SPAN's "in-house historian"

Richard Norton Smith, who visits us on Thursday, 11/20, talks to the TU's Paul Grondahl about what it was like to wrestle with writing a monumental biography of Nelson Rockefeller for 14 years:

"His long slog on Rockefeller was less a case of writer's block and more of information overload, as he kept uncovering fresh material and boxes of Rocky's previously sealed archives were made available to Smith. Stressed to the max about the ballooning biography, Smith suffered two heart attacks on Nov. 30, 2010. 'I can't remember four or five days. Luckily, a neighbor got concerned and came to my apartment,' he recalled. 'He got me to the hospital right away, and they discovered I'd had a heart attack and there was a blood clot in my heart. I had another heart attack the next day.'"

More in the Times Union:

More about the upcoming events with Smith:

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Galway Kinnell, 1927-2014

Poet Galway Kinnell, who visited the NYS Writers Institute in the Spring of 1996, is dead at the age
of 87.

Here's the NY Times obit:

Galway Kinnell, who was recognized with both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for a body of poetry that pushed deep into the heart of human experience in the decades after World War II, died on Tuesday at his home in Sheffield, Vt. He was 87.
The cause was leukemia, his wife, Barbara K. Bristol, said.
Mr. Kinnell came of age among a generation of poets who were trying to get past the modernism of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and write verses that, as he said, could be understood without a graduate degree. He succeeded well enough that all of the volumes of poems he published from 1960 to 2008 — evocations of urban streetscapes, pastoral odes, meditations on mortality and frank explorations of sex — are still in print.
More in the Times:

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Tiphanie Yanique on the NY Times Op Ed Page

Virgin Islands author Tiphanie Yanique, who visited us last week, explores the unknowns of her grandmother's Puerto Rican childhood on the Op Ed page of Wednesday's  New York Times:

My grandmother was raised in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. She said the name, Vega Baja, meaning the “low plains,” with such romance that it was clear she longed for the place. In her stories she described a big house, and a farm where the children could eat the fruit from the trees and learned to milk a cow. Every Sunday after church they went to the beach. She taught herself to swim because the other children always played in the deep water and she hated being left behind.

More in the NY Times:

More about her visit with fellow first-time novelist Jacinda Townsend:

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lemon Andersen on the front page of the TU Preview section

Tony Award-winning hip hop poet Lemon Andersen, who visits UAlbany on Thursday, November 6th, will be the subject of several different events at the University over the course of the next three weeks.

Andersen is profiled on the front page of the Times Union "Preview" section by Connor Kelly:

Brooklyn wordsmith, artist and actor Lemon Andersen, 39, will be visiting the University at Albany next month, but the group he will resonate most with just might be high school students.

That's because Andersen, a high school dropout himself, believes in inspiring young people through his stories, just as stories he read while in prison inspired him. He hopes those in similar situations can escape the life of poverty and crime that he experienced firsthand.

The stories Andersen crafts, typically inspired by his experiences growing up and living in Brooklyn, take the form of performance-based spoken word poetry, with a focus on rhythm and storytelling.

"I don't do anything without teaching," said Andersen. "I'm teaching what I'm learning everywhere I go. For me, it's not a job, it's a lifestyle. I like being a rock star in the classroom; I like showing up with a strong curriculum — hopefully, it inspires alternatives.

More in the Times Union:

More about our events celebrating Lemon Andersen:

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Ed Hirsch Interviewed in the Times Union

Poet Ed Hirsch visits tomorrow (10/21) to have a conversation about poetry with fellow poets Kimiko Hahn and Marie Howe. Hirsch is interviewed by Elizabeth Floyd Mair of the  Times Union about his new reference work on the art of poetry, A Poet's Glossary:

Q: You're a poet. What was it like for you to work for 15 years or so on this project of explaining in a concise yet thorough way such a huge array of poetic traditions?

A: It was a great pleasure, an offshoot of my vocation. I found working on "A Poet's Glossary" utterly absorbing. Of course, I also worked on other things during those 15 years — I had poems to write, a job to go to — but I always seemed to return to the glossary with renewed curiosity. I see the world of poets as a kind of extended family. I was always wondering what other members of the family were doing at different times in different parts of the world. Sometimes I was outraged, sometimes delighted. But I was always interested in what they were up to.

More in the Times Union:

More about the event:

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Contenders for the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature

Nearly 30% of the leading contenders for the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature (according to British betting giant, Ladbrokes, for what that's worth) have visited Albany under the sponsorship of the New York State Writers Institute.

They include frequent frontrunner Philip Roth; upstate New York native and Summer Writers Institute stalwart Joyce Carol Oates; Polish poet Adam Zagajewski; Chinese poet Bei Dao; Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah (who visited twice); Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood; Bronx novelist Don DeLillo (twice); Israeli novelist Amos Oz; American novelist Richard Ford (twice); Irish poet Paul Muldoon; Australian poet Les Murray; and Irish novelist Colm Toibin.

The Wall St. Journal discusses Ladbrokes' oddsmaking regarding the Nobel Prize in Literature here:

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Our John Lahr Event in the Times Union

In case you missed it, Paul Grondahl writes about our wonderful event on Wednesday 10/1 with John Lahr in the Times Union:

Biographer John Lahr Dishes on Tennessee Williams at the Writers Institute

Tennessee Williams once drew a pie chart depicting how he divided his time: 90 percent working, 9 percent fighting against lunacy and 1 percent socializing with friends.

The former New Yorker chief drama critic, John Lahr, dissects the workaholic and celebrated playwright in a monumental new biography, "Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh," a 784-page volume published on Sept. 22 by W.W. Norton.

It has received enthusiastic reviews. The Wall Street Journal called it "by far the best book ever written about America's greatest playwright" and literary insiders have already placed it on a list for National Book Award consideration.

More in the TU:

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Photo of the Day on the UAlbany Website

UAlbany students pose with Kirsten Gillibrand at our event in the Campus Center Ballroom on Saturday, September 27, presented by the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza and cosponsored by the NYS Writers Institute.
NY Senator Kirstin Gillibrand poses with UAlbany students, Marc Cohen (Vice President of UAlbany’s Student Association), Rose Avellino, Christina Mamone, Raymond Webb, Jr. at her recent visit to the University at Albany sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute to speak and promote her new book. 

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Praise for John Lahr's new book

John Lahr, who visits the Writers Institute this Wednesday, Oct. 1st,  receives high praise from some notable admirers for his new biography, Tennessee Williams:  Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (2014).

More about Lahr's upcoming visit:

‘Splendid beyond words. It would be hard to imagine a more satisfying biography.’Bill Bryson
‘Could this be the best theater book I’ve ever read? It just might be. Tennessee Williams had two great pieces of luck. Elia Kazan to direct his work and now John Lahr to make thrilling sense of his life’John Guare, author of Six Degrees of Separation, House of Blue Leaves, Atlantic City

This is a masterpiece about a genius. Only John Lahr, with his perceptions about the theater, about writers, about poetry and about people could have written this book. What a marvelous read, with brilliantly detailed research.’Helen Mirren

‘John Lahr’s magnificent biography…gathers material from a vast array of sources, including Williams’s diaries, poems, letters and the recollections of countless friends and colleagues,to trace how the personal and the creative lives interweave throughout the whole span of Williams’s oeuvre. The result is at once sensitive and magisterial, and it fulfils the ultimate test for a literary biography by convincing you that the works cannot be understood without it. Once you have read it, it becomes part of their meaning.’John Carey, lead review, Sunday London Times

‘This is by far the best book ever written about America’s greatest playwright. John Lahr, the longtime drama critic for the New Yorker, knows his way around Broadway better than anyone. He is a witty and elegant stylist, a scrupulous researcher, a passionate yet canny advocate… Hebrings us as close to Williams as we are ever likely to get.’J.D. McClatchy,Wall Street Journal

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Gillibrand's Event on Saturday

Here's Dennis Yusko's article in the Times Union on this past weekend's wonderful event with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Ballroom of the UAlbany Campus Center:

Speaking at a book-signing in the University of Albany's Campus Center Ballroom, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand received hardy applause Saturday when she pledged to keep fighting to have military lawyers — not superiors — hear allegations of sexual abuse among service members. The author of "Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World" told nearly 300 people who bought her book that some victims of sexual assault in the military don't report the crimes because they do not trust military brass to properly investigate and punish suspects.

Gillibrand, 47, said removing military leaders from decision-making roles was crucial for objective investigations. She said she is committed to ensuring victims weren't blamed.

"That second betrayal is the thing they cannot overcome," the senator said.

Gillibrand spent more than an hour at the book signing and reading, which was sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. She answered questions from Marion Roach Smith, author of "The Memoir Project, A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text on Writing & Life." Seated and separated by a coffee table, the women discussed some of the major themes from "Off the Sidelines": female empowerment, politics, family.

More in the TU:

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The House Tour

Alison Lurie, who visits us on Thursday, September 18, is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who applies her wit and insight to the meaning of ordinary architecture in her new book,  The Language of Houses (2014).

The book is reviewed by Kathleen Hirsch in the Boston Globe:

Lurie serves as able guide on an opening overview of basic architectural themes: style, scale, materials. Concepts such as formal and informal, open and shut, darkness and light, as well as the influences of foreign and regional idioms, become the building blocks on which she proceeds into her discussion of dwellings. We learn that the simple, unadorned, home intended to convey “green” values, often uses “old bricks and boards that in fact cost more than new ones,” while a suburban McMansion’s pricey entrance is coupled with cheap siding and exposed ductwork out back. She chronicles the evolution of the Colonial meeting house into Gothic worship sites that are mini-theaters with their raised altars, lavish pipe organs, and stage lighting. Gender differences abound: In homes and offices, men prefer what she calls “prospects”; women, “refuge.”

More in the Globe:

More about Lurie and upcoming events:

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Alison Lurie's new book in the Wall St. Journal

The Language of Houses by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and reigning NYS Author Alison Lurie (who visits us on Thurs. 9/18) is reviewed in the Wall St. Journal:

Le Corbusier may have decreed that the house should be "a machine for living," but Alison Lurie knows architecture carries a far greater moral charge than such minimalist efficiency implies. In "The Language of Houses," she takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the social and psychological significance of private and public structures: schools, churches, government buildings, museums, prisons, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and of course homes. She makes a powerful argument that how we choose to order the space we live and work in reveals far more about us, our place in the world and our preoccupations than we know. Architectural design is both a mirror and molder of human experience.... The Language of Houses is a mine of adroit observation, uncovering apparently humdrum details to reveal their unexpected, and occasionally poignant, human meaning.

More in the Wall St. Journal

More about Lurie's visit:

More on the upcoming Visiting Writers Series:

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Author Sherry Lee Mueller presents "Working World" 9/19

"Working World is an essential guide to international careers for a new generation of Americans eager to see, feel, and change their world." --  John Zogby, founder of the Zogby Poll

The University at Albany School of Public Health will host Sherry Lee Mueller, coauthor of Working World, 2nd edition (2014). The book explores "how the idea of an international career has shifted: nearly every industry taking on more and more international dimensions, while international skills -- linguistic ability, intercultural management, and sensitivity -- become ever more highly prized by potential employers."

Date: Friday, September 19, 2014

Time: 12:00 noon – 1:15 PM

Location: School of Public Health Auditorium
George Education Center
UAlbany East Campus
1 University Place
Rensselaer, NY 12144

RSVP: Please register and confirm your attendance by emailing by Monday, September 15th

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"I, the Worst of All," Opens Classic Film Series

"Engrossing, enriching, and elegant!" - Boston Globe
"Passionate, riveting, magnificent! One of the year's best!" - New York Post
"An erotically charged impassioned work! Assumpta Serna is luminous!" - Village Voice
September 19 (Friday)
Film screening — 7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus
Directed by María Luisa Bemberg | Argentina, 1990, 105 minutes, color, in Spanish with English subtitles. Starring Assumpta Serna, Dominique Sanda, Héctor Alterio

Based on a biography by Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, this film tells the story of the embattled 17th century nun, Sor Juana, who would come to be regarded as the mother of Mexican literature.
Screened in conjunction with an appearance by distinguished translator Edith Grossman (see September 23 Visiting Writers Series listing), who presents her new collection of works by Sor Juana.
More about our upcoming visit with Edith Grossman, translator into English of Sor Juana, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz, Don Quixote, and numerous classics of Spanish literature:

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Edith Grossman

Latin American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) famously said that he preferred his novels in English translation by Gregory Rabassa (who visited the Writers Institute in 2006) and Edith Grossman (who will visit the Writers Institute on Tuesday, September 23, 2014).

Here is an excerpt from Edith Grossman's speech about translating Marquez at the 2003 PEN Tribute to the late Columbian author (1927-2014) whose work had a transformative impact on global literature:

"Ralph Maheim, the great translator from the German, compared the translator to an actor who speaks as the author would if the author spoke English. A sophisticated and provocative analogy, for it takes into account something that is not always as clear as it should be, at least to many reviewers, whose highest endorsement for a translation tends to be that it is “seamless.” If I may attempt to translate the damnation barely concealed in their faint praise, I think they really mean that the translator has, with proper humility, made herself or himself “invisible,” a punishing goal that is desirable only if we are held personally responsible for the Tower of Babel and all its dire consequences for our species."

Full text here:

More about Grossman's visit:

Complete schedule of events:

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Monday, September 8, 2014

William Gibson, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, coming to Troy, NY

The Guardian celebrates the 30th birthday of the science fiction novel Neuromancer by William Gibson, scifi author and technology prophet (according to many). Gibson visits RPI under the cosponsorship of the New York State Writers Institute, on Sunday, November 9th.

More about Gibson's upcoming event:

From the Guardian:

On its release, Neuromancer won the "big three" for science fiction: the Nebula, Philip K Dick and Hugo awards. It sold more than 6m copies and launched an entire aesthetic: cyberpunk. In predicting this future, Gibson can be said to have helped shape our conception of the internet. Other novelists are held in higher esteem by literary critics, but few can claim to have had such a wide-ranging influence. The Wachowskis made The Matrix by mashing Gibson's vision together with that of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander is a facsimile of Molly Millions, the femme fatale in Neuromancer. Every social network, online game or hacking scandal takes us a step closer to the universe Gibson imagined in 1984.

More in the Guardian:

Full schedule of upcoming events:

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NYS Poet Marie Howe in the Huffington Post

"This morning I stumbled upon the poetry of Marie Howe, and once again I'm humbled by the power of words on a page, and a writer's ability to bestow meaning to feelings that would otherwise remain forever trapped inside me. In a recent podcast interview, the poet Marie Howe was speaking of the power of words to reveal the human condition, and how the older she gets, the more of herself she unmasks through her writing. She later said, 'to be able to move through your life transparently would be a relief.'"

More in the Huffington Post:

Reigning New York State Poet Marie Howe visits the Writers Institute on Tuesday, October 21st with fellow poets Edward Hirsch and Kimiko Hahn.

For a full schedule of events, visit our webpage:

For more about NY State Poet Marie Howe:

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Alison Lurie in National Geographic

Acclaimed novelist Alison Lurie, who opens our Fall 2014 Visiting Writers Series, is interviewed in the August 17 issue of  National Geographic:

Acclaimed Novelist Alison Lurie Thinks Buildings Say a Whole Lot About Us

Your house can tell others whether you’re happy or well organized or friendly—even what your politics are.

A critic once remarked that Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alison Lurie writes so simply that a cat or a dog can understand her. It was meant as a compliment and taken as such. In her new book she turns her lucid gaze on a subject baffling to many of us: architecture.

In this candid interview she talks about what buildings tell us about their owners' aspirations and politics, why she built houses for fairies as a child, how she feels about being compared to Balzac and Jane Austen, and what her own home in upstate New York reveals about her.

More in National Geographic:

More about Alison Lurie's events in Albany:

More about the Fall 2014 Visiting Writers Series:

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Visiting Writers: Kirsten Gillibrand! William Gibson! Richard Norton Smith!

New York State Writers Institute Fall 2014 Visiting Writers Events Schedule

We are pleased to announce an exciting schedule of visiting writer appearances for Fall 2014.​

All events are free and open to the public, and hosted at UAlbany, unless otherwise noted.

For more details, times and locations, please visit our website at

Sept. 18:  Pulitzer-winning novelist and reigning NYS Author (2012-14) Alison Lurie talks about her new nonfiction book, The Language of Houses (2014), about the expressive power of everyday architecture, including homes, restaurants, schools, hospitals, prisons and more.

Sept. 23:  Edith Grossman, one of the most celebrated translators in any language, known for her bestselling translations of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Don Quixote, presents her new collection of the works of Sister Juana, the embattled 17th century nun and “Mother of Mexican Literature.”

Sept. 27:  US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand presents her new book on women’s empowerment, Off the Sidelines (2014). Admission charged (except students with valid ID). Contact The Book House for tickets, which include book purchase: 489-4761.

Oct. 1:  John Lahr, Senior Drama Critic for the New Yorker (1992-2012), Tony Award winning playwright, and son of Wizard of Oz “Cowardly Lion” Bert Lahr, presents his acclaimed new biography of troubled playwright Tennessee Williams.

Oct. 9:  Pulitzer-winning journalist David Finkel, author of the bestseller The Good Soldiers (2009), about being embedded with US troops in Iraq, presents his sequel to that book, Thank You For Your Service (2013), about those same soldiers adjusting to post-war life at home.

Oct. 15:  American Shakespeare Center’s Much Ado About Nothing. Admission charged. Contact the PAC box office for tickets:  (518) 442-3997

Oct. 16:  Two first-time novelists and rising stars of Black historical fiction, Tiphanie Yanique (Land of Love and Drowning) and Jacinda Townsend (Saint Monkey) will share the stage.

Oct. 21:  Major American poets in conversation— Edward Hirsch, MacArthur Fellow, President of the Guggenheim Foundation, and author of the surprise bestseller How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, presenting his magisterial reference volume, A Poet’s Glossary (2014); Kimiko Hahn, American Book Award winner, presenting her new volume Brain Fever (2014); and Marie Howe, the reigning New York State Poet (2012-14).

Oct. 24, Nov. 1, 6 & 13:  Events connected with the life and work of Lemon Andersen, Tony award winning member of the Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, child of heroin addicts, and three-time felon, who found purpose and redemption in the art of poetry. We screen Lemon: The Movie on Oct. 24 and Nov. 1st. Lemon visits UAlbany on Nov. 6th. And a dramatization of Lemon’s life story is presented on Nov. 13th.

Oct. 28:  Actress and playwright Najla Said, daughter of Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, presents her memoir, Looking for Palestine:  Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family (2013).

Nov. 7:  Major American composer of film music David Shire, winner of 2 Grammy Awards for Saturday Night Fever, and the Oscar for Norma Rae, discusses his score for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, following a 40th Anniversary screening of that film.

Nov. 9:  William Gibson, one of the most influential living writers of science fiction, author of Neuromancer (1984), which helped define the pop culture of the Computer Age, will present his new far-future novel, The Periperhal (2014), about cybersecurity, drone warfare, video gaming and lots of other things, at RPI’s EMPAC Concert Hall.

Nov. 11: Two young novelists share the stage—Angela Pneuman, former UAlbany grad student and an exciting new voice in Southern American literature, presenting her first novel, Lay It on My Heart, and Julie Orringer, author of the bestselling Holocaust novel, The Invisible Bridge.

Nov. 18: Neuroscience writer and developmental psychologist Susan Pinker, author of the international bestseller, The Sexual Paradox,  presents her new book, The Village Effect: How Face to Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier and Smarter (2014).

Nov. 20:  Eminent historian of the American presidency and frequent PBS NewsHour commentator Richard Norton Smith presents his definitive biography of Nelson Rockefeller, On His Own Terms (2014).

Dec. 2:  Joseph O’Neill, author of the bestselling novel Netherland, presents his new 2014 novel The Dog (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize).

Dec. 5:  Author Betty Medsger and filmmaker Johanna Hamilton present their award-winning 2014 documentary 1971: The Film, based on Medsger’s book, The Burglary (2014), about eight ordinary citizens who broke into FBI offices and revealed the existence of COINTELPRO, an illegal program of spying on law-abiding Americans (the burglars’ identities have been kept secret until now). Medsger also broke the original story in the Washington Post in 1971.

For additional details on our visiting writers and a listing of Classic Film Series events, please visit our website at



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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Colin Powell recalls Joe Persico in today's Gazette

Gloversville native Persico's work, friendship recalled

Author died Saturday at 84

Bill Buell, Schenectady Gazette

 — Colin Powell didn’t need a second meeting. As soon as he and Joseph Persico shook hands for the first time, something told the general he had found his man.“We had gone through numerous candidates and no one had clicked,” said the former U.S. secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was looking for a collaborator to write his autobiography in 1993. “I was actually getting a bit desperate. Then my agent said, ‘We have one more guy, this Persico guy,’ so I said, ‘OK, let’s meet him.’ Well, we hit it off pretty well. He became my collaborator, and it was one of the best choices I ever made in my life.”

More in the Gazette:

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Joe Persico on YouTube at the NYS Writers Institute

Watch an interview with Joe Persico at the Writers Institute in 2004 on our YouTube channel:

Best-selling nonfiction writer Joseph Persico authored 11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour: Armistice Day, 1918 (2004, Random House), which recounts the final bloody days and hours of the First World War. The book details how Allied commanders, in pursuit of military glory, sacrificed the lives of thousands of soldiers in senseless attacks on German positions, though fully aware that nation had already surrendered. Persico's books, some of them bestsellers, have included My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg (1977), Piercing the Reich: The Penetration of Nazi Germany by American Secret Agents during World War II (1979), The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller (1982), Murrow: An American Original (1988), Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey from OSS to CIA (1990); Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial (1994), and Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage (2001). Persico collaborated with General Colin Powell on My American Journey (1996), which follows Powell's life from his birth in Harlem through his distinguished career in the U.S. Military, including his rise to influence at the Pentagon, as well as his role in the Vietnamese, Panamanian and Iraqi conflicts. A graduate of UAlbany and Guilderland resident, Persico served on the commission that oversaw the design of the new National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and penned the words that appear on the monument, "Here we mark the price of freedom."

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More on Joe Persico in the Times Union

Two community treasures lost: An appreciation

Joe was an acclaimed historian and the author of 12 books. You may have seen him as a "talking head" expert in History Channel documentaries or as a guest on "Face the Nation" and "Morning Joe." His books had reached the best-seller list and "Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial" was made into a TV movie. The Gloversville native was among a troika of the region's most famous authors alongside Albany natives Andy Rooney and Bill Kennedy.

Yet he was always willing to write a blurb, celebrate literary successes of friends and offer pragmatic advice to writers like myself. He called me "young fella" even after I turned 55 this summer. He said there were no shortcuts to success. He had a small sign in a book-lined study at his Guilderland apartment that was a kind of mantra: "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

He worked hard to the end.


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Mourning Joe Persico, One of the Finest Writers in the Region

Joseph E. Persico, acclaimed historian and biographer, dies at 84

Ex-Rockefeller aide's work noted for its humanity
Paul Grondah, Times Union

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Is Poetry Dead?

(Photo in the NY Times: Our NYS Poet Marie Howe at the Poetry in Motion Springfest at Grand Central Terminal)

Marie Howe, NYS Poet under the auspices of the NYS Writers Institute, appears in a New York Times feature article on poets laureate across the nation, Is Poetry Dead? Not if 45 Official Laureates are Any Indication...

"Other laureates have taken the tradition of occasional poetry in a more personalized direction. As part of the Poetry in Motion project’s Springfest, an event held in Grand Central Terminal in April, Marie Howe, the New York State laureate, organized The Poet Is In, a project inspired by Lucy Van Pelt’s advice booth in 'Peanuts.'”

“'The academic establishment, which I’m very much part of, has this idea of a poem as a monument, and I bow to that idea,' Ms. Howe said. 'But there are poems that are valuable without being monuments.'”

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Ruby Dee (1922-2014)

The Writers Institute mourns the passing of Ruby Dee, pioneering stage and screen actress, and civil rights activist.

Ruby Dee visited the Writers Institute in March 2005 where she delivered the 9th Annual Burian Lecture, funded by the Jarka and Grayce Susan Burian Endowment, and cosponsored by the Department of Theatre.

From the New York Times:

"Ruby Dee, one of the most enduring actresses of theater and film, whose public profile and activist passions made her, along with her husband, Ossie Davis, a leading advocate for civil rights both in show business and in the wider world, died on Wednesday at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 91."

More about her visit:

Some obituaries:

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award

A call for applications....
The Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award is a one-time grant of $1,500 for an emerging writer of color.

An unpublished writer is preferred, although publication of one work of short fiction or academic work will not disqualify an applicant. This grant is intended to support the recipient in activities related to writing and career development. These activities include workshops, seminars, conferences, and retreats; online courses; and research activities required for completion of the work.

The grant is administered by Sisters in Crime, a 3,600-member organization of mystery authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians. Sisters in Crime was founded by Sara Paretsky and a group of women at the 1986 Bouchercon in Baltimore. In 2014 the group invites members to: “SinC Up With Great Crime Writing! Our mission is to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers.”
Picture: Mystery writer Eleanor Taylor Bland (1944-2010).

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Roscoe" Opera at Skidmore this Sunday

From today's Times Union:
Opera troupe workshops adaptation of William Kennedy's 'Roscoe'

Amy Biancoll, Times Union
The souls peopling William Kennedy novels have always had an operatic streak about them: tragically flawed, larger than life, haunted by death (or dead already). And they have issues If, as W.H. Auden observed, opera is "an imitation of human willfulness," then the classic Kennedy protagonist is prime meat for operatic adaptation.

Consider Roscoe Conway, the complex and fleshy political insider at the heart of "Roscoe," a new opera scheduled for an Opera Saratoga workshop performance at 2 p.m. Sunday at Skidmore College. Adapted from the Kennedy novel by Albany composer Evan Mack and Tennessee-based librettist Joshua McGuire, the opera is about half-written: Only the 80-minute Act I will be performed in Sunday's unstaged concert rendering, sung by members of the company's Young Artist Program. "It's quite wonderful. It's thrilling to listen to it, and to hear these voices when they start taking off," Kennedy said. Opera struck him as a "very good form for Roscoe himself. As an individual, he has kind of an operatic life, and he is a creature of extreme habits and proclivities. And he reaches great heights as a politician and as a human being, and he has a great rise and fall of his emotions."

More in the Times Union:

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Hollis Seamon wins "Ippy" Gold Medal

Hollis Seamon, this year's featured guest author at the New York State Summer Young Writers Institute for high school-aged writers, tied for the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award ("Ippy") Gold Medal for Short Fiction for her story collection, Corporeality.

More 2014 "Ippy" results here:

Students at the Young Writers Institute will read Seamon's 2013 young adult novel, Somebody Up There Hates You, about a 17-year-old battling cancer.

Booklist said, "Seamon’s first young-adult novel is a tender, insightful, and unsentimental look at teens in extremis. It brings light to a very dark place, and in so doing, does its readers a generous service."

More about Hollis Seamon:

More about the New York State Summer Young Writers Institute:

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Josh Bartlett wins Garber Prize

Congratulations to Writers Institute Grad Assistant Josh Bartlett for winning the Spring 2014 Eugene K. Garber Prize for Short Fiction for his story, "French Twist."

Photo:  Josh with Alex Trebek during his appearance on Jeopardy! in 2012 (the show aired on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22nd).

The prize is endowed by Professor Emeritus Gene Garber of the UAlbany English Department:

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Passing of Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

From UAlbany's Facebook page:

UAlbany is saddened by the passing of Maya Angelou. She captivated audiences through the vigor and sheer beauty of her words and lyrics.

We were fortunate to have her on the UAlbany campus in April 1998 where she spoke about her extraordinary life and read from her numerous works.

Share your favorite Maya Angelou quote in the comments. #RIP #MayaAngelou

More at:

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Free Events in Saratoga This Summer

Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid! Joyce Carol Oates!  William Kennedy! Robert Pinsky!  Marilynne Robinson! Russell Banks! And many more….

You are invited to attend the NYS Summer Writers Institute’s free public readings at Skidmore in Saratoga this summer, every weekday from June 30th to July 25th, cosponsored by Skidmore College and the New York State Writers Institute.

All Readings are at 8:00 p.m. in Davis Auditorium, Palamountain Hall
815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Free and open to the public

Fiction reading by Elizabeth Benedict and poetry reading by Campbell McGrath.

Fiction reading by Francine Prose and non-fiction reading by Nicholas Delbanco.

Poetry reading by Frank Bidart and fiction reading by Jim Shepard.

Fiction reading by Russell Banks and poetry reading by Chase Twichell.

Fiction reading by Howard Norman and poetry reading by Jane Shore.

Poetry reading by Rosanna Warren and fiction reading by Cristina Garcia.

Non-Fiction reading by Phillip Lopate and fiction reading by Victoria Redel.

Poetry reading by James Longenbach and fiction reading by Joanna Scott.

Poetry reading by Louise Gluck and fiction reading by Caryl Phillips.

Fiction reading by Joyce Carol Oates.

Poetry reading by Carolyn Forche and fiction reading by Amy Hempel.

Fiction reading by Marilynne Robinson and poetry reading by Peg Boyers.

Fiction reading by Danzy Senna and nonfiction reading by Honor Moore.

Fiction reading by William Kennedy.

Poetry reading by Robert Pinsky.

Poetry reading by Mark Strand and fiction reading by Binnie Kirshenbaum.

Poetry reading by Charles Simic and fiction reading by Adam Braver.

Fiction reading by Rick Moody and poetry reading by Tom Healy.

Fiction reading by Jamaica Kincaid and poetry reading by Henri Cole.

Fiction reading by Paul Harding and poetry reading by Carl Dennis.

For more information:
NYS Summer Writers Institute
Office of the Dean of Special Programs


NYS Summer Writers Institute
Office of the Dean of Special Programs
Skidmore College
815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

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