HISTORY OF THE NEW YORK STATE WRITERS INSTITUTE

Program Highlights

 

1983

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Kennedy founded the Writers Institute at Albany with part of a fellowship awarded him from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  As part of that award, fifteen thousand dollars for five years went to the institution of Kennedy’s choice, the University at Albany, State University of New York. The University made a commitment to match those funds in order to establish a visiting writers series.
 

1984

 Inaugural Visiting Writer Event with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow. Visiting Writers Series and Visiting Writers and Event Index.

1984

Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed into law the legislation creating the New York State Writers Institute, giving it goals and responsibilities to conduct a broad range of cultural and educational literary activities. The Writers Institute has a mandate to provide "a milieu for established and aspiring writers to work together to increase the freedom of the artistic imagination," and "to encourage the development of writing skills at all levels of education throughout the state." Tom Smith, UAlbany English Department professor worked with Kennedy in the organization and development of the Writers Institute and served as the Institute’s. 
 

1985

 By special legislative mandate, the Institute was given the responsibility of awarding both the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers (State Author) and the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets (State Poet) every two years. The Governor awards each citation upon the recommendation of two advisory panels of distinguished authors convened under the aegis of the Institute.
 

1986

The first New York State Author and New York State Poet citations were awarded to Grace Paley and Stanley Kunitz.

"The Cotton Club" co-scripted by William Kennedy with Francis Ford Coppola.

 

1987 

Inception of New York State Summer Writers InstituteThe Institute entered into a partnership with Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY to sponsor the New York State Summer Writers Institute, a month-long series of creative writing courses in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation, and editing.

World premiere of "Ironweed." The Writers Institute hosted the world premiere of the movie, "Ironweed" at Albany's Palace Theatre on December 12. Based on William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel—with the screenplay also written by Kennedy—the film was shot in and around Albany. The film was directed by Hector Babenco and starred Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, who both were nominated for Oscars for their roles.

 

1988

The Birth of Black Cinema: A three-day symposium on the distinct burst of African-American image-making from the 1960s to present, featuring filmmakers and critics Toni Cade Bambara, St. Clair Bourne, Haile Gerima, Spike Lee, James Snead and Hortense Spillers. Cosponsored with the University at Albany Schweitzer Chair, Toni Morrison.

Initiation of the Albany Showcase Series featuring readings by Albany area writers. The Institute provided the resources to outfit Page Hall on the UAlbany downtown campus with 35 mm film projection equipment in order to establish a Classic Film Series — weekly Friday night screenings of rare films, contemporary international offerings, classics made in the U.S. and abroad, as well as pre-release screenings from major studios. Film Note Index

 

1988-1995

The Institute significantly increased its public outreach by creating "The Book Show." Coproduced by WAMC-FM, Albany's National Public Radio affiliate, The Book Show was a weekly half-hour interview program featuring some of the most celebrated names in literature. Initially hosted by Tom Smith (1984-94), and then by novelist and short story writer Douglas Glover (1994-95), The Book Show is heard on over 26 stations throughout the United States, Australia, and on the Armed Forces Network.
 

1989

 New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named E. L. Doctorow New York State Author and Robert Creely New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
 

1991

Telling the Truth: A Symposium on the Craft of Nonfiction: This symposium, termed a once-in-a-lifetime event by panelists and attendees alike, assembled 37 of the country's most noted nonfiction writers for a three-day series of presentations and panel discussions. Among the speakers were Maureen Dowd, James Fallows, Timothy Ferris, Frances FitzGerald, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mary GordonStephen Jay Gould, Patricia Limerick, J. Anthony Lukas, Norman Mailer, David McCullough, Richard Rhodes, Gay Talese, Calvin Trillin, Juan Williams and Garry Wills.
 

New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony: The Institute named Norman Mailer New York State Author and Audre Lorde New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the New York State Capitol.
 

1993 

New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named William Gaddis, New York State Author and Richard Howard, New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the New York State Capitol.
 

1994 

The World, The Word, and The Future.  A critical evaluation of the current status and possible futures of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and the issues facing each art form. Participants included Hayden Carruth, Maureen Howard, Simon Schama, and Patricia Williams, among others.
 

1995 

Following the untimely death of the Institute's Associate Director Tom SmithDonald Faulkner joined the Institute, first as Associate Director, and then as Director.

Women, Multiculturalism, and the Avant Garde. A weekend symposium featuring panel discussions and readings exploring the aesthetic of each and what they have to offer each other.

New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Peter Matthiessen New York State Author and Jane Cooper New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the New York State Capitol.

 

1996 

The Business of Writing. A round table discussion of the business aspects of the publishing industry that focused on how a manuscript makes its way from the writers' desk to the bookstores, a process often a mystery to aspiring and published writers alike. Featuring Dosier Hammond, Marketing Director, W.W. Norton & Company; Bill Henderson, founder of Pushcart Press; Barbara Jones, Senior Features Editor, Vogue Magazine; Sally Anne McCartin, publicist, McCartin Associates; Susan Novotny, owner/buyer, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza; Rebecca Saletan, Vice President and Senior Editor, Simon & Schuster Adult Trade Division; Chuck Verrill, Literary Agent.

African-American Autobiography.  Readings and discussions by Veronica ChambersClifton Taulbert, Shirlee Taylor HaizlipBell Hooks, and Arnold Rampersad on such topics as the vitures and values of autobiography, the historical importance of African-American autobiography, biography verses autobiography, and African-American autobiography as an art form.

The Institute launches its website with event schedule information and updates, visiting writer profiles, film notes, and an online magazine.

 

1997 

Inaugural Burian Lecture with Marvin A.Carlson, in Co-sponsorship with UAlbany Theatre Department: This yearly event brings leading scholars and practitioners of the art of the theatre to the Albany campus. Funded by Jarka and Grayce Susan Burian, two of the Capital District's leading theatrical educators and artists, the lecture honors Dr. Burian's long and influential service at the University.

In partnership with the Capital Region’s PBS affiliate WMHT, the Institute expanded "The Book Show" into a regular public television program, "The Writer."  This weekly half-hour series of video portraits focused on writers who were guests of the Institute.

 

1998 

New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony: The Institute named James Salter, New York State Author and Sharon Olds,  New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
 

1999

Nonfiction: The State of the Art. Four of America's leading nonfiction writers—Joel Achenbach, Susan Orlean, Lawrence Weschler, and JoAnn Wypijewski—discussed feature writing, commercialism, censorship, and editorial standards in a wide-ranging panel discussion.

Annual Associated Writing Programs Conference in Albany. As part of the AWP conference events the Institute sponsored a series of programs including the keynote address by Frank McCourt; readings on Writing and Healing by Donald Faulkner and Richard Selzer; a panel discussion The Writer at Film Writer, the Director as Auteur, with Russell BanksWilliam Kennedy and Scott Spencer; and a special symposium on the work of William Kennedy.

Inaugural New York State Summer Young Writers Institute, a week-long writing workshop for New York State high school students.

 

2000 

A New York State of Mind.  Four award-winning writers—Russell BanksMary GordonWilliam Kennedy, and Meg Wolitzer—discuss how they have used the history, landscape, and popular culture of New York as their muse for crafting some of the best contemporary fiction in America. Cosponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities.

2001 

New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Kurt Vonnegut, New York State Author and John Ashbery, New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.

Novelist and short story writer Edward Schwarzschild joined the Institute staff with a dual appointment in the University at Albany’s English Department, to assist with program development and to teach a course based on the work of Institute visiting writers each semester. 

 

2004 

Celebrating 20 Years of the Writers Institute. UAlbany's College of Arts and Sciences sponsored "The Writing Semester" in honor of the Institute's 20th anniversary. 

New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony: The Institute named Russell Banks, New York State Author and Billy Collins, New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.

 

2005 

9th Annual Burian Lecture featuring Ruby Dee.

W. Langdon Brown, who had served as Chair of the UAlbany Theatre Department for many years, joined the Institute to direct the Authors Theatre program.

 

2006 

Women’s Voices Illuminating Cultures in Conflict. Journalist and women’s rights activist Ann Jones, Iranian-American author Nahid Rachlin, and South African-born novelist and poet Yvette Christianse presented seminars and readings on their work which explores cultures in conflict.
 

2007 

Celebration of Chinese Culture. In conjunction with UAlbany's "China Semester," the Institute hosted appearances by China scholar and author Jonathan Spence, poet and memorist Kang Zhengguo, playwright Elizabeth Wong, and memorist Da Chen.

The New York State Writers Institute along with UAlbany proudly announced a new partnership with Fence, a biannual journal of poetry, fiction, criticism, and art, and Fence Books, a literary press publishing fiction, poetry, and critical texts.

 

2008

Associated Writing Programs Conference (AWP) — The Writers Institute participated in the annual AWP Conference, which was held in New York City on January 30 - February 2, by sponsoring three readings/panel discussions and hosting a reception.

New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Mary Gordon, New York State Author and Jean Valentine, New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.

PEN World Voices: Festival of International Literature. For the first time ever PEN World Voices and the Writers Institute joined together to present an exciting line up of writers from around the globe. The Institute hosted readings by Nuruddin Farah of Somalia, Horacio Castellanos Moya of El Salvador, and Chenjerai Hove of Zimbabwe. 

 

2009

The Institute celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2009 with a special event featuring former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, who signed the legislation creating the Writers Institute, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, a frequent guest of the Institute over the years. Other program highlights throughout 2009 included appearances by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman; Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy award-winning performer Rita Moreno; Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Richard Russo and Douglas Blackmon; Booker Prize winner Peter Carey; National Book Award winner Annette Gordon-Reed; and Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney
 

2010

Authors Theatre Women Playwrights of the Early 20th Century, American Place Theatre performance of Three Cups of Tea, Authors Theatre: Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. American Place Theatre performance of The Glass Castle.
 

2011

American Place Theatre presented a one-person theatrical adaptation of Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, 15th Annual Burian Lecture with John Patrick Shanley. A celebration of Afro-Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire, A celebration of Gonzalo Torrente Ballester.
 

2012

Slavery by Another NamePerforming Voices of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Authors Theatre with playwright, Denis Johnson.
 

New York State Author and Poet Awards and Reading. The institute named Alison Lurie, New York State Author 2012-2014 and Marie Howe, New York State Poet 2012-2014.
 

2013

Joint reading with  New York State Poet, Marie Howe and Vermont Poet Laureate,  Sydney Lea; lecture by William Kennedy in celebration of the 40th anniversary of UAlbany’s Journalism Program; talk by U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, author of the autobiography Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill; special series “Women Writers of the Middle East,” cosponsored with UAlbany’s Office of International Education.
 

2014

Conversation and book signing with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, author of Off the Sidelines, cosponsored with The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza; special series “Looking at Lemon: Transforming Life Through Literature,” cosponsored by UAlbany  Foundation, Performing Arts Center, and University Art Museum.
 

2015

Appearance by Bill Nye “The Science Guy” in partnership with UAlbany Student Association; William A. Wellman Film Festival.
 

2016 (Spring)

Special series “Eyes on Zora: The Life and Legacy of Zora Heale Hurston,” including a film screening, children’s workshops on African American Folktales, and American Place Theatre’s performance of "Zora!;" Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration speaker Carlotta Walls LaNier; inauguration ceremony for New York State Author, Edmund White and New York State Poet, Yusef Komunyakaa; 20th Annual Burian Lecture with Tony Award-winning theatre director Pam McKinnon, funded by the Jarka and Grayce Burian Endowment.
 

2016 (Fall)

Inaugural events in “The Creative Life: A Conversation Series at UAlbany,” created and produced by the Writers Institute, University Art Museum, and Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with WAMC Public Radio, featuring prolific author Joyce Carol Oates, and award-winning tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover; special series “The New Americans: Recent Immigrant Experiences in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Film,” with appearances by authors Imbolo MbueAnne Fadiman, and filmmaker Mary Mazzio.

2017 (Spring) 

University at Albany Speaker Series with Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court;  William Faulkner Award winner Robert Coover; author and naturalist Diane Ackerman; The Creative Life: A Conversation Series at UAlbany events with jazz violinist Regina Carter and painter David Salle; novelist David Ebershoff, 21st Annual Burian Lecture with playwright Dael Orlandersmith; Emmy Award-wining documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson; historian; and author Douglas BrinkleyComplete schedule.
 

2017 (Fall) 

"Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World"two-day symposium, moderated by CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer featuring 30 acclaimed journalists, authors, historians, and First Amendment scholars; “The Creative Life: A Conversation Series at UAlbany” event with two-time Newbery Medal winner Lois Lowry; author and historian Russell Shorto; Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Doug Wright; 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tyehimba Jess; legendary New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast and cartoon editor Bob MankoffComplete schedule.

2018

The NYS Writers Institute Albany Book Festival hosted at the University at Albany featured author and Writers Institute founder William Kennedy; Wicked author Gregory Maguire; Gold Star Father Khizr Khan; historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; mystery novelist Walter Mosley; among other authors.  The Book Festival also featured an activity room where children could create fun projects as well as compete to be in Skribblers Magazine, a publication written by children in the Capital Region.

2019 (Spring)

Visiting writers in our Spring season include Steven Pinker, Susan Orlean, Richard Russo, T.C. Boyle, and Tom Junod, among others. The Art of Songwriting performance and discussion event brings the Writers Institute to a new musical audience; Broadway star and Albany-born Charlayne Woodard; the University at Albany recognized the NYS Writers Institute today with a President's Award for Exemplary Public Engagement; the Second Annual Albany Book Festival to be held Saturday, Sept. 14, at the UAlbany Campus Center.