Welcome to the Virtual Writers Institute at the University at Albany. Click through the posts below and share your comments as we hang together during these strange days of closures, cancellations and quarantines.


Be sure to read our introductory post, check out the comments from other readers and add your reply to this question:

In these days of social isolation, which book are you most looking forward to reading?

Author Charles Brandt
March 20

We hope you enjoy our Q&A with Charles Brandt, author of the book that provides the basis for Martin Scorcese's recent film, "The Irishman," starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. 

Filmmakers have been adapting novels to the screen for more than 100 years. What's your favorite film adaptation of a novel? Add your comment and join The Conversation.

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March 19

Today we're sharing a column from Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl about what he's learned covering catastrophes during his time as a reporter, a video of Italians showing a spirit of community in time of quarantine, and a poem from a reader titled "Italians Singing from Balconies."

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March 18

St. Patrick's Day was a subdued event this year with good reason. Social distancing meant no parades, parties, celebrations. Not even a book reading. 

Let's hope for a more joyful St. Patrick's Day in 2021 and take a moment to view videos from Writers Institute events with Irish writers including Frank McCourt, Ruth Gilligan, Colum McCann, Colm Tóibín, John Montague, and Oscar Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, among others. 

Join the conversation. What is your favorite Irish poem or book?   

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Audre Lorde
March 17

Here’s a poem from the late New York State Poet Audre Lorde, "A Litany for Survival,” which characterizes life as a state of permanent fear of personal extinction, even during the best of times, for members of vulnerable populations. Despite this, the poem urges readers to find the ability to speak out and make themselves heard.

You'll also find a rich collection of information from the NYS Writers Institute archives, including Gov. Mario Cuomo's proclamation of Lorde as State Poet in 1991, images, and news coverage of the event.

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Mark Nepo
March 16

"...For the other virus spreading now is fear. We all feel it, calling us with its hypnotic frenzy. But one thing I’ve learned from almost dying from cancer is that fear is to be moved through and not obeyed. And we need each other in order to see clearly so we can right-size what is before us—day after day."  

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Read books.
March 13

Mark Nepo, bestselling author of 20 books, a graduate of the University at Albany, and a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey's programs, visited the NYS Writers Institute for a pair of events almost exactly a year ago. He shares an essay titled "Anthem of Our Day" to kick off our new interactive site. 

Question for you: 

“If you are put under quarantine, which book are you most looking forward to reading?”


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The New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany is postponing its inaugural Albany Film Festival, scheduled for March 28, as an appropriate precaution related to COVID-19 and coronavirus containment protocol with guidance from UAlbany, county and state health experts, and government officials.


We also are postponing the outdoor projection mapping show, scheduled to kick off the Albany Film Festival on the night of March 27 and to run for four consecutive nights.

Our highest priority is the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff, audience members, volunteers, and visiting filmmakers.

We are disappointed that we have to postpone the Albany Film Festival because we had organized an extraordinary event. We plan to reschedule the Albany Film Festival for the spring of 2021, retaining the selected short films and other elements, while refocusing our energies to make it an even stronger community event next year.

The spring Albany Film Festival will complement our annual fall book festival. The 3rd annual Albany Book Festival is scheduled for September 12. 

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NYS Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl

Paul Grondahl, Director NYS Writers Institute

For more information and updates on the global health crisis and its impact on UAlbany, visit

 News & Notes 

More than 19 hours of conversation with 34 recent guests, authors, filmmakers, poets and journalists who have visited the Writers Institute in the past two years.