top of page

The second edition of Trolley, an online literary journal produced by the NYS Writers Institute at the University at Albany, was published December 20, marking the end of a busy fall semester in which the Institute sponsored more than 30 events, including the Albany Book Festival. Trolley can be found at


The Winter 2018 edition of Trolley features a widely diverse collection of essays by writers aged 18 to 96 years old celebrating books, authors, and readers. The theme carries forward the message of the Albany Book Festival held at the University at Albany on Sept. 29, 2018. More than 5,000 people attended the event, exceeding expectations and affirming the Writers Institute long-standing belief that books, writers, and thoughtful discussion strengthen our sense of community. Indeed, the book festival proved true what Writers Institute founder William Kennedy once said: "Literary conversation is the best conversation."

Trolley contributors include Josh Desetta, a high school senior who penned an homage to writing and reading, and Donald H. Black, a 96-year old World War II veteran, retired banking executive and author wrote his essay on … essay writing. 

Other contributors include Alicia Abdul, a librarian at Albany High School; Jack Rightmyer, a freelance arts writer and teacher at Bethlehem High School; author and memoir writing coach Marion Roach Smith; University at Albany undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students; and several community members who attended the book festival. 

A unique feature in Trolley is a column featuring highlights from the Writers Institute’s extensive archives. In this edition, readers will find a transcription of a wide-ranging discussion between Norman Mailer, William Kennedy, and Russell Banks that took place in 2007, when Mailer was on tour for what would be his final book, The Castle in the Forest, a fictional chronicle of Hitler's boyhood.


Two renowned University at Albany alumni, a novelist and screenwriter/producer, announced significant gifts to the NYS Writers Institute, ensuring that the University at Albany campus and local communities will continue to hear from the world’s most acclaimed writers and view history’s most important films.

Gregory Maguire Class of ’76, author of the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and Marc Guggenheim, Class of ’92, co-creator of the TV series Arrow and screenwriter for the movie Green Lantern, have made significant six-figure gifts to the Writers Institute, a literary gem based at UAlbany.


Gregory Maguire, left, and Marc Guggenheim, "Thank you, Gregory and Marc. You’re part of the Writers Institute family now,” said director Paul Grondahl.

Maguire established The Maguire Family Endowment at the NYS Writers Institute to provide financial support to host authors throughout the year. The $500,000 endowment is in honor of his family and, in particular, his parents John Maguire, Helen Gregory Maguire, and Marie McAuliff Maguire.

Guggenheim, a screenwriter, comic book writer and novelist, pledged $100,000 to the existing NYSWI Classic Film Series Endowment to ensure it continues to provide free cinematic events and film commentary for the UAlbany campus and community. Read more.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Did news happen at the senator's Page Hall event?

Seconds before Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl was about to end Friday night's program with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, William Kennedy rose from his seat near the front of Page Hall.


While the senator was here to promote her new children's book, Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, which she did with enthusiasm, the audience dearly wanted to hear about her presidential aspirations.


Mr. Kennedy, 90 years old, with the eagerness of a cub reporter, asked Gillibrand the final question of the night. In classic Kennedy-esque phrasing, eloquent and respectful, he asked if she planned to run for president in 2020. "It's a moral question," she said, and added it's a discussion she'd be having with her family in the next few weeks. We shall see.

Paul Grondahl and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Have you ever considered writing a memoir?

If so, there’s an online class coming up that you can’t afford to miss. 

“Memoirama” will be taught by Marion Roach Smith, a former New York Times staffer and author of four books, who has coached hundreds of very successful writers. Marion is a friend of The New York State Writers Institute and is offering this class as a fundraiser for us.


All proceeds will go to the NYSWI. We are grateful to Marion for offering us this fundraising opportunity. 

Marion is currently listed in the number one spot on Google under “memoir coach,” and previously taught a consistently sold-out class in Troy, NY, from which she wrote her book, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life (Grand Central, 2011).

Join her – and us – as we offer this unique online class. It will be presented on only this one night. This is a new venture for us, and we are excited about it.
In this online class you’ll learn:
  •  How to identify the right topic for your memoir

  • The #1 mistake most memoir writers make 

  • How to decide what to include in your memoir and what to leave out

  • The first step to structuring a memoir people will actually want to read  

Taught in one 90-minute class with Q&A time at the end, this interactive event will give you the tools to get writing memoir immediately. This is for those who want to learn the basics, ask some questions, and get right to work.

Photo by Erica Berger

Paley documentary and discussion draws large and appreciative audience

Work of photojournalist Bob Paley featured in 'More Than Words,' a documentary co-directed by his daughter

More than 450 people filled Albany's Page Hall on Friday, Nov. 16, for a screening of "More Than Words," a documentary on the career of the late Bob Paley, a photographer for the Albany Knickerbocker News from 1946 to 1974. The event was co-sponsored by the NYS Writers Institute, WMHT, and the Times Union.

The documentary, co-directed by Paley's daughter, Mary Paley, told the story of a young boy whose fascination with cameras led to an award-winning career as a photojournalist. Paley's photographs show how Albany coped with the powerful forces unleashed as America came of age in the years following World War II. 

A panel discussion moderated by Times Union Associate Editor Mike Spain followed the screening. Spain and fellow panelist Joann Crupi had worked with Paley when they began their careers at the Knickerbocker News. Other panelists included Mary Paley; Dr. Alice Green, founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany; and Richard Lovrich, photographer, creative director at Proctors in Schenectady and former art director at the Times Union.

Copies of the DVD are available at 

Special thank you to our readers. From left, Cassie Andrusz-Ho Ching, Willie M. Dean Jr., Shanair Price, Siena Professor Krysta Dennis, UAlbany Professor Kyra Gaunt, Craig Gravina, Maeve McEneny Johnson, and Albany Common Councilmember Owusu Anane.

Powerful words, ripples of hope

I had that feeling at the start of our Tuesday, Nov. 13, event with Alexander Heffner, editor of "A Documentary History of the United States," at the NYS Museum in Albany.

Lightly attended, I felt badly for our guest as well as the eight community members who volunteered to read excerpts from documents both familiar and unfamiliar.

The sad feeling swept away quickly. Spontaneous applause erupted after our first speaker, Willie Dean Jr., finished his reading from the Declaration of Independence, which we all know begins with the iconic words: "All men are created equal..." 

Siena Professor Krysta Dennis followed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton's eloquent reply to Jefferson. In 1848, she wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal... The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her."

Remember the Missing Persons' song from the '80s with the chorus, "What are words for when no one listens anymore?"

Even louder applause. Game on. 

UAlbany senior Shanair Price read from Harriet Tubman; UAlbany Professor Kyra Gaunt read a letter written by her great-great-grandfather, a brave man who escaped from slavery in 1855. Sheridan W. Ford, writing from the safety of Boston, wrote "I love my freedom."

Craig Gravina read an excerpt from FDR's 'Four Freedoms' speech delivered on the eve of World War II; Albany Common Councilman Owusu Anane read from a Justice Thurgood Marshall speech on civility; and UAlbany PhD  student Cassie Andrusz-Ho Ching closed the evening with a heartfelt excerpt from Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The highlight of the evening: Words from Robert F. Kennedy delivered in a speech to 18,000 students in Cape Town, South Africa in 1966. Maeve McEneny Johnson read from Kennedy's speech: 


"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” 

What are words for? Their ripples carry through time, giving us hope and inspiration to create a better society.

-- Michael Huber, NYS Writers Institute

More than 5,000 people attended the Albany Book Festival

at the University at Albany campus on a gorgeous September Saturday. 

View slideshows: NYS Author/NYS Poet Ceremony and the Albany Book Festival. 

bottom of page