top of page
  • NYS Writers Institute

Conversation: Writing about grief and loss

Today we're sharing a video conversation we first mentioned in early April: Three writers on the topic of writing about grief and loss. The discussion, held online April 7, was hosted by the McKinney Committee at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and SUNY Albany's English Graduate Student Organization in collaboration with the New York State Writers Institute.

Amina Gautier (fiction), Molly McCully Brown (essay, poetry), and Susan Nguyen (poetry) each gave a short reading, followed by a panel discussion on writing through stressful experiences and the benefits of creative practices during difficult times. At the conclusion of the readings and discussion, winners for the 80th annual McKinney Writing Contest at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and recognitions of recent UAlbany student achievements were announced. See list below the video.

To learn more about the featured writers, visit:

The event aimed to support student wellness across the Capital Region, build a strong literary community across campuses, celebrate emergent writers, and promote professionalization in the Arts and Humanities.

2021 McKinney Award winners

The McKinney Contest recognizes top writers in the Rensselaer student community. An average of 230 students enter each year to compete for a total of more than $4,000. Cash prizes are awarded in both undergraduate and graduate divisions in four different categories: Fiction or Drama, Poetry, Essay/Creative Nonfiction, and Electronic Mixed Media Using Language. The top prize is $300; second place is $175; third place earns $75.

Boden Whalen, a biochemistry and biophysics student, won the Undergraduate Fiction/Drama category for “Onychophora (velvet worms).”

The Graduate Fiction/Drama category was won by computer science student Elkin Alejandro Cruz Camacho, for his entry, “A Hundred Years of Excessive YouTube Company.”

First place in the Undergraduate Electronic Mixed Media Using Language category went to Brian Tsuji, an undergraduate industrial engineering and co-terminal supply chain management graduate student, for his entry, “Reversed Guins.”

There was a tie for first place in the Essay/Creative Nonfiction category between Divya Mohanraj, a biology major in the Physician-Scientist program, for her entry, “Culinary Corruption: How Fusion Food Threatens Authentic Cuisines,” and psychological science student Shannon Clark, for “The Expression of Femininity in Bechdel’s Fun Home and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.” Communications and rhetoric doctoral candidate Allison Bannister took the graduate first prize in the same category for “Comics Composition and the Matter of Making.”

Nyah Philip, an environmental engineering student, won first place in the category of Undergraduate Poetry for “Black Vagabonds.” First prize in the category of Graduate Poetry was won by Jamie Steele, a doctoral candidate in science and technology studies, for her entry, “Deathbed Rhapsody.”

For the complete list of honorees, visit


bottom of page