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  • NYS Writers Institute

Meet our spring interns: Taylor Deo and Rachel Orenstein

From left. Visiting writer Prachi Gupta with NYS Writers Institute interns Rachel Orenstein and Taylor Deo, and Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl on Tuesday at the University at Albany. (Photo credit: Michael Huber)


Writers Institute spring interns Taylor Deo and Rachel Orenstein co-moderated yesterday’s afternoon conversation with visiting writer Prachi Gupta. The room full of students and community members enjoyed a thoughtful discussion of Gupta’s new memoir They Called Us Exceptional: And Other Lies That Raised Us (2023). Congratulations to Taylor and Rachel on a successful event!

The two UAlbany students joined our team in January. During the internship application process last fall, both Taylor and Rachel impressed us with their passion for reading – they read more than 40 books last year -- and languages and their worldly perspectives. Taylor spent last semester in Denmark and Rachel studied in Ireland and recently returned from a trip to Spain. Both are business majors and their marketing mindset, fresh ideas, and creative energy have been instrumental in encouraging more UAlbany students to attend our events.

Taylor Deo

Taylor Deo is a junior majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing and management, and minoring in Sociology. She took a semester abroad last fall and lived in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Taylor has been studying ballet since she was 3 and also spends a lot of time on Duolingo learning Danish, Norwegian, and German.

Taylor plans to move to Scandinavia upon graduating to pursue a master’s degree. She describes herself as the personification of Sylvia Plath's “fig tree”*, but says she'll figure it out eventually.

If you could have dinner with any writer (living or dead), who and why?

"This question has me biting my nails because I'm stuck between two so I'll give them both, sorry. My first thought was Gail Carson Levine because the Pixie Hollow books that she wrote quite literally made my childhood all that it was and I will still happily reread those stories just to feel a smidge of what magic they made my sister and I feel as kids.

My second answer is Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875). It's 2024 and people still talk about him in Denmark like he's alive and well and to have that much of an influence with your storytelling is insane to me. He's just so eternal. You can see his face in the artwork in Christiansborg Palace and in statues and see his stories told in the rides they have at Tivoli. My heart still breaks every time I read The Little Match Girl and to me, that's power if you can make still someone feel something after they've experienced it ten times before.

Taylor’s favorite authors:

“My current obsession is Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors, but my all-time favorite book is Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I never shut up about it.  I also really enjoyed She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox, Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame by Supriya Kelkar, and Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur and I’ll happily read almost any story with a WLW storyline. There are so many but I would be listing books for the rest of the day if I named them all.”

Rachel Orenstein

Rachel Orenstein

Rachel Orenstein is a UAlbany senior majoring in Business with concentrations in marketing and entrepreneurship. Like Taylor, Rachel also studied abroad, spending a semester studying at the University College Dublin (UCD) in Ireland. Along with her passion for reading and writing, Rachel has a knack for languages and is currently practicing Spanish, Polish, German, and Morse Code. 

After she graduates -- in just 10 weeks! -- she plans to work in marketing and hopes to start up a publishing company and also write books. 

Rachel previously interned with IdeaPress, a hybrid publisher of business books. She was an Acker-Newman Entrepreneurial Fellow with Innovate 518 at the UAlbany ETEC building, as well as a digital marketing intern for the UAlbany Student Association. She also volunteers at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

If you could have dinner with any writer (living or dead), who and why?

"It may seem an unusual choice for this, but my dream dinner would be with Rick Riordan. He is a best-selling author turned publisher and television producer (while still successfully writing), which is my ultimate career goal. His work has inspired me since I was a child, and his career inspires me now. I would love to hear his advice one day - or even to meet him as a professional equal. What a day that would be!"


Rachel’s favorite authors:

“My love for books blossomed years ago under Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson universe, so those books will always have a special place in my heart. I am an avid fan of Greek mythology and fairytale retellings, so Madeline Miller, Emily Wilson, and Marissa Meyer are each personal favorites.

I also enjoy poetry (of various types, from Margaret Atwood to Amanda Lovelace) and nonfiction (such as The Red Planet by Simon Morden and The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac). My latest read is Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, and so far it is phenomenal.”

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* Excerpt from Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar -- “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.

One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.

I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.



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