NYS Writers Hall of Fame induction ceremony postponed to 2021
After discussion among its leadership and a commitment to protecting the health and safety of everyone involved during the coronavirus pandemic, the Empire State Center for the Book has decided to postpone until spring of 2021 its annual New York City event to honor a new group of inductees into the NYS Writers Hall of Fame.
The decision was made in consultation with the group’s co-sponsor and collaborator, the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany.
This is the first time in 11 years that the organization has not hosted a NYS Writers Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The 2020 event was originally scheduled for June at the Princeton Club in Manhattan and then pushed back to September, before ultimately being postponed until next year.
“We wanted to err on the side of caution,” said Rocco Staino, Director for the Empire State Center for the Book, which oversees the Hall of Fame selection committee process.
“This was absolutely the right decision,” said Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl, a member of the selection committee who also presented induction remarks for past Hall of Fame inductees William Kennedy, Russell Shorto, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
The Princeton Club event attracts a sold-out crowd of bestselling authors, publishing executives, and book lovers to a formal dinner and induction ceremony with speeches by the honorees. Publishers also donated books for dinner guests to get signed by the authors. The Hall of Fame roster each year includes living and deceased honorees. Past ceremonies have been attended by descendants and relatives of honorees William Jennings Bryan, Ira Gershwin, James Baldwin, Ntozake Shange, and many other literary icons.
This year’s inductees -- to be honored in 2021 -- include Edwidge Danticat, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Lore Segal, and Garry Trudeau. Deceased writers Bill Finger, Anna Katherine Green, and Oscar Hammerstein II also will be inducted next year. (More information on the inductees below.)
In this Zoom interview, Grondahl discusses the postponement of the event, this year’s honorees, and the mission of the organization with Director Rocco Staino and his deputy, Ellen Rubin, who was not able to be on video but is an audio-only guest.
The New York State Writers Hall of Fame was established in 2010 by the Empire State Center for the Book, which is the New York State affiliate of the U.S. Library of Congress's Center for the Book. The Empire State Center for the Book, housed at the New York Library Association, began partnering with the NYS Writers Institute this year in presenting the awards.
(Left, Rocco was all smiles at our 2019 Albany Book Festival held at the University at Albany.)
(Above, Rocco Staino, William Kennedy, and Paul Grondahl during Kennedy's 2017 induction in the NYS Writers Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at the Princeton Club in Manhattan.
National Book Award finalist Edwidge Danticat is the author of several award-winning books, including Claire of the Sea Light; Brother, I'm Dying;'and most recently her story collection Everything Inside. She is also the editor of The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, and has written several books for children and young adults, including Anacaona, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance.
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of numerous books for children and young adults, including picture books, novels, works of historical fiction and nonfiction.
Her books have been awarded multiple Coretta Scott King Book Awards, Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor citations, four NAACP Image Award nominations, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor medal, as well as several Parenting Publication Gold Medals, and American Library Association Notable Book citations.
Andrea was named one of the “25 Most Influential Black Women in Business” by The Network Journal, and is among “The 25 Most Influential People in Our Children’s Lives” cited by Children’s Health Magazine. She is also a recipient of the Medgar Evers College Lifetime Achievement Award.
Photo credit: Christine Simmons
Lore Segal is a novelist, essayist, translator, and writer of children’s books. Her book Shakespeare's Kitchen was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.
Born in Vienna in 1928, Segal was one of 500 Jewish children who escaped to England after Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. Her writings include the novelistic autobiography Other People’s Houses, and Lucinella, a fantasy/satire set at a writers’ retreat similar to Yaddo.
Segal's short story “The Reverse Bug” was included in Best American Short Stories, 1989 and was a 1990 O. Henry Prize-winner. Her stories “Other People’s Deaths” and “Making Good” were included in the O. Henry Prize Stories in 2008 and 2010. Photo credit: Alisa Douer
Garretson Beekman "Garry" Trudeau is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and illustrator, best known for creating the Doonesbury comic strip. Trudeau is also the creator and executive producer of the Amazon Studios political comedy series "Alpha House."
Trudeau's essays have been published in Harper's, Rolling Stone, The New Republic, The New Yorker, New York, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time magazine.
He has produced several compilations of his work, most recently #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump in 2018, and Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump, published in 2016. President Trump has called Trudeau a “third-rate talent.” Photo credit: Maarten de Boer/Getty Images
Bill Finger (1914-1974) Milton Finger, known professionally as Bill Finger, was a comic book writer who helped create some of the most beloved comic book characters of our time. Born in Denver and raised in the Bronx, Finger started his comic writing career as a ghostwriter for colleague Bob Kane. Over a decades-long career writing both for comics and the screen, Finger created and co-created a number of well-known characters, chief among them the iconic “Batman.” His countless contributions to the genre -- his many heroes, villains, and even the name “Gotham City” -- live on in the comics, television, and movies of today. Photo credit: ABC Photo Archives
Anna Katharine Green (1846–1935)
Anna Katharine Green was a poet and a bestselling writer widely regarded as "the mother of the detective novel." She wrote 40 books and her 1878 book The Leavenworth Case is widely regarded as the first American detective novel. Her fictional detective Ebenezer Gryce predates Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes by a decade.
In her autobiography, Agatha Christie cited Green as an influence on her own fiction.
Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)
Oscar Clendenning Hammerstein II was perhaps the most influential lyricist and librettist of the American theater, winning eight Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Many of his 850 songs are standard repertoire for vocalists and jazz musicians.
Best known for his collaborations with composer Richard Rodgers, their musicals include "Oklahoma!," "Carousel," "South Pacific," "The King and I," and "The Sound of Music." He also collaborated with Jerome Kern (with whom he wrote "Show Boat."
He died August 23, 1960. On September 1, 1960, at 9 p.m., the lights were dimmed on Broadway in memory of “the man who owned Broadway.”