THE CENTER FOR THE LITERARY ARTS IN NEW YORK STATE
“I just want to thank the New York State Writers Institute for inviting me to this space that must be one of the most glorious spaces for a writer to come. It feels, from the minute you walk into the corridors, in fact, from the minutes someone meets you at the station, you feel as if you’ve come into a place that is, for a moment, ready to make itself a home for your heart." — Yvette Christiansë, 11/28/06
The NYS Writers Institute’s goal is to enhance and celebrate literature, writing, and performance, and to recognize the position of writers as a community within the larger community. Books, films, plays, and their creators can provide portals through which the most personal or complex issues of human understanding can be explored.
Mandated by New York's governor and legislature to provide “a milieu for established and aspiring writers to work together... to increase the freedom of the artistic imagination,” the New York State Writers Institute is one of America’s premiere sites for promoting the art of the written word.
To meet the challenge of that original mandate the Institute sponsors a diversity of programs including author visits and residencies, film screenings, panel discussions, stage readings, book festivals, and writing workshops for adults and high school students. The goal of these programs is to increase access to major authors for students of writing and readers of literature, broaden exposure for emerging authors, and provide important cultural initiatives for the general public. The events are mostly free and open to the public.
VISITING WRITERS SERIES
Each year the Writers Institute brings 50 to 60 writers to Albany to conduct informal seminars, writing workshops, and readings as part of its Visiting Writers Series. Since our founding in 1983, the Institute has hosted well over 2,000 writers, poets, journalists, historians, dramatists, and filmmakers. The list includes nine Nobel Award winners, more than 200 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners, several Motion Picture Academy Award winners and nominees, and numerous other literary prize recipients.
In addition the Institute has hosted many up-and-coming writers to provide them with exposure at the beginning of their writing careers. Our visiting writers represent not only a diversity of literary genres, but also of academic fields, from art to zoology, but also a diversity of race, language, ethnic origin, religion and lifestyle.
CLASSIC FILM SERIES
The Institute’s Classic Film Series, presented with support from Marc Guggenheim, UAlbany Class of ‘92, features weekly screenings of domestic and international films of distinction, and film festivals devoted to the work of particular directors, producers, or screenwriters.
The series has included rare films culled from archives and private collections, pre-release screenings from major studios, contemporary international offerings, as well as classics made in the U.S. Some of the filmmakers and screenwriters who have visited the Institute have included Hal Ashby, Hector Babenco, Costa-Gavras, Tomas Gutierrez-Alea, James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, Neil Jordan, Spike Lee, Albert Mayseles, Gordon Parks, Sr., Raoul Peck, D.A. Pennebacker and Chris Hegedus, Bob Rafelson, Phil Alden Robinson, Wallace Shawn, Ron Shelton, Christine Vachon, Agnes Varda, and Robert Wise, and Doug Wright.
THE ALBANY BOOK FESTIVAL The first Albany Book Festival hosted by the NYS Writers Institute at the University at Albany was held September 24-25, 2018, and kicked off with the installation ceremony for New York State Author Colson Whitehead and New York State Poet Alicia Ostriker. Visit www.albanybookfestival.com
The festival featured talks by Doris Kearns Goodwin, William Kennedy, Gregory Maguire and other literary luminaries, as well as Whitehead and Ostriker, nearly 100 local authors, writing workshops, wide-ranging panel discussions, and a children's room.
Plans are underway for the (virtual) Third Annual Albany Book Festival.
TROLLEY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
At the request of founder William Kennedy, the Writers Institute launched Trolley, a web magazine of essay, opinion, literature, culture, and politics published free of charge in which each issue's words and images related to a single theme.
NEW YORK STATE SUMMER WRITERS INSTITUTE
Saratoga Springs has been the summer home of the Institute since 1988. The New York State Summer Writers Institute co-sponsored with the Office of the Dean for Special Programs at Skidmore College, consists of two and four-week workshops in fiction, playwriting and screenwriting, poetry, editing, and translation.
These fee-based workshops, which may be taken for college credit, are augmented by nightly readings by nearly 50 faculty and guest visiting writers. The evening readings are free and open to the public. Postponed Summer 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NEW YORK STATE SUMMER YOUNG WRITERS INSTITUTE
The Writers Institute is proud to offer a writing workshop for New York State high-school students each summer at the Institute’ summer home in Saratoga Springs. Student writers work closely with professional writers to immerse themselves in poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction. Running concurrently with the NYS Summer Writers Institute, students attend evening readings by such prestigious authors such as Ann Beattie, Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, Jamaica Kincaid, Michael Ondaatje, and Robert Pinsky.
Selections from the students’ work are annually published in a bound anthology and online. On hiatus Summer 2020.
NEW YORK STATE AUTHOR/POET AWARDS
By special mandate in 1985, the NYS Writers Institute was selected by the New York State Legislature to award both the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers (State Author) and the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets (State Poet) every two years. More information.
The Governor awards each citation upon the recommendation of two advisory panels of distinguished authors convened under the aegis of the Institute. State Author and State Poet laureates have included : Colson Whitehead and Alicia Ostriker (2018-2020); Edmund White and Yusef Komunyakaa (2016 – 2018); Marie Howe and Alison Lurie (2013 – 2014); Mary Gordon and Jean Valentine (2008 – 2010); Russell Banks and Billy Collins (2004-2006); Kurt Vonnegut and John Ashbery (2001-2003), James Salter and Sharon Olds (1997-1999); Peter Matthiessen and Jane Cooper (1995-97); William Gaddis and Richard Howard (1993-95); Norman Mailer and Audre Lorde (1991-93); E. L. Doctorow and Robert Creeley (1989-91); Grace Paley and Stanley Kunitz (1987-89).
COMMUNITY WRITERS WORKSHOPS
The Institute offers Community Writers Workshops for members of the community in a variety of genres and levels throughout the academic year. More information.
Past workshops have include introductory, intermediate and advanced sessions in poetry, fiction, and screenwriting, writing memoir, investigative poetry/prose, creative nonfiction and science writing. Workshop instructors have included poets Carolyn Forche, John Montague, Joan Murray, and Ed Sanders, fiction writers Elizabeth Benedict, Angela Carter, Lydia Davis, and, James Lasdun, and nonfiction writers Marion Roach Smith, LeAnne Schreiber, and Richard Selzer.
The New York State Writers Institute's Authors Theatre was created to bring dramaturgy and audience response into the creative writing process by exploring the literary dimension of plays in progress, rather than showcasing productions of finished works. More information.
The series has benefited playwrights and audiences alike by creating a space where focused audience-author discourse contributes meaningfully to the shaping of a dramatic work at the same time that it demystifies the creative process. Dramatic staged readings in the series have included works by Russell Banks, Mary Gallagher, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Jeffrey Hatcher, William Kennedy, Neil LaBute, Anna Manahan, Robert Pinsky, Frank Pugliese, Richard Russo, Sandra Seaton, Richard Selzer, Dava Sobel, Robert Stone, Lisa Thompson, and with special one-woman shows by actresses Billie Whitelaw and Irene Worth. Warren Leight's Sideman, which received a staged reading in the series, went on to prominence both off and on Broadway.
WRITERS ONLINE MAGAZINE
Founded in 1997, the Writers Online Magazine was the Institute's electronic magazine of reviews, interviews, and feature articles on the writers and books shaping contemporary literature; it also included transcripts of conference events, seminars, and readings taken from the continually expanding Institute archives. In recent years, the magazine content has been incorporated into the Institute’s blog and website.
FENCE LITERARY MAGAZINE
In the spring of 2007, the Writers Institute and the University at Albany inaugurated a partnership with Fence Magazine, and its publishing arm. After 10-plus years of providing funding and office space to the literary journal Fence and Fence Books, the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany ended the partnership due to budgetary constraints and a new direction that emphasizes community engagement and public humanities.