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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.


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.

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.


In partnership with the University Art Museum and the Performing Arts Center, the Creative Life Conversation Series features live onstage conversations with WAMC’s “Roundtable” host Joe Donahue. Creative Life guests included Joyce Carol Oates, Regina Carter, Jane Curtin, Garth Fagan, Roxane Gay, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lois Lowry, Patti LuPone, Debbie Millman, Susan Orlean, Ruth Reichl, and Paul Reiser.

The Albany Book Festival, established in 2018, draws thousands of book lovers from across the Capital Region and beyond to an intellectually stimulating and dynamic daylong event on the University at Albany uptown campus that promotes literacy and fosters a love of reading among all ages. 

This annual fall festival features bestselling authors, panel discussions, book-signing sessions, online workshops for aspiring writers, and areas dedicated to young-adult and children’s books. Local and regional authors are featured in open mic sessions featuring young writers and poets and in our local author/exhibitor marketplace with dozens of authors, bookstores, publishers, and literary organizations represented. Read more

Every film begins with a story, and storytelling in the filmmaking process is the essence of the New York State Writers Institute’s Albany Film Festival. Each spring, since it began in 2021, the NYS Writers Institute hosts filmmakers and screens films that explore the craft of storytelling in cinema. The festival includes in-depth panel discussions and how-to workshops with writers, screenwriters, filmmakers, film industry professionals, film critics, and authors whose books have been adapted into films. 

Full-length features, documentaries and short films created by aspiring young filmmakers as well as acclaimed directors are screened, along with conversations and Q&As that encourage audience participation. The Festival augments the Writers Institute’s long-running and highly regarded Classic Film Series. Read more

In 1984, the NYS Writers Institute was given a mandate by the 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. The governor awards each citation upon the recommendation of two advisory panels of UAlbany students, faculty, and distinguished authors convened under the aegis of the Institute. Read more

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. 
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. Read more 

The Institute offers Community Writers Workshops for members of the community in a variety of genres and levels throughout the academic year. Read more


The annual “Telling the Truth” symposium has become a signature community-wide event that positions the New York State Writers Institute at the center of vital national conversations. Participants explore issues that impact democratic principles, including free speech, media literacy, the future of journalism, and cybersecurity. Each year, “Telling the Truth” focuses on a key theme and convenes acclaimed writers and noted authorities for moderated panel discussions, audience question-and-answer sessions, and a public reception. The symposium provides a forum for the sharing of often opposing viewpoints in respectful, civil discourse.  


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.

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.


Past Programs:

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.   

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.

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.

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