- 1983: Pulitzer
Prize-winning novelist William Kennedy founded the Writers Institute at
Albany with part of a fellowship awarded him from the John D. and Catherine
T. MacArthur Foundation. As part of that award, fifteen thousand
dollars for five years went to the institution of Kennedy’s choice,
the University at Albany, State University of New York. The University
made a commitment to match those funds in order to establish a visiting writers series.
- 1984: Inaugural Visiting Writer Event with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow. Visiting Writers Series and Archive of Previous Writers
1984: Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed into law the legislation
creating the New York State Writers Institute, giving it goals and responsibilities
to conduct a broad range of cultural and educational literary activities.
The Writers Institute has a mandate to provide "a milieu for established
and aspiring writers to work together to increase the freedom of the artistic
imagination," and "to encourage the development of writing skills
at all levels of education throughout the state." Tom Smith, UAlbany
English Department professor worked with Kennedy in the organization and
development of the Writers Institute and served as the Institute’s
- 1985: By special legislative mandate, the Institute was given the responsibility
of awarding 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 distinguished authors convened under the aegis
of the Institute.
- 1986: The first New York State Author and New York State Poet citations were awarded to Grace Paley and Stanley Kunitz.
- 1987: Inception of New York State Summer Writers Institute. The Institute entered into a partnership with Skidmore College
in Saratoga Springs, NY to sponsor the New York State Summer Writers Institute,
a month-long series of creative writing courses in poetry, fiction, nonfiction,
translation, and editing.
1987: World premiere of IRONWEED. The Writers Institute hosted the world premiere of the movie Ironweed at Albany's Palace Theatre on December 12. Based on William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel—with the screenplay also written by Kennedy—the film was shot in and around Albany. The film was directed by Hector Babenco and starred Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, who both were nominated for Oscars for their roles.
- 1988: The Birth of Black Cinema. A three-day symposium
on the distinct burst of African-American image-making from the
1960s to present, featuring filmmakers and critics Toni Cade Bambara,
St. Clair Bourne, Haile Gerima, Spike Lee, James Snead and Hortense
Spillers. Cosponsored with the University at Albany Schweitzer
Chair, Toni Morrison.
1988: Initiation of the Albany Showcase Series featuring readings by Albany area writers. The Institute provided the resources to outfit Page Hall on the UAlbany downtown campus with 35 mm film projection equipment in order to establish a Classic Film Series — weekly Friday night screenings of rare films, contemporary international offerings, classics made in the U.S. and abroad, as well as pre-release screenings from major studios. Film Note Index
- 1988-1995: The Institute significantly increased its public outreach
by initiating the public radio Book Show. Coproduced by WAMC-FM,
Albany's National Public Radio affiliate, The Book Show was a
weekly half-hour interview program featuring some of the most celebrated
names in literature. Initially hosted by Tom Smith (1984-94), and
then by novelist and short story writer Douglas Glover (1994-95), The
Book Show was
heard on over 26 stations throughout the United States, Australia,
and on the Armed Forces Network.
- 1989: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named E. L. Doctorow New York State Author and Robert Creely New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
- 1991: Telling the Truth: A Symposium on the Craft of
Nonfiction. This symposium, termed a once-in-a-lifetime
event by panelists and attendees alike, assembled 37 of the country's
most noted nonfiction writers for a three-day series of presentations
and panel discussions. Among the speakers were Maureen Dowd,
James Fallows, Timothy Ferris, Frances FitzGerald, Doris Kearns
Goodwin, Mary Gordon, Stephen Jay Gould, Patricia Limerick, J.
Anthony Lukas, Norman Mailer, David McCullough, Richard Rhodes,
Gay Talese, Calvin Trillin, Juan Williams and Garry Wills.
1991: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Norman Mailer New York State Author and Audre Lorde New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
- 1993: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named William Gaddis New York State Author and Richard Howard New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
- 1994: The World, The Word, and The Future. A critical
evaluation of the current status and possible futures of poetry,
fiction, and nonfiction, and the issues facing each art form. Participants
included Hayden Carruth, Maureen Howard, Simon Schama, and Patricia
Williams, among others.
- 1995: Following the untimely death of the Institute's Associate Director Tom Smith, Donald Faulkner joined the Institute, first as Associate Director, and then as Director.
1995: Women, Multiculturalism, and the Avant Garde.
A weekend symposium featuring panel discussions and readings exploring
the aesthetic of each and what they have to offer each other.
1995: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Peter Matthiessen New York State Author and Jane Cooper New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
- 1996: The Business of Writing. A round table discussion
of the business aspects of the publishing industry that focused
on how a manuscript makes its way from the writers' desk to the
bookstores, a process often a mystery to aspiring and published
writers alike. Featuring Dosier Hammond, Marketing Director, W.W.
Norton & Company; Bill Henderson, founder of Pushcart Press;
Barbara Jones, Senior Features Editor, Vogue Magazine;
Sally Anne McCartin, publicist, McCartin Associates; Susan Novotny,
owner/buyer, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza; Rebecca Saletan,
Vice President and Senior Editor, Simon & Schuster Adult Trade
Division; Chuck Verrill, Literary Agent.
1996: African-American Autobiography. Readings
and discussions by Veronica
Taylor Haizlip, Bell
Hooks, and Arnold
Rampersad on such topics as the vitures and values of autobiography,
the historical importance of African-American autobiography, biography
verses autobiography, and African-American autobiography as an
1996: The Institute launches its website with event schedule information and updates, visiting writer profiles, film notes, and an online magazine.
- 1997: Inaugural Burian Lecture with Marvin A.Carlson, in Co-sponsorship with UAlbany Theatre Department. This yearly event brings leading scholars and practitioners of the art of the theatre to the Albany campus. Funded by Jarka and Grayce Susan Burian, two of the Capital District's leading theatrical educators and artists, the lecture honors Dr. Burian's long and influential service at the University.
1997: In partnership with the Capital Region’s
PBS affiliate WMHT, the Institute expanded The Book Show into
a regular public television program, The Writer. This weekly half-hour
series of video portraits focused on writers who were guests of the Institute.
- 1998: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named James Salter New York State Author and Sharon Olds New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
- 1999: Nonfiction: The State of the Art. Four
of America's leading nonfiction writers—Joel Achenbach, Susan
Orlean, Lawrence Weschler, and JoAnn Wypijewski—discussed
feature writing, commercialism, censorship, and editorial standards
in a wide-ranging panel discussion.
1999: Annual Associated Writing Programs Conference in
Albany. As part of the AWP conference events the Institute sponsored a series of programs including
the keynote address by Frank McCourt; readings on Writing and
Healing by Donald Faulkner and Richard Selzer; a panel discussion The
Writer at Film Writer, the Director as Auteur, with Russell
Banks, William Kennedy and Scott Spencer; and a special symposium on the
work of William Kennedy.
1999: Inaugural New York State Summer Young Writers Institute, a week-long writing workshop for New York State high school
- 2000: A New York State of Mind. Four award-winning
writers—Russell Banks, Mary Gordon, William Kennedy, and Meg Wolitzer—discuss how they have used the history, landscape,
and popular culture of New York as their muse for crafting some
of the best contemporary fiction in America. Cosponsored by the
New York Council for the Humanities.
- 2001: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Kurt Vonnegut New York State Author and John Ashbery New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
2001: Novelist and short story writer Edward Schwarzschild joined the Institute staff with a dual appointment in the University at Albany’s English Department, to assist with program development and to teach a course based on the work of Institute visiting writers each semester.
- 2004: Celebrating 20 Years of the Writers Institute. UAlbany's College of Arts and Sciences sponsored "The Writing Semester" in honor of the Institute's 20th anniversary.
2004: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Russell Banks New York State Author and Billy Collins New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
- 2005: 9th Annual Burian Lecture featuring Ruby Dee.
2005: W. Langdon Brown, who had served as Chair of the UAlbany Theatre Department for many years, joined the Institute to direct the Authors Theatre program.
- 2006: Women’s Voices Illuminating Cultures in
and women’s rights activist Ann Jones, Iranian-American author
Nahid Rachlin, and South African-born novelist and poet Yvette
Christianse presented seminars and readings on their work which
explores cultures in conflict.
- 2007: Celebration of Chinese Culture. In conjunction with UAlbany's "China Semester," the Institute hosted appearances by China scholar and author Jonathan Spence, poet and memorist Kang Zhengguo, playwright Elizabeth Wong, and memorist Da Chen.
2007: The New York State Writers Institute along with UAlbany proudly announced a new partnership with Fence, a biannual journal of poetry, fiction, criticism, and art, and Fence Books, a literary press publishing fiction, poetry, and critical texts.
- 2008: Associated Writing Programs Conference (AWP) — The Writers Institute participated in the annual AWP Conference, which was held in New York City on January 30 - February 2, by sponsoring three readings/panel discussions and hosting a reception.
2008: New York State Author and New York State Poet Awards Ceremony. The Institute named Mary Gordon New York State Author and Jean Valentine New York State Poet at a special ceremony at the NYS Capitol.
2008: PEN World Voices: Festival of International Literature. For the first time ever PEN World Voices and the Writers Institute joined together to present an exciting line up of writers from around the globe. The Institute hosted readings by Nuruddin Farah of Somalia, Horacio Castellanos Moya of El Salvador, and Chenjerai Hove of Zimbabwe.
- 2009: The Institute celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009 with a special event featuring former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, who signed the legislation creating the Writers Institute, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, a frequent guest of the Institute over the years. Other program highlights throughout 2009 included appearances by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman; Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy award-winning performer Rita Moreno; Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Richard Russo and Douglas Blackmon; Booker Prize winner Peter Carey; National Book Award winner Annette Gordon-Reed; and Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney.
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