NYS Writers Institute Announces Fall 2021 Schedule of Events

A composite image of books and author headshots
Writers Institute speakers this fall include, clockwise from top left, Zakiya Dalila Harris, Russell Banks, Melissa Febos, Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman, and Temple Grandin.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 31, 2021) — The NYS Writers Institute has a full slate of events for the upcoming fall season, most of them in-person for the first since author visits shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We believe in the literary alchemy that occurs when readers and writers come together, in person, to discuss important and sometimes uncomfortable topics in thoughtful and respectful conversation,” said Paul Grondahl, director of the Writers Institute. “Slowly and carefully, we are reclaiming things that bring us joy. For us, that means live audiences and in-person events.”

Some events will be online, and for in-person events all attendees, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask or other face covering while inside any UAlbany operated, owned or leased building. Unvaccinated individuals are also required to wear face coverings in all outdoor settings.

Writers Institute events kick off Thursday with a visit from Zakiya Dalila Harris, the author of the breakout New York Times bestseller, The Other Black Girl (2021), a thriller about workplace aggression and competition set in the starkly white world of New York City publishing. The Washington Post called it, “A thrilling, edgier Devil Wears Prada that explores privilege and racism.”

Harris will offer a craft talk at 4:30 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room of Campus Center West, and a reading and Q&A at 7:30 p.m. in Page Hall on the Downtown Campus.

The Institute’s premier event, the Albany Book Festival, will kick off at 7:30 Friday, Sept. 24, with a ceremony to announce the new State Author and State Poet for 2021-2023. In addition, the inaugural Bruce Piasecki and Andrea Masters Award on Business and Society Writing will be presented at the ceremony.

The festival itself, a full day of local, national and international authors, booksellers, workshops and readings, will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, on the Uptown Campus. The fourth annual festival will be held in-person for the first time since 2019. All events are free and open to the public. Visit the festival website for a full schedule and list of authors attending.

More Institute Highlights

On Thursday, Sept. 9, Crystal Maldonado will give a craft talk at 4:30 p.m. in the Standish Room of the Science Library, and a Reading/Q&A at 7:30 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center West. Maldonado is the author of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega (2021), a young adult fiction debut that explores the plus-size experience in weight-conscious America, and what it’s like to be the only Latina at a white Connecticut suburban high school. A finalist for the New England Book Award, the novel was named a Cosmopolitan “Best New Book of Winter.”

The following week, on Tuesday, Sept. 14, acclaimed poet Randall Horton will visit with a craft talk at 4:30 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room of Campus Center West and a reading/Q&A at 7:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Assembly Hall.

Horton, who earned his Ph.D. in English at UAlbany, was called “the only person in the United States with seven felony convictions and academic tenure” by PEN America. His powerful 2020 collection, {#289-128}: Poems, addresses America’s prison industrial complex and the paradoxical idea of freedom in a cell. Horton won an NEA Fellowship and the Gwendolyn Brooks and Bea Gonzalez Poetry Awards.

Feminist writer and scholar Melissa Febos will visit on Nov. 18. Temple Grandin, the animal behaviorist, professor, inventor and author who explores the world through the eyes of autism, will visit Nov. 23. And fiction writer Russell Banks will be on campus for a conversation with Writers Institute founder William Kennedy on Nov. 30.


The Writers Institute collaborates with other UAlbany entities to bring events to campus. On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Speakers Forum, in partnership with the Institute, presents poet Cathy Park Hong in a conversation via Zoom at 7 p.m.

Hong has written six books of poetry and the memoir, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (2020), a ruthlessly honest exploration of Asian American consciousness. A New York Times bestseller and one of TIME magazine’s “10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year,” Minor Feelings won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Register here.

The Creative Life series, a partnership with the Performing Arts Center and the University Art Museum in collaboration with WAMC Northeast Public Radio, features leading figures from a variety of artistic disciplines in conversation with WAMC’s “Roundtable” host Joe Donahue.

The series will host chef and author Ruth Reichl, a six-time James Beard Award-winner and former Gourmet magazine editor on Oct. 5; and designer and illustrator Debbie Millman and author/social commentator Roxane Gay on Nov. 2. The series receives major support from the University at Albany Foundation and University Auxiliary Services.

For the full schedule of events, visit the Writers Institute web page. All events are subject to change. Check the website or call 518-442-5620 for up-to-date event information and for changing COVID protocols.