Young literary stars discuss channeling the past year’s grief into words

Three young women in separate profile photos
Left to right, Amina Gautier, Molly McCully-Brown and Susan Nguyen, who will read their works and then lead a panel on April 7 on Writing Grief, Writing Growth: Authors Speak on Creativity During Difficult Times.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 1, 2021) — In all modes, languages and epochs of literature, grief has been a frequent presence. No less so, and maybe more so, during the past year’s COVID-19 pandemic, where the world around us was dimmed by massive inconvenience, financial hardship, illness and death.

It was in this light that literary writers and scholars from UAlbany and RPI coalesced to create an event that might help students navigate these particular intense and stressful times. Writing Grief, Writing Growth: Authors Speak on Creativity During Difficult Times will bring together three of America’s finest young writers to read from their work and participate in a panel discussion this coming Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. in a virtual event, free through registration.

It began when alum Skye Anicca PhD ’19 reached out to Edward Schwarzschild, associate professor and director of creative writing, and others in UAlbany’s Department of English to work together on a symposium for students, with a panel of noted young writers sharing their knowledge about coping and creating in the face of grief. The three are fiction writer Amina Gautier, essayist-poet Molly McCully-Brown and poet Susan Nguyen.   

“Grief, of course, has been written about as long as there has been writing, but how might we write and think about the particular grief that has surrounded us during this COVID year?” said Schwarzschild. “We expect it to be a comforting, inspiring event for all."  

Following the panel, there will be “ample time for audience questions,” Schwarzschild said. Hosts are the English Department’s annual Creative Arts Professionalization Colloquium, RPI’s McKinney Committee, the NYS Writers Institute, EGSO and the University Art Museum.

Beyond the event’s chief focus, organizers believe the evening will be a building block toward a greater local artistic community. “This event aims to support student wellness across the Capital Region, build a strong literary community across campuses, celebrate emergent writers and promote professionalization in the arts and humanities,” said Schwarzschild.  

Support is provided from RPI by its Rensselaer Union, Annual McKinney Writing Contest and Reading, and School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and from UAlbany by the Department of English, the English Graduate Student Organization, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts via The University Art Museum, and the Writers Institute.

Schwarzschild gives particular credit to Anicca, now a lecturer of literature and creative writing at RPI, who he calls “the chief architect for this entire collaboration. I’d also like to single out the hard work that our English graduate students — especially Veronica Jordan-Sardi, Kyle Macy, and Connor Syrewicz — have put into making the event happen.”