William Kennedy has earned national and international acclaim as the author of the "Albany Cycle" of novels, Legs (1975), Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), Ironweed (1983), Quinn's Book (1988) and Very Old Bones (1992). Ironweed won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984. Kennedy also wrote the screenplay for the film version of Ironweed which was filmed in 1987 in Albany under the direction of Hector Babenco. The Flaming Corsage was published in 1996.

Kennedy's first play, Grand View, premiered at Capital Repertory Company on May 8 - June 2, 1996. Grand View dramatizes a titanic clash between the Democratic machine of Albany County and the Republicans controlling the state house.

In 1983 Kennedy was awarded the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. With a portion of that fellowship he founded the Writers Institute at Albany. Less than a year later, Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed legislation creating the New York State Writers Institute, which Kennedy directs. In 1993, Kennedy was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a group of 250 prominent American artists, architects, writers, and composers. In addition, he has received numerous literary awards including the Literary Lions Award from the New York Public Library, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Regents Medal of Excellence from the University of the State of New York and a Governor's Arts Award.

In addition to his novels, Kennedy has published a non-fiction work on his world, O Albany! (1984). Riding the Yellow Trolley Car (1993) is a collection of his essays, memoirs, reviews and reportage from his days as a reporter for the Albany Times Union. With his son Brendan he also has co-authored two children's books, Charlie Malarkey and The Belly Button Machine (1986) and Charlie Malarkey and The Singing Moose (1993).