An excerpt from the Q & A that followed the appearance by author Russell Banks who appeared at RPI for the 67th McKinney Writing Contest Award Ceremony and Reading.

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Events are free and open to the public and take place on the University at Albany’s uptown campus, unless otherwise noted.

Books are available in advance of events and at the events, from the following bookstores:
Barnes & Noble College Bookstore and The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza

Allen Ballard

Allen Ballard
February 2 (Tuesday)
Reading — 7:00 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Allen Ballard, novelist and UAlbany Professor of History and Africana Studies, earned national attention with the publication of Where I’m Bound (2000), a Washington Post Notable Book, and one of the first novels to address the Civil War from the perspective of Black soldiers. His new novel is Carried by Six (2009), an urban thriller about drugs and violence in a Philadelphia neighborhood.

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Departments of Africana Studies and History, EOP Program, and Affirmative Action Office

Francine Prose, photo by Stephanie Berger

Francine Prose
February 4 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Francine Prose, novelist and nonfiction writer, is the author of Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife (2009), a work of literary history and criticism that celebrates the under-appreciated artistry of the well-known diarist. Prose shows how the teenaged author crafted her famous diary with the intention of creating an enduring work of art. Prose’s work includes the novels A Changed Man (2005) and Blue Angel (2000), a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer (2006).

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Center for Jewish Studies

Fred LeBrun

Fred LeBrun
February 11 (Thursday)
Reading/Discussion — 8:00 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Fred LeBrun, one of the defining voices of the Albany Times Union for more than forty years, has served the newspaper as suburban beat reporter, city editor, arts editor, restaurant critic and foremost commentator on state politics. LeBrun is also famous in the Capital Region for his “Hudson River Chronicles,” recounting an 18-day adventure downriver from Mount Marcy to New York Harbor in 1998 — a portion of which he repeated in 2009 to celebrate the Hudson 400.

Rescheduled from Fall 2009
Cosponsored by the Women’s Press Club of New York State

Norberto Fuentes, photo by Mario Garcia Joya

Norberto Fuentes
February 18 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Norberto Fuentes, Cuban writer, journalist, early friend and confidante of Fidel Castro, and sometime political prisoner of the Castro regime, is the author of the satirical faux-memoir The Autobiography of Fidel Castro (2004, English translation 2009). The book has been compared favorably to the work of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani called the book “fascinating” and “gripping.” Fuentes is also the author of Hemingway in Cuba (1985) and Ernest Hemingway: Rediscovered (1988).


Lydia Davis, photo by Theo Cote

Lydia Davis
March 4 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Lydia Davis, leading artist of the short story form, New York State Writers Institute Fellow, 2003 MacArthur Foundation fellowship winner, and 2007 National Book Award Finalist for her story collection Varieties of Disturbance, has been called “one of the best writers in America” (O Magazine). Her newest book is The Collected Stories (2009), a compilation of stories from four previously published volumes including Varieties of Disturbance, Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2001), Almost No Memory (1997) and Break it Down (1986). A Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, Davis is also one of the most respected translators into English of French literary fiction by Proust and Flaubert, among others.


Judi E. Barlow

March 11 (Thursday)
Women Playwrights of the Early 20th Century
Staged Reading — 7:30 p.m. [Note early start time], Assembly Hall, Campus Center

The Writers Institute will present staged readings of short, rediscovered early 20th century plays from the new volume Women Writers of the Provincetown Players (2009) by UAlbany English Professor Judith E. Barlow. Enormously influential in American drama, the Provincetown Players (1915-22), remembered primarily for productions of Eugene O’Neill’s plays, also featured work by such notable women playwrights as Susan Glaspell, Djuna Barnes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Louise Bryant.

Sponsored in conjunction with Women’s History Month

Jules Feiffer, photo by Seth Kushner

Jules Feiffer
March 16 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Clark Auditorium, NYS Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue, Albany

Jules Feiffer,
one of the most influential editorial cartoonists of the last half century, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for work that appeared as part of his long-running strip in the Village Voice. A writer as well as an artist, Feiffer has earned distinction in many genres, including fiction, children’s literature, drama and screenwriting. His many honors include an Academy Award, a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and the 2007 Writers Guild Award for Lifetime Achievement. His new book is a memoir of his Bronx childhood and early career, Backing into Forward (2010).

Cosponsored by Friends of the New York State Library

Three Cups of Tea

March 18 (Thursday)
American Place Theatre performance of Three Cups of Tea
Performance — 7:30 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Pre-performance discussion at 7:00 p.m.

$15 general public; $12 seniors and faculty/staff; $10 students
Box Office: (518) 442-3997; [email protected]

American Place Theatre presents a one-person theatrical adaptation of the uplifting true story of renowned humanitarian Greg Mortenson who, following a failed attempt to scale Pakistan’s K2 (the world’s second highest mountain), went on to found girls’ schools throughout mountainous regions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The program includes pre- and post-show discussions with a teaching artist from American Place Theatre.

Presented by the Performing Arts Center in conjunction with the New York State Writers Institute. Support provided by University Auxiliary services and Holiday Inn Express.

Rebecca Goldstein, photo by Stephen Pinker


Rebecca Goldstein
March 23 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room | Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Standish Room | Science Library

Rebecca Goldstein, writer and professor of philosophy, is the author of the new novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (2010), the humorous tale of a celebrity psychologist and his struggles with fame, truth, illusion, atheism and belief. Goldstein is also the author of the novels Properties of Light (2000), Mazel (1995), which won the National Jewish Book Award, and The Mind-Body Problem (1983), and two acclaimed biographies, Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (2006), and Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel (2005).

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Center for Jewish Studies

Cahng-rae Lee, photo by David Burnett

Chang-rae Lee
April 8 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center 375
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Chang-rae Lee, Korean American novelist whose work explores the modern Asian immigrant experience, received the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for his first novel, Native Speaker (1995), and was named one of the 20 best American novelists under 40 by the New Yorker in 1999. His new novel is The Surrendered (2010), the epic story of a Korean orphan, an American GI, and a troubled missionary wife who meet during the immediate aftermath of the Korean War. His other books include A Gesture Life (1999), a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Aloft (2004).

Stephen Adly Guirgis

Stephen Adly Guirgis, playwright
April 12 (Monday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center 375
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Stephen Adly Guirgis, 1990 UAlbany graduate, is one of the leading playwrights of his generation. His works include “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” (2005), named one of the “10 Best Plays of the Year” by Time and Entertainment Weekly, and “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” (2000) winner of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award. Five of Guirgis’s plays have been directed by Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. He is currently at work on a screenplay about gay African American world boxing champion Emile Griffith.

Michael Ondaatje, photo by Jeff Nolte

Linda Spalding, photo by Helen Tansey

Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spalding
April 14 (Wednesday)
Seminar — 4:00 p.m., Rensselaer (RPI) Campus, Heffner Alumni House, 1301 Peoples Avenue, Troy
Reading and McKinney Award Ceremony — 8:00 p.m., Darrin Communication Center 308, Rensselaer (RPI), Troy

Michael Ondaatje, who has received critical acclaim for both his fiction and poetry, is best-known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient (1992), later adapted as an Oscar-winning film. Born in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), Ondaatje is a four-time winner of the Governor General’s Award in Literature in his adopted home country of Canada. His most recent book is the multilayered novel Divisadero (2007), set in 1970s California, and in the south of France before the First World War. He is married to Linda Spalding, with whom he coedits the literary journal, Brick.

Linda Spalding, Kansas-born Canadian fiction and nonfiction writer, often explores world cultures and the clash between contemporary life and traditional beliefs. Her most recent book is Who Named the Knife (2007), the true story of the murder trial of Maryann Acker, a teenager sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed while on honeymoon in Hawaii. Spalding, who served on the jury, tracks down Maryann eighteen years later in order to reexamine the murder and the question of Maryann’s innocence. Spalding’s earlier books include the novels The Paper Wife (1996) and Daughters of Captain Cook (1989), and the nonfiction book A Dark Place in the Jungle (1998), about renowned orangutan expert Birute Galdikas.

Cosponsored in conjunction with Rensselaer’s 69th McKinney Writing Contest and Reading

Wlater Mosley, photo by David Shankbone


Walter Mosley
April 22 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center 375
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown campus

Walter Mosley, award-winning author of 30 books, is one of America’s leading writers of hardboiled detective fiction in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Mosley is best-known for a series of eleven mystery novels set in L. A. featuring the African American private investigator Easy Rawlins. Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) received the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America and was adapted as a film starring Denzel Washington in 1995. His latest novel, Known To Evil (2010), is the second in a new series featuring Leonid McGill, a Black criminal-turned-detective who plys his trade in New York City. The first book in the series, The Long Fall, appeared in 2009. Mosley has also written the screen adaptation of his novel Little Scarlet (2004), and is coproducing an HBO television movie, based on the novel, that is due out in 2010.

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