NYS Writers Institute Videos

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Maps and Directions




Spring 2015 Visiting Writers Series Events

NEW STUFF HERE Events are free and open to the public and located at Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, on UAlbany’s Downtown Campus, unless otherwise noted.

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: 
The University Bookstore at the University at Albany and The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza

Katha Pollitt
Photo: Christina Pabst

Katha Pollitt, essayist, critic, and poet
January 29 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center Room 375
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Campus Center Room 375

Katha Pollitt, influential voice of American feminism and long-time columnist for The Nation, is the author of a much-talked-about new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights (2014). Publishers Weekly described it as “an impassioned, persuasive case for understanding abortion in its proper context.” Pollitt received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Book Awards in 2010, and is a two-time winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Her books of poetry include The Mind-Body Problem (2010) and Antarctic Traveller (1983), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Cosponsored by Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy 

Peter Carey
Photo: Ashley Gilbertson

Peter Carey, novelist
February 3 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center Room 375
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Lecture Center 20, Academic Podium

Peter Carey, Australian novelist, is one of only three writers to have received the Man Booker Prize twice (the other writers are J. M. Coetzee and Hillary Mantel). Carey received his first Booker for Oscar and Lucinda (1988), and his second for True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). His new novel is Amnesia (2015), a cyber-terrorism political thriller set in a counter-historical Australia that has endured American interference in its governmental affairs. The Guardiandescribed the book as “fantastical but completely grounded, high-spirited but serious, hectic but never hasty...a deeply engaging book [that] responds to some of the biggest issues of our time.” 

Cosponsored by The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza

February 6 (Friday)
Film screening and discussion with director Jason Osder — 7:00 p.m. [note early start time], 
Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Jason Osder (United States, 2013, 88 minutes, b/w and color)
Starring Birdie Africa, Ramona Africa, Wilson Goode 

This multiple award-winning documentary presents a history of the tragic conflict between the City of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organization, MOVE in the mid-1980s. The Variety reviewer said, “The brilliantly edited tapestry of actions and reactions exposes a pattern of prejudice and fear capable of infinitely repeating itself.”

Jason Osder teaches documentary filmmaking at the George Washington University. He is also coauthor of the filmmaking guide, Final Cut Pro Workflows: The Independent Studio Handbook (2007).

Sponsored in conjunction with UAlbany’s School of Criminal Justice’s Civility, Surveillance, and Public Spaces Film Series
Jess Row
Photo: Sarah Shatz
Jess Row, novelist and short story writer
February 10 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performning Arts Center

Jess Row is the author of the audacious first novel, Your Face in Mine (2014), the tale of a young Jewish man who undergoes “racial reassignment surgery” because he believes that he is a black man trapped in a white man’s body. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it, “Furiously smart,” and said that it “takes readers on a zesty, twisty, sometimes uncomfortable ride.” Novelist Richard Price described the book as “one of the most slyly penetrating novels on race and identity politics I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.”

Night Catches Us

February 13 (Friday)
Film screening and discussion with director and screenwriter Tanya Hamilton and producer 
Ron Simons — 7:00 p.m. [note early start time], Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Tanya Hamilton (United States, 2010, 90 minutes, color) 
Starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Jamara Griffin

A finalist for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, NIGHT CATCHES US is a powerful evocation of the American inner city in 1976. A former Black Panther returns to his old Philadelphia neighborhood, where he confronts the unresolved problems of his past. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, “Tanya Hamilton's first feature as a director, is something to cherish…. She lets her mesmerizing movie sneak up on you and seep in until you feel it in your bones.”

Tanya HamiltonTanya Hamilton, director and screenwriter, isa former Fellow at the Sundance Screenwriter and Filmmaker Lab, and was honored for Outstanding Achievement By a Woman in the Film Industry by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists in 2010.

Ronald SimonsRon Simons, producer of Night Catches Us, is also a three-time Tony Award winning Broadway producer for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Best Musical, 2014), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Best Play, 2013) and Porgy & Bess (Best Revival, 2012).

Sponsored in conjunction with UAlbany’s School of Criminal Justice’s Civility, Surveillance, and Public Spaces Film Series

Jennifer Jacquet
Photo: Courtesy of 
the author


Jennifer Jacquet, environmental scientist and author
February 24 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Jennifer Jacquet
 is a scholar in the emerging field of environmental social science, the study of how societies deal with large-scale crises such as climate change and overfishing. In her new book, Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool (2015), she argues that shame, used judiciously, is a powerful force of political change and social reform. Leading psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said in advance praise, “This book describes, in sparkling prose, how important a sense of shame is to civilized life, and provides some fascinating insights as to the role of social media in providing a new tool to moderate shameless behavior.” 

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Office of Environmental Sustainability 

Caryl Phillips
Photo: Mariana Cook


Caryl Phillips, novelist, playwright, and essayist
March 10 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Caryl Phillips, British Caribbean writer, is the author of the new novel, The Lost Child (2015). The book intertwines the life of Heathcliff, the dark-skinned orphan of Emily Brontë’s classic Victorian novel, Wuthering Heights, with the modern tale of a young woman struggling to raise her sons in the wild moors of northern England after she is cast out by her family for marrying a Caribbean man. Literary critic Pico Iyer said, “With uncanny intimacy, eloquence, and compassion, Caryl Phillips stitches together past and present….” Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and Lannan Literary Award, Phillips is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Kent Russell
Michael Lionstar
Kent Russell, essayist and journalist
March 12 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library

Kent Russell,
 a writer of adventurous, first-person journalism, explores the notion of “masculinity” in his new nonfiction collection, I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son (2015), in which he profiles the lives of NHL “enforcers”; a businessman-turned-hermit who lives on a crocodile-infested island; and the scrappy players who inhabit the cloistered world of “Amish baseball.” Author Jim Shepard said in advance praise, “For those of us who’ve been missing Hunter Thompson lately, good news: [Kent Russell] is as close as we’re going to get to his second coming when it comes to full-on gonzo passionate observation and self-loathing transmuted into social criticism.”

Slave Girl
Cherita Armstrong in Incidents in the Life 
of a Slave Girl

Photo: Jennifer 
American Place Theatre performance of INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
March 24 (Tuesday)

Performance — 7:30 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Pre-performance discussion at 7 p.m

Tickets: general public $15 in advance, $20 day of; students/seniors/UA faculty & staff $10 in advance, $15 day of
Box Office: (518) 442-3997; [email protected]

Commissioned by The New York Historical Society, this “page to stage” work developed by American Place Theatre is a verbatim adaptation of Harriot Jacobs’ book of the same name. It is an inspiring tale of resilience and survival that recounts the author’s seven years spent hiding out as a fugitive in “The Loophole,” a crawl space in her grandmother’s attic, in order to protect her children and ensure their eventual freedom. This show is a Literature to Life stage presentation of Young Audiences New York.

Sponsored by UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center in conjunction with the Writers Institute, with support provided by the Office of Intercultural Student Success and Holiday Inn Express. Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region.

Bill Nye
Photo:Jesse Deflorio

Bill Nye "The Science Guy"
March 25 (Wednesday)
Reading — 5:00 p.m., SEFCU Arena
Limited seating, TWO tickets per person
Ticket Information (click here)

Bill Nye “The Science Guy,”
 celebrated public television personality, is a pioneer in the field of science education and a leading defender of science in the public arena. His television series, Bill Nye the Science Guy, ran on PBS stations nationwide from 1993 to 1998, and continues to be widely distributed in syndication. Exactly 100 episodes addressed topics as diverse as garbage and music, comets and caves, and chemistry and communication. The show received 18 Emmy Awards, with Nye himself taking seven for his various roles as writer, performer and producer. Nye is the author of the new book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (November, 2014), edited by Corey S. Powell. A wide-ranging presentation of the evidence that supports the theory of evolution, the new book grew out of a much-publicized debate between Nye and leading Creationist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Petersburg Kentucky in February 2014. Narrated with Nye’s trademark clarity, simplicity, enthusiasm and sense of fun, Undeniable demonstrates how organisms evolved and continue to evolve, with examples drawn from agriculture, dog breeding, human courtship, and the fossil record.

Sponsored by the University at Albany Student Association in partnership with the New York State Writers Institute

Elisa Albert
Photo: Hulya Kilicaslan

Yelena Akhtiorskaya
Photo: Sarah Shatz


Elisa Albert, novelist and short story writer, and Yelena Akhtiorskaya, novelist
March 26 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Campus Center 375

Elisa Albert is the author of the new novel After Birth (2015), a piercingly candid and outrageously funny story of motherhood. Author Lydia Davis called it, “a fast-talking, opinionated, moody, funny, and slightly desperate account of the attempt to recover from having a baby.” Albert’s previous books include the novel, The Book of Dahlia (2008) and the short story collection, How This Night is Different (2006), winner of the Moment Magazine Emerging Writer Award for Short Fiction. 

Yelena Akhtiorskaya is the author of a brilliant debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase (2014), the story of two decades in the life of a Ukrainian immigrant family in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Hailed by the critics as “ingenious” (NPR), “marvelous” (Library Journal) and “hilarious” (Publishers Weekly)Panic in a Suitcase was named a “Notable Book of 2014” by the New York Times and Washington Post.


March 3 (Tuesday) to March 31 (Tuesday)
Panel Discussion — 7:00 p.m., Milne 200, Downtown Campus

Barbara Smith, pioneering activist, will discuss the new book, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith (2014). The book, edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, combines historical documents with new interviews to uncover the deep roots of today’s “identity politics” and serves as an essential primer for practicing solidarity and resistance. Smith, organizer, writer, and publisher, has played key roles in multiple social justice movements. She is Public Service Professor in the School of Social Welfare at UAlbany, and a former member of Albany’s Common Council. 

Cosponsored by SUNY Press and Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy

Mary Norris
Photo: Josef Astor


Mary Norris, proofreader, copy editor, and author 
April 9 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Humanities Building Room 354
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Huxley Auditorium, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center, Albany

Mary Norris, celebrated proofreader, copy editor, and author at The New Yorker, is an authoritative figure in an endangered profession. On staff at The New Yorker since 1978, she is the author of the new book, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (2015), which features hilarious meditations on grammar, as well as memorable tussles about usage with such writers as Ian Frazier, Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders. Garrison Keillor said in advance praise, “This is as entertaining as grammar can be. Very very. Read it and savor it.”

Cosponsored by Friends of the New York State Library

Tina Packer
Photo: Enrico Spada


The 19th Annual Burian Lecture Funded by the Jarka and Grayce Burian Endowment 
Tina Packer, theatre director, actor, and author
April 13 (Monday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m, Campus Center Room 375
The Burian Lecture — 8:00 p.m., Studio Theatre, Performing Arts Center

Tina Packer, one of the world’s leading authorities on Shakespeare’s work, is the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. Her new book is Women of Will: The Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays (2015), a fierce and funny exploration of the Bard’s female characters and his changing understanding of the feminine. The book grows out of Packer’s same-named, two-person lecture and recital highlighting Shakespeare’s “strong women,” starring Packer and Nigel Gore. Writing in the Wall St. Journal, Terry Teachout praised Packer for “fearlessly impassioned acting that you’ll remember for as long as you live.” 

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Theatre Program

Alice McDermott
Photo: Jamie

Alice McDermott, novelist and short story writer
April 15 (Wednesday)

Reading and McKinney Writing Contest Award Ceremony — 8:00 p.m., Biotech Auditorium, Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Building, Rensselaer (RPI), Troy (Directions)

Alice McDermott, winner of the National Book Award for the novel, Charming Billy (1998), is the author most recently of the novel, Someone (2013), the story of one woman’s “ordinary” life across the decades of the 20th century in an Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn, New York. Someone was named a “Best Book of the Year” by NPRThe New York Times, and the Washington PostThe New York Times described the novel as “A fine-tuned, beautiful book filled with so much universal experience, such haunting imagery, such urgent matters of life and death.” McDermott’s previous novels include three Pulitzer Prize finalists: That Night (1987), At Weddings and Wakes (1992), and After This (2006).

Cosponsored in conjunction with Rensselaer's 74th Annual McKinney Writing Contest and Reading

Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Photo: J.P. Ostriker

Joan Murray
Photo: David Lee

Alicia Suskin Ostriker and Joan Murray, poets 
April 23 (Thursday)

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Campus Center Room 375

Alicia Suskin Ostriker, author of fifteen poetry collections, is a two-time finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry for The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968–1998 (1999) and The Crack in Everything (1996). Ostriker is also the author of The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011 (2012). Her new collection is The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (2014), which poet Mark Doty called a “marvelously idiosyncratic, urgent, no-holds-barred book, a masque and pageant not to be missed.”

Joan Murray has been called, “one of the few poets whose work remains accessible to both scholars of poetry and the casual reader” (The Harvard Review). Her new collection is Swimming for the Ark: New & Selected Poems 1990-2015 (2015). Earlier collections include Dancing on the Edge (2002); Looking for the Parade (2000), winner of the National Poetry Series Open Competition; and Queen of the Mist (1999), for which she received a Broadway commission.

William Wellman, Jr.
Photo: Courtesy of 
the author
William Wellman, Jr., author and actor

May 1 (Friday)
Reading and discussion on the work of film director William Wellman — 7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 
135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

William Wellman, Jr. is the author of Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel (2015), a biography of his father, director William A. Wellman, a giant of the motion picture industry from the Silent Era to the 1950s. Wellman’s 82 films include history’s first Academy Award winner for Best Picture, WINGS (1927), as well as such iconic films as A STAR IS BORN (1937), THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943), and THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (1954). Drawing on his father’s unpublished letters, diaries, notes and unfinished autobiography, the new book offers the first full portrait of the man. A notable character actor in his own right, Wellman Jr. is also the author of The Man and His Wings (2006), about the making of his father’s silent masterpiece.

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