NYS Writers Institute visiting writers spring 2017

nys writers institute 2017 spring visiting writers book cover composite

The spring lineup for the NYS Writers Institute visiting writers series is out. And is the case each season, it includes notable, award-winning writers and events.

Here's the full lineup, compressed and expanded...

Events are free unless otherwise noted. All blurbage via the NYS Writers Institute.

See also the classic film series slate for the spring.

Compressed schedule

January 31: Robert Coover, award-winning fiction writer

February 1: Shaka Senghor, author and prison reform activist (2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Keynote Speaker)

February 9: Helen Czerski, physicist, oceanographer, and broadcaster

February 11: Regina Carter, jazz violinist (The Creative Life series)

February 16: Nancy Jo Sales, journalist and nonfiction writer

February 24: Sacco and Vanzetti - film screening with commentary by director Peter Miller and film editor Amy Linton

March 7: Diane Ackerman, bestselling author, poet, and naturalist

March 20: Dael Orlandersmith, award-winning playwright (21st Annual Burian Lecture)

March 23: David Salle, internationally renowned painter (The Creative Life series)

March 28: Eugene Mirabelli, novelist, and Jo Page, memoir writer and journalist

March 31: Rigoberto González, fiction and nonfiction writer, and poet

April 4: Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (UAlbany Speaker Series -- tickets required)

April 7: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution - film screening with commentary by director Stanley Nelson and producer Marcia Smith

April 12: Gregory Pardlo, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

April 13: Ruth Gilligan, Irish novelist and journalist

April 20: Eric Fair, Army veteran, Iraq war interrogator, and nonfiction writer

April 21: Rosa Alice Branco, Portuguese poet, with translator Alexis Levitin

April 27: Douglas Brinkley, historian and author

May 5: The Danish Girl - film screening with commentary by David Ebershoff

Expanded schedule

January 31: Robert Coover, award-winning fiction writer
Seminar -- 4:15 pm, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Reading -- 8:00 pm, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Robert Coover, pioneer of experimental and electronic fiction, is celebrated for work that reinvents and reimagines the art of storytelling. The New York Times has called him "a one-man Big Bang of exploding creative force." He is the author of more than 25 books including the novels The Origin of the Brunists (1966), which received the William Faulkner Award for best first novel; The Public Burning (1977), nominated for a National Book Award; and the story collection A Night at the Movies (1987), winner of the Rea Award. His new novel, Huck Out West (2017), picks up where Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn leaves off - on the eve of the Civil War. In a starred review Booklist described the book as "a near-masterpiece...a surprisingly tender, touching paean to the power of storytelling and the pains of growing up."

February 1: Shaka Senghor, author and prison reform activist (2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Keynote Speaker)
Lecture: "Your Worst Deeds Do Not Define You" -- 7:00 pm, Campus Center Ballroom
Reception 5:30-6:45, Patroon Room, Campus Center, open to public

Shaka Senghor is the author of the memoir Writing My Wrongs (2016), a New York Times bestseller that candidly recounts his life growing up in an abusive household in Detroit during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic, his 19-year incarceration for murder at the age of 19, and the tools he used to confront his past and construct his future. Filmmaker J. J. Abrams praised the book describing it as "A profound story of neglect, violence, discovery, redemption and inspiration....Prepare to have your preconceptions shattered." Senghor is a leading voice in criminal justice reform.

February 9: Helen Czerski, physicist, oceanographer, and broadcaster
Seminar -- 4:15 pm, Standish Room, Science Library
Reading -- 8:00 pm, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Helen Czerski, physicist and BBC television personality, is the author of the new book Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life (2017), which explores the science of popcorn, coffee stains and other ordinary phenomena and links them to more complex issues including climate change, the energy crisis, and medical innovations. She has hosted numerous BBC TV programs including, Dangerous Earth, Colour: The Spectrum of Science, Super Senses: The Secret Power of Animals, and Orbit: Earth's Extraordinary Journey, among others. The London Daily Telegraph said, "In Czerski... the BBC has finally found the female face of science television."

February 11: Regina Carter, jazz violinist (The Creative Life series)
Conversation -- 4:30 pm, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Regina Carter is a violinist of unbridled artistry and imagination who has brought her exquisite improvisational skills to a broad diversity of styles ranging from classical and soul to African and traditional music of the South. Recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship for "pioneering new possibilities for the violin and for jazz," she is widely considered to be the foremost jazz violinist of her generation. She will discuss her career and musical inspirations with WAMC's "Roundtable" host Joe Donahue.

Regina Carter will perform "Simply Ella," marking the 100th birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, at The Egg on February 11 at 8 pm For information contact The Egg Box Office at 518-473-1845.

February 16: Nancy Jo Sales, journalist and nonfiction writer
Reading/discussion -- 8:00 pm, Campus Center Room 375
Nancy Jo Sales is known for work that focuses on youth culture and crime, and pop-culture icons. Her book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers (2016) is an investigation into how social media has presented girls with unprecedented challenges. USA Today said Sales, "... offer[s] a harrowing glimpse into a world where self-esteem, friendships and sexuality...are defined by the parameters of social media." Newsday recommended "If you have a teenage daughter, read American Girls. Have her read it, too." Sales is also the author of The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World.

February 24: Sacco and Vanzetti
Film screening with commentary by director Peter Miller and film editor Amy Linton -- 7:00 pm [note early start time], Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus
Directed by Peter Miller (United States, 2006, 80 minutes, color). This documentary, winner of the American Historical Association's best film award, tells the story of two Italian politically radical immigrants charged with the 1920 robbery of a Massachusetts shoe factory and the murder of two of its employees. As it recounts their trials, public protests, and appeals on their behalf the film offers insights into present-day issues of civil liberties and immigrant rights. Ken Burns called it "A wonderful film, as timeless as the struggle for human justice, as relevant as today's headlines."

Peter Miller is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films include the theatrically-released A.K.A. DOC POMUS, JEWS AND BASEBALL, and SACCO AND VANZETTI. He has directed numerous documentaries for PBS and has been a producer for documentaries by Ken Burns and Lynn Novak including THE WAR and JAZZ, and the Peabody Award-winning FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT.

Amy Linton has edited numerous award-winning films including Julie Dash's DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, a Sundance winner that was selected for the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. She has worked on dozens of documentaries, feature films, and music videos in her 25-year career.

March 7: Diane Ackerman, bestselling author, poet, and naturalist
Seminar - 4:15 pm, University Hall Room 110, Collins Circle, Uptown Campus
Reading - 8:00 pm, Clark Auditorium, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center, Downtown Albany

Diane Ackerman, renowned for her explorations of the natural world in nonfiction and poetry, received the National Outdoor Book Award and PEN's Henry Thoreau Prize for her 2015 book The Human Age, about new efforts to save the planet. Her other works include A Natural History of the Senses (1990); the memoir and Pulitzer finalist One Hundred Names for Love (2011), and The Zookeeper's Wife (2007), the story of a Warsaw zookeeper's family that saved 300 Jews during the Holocaust, which will be released as a film starring Jessica Chastain on March 31st.

March 20: Dael Orlandersmith, award-winning playwright (21st Annual Burian Lecture)
Seminar -- 4:15 pm, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
The Burian Lecture -- 8:00 pm, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Dael Orlandersmith is an actress, poet, and award-winning playwright whose work explores racial tensions, family relationships, and the rough Harlem neighborhood in which she grew up. Her one-woman play Beauty's Daughter (1995) received an Obie Award, and Yellowman (2002) won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Her most recent plays include Forever (2014), and Until the Flood (2016), which was commissioned by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis to address the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. The New York Times has described Orlandersmith as "An exciting new voice...offering rebellious and lilting lyricism... at once full of anger and compassion."

March 23: David Salle, internationally renowned painter (The Creative Life series)
Conversation -- 7:00 pm, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
David Salle, a defining figure of postmodern visual art, is a painter whose work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Museum, and the National Galarie of Berlin, among many others. WAMC's "Roundtable" host Joe Donahue will lead a conversation with Salle on his new book, How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking About Art (2016), which illuminates the work of many of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. The Philadelphia Enquirer said "Salle...talks about artists and their work in witty, jargon-free, and eminently accessible prose," and author Salmon Rushdie described the book as "a brilliant series of reflections on how artists think when they make their work." Reception immediately following in UAlbany's Art Museum, Fine Arts Building

March 28: Eugene Mirabelli, novelist, and Jo Page, memoir writer and journalist
Reading -- 4:15 pm, University Hall Room 110, Collins Circle, Uptown Campus
Eugene Mirabelli, Professor Emeritus of English at UAlbany, received the prestigious Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) Gold Medal for his 2012 novel, Renato the Painter: An Account of His Youth & His 70th Year in His Own Words, the story of an artist who lives life with gusto and practices his art in defiance of critical and public neglect. Author and NPR reviewer Andrei Codrescu described the book as "...a fresco of Sicilian-American-New England life...." Mirabelli's new book is the sequel, Renato After Alba: His Rage Against Life, Love & Loss in His Own Words (2016), an account of Renato's experience of widowhood at the age of 83. Publishers Weekly said, "The reader feels such affection for Renato... you can forgive him anything."

Jo Page, essayist, newspaper columnist, and ordained Lutheran minister, is the author of the new memoir, Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor (2012), a candid, moving, and humorous account of her spiritual journey. Bestselling novelist Margot Livesey said the book is "all the things you hope a good memoir will be: profound, witty, deeply serious, wonderfully original, and utterly absorbing." For 20 years the author of the "Reckonings" column for Metroland, Albany's former newsweekly, Page now writes a column for the Albany Times Union.

March 31: Rigoberto González, fiction and nonfiction writer, and poet
Reading -- 6:00 pm, Fossieck Room, Milne Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus
Rigoberto González is the son of Mexican migrant farm workers who was born in California. Much of his work recounts the hardships and prejudices endured by gay Latinos and immigrant workers in general. He received the Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets for his poetry collection Unpeopled Eden (2013), a lament on death and the anonymous border crossers of the southwestern U.S.; and the American Book Award for his memoir Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (2006), which Publishers Weekly described as "a beautifully executed portrait of the experience of being gay, Chicano, and poor in the United States."

April 4: Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (UAlbany Speaker Series)
Conversation -- 6:30 pm, SEFCU Arena
Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history. She is the author of My Beloved World (2012), a memoir that recounts her life's journey from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench. Michiko Kakutani in a New York Times review called the book "compelling and powerfully written...[ with] the power to surprise and move the reader." Nina Totenberg on NPR called it "a page-turner, beautifully written...with hope and exhilaration. This is a story of human triumph."

Sponsored by the University at Albany Student Association, Division of Student Affairs, Alumni Association, and University Auxiliary Services in partnership with the Writers Institute.
To obtain free tickets, please see instructions to be posted closer to the date on the Writers Institute website.

April 7: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Film screening with commentary by director Stanley Nelson and producer Marcia Smith -- 7:00 pm [note early start time], Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus
Directed by Stanley Nelson (United States, 2015, 115 minutes, color and b/w). This feature length documentary explores the remarkable history of the Black Panther Party, its formation and ultimate downfall, and its cultural and political significance to the broader American culture. Nikki Baughan of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, called the film "Compelling and incisive," and said, "The most shocking aspect...is how painfully relevant its message still is." The film premiered at Sundance, aired on PBS, and received awards for Best Documentary from the Image Awards and the National Board of Review.

Stanley Nelson is an Emmy Award-wining documentary filmmaker and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in 2014. Nelson's other films include FREEDOM RIDERS, JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLE'S TEMPLE, and THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL, among others.

Marcia Smith, president of Firelight Media, has written numerous films for PBS, including WOUNDED KNEE, JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLE'S TEMPLE, MARCUS GARVEY: LOOK FOR ME IN THE WHIRLWIND, and THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL. She has garnered every major award in television.

April 12: Gregory Pardlo, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
Reading and McKinney Writing Contest Award -- 8:00 pm, Biotech Auditorium,
Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Building, Rensselaer (RPI), Troy

Gregory Pardlo received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Digest (2014), his second published collection. The Pulitzer committee described Pardlo's work as "Clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private." Poet Campbell McGrath said the poems in Digest "...delight the ear, encourage the heart, and nourish the brain." Pardlo won the American Poetry Review Honickman First Book Prize for his collection Totem (2007). He is also the author of Air Traffic, a memoir in essays forthcoming from Knopf.

April 13: Ruth Gilligan, Irish novelist and journalist
Seminar -- 4:15 pm, Standish Room, Science Library
Reading -- 8:00 pm, Huxley Theatre, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center, Albany

Ruth Gilligan is the author of Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan (2017), a novel based on the unknown history of the Jewish community in Ireland. Irish-American fiction writer Colum McCann called the book "a wonderful new novel from a writer to look out for...," and said, "Gilligan captures the pulse of one of Ireland's untold stories." In a starred review Publishers Weekly called the book "a stellar U.S. debut... a mesmerizing blend of plot and character while exploring themes of assimilation and displacement." Gilligan has published three previous novels in Ireland and is the youngest person ever to reach #1 on Ireland's bestseller list.

April 20: Eric Fair, Army veteran, Iraq war interrogator, and nonfiction writer
Seminar -- 4:15 pm, Campus Center Room 375
Reading -- 8:00 pm, Clark Auditorium, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center, Downtown Albany

Eric Fair is the author of Consequence (2016), a memoir that recounts his experiences working in Iraq as an interrogator for a private contractor at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. In a New York Times review Michiko Kakutani called the book "Important...candid and chilling...At once an agonized confession...and an indictment of the system...a profoundly unsettling book." Fair won a Pushcart Prize for his 2012 essay "Consequence," which was published first in Ploughshares and then in Harper's Magazine.

Sponsored in conjunction with Albany Pro Musica's performance of The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 7:30 pm at EMPAC.

April 21: Rosa Alice Branco, Portuguese poet, with translator Alexis Levitin
Reading -- 4:15 pm, Standish Room, Science Library
Rosa Alice Branco, notable Portuguese poet and Secretary of her country's PEN organization, teaches the Psychology of Perception and Contemporary Culture at the Institute of Art and Design near the city of Porto. The author of numerous poetry collections in Portuguese, her work has appeared in translation in more than 40 literary journals around the world. Her collection Cattle of the Lord, translated in 2016 by Alexis Levitin and presented in both Portuguese and English, won the prestigious Espiral Maior de Poesia Award in 2009 for best book of poetry from Galicia, Portugal, Angola, or Brazil. Poet Kevin Prufer called the collection "wild and sneaky...filled with intelligence, wit, and theological anxiety... marvelous, moving, and obsessive...."

Alexis Levitin has translated more than thirty works of writers from Portugal, Brazil, and Ecuador and his translations have appeared in well over two hundred magazines, including Partisan Review, Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner. His poetry collection translations include Clarice Lispector's Soulstorm, Eugenio de Andrade's Forbidden Word, Blood of the Sun by Brazil's Salgado Maranhão, The Art of Patience by Portugal's Eugenio de Andrade, and Tobacco Dogsby Ecuador's Ana Minga. He is a Distinguished Professor at SUNY-Plattsburgh.

April 27: Douglas Brinkley, historian and author
Seminar -- 4:15 pm, Campus Center Room 375
Reading -- 8:00 pm, Clark Auditorium, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center, Downtown Albany

Douglas Brinkley, bestselling author, eminent scholar of American history, and CNN's official Presidential Historian, has written numerous biographies of American presidents, politicians, and other newsmakers. Six of his books have been selected as New York Times "Notable Books of the Year." The Great Deluge (2006), a detailed account of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. His 2009 book The Wilderness Warrior celebrates Theodore Roosevelt's bold vision to protect America's wilderness. With his latest New York Times Bestseller, Rightful Heritage (2016) Brinkley chronicles Franklin Delano Roosevelt's under-sung legacy as a crusader for the conservation of America's public lands. The Washington Post called the book "High spirited and admirably thorough."
Cosponsored by Friends of the New York State Library

May 5: The Danish Girl
Film screening with commentary by David Ebershoff -- 7:00 pm [note early start time],
Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Tom Hooper (UK/US/Belgium/Denmark/Germany, 2015, 119 minutes, color). Starring Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander. Based on David Ebershoff's novel, the film follows the lives of husband and wife Danish artists Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener as they struggle with Lili's groundbreaking gender transformation from a man to a woman. The film received four Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander). Rex Reed of the New York Observer called Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of the transgender protagonist, "an act of heroism.... the performance of the year."

David Ebershoff is the author of the novel The Danish Girl (2000), which was an international bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and winner of the Lambda Award for Transgender Fiction. He is also the author of the story collection The Rose City (2001), and the novels Pasadena (2002), and The 19th Wife (2008), a #1 bestseller that was adapted for a television movie. Ebershoff is also one of the most acclaimed literary editors in American publishing having worked with notable authors Adam Johnson, Imbolo Mbue, Gary Shteyngart, Billy Collins, and many others.

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