If you read my announcement on this blog last week, then you already know this news. But it caught the attention of the good people at the Albany Times Union, including current arts editor Gary Hahn. He worked his magic and one of the newest hires to the TU, Sara Tracey, was kind enough to write up my literary news.
The New York State Writers Institute recently released its spring schedule, but in thinking about writers coming to the region this spring, my first thought goes to Darin Strauss.
His books include the memoir “Half of Life” (2010), in which he recounts how he killed a classmate in a car accident and its aftermath, which won a National Book Critics Circle award, and his 2001 debut “Chang and Eng” (2001), a fictionalized account of the famous conjoined brothers.
It was because of that book that I first heard Strauss give a talk in the common room of a dorm at Skidmore College. I was a student at the New York State Summer Writers Institute, studying with Marilyn Robinson and Russell Banks, and he was one of the alumni with a success story – the publication of his first novel. He said he had worked on the novel at the Writers Institute at Skidmore, and was especially impressed with the sharp-eyed Douglas Glover, who at that time would read manuscripts from students and offer a one-on-one critique that was both thrilling and terrifying.
What I remember best was how Strauss responded to the question of what it was like going from a writer working away, often alone, to having published a book. He said something like, “You know the saying, ‘the quiet before the storm.’? Well, it’s like the quiet after the quiet.”
2012 looks to be an exciting year in arts and entertainment for the Capital Region, with events such as the Broadway musical “Memphis” in April at Proctors in Schenectady, Roger Waters “The Wall” in June at Times Union Center in Albany, the release sometime in late summer or fall of the filmed-in-Schenectady “The Place Beyond the Pines” and, in November, the exhibition “Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross” at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.
The Times Union will have plenty to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about the arts in the region. In that spirit, and buoyed by the promise of a fresh year, I have a three-part agenda that is like a New Year’s resolution, except that it is more about what I want from others than just about what I will do. (Is that even allowed?)
As the year winds down, I and the arts and entertainment team at the Times Union have been looking back on the highlights of 2011. The thought exercise offers a reminder that the greater Capital Region offers a wonderful breadth and depth of cultural opportunities in dance, classical music, opera, literature, theater, visual arts, jazz and popular music.
This fall, I had the opportunity of taking part in one of those offerings from the New York State Writers Institute. It wasn’t the free authors’ readings — though I did attend plenty of those in what was a particularly strong season with Nicole Krause, Ian Frazier, Isabel Wilkerson, Colson Whitehead, Tom Perrotta, Robert Caro and, of course, William Kennedy, the founder of the instituteand author of many novels, including his latest, “Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes.”
The opportunity I had was an eight-week writing workshop for prose writers. The workshops — one was offered this fall in poetry, another in prose — are offered for free to residents of the Capital Region who are selected based on writing samples submitted beforehand.