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Skidmore’s Summer Writers Institute Announces Lineup That Includes National Book Award Winner Joyce Carol Oates (Exclusive)

The Summer Writers Institute will run from July 1-26 and offer free public readings, panel discussions and film screenings.

National Book Award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates. (SpokaneFocus/Flickr)

Saratoga Race Course’s horse racing meet might be the talk of the town come July 11, but across town at Skidmore College, people will be talking about its annual meeting of the minds. This week, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, which is held each year at Skidmore, announced an incredible lineup of award-winning authors coming to the Spa City in July. For the uninitiated, the Summer Writers Institute, which is an offshoot of the University at Albany’s prestigious NY Writers Institute (created by Albany native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy), is one of the most comprehensive writers’ conferences in the US. Every summer, many of the country’s leading writers descend on Skidmore’s campus to offer workshops to new and up-and-coming writers, who journey from places all over the US to have their work read and reviewed by the professionals.

“Over the years, a good many of those who were students in the program have become notable writers, and now teach in the program and inspire a new generation of students,” says Skidmore Professor Robert Boyers, Founder and Director of the Summer Writers Institute. While these student workshops—which focus on fiction, poetry and nonfiction—aren’t open to the public, the institute still offers a host of public events, including two authors readings almost every weeknight from Monday, July 1 through Friday, July 26. These include Yaddo alum Amy Hempel, former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates and Pulitzer Prize winner Frank Bidart (the latter’s poem, “Ellen West,” has been adapted into an opera that’s having its world premiere in Saratoga later this month). “Not every city the size of ours can have in its midst, year after year, great writers like this,” says Boyers. Stick around after the readings for a free reception at Skidmore’s Case Center and a chance to meet and chat with the authors (and maybe even get a book signed).

In addition to the readings, there will also be several free film screenings and panel discussions about a range of topics. This year, special panel speakers include essayist and critic Katha Pollitt of The Nation, former PEN American Center President Francine Prose and bestselling author Madeline Miller, whose 2011 debut novel, The Song of Achilles, won the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

For the full summer schedule, check out the list below. All events start at 8pm in Davis Auditorium at Skidmore’s Palamountain Hall, unless otherwise noted.

Week One

Monday, July 1
Novelist Elizabeth Benedict and Poet Gregory Pardlo
Tuesday, July 2
Memoirist Phillip Lopate and Novelist James Hannaham
Wednesday, July 3
Panel Discussion: “Reading Like A Writer” with Francine Prose, April Bernard and Robert Boyers (at Gannett Auditorium)
Thursday, July 4th
Novelist Binnie Kirshenbaum and Poet Campbell McGrath
Friday, July 5th
Novelist Claire Messud and Poet Robert Pinsky
Saturday, July 6th
Film Screening of Christian Petzold’s Barbara and a discussion with Phillip Lopate, Amy Wallen and Robert Boyers

Week Two 

Monday, July 8
Poet Louise Gluck and Novelist Adam Haslett
Tuesday, July 9
Novelist Russell Banks and Poet Chase Twichell
Wednesday, July 10
Panel Discussion: “The Sense of the Past” with Madeline Miller, Adam Braver and Helen Ross (at Gannett Auditorium)
Thursday, July 11
Novelist Mary Gaitskill and Poet Vijay Seshadri
Friday, July 12
Poet Rosanna Warren and Novelist Joanna Scott

Week Three

Monday, July 15
Memoirist Margo Jefferson and Poet Peg Boyers
Tuesday, July 16
Novelist Mary Gaitskill and Poet Frank Bidart
Wednesday, July 17
Panel Discussion: “Writing Sex in Fiction” with Mary Gaitskill, Garth Greenwell and Daniel Torday (at Gannett Auditorium)
Thursday, July 18
Novelist William Kennedy and Fictionist Amy Hempel
Friday, July 19
Novelists Rick Moody and Cristina Garcia
Saturday, July 20
Film screening of Mr. Klein at 7:30pm followed by a discussion with the director Joseph Losey

Week Four 

Monday, July 22
Novelists Garth Greenwell and Dana Johnson
Tuesday, July 23
Novelists Caryl Phillips and Paul Harding
Wednesday, July 24
Novelist Joyce Carol Oates (at Gannett Auditorium)
Thursday, July 25
Novelist Jamaica Kincaid and Poet Henri Cole (at Gannett Auditorium)
Friday, July 26
Panel Discussion: “Democracy, Liberalism and The Age of Trump” with Katha Pollitt, James Miller and Tom Healy (at Gannett Auditorium)

Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.

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