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Summer Writers Institute 

Faculty Henri Cole & Rick Moody
Faculty Henri Cole & Rick Moody – photo by Jim McLaughlin

2016 Writers Institute Faculty

Fiction   |   Non-Fiction   |   Poetry   |   Writers-In-Residence


Claire Messud is the author of several works of fiction, whose most recent, much-debated novel is The Woman Upstairs. Her previous work, The Emperor’s Children, was a best-selling novel with a first printing of 100,000 copies. Described by a reviewer for the New Yorker as “a witty examination of New York’s chattering classes,” the book was praised in the following terms in Publishers Weekly: “Her writing is so fluid, her plot so cleverly constructed, that events seem inevitable, yet the narrative is ultimately surprising and masterful as a comedy of manners…The intimacies of Messud’s portraits do not soften the judgments behind them.” Messud’s earlier novels were finalists for the Pen/Faulkner award. About When The World Was Steady: “Messud is a novelist of unnerving talent,” according to the New York Times Book Review “This author has daring and assurance,” says the New Yorker. Messud’s The Last Life was an “Editor’s Choice Book” at the Village Voice and a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year.” Recently Messud was awarded the Straus Living Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She teaches at Harvard.

Mary Gaitskill is the author of two novels and two books of short stories. Of her novel, Veronica, Heidi Julavits has written in Publishers Weekly: “Gaitskill’s style is gorgeously caustic and penetrating, with a honing instinct towards the harrowing; her ability to capture abstract feeling and sensation with a precise and unexpected metaphor is a squirmy delight.” And Janet Maslin writes in the New York Times: “Gaitskill writes so radiantly about violent self-loathing that the very incongruousness of her language has shocking power.” Her earlier books include the novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin and the story volumes Bad Behavior and Because They Wanted To. (“Gaitskill writes with such authority, such radar-perfect details, that she is able to make even the most extreme situations seem real,” writes Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times.) Her latest book is Don’t Cry.

Rick Moody is author of several novels including The Ice Storm, Purple America, and Garden State. He has also written two acclaimed volumes of short fiction, Demonology and The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven. Newsday describes him as “our anthropologist of desolate landscapes,” John Hawkes as “a writer of meticulous originality.” He received the Academy of Arts and Letters Addison Metcalf Award. His memoir is The Black Veil (“Moody’s writing rants and raves and roars,” writes a reviewer for the New York Times. “He is an unrepressed quester after meaning,” writes Robert Boyers). Moody’s latest novels are The Diviners (2005) and The Four Fingers of Death (2010), and his latest collection of short fiction is Right Livelihoods (2007). “One of our best writers,” said a reviewer for the Washington Post.

Amy Hempel is the author of several acclaimed volumes of short fiction, including Reasons To Live, At The Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Tumble Home, The Dog of the Marriage, and The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, the last of which was described in the Village Voice as “the literary event of the year.” The Atlantic Monthly noted that “few fiction writers are as intensely admired by her peers,” while a reviewer for the Chicago Tribune described her “word by word virtuosity” as “off the charts.” In his “Introduction” to Hempel’s Collected Stories Rick Moody speaks of her “bladelike” prose and her “besieged consciousness.” Until recently she directed the creative writing program at Brooklyn College and taught for several years at Harvard.

Cristina Garcia is the author of six novels. Her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban (1992), was a finalist for The National Book Award and inspired a reviewer in The Nation to write: “her work is renewing American fiction. Of her later novels, Edwidge Danticat wrote: “Cristina Garcia enchants us with lyricism and humor and political engagement.” Of her most recent novel, King Of Cuba (2013), the New York Times reviewer wrote: “Garcia has allowed herself to love her despot as much as she loves his enemy… [The novel] is a gift Garcia has given to the country of her birth—and to us.” Garcia was born in Cuba and was for some years the TIME magazine Bureau Chief in Miami before becoming a full-time novelist. She has taught at a number of universities, including the Michener Center at the University of Texas, and has won the Kafka Award, Guggenheim and Hodder Fellowships and other prizes. She was a student at the New York State Summer Writers Institute in July of 1990.

Paul Harding won the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel Tinkers in 2010, and his recent 2013 novel Enon has inspired comparable praise. In the New York Times Mark Slouka wrote: “One might have to go as far back as Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping to find a first novel that declared itself with such authority. Harding’s associative flights—his twisting, turning lyricism—were stunning, his ability to stress the physical world into extended metaphor downright Melvillean…In Enon, Harding’s gifts are again everywhere on display.” Tinkers also won the PEN Bingham Prize, and inspired the following citation: “An exquisite novel, at once fresh and hauntingly familiar, simple and profound.” More recently, the New Yorker reviewer said of Enon: “An extraordinary follow-up to Tinkers…a darkly intoxicating read.” Harding was a student at the New York State Summer Writers Institute and received an MFA from Iowa. In recent years he has taught at Harvard University and in the MFA program at Iowa.

Howard Norman is the author of six novels, including the recent Devotion (“eloquent…a testament to Norman’s immense skill,” Washington Post Book World; “a beautiful story of love gone awry,” Booklist). Among Norman’s earlier fictions are The Northern Lights (a National Book Award finalist) and a book of stories entitled Kiss In The Hotel Joseph Conrad. His books have been translated into 12 languages and include a number of memoirs and non-fiction works as well. Of his novel The Bird Artist—probably his best-known work—Richard Eder wrote in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, “One of the most perfect and original novels that I have read in years.” Michiko Kakutani wrote in the New York Times, “Bewitching…glows like a night light in the reader’s mind.” Norman’s novel The Museum Guard was described by John Banville in the Washington Post as “an impressive and admirable achievement.” His latest novel is Next Life Might Be Kinder.

Joanna Scott won a MacArthur “Genius” Award when she was 31 years old, and has also won many other awards, from a Lannan Foundation Prize to a Guggenheim Fellowship and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the author of many books, including the novels Follow Me, Tourmaline, Make Believe, The Manikin, Liberation and others. She is also the author of two volumes of short stories entitled Various Antidotes and Everybody Loves Somebody, and won the Aga Khan Prize for short fiction from the Paris Review. “An elegant, completely spellbinding writer,” says the Washington Post. “One of the really important contemporary voices,” writes Rick Moody…..”vital, passionate fiction about how we live our lives.” Scott is the Burrows Professor at The University of Rochester and has taught at the New York State Summer Writers Institute in eight previous summers.

Elizabeth Benedict is the author of Almost, a novel described by Edmund White as “a fast-paced, funny, and splendidly intelligent drama [with] a varied, unforgettable cast of characters.” Her earlier books include Slow Dancing (a finalist for the National Book Award), The Beginner’s Book of Dreams, Safe Conduct, and The Joy of Writing Sex (“Read it because it will teach you everything you need to know about writing good fiction,’’ suggests Peter Carey). Benedict has taught at Princeton University, Swarthmore College, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her latest novel is The Practice of Deceit.

Victoria Redel is the author of the novels Loverboy and The Border of Truth, as well as two books of short stories and two volumes of poems. Loverboy was made into a successful feature film directed by Kevin Bacon and starring Kyra Sedgwick, and the book was named a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. “Lyrical and chillingly realistic,” wrote the reviewer for Elle. In Publishers Weekly, The Border of Truth was described as “colorful, endearing…Redel offers a welcome and fresh perspective on the subject of the holocaust.” Of her latest book of stories, Make Me Do Things (2013) William Kennedy writes: “The stories here zing along with great fluency and wit and relentless surprise…a wonderfully talented writer.” Redel teaches in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence.

Adam Braver is author of several historical novels including Divine Sarah, Mr. Lincoln’s Wars and Crows Over The Wheatfield. (“Brilliant and inventive work,” wrote a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. “A novelist whose works are richly imagined,” says the Washington Post.) Braver’s most recent novels are 1963, which revolves around the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Misfit. (“Amazing...a book about identity, privacy and intimacy that both exposes and conceals its subject – Marilyn Monroe,” writes Ann Beattie).


Phillip Lopate is a central figure in the recent revival of interest in memoir writing and what has come to be called “the personal essay.” Lopate is the author of Portrait of My Body, Confessions of Summer, Against Joie de Vivre, The Rug Merchant, Being with Children, and Totally Tenderly Tragically. He is also the editor of The Art of the Personal Essay and was the series editor of The Anchor Essay Annual. Lopate’s work has been included in The Best American Essays and The Pushcart Prize Series. His most recent books are To Show and Tell, Portrait Inside My Head, Waterfront, Getting Personal: Selected Writings and Notes On Sontag. In 2008 he published a volume of fiction entitled Two Marriages. He directs the non-fiction MFA program at Columbia University.

James Miller is the author of a controversial book about rock and roll, Flowers in the Dustbin (Simon & Schuster). His earlier books include two titles nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award: Democracy Is in the Streets (1987), a study of the American student left in the 1960s, and The Passion of Michel Foucault (1993), a critical biography of the contemporary French thinker. Director of the graduate program in liberal studies at the New School, and, until recently, editor of Daedalus (the magazine of the American Academy of Arts & Letters), Miller writes often for such publications as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the New Republic. He has also written extensively about popular culture, reviewing for Rolling Stone and, for 12 years, serving as book and music critic for Newsweek. Of Miller’s best-selling book Democracy Is in the Streets, critics wrote, “brings the sixties alive in its passion, in its idealism, in its follies” (Ronald Steel); and “an outstanding work” (Hendrick Hertzberg). His latest book, entitled Examined Lives, received a rave review on the front page of the New York Times Book Review.


Frank Bidart is the author of five volumes of poetry, most recently Metaphysical Dog, Watching The Spring Festival and Star Dust. Previous volumes include Desire—winner of a Theodore Roethke Prize and a Lannan Foundation Prize—and a chapbook titled Music Like Dirt (2002). His early volumes can be found in In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965–1990. Bidart, who teaches at Wellesley College, has received major awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Paris Review, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation, and the Poetry Society of America. Louise Glück wrote of him: “Certainly he is one of the crucial figures of our time. …More fiercely, more obsessively, more profoundly than any poet since Berryman (whom he in no other way resembles), Bidart explores individual guilt, the insoluble dilemma…the givens of human life.” His latest book, Metaphysical Dog, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN Poetry Prize for 2014.

Peg Boyers is the author of three volumes of poems, all published by the University of Chicago Press. The first, Hard Bread (2002), was described by Richard Howard as “the most original debut in my experience of contemporary American poetry.” With poems spoken in the invented voice of the late Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg, the book, says Robert Pinsky, “not only surpasses the notion of a merely good first book” but “soars beyond the conventional expectations of ‘persona’ and dramatic monologue.” “The creation of the voice in this book,” wrote Frank Bidart, “stoic, passionate, resigned, insistent on truth—is a brilliant achievement.” Boyers’ second book, Honey With Tobacco (2007), “has a rare power,” wrote George Steiner; “a beautiful book,” wrote Henri Cole. Peg Boyers is executive editor of the quarterly Salmagundi and teaches creative writing at Skidmore College. Her latest book, entitled To Forget Venice, came out in October of 2014.

Henri Cole is the author of six books of poems, including The Look of Things, The Marble Queen, The Visible Man and, in 2003, Middle Earth. (“Henri Cole has become a master poet, with few peers,” writes Harold Bloom. “Middle Earth is [his] epiphany, his Whitmanesque sunrise… [These] are the poems of our climate.”) Of his earlier books, Wayne Koestenbaum wrote in the New Yorker: “a poet not content to remain in the realm of the merely lapidary, the self-consciously coloratura…he produces lines of natural and nonchalant brio…in stanzas as shapely as topiary…; he can write about the soul stumbling against quotidian impediments… [approaching] a variety of subjects, from first love… to family history.” Cole has taught at the Summer Writers Institute since 2004. His most recent books are Blackbird & Wolf and Pierce The Skin, a volume of Selected Poems: 1982-2007.

Carolyn Forche‘s first poetry collection, Gathering the Tribes (1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, leading to publication by Yale University Press. In 1977, she traveled to Spain to translate the work of Salvadoran-exiled poet Claribel Alegría. Upon her return, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which enabled her to travel to El Salvador, where she worked as a human rights advocate. Her second book, The Country Between Us (1981), was published with the help of Margaret Atwood. It received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was also the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Her later acclaimed books include The Angel of History and Blue Hour. She was also the editor of the most influential of all modern poetry anthologies, entitled Against Forgetting. She is now Director of the Lannan Center for Poetry and Poetics and holds the Lannan Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Campbell McGrath teaches creative writing at Florida International University and has taught at the Summer Writers Institute since 2007. The winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Award, he is the author of many books of poetry, including American Noise, Pax Atomica, Spring Comes To Chicago, Seven Notebooks, Florida Poems and Capitalism. “A poet of formal eloquence and rhetorical power,” writes the reviewer for Publishers Weekly, “of vision and engagement….he descends into the maelstrom of American culture and emerges singing.” “He is our Whitman,” writes the reviewer for American Review.


Non-fiction: Lorrie Goldensohn is the author of a collection of poems, Tether (L'Epervier Press, 1983), as well as a critical-biographical work, Elizabeth Bishop: A Biography of a Poetry (Columbia University Press, 1993). Her 2006, book is Dismantling Glory: Twentieth-Century Soldier Poetry, also published by Columbia. She has been writing a memoir, chapters of which appear in several recent issues of the quarterly Salmagundi.

Fiction: Amy Wallen is the author of the novel Moon Pies and Movie Stars (“a delightful and exhilarating journey, kind of like being on a tour bus guided by Eudora Welty on speed,” writes Mary Gordon). She teaches creative writing at the University of California at San Diego and is Associate Director of the New York State Summer Writers Institute.

Poetry: Barry Goldensohn is the author of several volumes of poetry, including The Hundred Yard Dash Man, The Listener Aspires To The Condition of Music, The Marrano and Uncarving the Block. His recent poems have appeared in the New York Review of Books, Salmagundi, Poetry, and the Yale Review.