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NYS Summer Young Writers Institute

2017 Summer Young Writers Institute Visiting Authors

Elizabeth Benedict

Elizabeth BenedictElizabeth Benedict is a bestselling novelist, journalist, and editor. Her novels include Slow Dancing, shortlisted for the National Book Award, Almost and The Practice of Deceit.Her journalism and essays appear in The New York Times, Salmagundi, Esquire, Tin House, and many other publications. She is the founder of an internationally known college application essay firm, Don’t Sweat the Essay, which helps students around the world craft winning application essays via Skype. Using her decades of experience as an editor and professor of creative writing at Princeton, Columbia, Swarthmore, and elsewhere, she helps high school seniors find topics, find their voices, and craft essays that are unique and persuasive. She has been on the fiction faculty of the New York State Summer Writers Institute for 20 years. Please visit her website or email



Leah Nakano Winkler

Leah Nakano WinklerLeah Nanako Winkler, originally from Kamakura, Japan and Lexington, Kentucky, is a current member of Youngblood, an alumnus of Terra Nova Collective’s Groundbreakers Playwright Group, and an affiliated artist at New Georges. Her plays include Kentucky, Death for Sydney Black, The Internet, and Taisetsu na Hito, which was the winner of the Samuel French OOB Festival in 2014.  Her two collections, Nagoriyuki & Other Short Plays, and The Lowest Form of Writing, are both available at In addition, Leah’s plays have been developed at Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb, New York Theatre Workshop, The Bushwick Starr, and at The Flea Theatre. She is a recipient of the Capote Fellowship in Creative Writing and is currently an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College.





Jon Sands

Jon Sands

Jon sands is the author of The New Clean (2011, Write Bloody Publishing), as well as the co-host of The Poetry Gods Podcast. His work has been published widely, and anthologized in The Best American Poetry. He's a Youth Mentor with Urban Word-NYC, and teaches creative writing for adults at Bailey House in East Harlem (an HIV/AIDS service center). He's a recent MFA Graduate in Fiction from Brooklyn College, where his work won the Himan Brown Award for short stories. He's represented New York City multiple times at the National Poetry Slam, and lives in Brooklyn. (Photo by Jonathan Weiskopf)