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Skidmore College
New York State Summer Writers Institute

2021 Faculty 

Director Robert Boyers leads this extraordinary faculty of distinguished writers, among them winners of such major honors as the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. 

Elizabeth BenedictElizabeth 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.

Calvin BakerCalvin Baker is the distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Skidmore and former Yale University Professor of Creative writing, Baker is author of four acclaimed novels, including Naming The World , Dominion and Once Two Heroes. He writes frequently for Harper’s, The Atlantic and The New York Times. His most recent non-fiction book (2020) is A More Perfect Reunion: Race, Integration, and The Future of America.  Francisco Goldman writes of his work: “Book by book, Calvin Baker is singing a whole new America into being.”


Adam BraverAdam 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 NOV 22, 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).

Percival Everett is the author of more than twenty books and recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Everett’s novels include I Am Not Sidney Poitier, So Much Blue, Erasure, Telephone and Assumption. Of Erasure, The NY Times Book Review says: “craftily addresses the issue of being black enough in America,” while BOOKLIST says that it is “a scathingly funny look at racism and the book business.” Of Everett’s writing generally, Publisher’s Weekly says: “Everett’s talent is multi-faceted, sparked by a satiric brilliance that places him alongside Wright and Ellison as he skewers the conventions of racial and political correctness.”

Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill is the author of three novels (The Mare, Veronica and Two Girls, Fat and Thin) and three collections of short stories (Bad Behavior, Don’t Cry and Because They Wanted To), Mary Gaitskill is one of the most celebrated writers in the country. Her most recent books include a collection of essays (Somebody With A Little Hammer) and a controversial novella called This Is Pleasure which appeared in a summer 2019 issue of The New Yorker Magazine. Stacey D’Erasmo wrote of her in The NY Times Book Review that “Ambiguity—the inseparability of light and darkness, love and pain, nurture and destruction, progress and regress—is her métier. The question she seems to ask again and again, and with astonishing force…is how to feel, how we do feel.” She has taught at the summer writers institute for seventeen years.
Adam HaslettAdam Haslett is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his short story collection You Are Not A Stranger Here, and winner of the Lambda Literary Award for his novel Union Atlantic, Adam Haslett is the recipient of the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. He has also won the PEN/ Malamud Award. His novel Imagine Me Gone has been translated into eighteen languages and is described by Tony Kushner as follows: “Imagine Me Gone is beautiful, it’s terrifying, it’s intimate and epic, and it’s devastating—one of the great books about loss and mourning and the ineluctable laws that govern the political economy of families.” Haslett has taught at the summer writers institute for six years.

Dana JohnsonDana Johnson is the author of the short story collection In the Not Quite Dark. She is also the author of Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel Elsewhere, California. Both books were nominees for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her work has appeared in ZyzzyvaThe Paris ReviewCallaloo,The Iowa Reviewand Huizache, among others, and anthologized in Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of InterestShaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, and California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century. Her fiction received a Notable from Best American Short Stories 2018. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California where she serves as director of the PhD in Creative Writing and Literature Program. 

Claire MessudClaire Messud is a Professor at Harvard University, and is one of the leading fiction writers in the country. Her novels include The Woman Upstairs, The Burning Girl, The Last Life, When The World Was Steady and the NY Times best-selling book The Emperor’s Children. Rachel Cusk says of her: “I can think of few writers capable of such thrilling seriousness expressed with so lavish a gift.” Her most recent book is a non-fiction volume called Kant’s Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write. She has taught at the NY State Summer Writers Institute for thirteen years.

Rick MoodyRick 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. Moody’s acclaimed recent novel is Hotels Of North America (2016).

Joyce Carol OatesJoyce Carol Oates won the National Book Award for her novel them and has since written dozens of novels and short story collections that have made her one of the most celebrated writers of her generation. Among her best known works are Blonde, We Were The Mulvaneys, Zombie and The Gravedigger’s Daughter. The Falls won the 2005 Prix Femina as the best novel in France. John Updike wrote of her in The New Yorker: “If the phrase ‘woman of letters’ existed, Joyce Carol Oates would be, foremost in this country, entitled to it.” Apart from her many works of fiction, Oates has also written acclaimed books of poetry and a number of books of non-fiction and memoir, the best known of which are On Boxing and A Widow’s Tale.


Phillip LopatePhillip 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 thePersonal 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: SelectedWritings 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. “He is our Montaigne,” writes Robert Boyers.

Honor MooreHonor Moore is one of the country’s most celebrated memoirists. She is also the author of three acclaimed books of poetry, including Red Shoes, Memoir and Darling, as well as a biography of her grandmother entitled The White Blackbird. Her controversial memoir, The Bishop’s Daughter, appeared in 2008, and was described by Sylvia Nasar as “an unsparing portrait of a glamorous but elusive father and his daughter’s search for the truth about his secret life.” Roxana Robinson wrote of the book that it encompasses both “the intimate history of her own family and of….the episcopal church, the great cultural network of the Protestant tribe, the ethics of twentieth century marriage, and, finally, and most powerfully, the nature of passion. This is a gorgeous book.” Of Moore’s most recent memoir, Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Mid-Century (2020), Siri Hustvedt wrote: “a vivid, compassionate, scrupulously honest portrait of her mother, a child of spectacular wealth and privilege whose life took her far beyond the comforts  of her insular world….also an intimate history of the ideas and events that jolted America during the decades that followed the Second World War.”

danzy senna

Danzy Senna's first novel, the Danzy Senna's first novel, the best-selling Caucasia, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the American Library Association’s Alex Award and was translated into a dozen languages. A recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, Senna is also the author of the novels Symptomatic and New People, the short story collection You Are Free and a memoir entitled Where Did You Sleep Last night? Of New People Maggie Nelson wrote: “a riveting, take-no-prisoners, dystopic dream of a novel. More scorcher than satire, New People loads identity, race, despair and desire into a blender, then hits high. Get ready to stay up late, to be propelled, pricked and haunted.”

Peg Boyers

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 and was hailed for its “disarming flights of imagination” and “inspired ventriloquism.”

Henri ColeHenri Cole is the author of seven books of poems, including The Look of Things, The Marble Queen, The Visible Man and 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.

Campbell McGrathCampbell 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. McGrath’s latest book XX: Poems For The 20thCentury has been celebrated as a “tour de force” and “an improbable feat of the imagination.”

Gregory PardloGregory Pardlo's ​collection​ Digest (Four Way Books) won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His other honors​ include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts; his first collection Totem was selected by Brenda Hillman for the APR/Honickman Prize in 2007. He is Poetry Editor of Virginia Quarterly Review and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Rutgers-Camden University. Air Traffic, a memoir in essays, was released by Knopf in April. 

VijayVijay Seshadri is a Brooklyn, New York–based Pulitzer Prize–winning poet who won the 2014 Pulitzer in poetry for Three Sections. He has been an editor at The New Yorker, and for many years a professor and chair in the undergraduate writing and MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College. Seshadri’s poem The Disappearances came to prominence after the The New Yorker published it on their back cover following the September 11 attacks in 2001. The New Yorker poetry editor, Alice Quinn, said that the poem “...summoned up, with acute poignance, a typical American household and scene...The combination of epic sweep (including the quoted allusion to one of Emily Dickinson’s Civil War masterpieces, from 1862) and piercing, evocative detail is characteristic of the contribution Seshadri has made to the American canon.” Author of several volumes of poems, Seshadri has been praised for the “electric energy and gravitas” of his work by Frank Bidart, and for his “musicality and wit” by Eavan Boland. Campbell McGrath has written that Seshadri is “grave and witty, classical and contemporary, casually brilliant….a writer of subtle, elastic and brilliant intelligence.”

Rosanna WarrenRosanna Warren has won the Lamont Poetry Prize and many other awards for her poetry. She is the author of five books of poems, including Departure, Stained Glass, Each Leaf Shines Separate and Ghost In A Red Hat. Harold Bloom writes: “Warren is an important poet, beyond the achievement of all but a handful of living American poets.” And Charles Simic writes in The NY Review of Books: “Her work has become stronger and stronger… The new book explores intimacy and separation in poems of difficult love….masterful and ambitious.” Until recently Rosanna Warren was University Professor at Boston University and is now a Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at University of Chicago.

Amy Meyerson is the bestselling author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays, which has been translated into 9 languages. She has been published in numerous literary magazines and teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, where she completed her graduate work in creative writing. She also received her BA from Wesleyan University. Her new novel, The Imperfects, will be published in summer 2020 by HarperCollins/Park Row Books. Originally from Philadelphia, she currently lives in Los Angeles.

Helen Klein Ross is the author of three novels: The Latecomers from Little, Brown (2018), What Was Mine (2016) and Making It: A Novel Of Madison Avenue (2013) from Simon & Schuster. She is the editor and creator of The Traveler's Vade Mecum (2016) from Red Hen Press, an anthology of new poems titled by old telegrams from contributors including Frank Bidart and veterans of his New York State Summer Writers workshop. Her poetry and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Helen has lectured on social storytelling at SXSWi, Columbia and Duke Universities. She lives in New York.

Emily Rapp Black is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir (BloomsburyUSA) and The Still Point of the Turning World (Penguin Press), a New York Times bestseller and an Editor’s Pick. A former Fulbright scholar, she was educated at Harvard University, Trinity College-Dublin, Saint Olaf College, and the University of Texas-Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. A Guggenheim Fellow, she has received awards and fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Jentel Arts Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, the Fine Arts Work Center, Fundacion Valparaiso, and Bucknell University. Her work has appeared in VOGUE, the New York Times, Die Zeit, The Times-London, Lenny Letter, The Sun, TIME, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, O the Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and other publications and anthologies. She is currently Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California-Riverside, where she also teaches medical narratives in the School of Medicine. She is a member of the Inequities in Health Care Working Group and an architect of the Medical Narratives minor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She was recently named the nonfiction editor of The Los Angeles Review of Books. Her book that explores art and disability through the life of Frida Kahlo is forthcoming from Nottinghill Editions/New York Review of Books in 2021. 


Robert Boyers

Robert Boyers, Director is editor of the influential quarterly magazine Salmagundi, professor of English at Skidmore College, and director of the New York State Summer Writers Institute. He is the author of eleven books, including a volume of short stories called Excitable Women, Damaged Men. He writes often for such magazines as Harper’sThe New RepublicThe NationYale Review, and Granta. His latest book is The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, the Academy, and the Hunt For Political Heresies.


Amy Wallen

Amy Wallen, Associate Director, MFA, is the author of the bestselling novel, MoonPies & Movie Stars (2007 Penguin), and more recently the memoir, When We Were Ghouls (2018 UNP). Her collaborative book with illustrator Emil Wilson How to Write a Novel in 20 Pies: Sweet & Savory Secrets to Surviving the Writing Life will be published Fall 2022 by AMP. Her essays can be found in The Gettysburg Review, Normal School, The Writer, Los Angeles Times, and other anthologies. She teaches personal narrative to disenfranchised youth at the renowned Ocean Discovery Institute in San Diego, CA. She also edits book manuscripts and offers quarterly book-length manuscript workshops online and in-person.

Marc Woodworth

Marc Woodworth, Associate Director is Associate Editor of Samagundi Magazine and author or editor of several books: Arcade (poetry), Solo: Women Singer-Songwriters in Their Own Words, Bee Thousand (in the 33 1/3 series), and How To Write About Music. He teaches for the Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative and Department of English at Skidmore College.

Faculty Awards Received

  • Pulitzer Prize
  • National Book Award
  • PEN/Faulkner Award
  • Pushcart Prize
  • Mac Arthur Genius Award
  • National Book Critics Circle Award
  • Lamont Poetry Prize
  • Poet-Laureate of the U.S.
  • L.A. Times Book Award
  • New York Arts Award
  • Martin Luther King Memorial Prize
  • James Tait Black Memorial Prize
  • Lambda Literary Award in Poetry
  • Berlin Prize
  • Orange Prize
  • Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
  • Morton Dauwen Zabel Award (from American Academy of Arts & Letters)
  • Green Carnation Prize
  • Grolie Poetry Prize
  • PEN/Malamud Award
  • Flannery O’Connor Award
  • Notable from Best American Short Stories
  • Addison Metcalf Award (from American Academy of Arts & Letters)
  • Brandeis Creative Arts Award
  • The Booker Prize for Fiction
  • The Irish Times International Prize for Fiction
  • Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize
  • Prix Medicis
  • Governor-General’s Award
  • Giller Prize
  • Cannes Film Festival Awards (novels adapted into films)