For more than 20 years, Williston’s Writers’ Workshop Series has brought celebrated authors to campus to teach, share insights on the writing process, and inspire the next generation of writers. We’ve hosted screen writers, poets, editors, novelists, journalists, and memoirists, including multiple winners of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. For students in the Writers’ Workshop class, the trimester involves the study of a visiting author, culminating in a master class and community-wide reading. Read an article about the 20th anniversary of the Writers’ Workshop.
2021-22 Writers' Workshop Presenters
Our first Writers’ Workshop presenter, Rachael Cerrotti, is an award-winning photographer, writer, educator and audio producer. She joins us on October 19. Her work explores the intergenerational impact of war and memory. She is currently the Inaugural Storyteller in Residence for USC Shoah Foundation where she produces and co-hosts The Memory Generation podcast.
In 2019, Cerrotti released her first podcast, “We Share The Same Sky.” It was the first-ever narrative podcast based on a Holocaust survivor’s testimony and tells the story of her decade-long journey to retrace her grandmother’s war story. “We Share The Same Sky” was listed as one of the best podcasts of the year by HuffPost, a Reader’s Pick by Vulture Magazine and as a “Show We Love” by Apple Podcasts; it is now being taught in high school classrooms around the world. Her forthcoming memoir by the same name will be published in August 2021 and is now available for pre-order.
November 1: Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: “Against Which”; “Bringing the Shovel Down”; “Be Holding”; and “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His new poem, “Be Holding,” was released from the University of Pittsburgh Press in September of 2020. His collection of essays, “The Book of Delights,” was released by Algonquin Books in 2019.Gay is also the co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the chapbook “Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens,” in addition to being co-author, with Rosechard Wehrenberg, of the chapbook, “River.” He is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin’, in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. Ross is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He also works on The Tenderness Project with Shayla Lawson and Essence London. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ross teaches at Indiana University.
December 10: Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan. After graduating from Harvard College, he started working at the Village Voice, where he wrote reviews of television, books, and music. He is the author of 10 books. His first novel, “The Intuitionist,” concerned intrigue in the Department of Elevator Inspectors, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway and a winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. He wrote “John Henry Days,” “The Colossus of New York,” “Apex Hides the Hurt,” “Sag Harbor,” “Zone One,” and “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death. “The “The Underground Railroad,” a novel, was published in the summer of 2016. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Barry Jenkins’s adapted it into an acclaimed Amazon original series this spring. “The Nickel Boys,” is a novel inspired by the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the Kirkus Prize, and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. His latest novel “Harlem Shuffle” will be published in September 2021.
Whitehead’s reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper’s and Granta. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, A Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. In 2018, New York State named him their New York State Author, and in 2020 the Library of Congress awarded him their Prize for American Fiction.
He has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.
He lives in New York City.
December 13: Chen Chen was born in Xiamen, China, and grew up in Massachusetts. His debut poetry collection, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in two chapbooks and in such publications as Poetry, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Best of the Net, and The Best American Poetry. He is the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, the Saltonstall Foundation, and Lambda Literary. He earned his BA at Hampshire College and his MFA at Syracuse University. He lives in Lubbock, Texas, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University.
A Selection of Past Presenters
Irish-born journalist and novelist Colum McCann discussed his National-Book-Award-winning novel Let the Great World Spin with classes, and made the case for reading’s being a gateway to empathy.
The late best-selling author of The Pilot’s Wife and The Weight of Water—a parent of two Williston graduates—Anita Shreve spoke to students about her stories that describe “life intensely felt.”
Award-winning writer Jennifer duBois ’02 has twice led workshops at Williston, first with her acclaimed debut novel A Partial History of Lost Causes, and then for its follow-up, the “psychologically astute” Cartwheel.
New York Times best-selling author Nic Stone discussed her debut novel Dear Martin, whose protagonist opens a literary dialogue with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Her second novel is Odd One Out.
Mo Willems P’19 told his Williston audience that he writes “incomprehensible books for illiterates,” which was his way of saying that the pigeon and other iconic characters he’s invented are co-created by his readers.
Richard Russo’s Pulitzer-Prizing-winning novel Empire Falls is “grounded,” says New York Times reviewer A. O. Scott, “in the New England bedrock of class-bound fatalism.”
Past Visiting Writers by Year
Dr. Roger Reeves
Madeleine Blais P’00, ’04
John Katzenbach P’00, ’04
Elinor Lipman P’00
Mary Jo Salter
Jennifer duBois ’02
Andre Dubus III
John Edgar Weideman
Mary Jo Salter
Nora Raleigh Baskin
Suzanne Strempek Shea