2021 Writers’ Workshop Brings Powerhouse Lineup

Colson Whitehead Chen Chen Ross Gay

For its 22nd Writers’ Workshop series, Williston Northampton School welcomes a slate of writers that includes a two-time-Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist and two acclaimed poets. The storied series has brought celebrated authors to campus to teach, share insights on the writing process, and inspire the next generation of writers. Williston has hosted screenwriters, 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.

On campus December 10, Colson Whitehead was born and 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.

Chen Chen’s second book of poetry, “Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency,” is forthcoming from BOA Editions in September 2022. His debut, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” (BOA Editions, 2017), was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. In 2019, Bloodaxe Books published the UK edition. Chen is also the author of four chapbooks and the forthcoming book of essays, “In Cahoots with the Rabbit God” (Noemi Press, 2023). His work appears/is forthcoming in many publications, including Poem-a-Day and three editions of “The Best American Poetry” (2015, 2019, and 2021). He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at Brandeis University as the Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence and serves on the poetry faculty for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast. With a brilliant team, he edits the journal, Underblong. With Gudetama the lazy egg, he edits the Twitter magazine the lickety~split. He lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his partner, Jeff Gilbert, and their pug, Mr. Rupert Giles.

Ross Gay, joining us virtually November 1, 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. Gay is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a nonprofit, 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 Writer’s Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Gay teaches at Indiana University.