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Awards Ceremony Held for the New State Author and Poet Ahead of the Albany Book Festival

By Florinda Gjypi | September 25, 2023

UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez (left), State Author Jacqueline Woodson (middle), and Writers Institute Executive Director Paul Grondahl (right).

Photo Credit: Florinda Gjypi / the ASP

On Sept. 22, one day before the annual Albany Book Festival, the New York State Writers Institute held the Award Ceremony for the new State Author Jacqueline Woodson and Poet Patricia Spears Jones at Campus Center West Auditorium.

The ceremony opened by Paul Grondahl, the Opalka Endowed Director for the NYS Writers Institute, proceeded with a speech by the University at Albany President Dr. Havidán Rodríguez who honored the achievements of the two laureates, and put an emphasis on the vitality of the literary arts in New York State.

“The University at Albany is the only institution of higher learning in the United States with a mandate to choose the official State Author and State Poet for its home state,” Rodríguez said. “We are proud of the fact that the juries who choose the State Laureates are made up of UAlbany students and faculty, together with authors and poets of national and global prominence.”

Both Spears Jones and Woodson were presented their awards by President Rodríguez and gave accepting speeches respectively during which they included passages from their books.

UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez (left), State Poet Patricia Spears Jones (middle), and Writers Institute Executive Director Paul Grondahl (right).

Photo Credit: Florinda Gjypi / the ASP

The following day, Sept. 23, during the Albany Book Festival, they both participated in a conversation table moderated by Paul Grondahl, answered questions made by the public, and signed books for their fans.

“I think I was put in this world to do a certain thing and I am doing it – that’s storytelling,” Woodson said. “Storytelling makes us remember and makes us feel like we’re part of something. You know, when you pick up a book and you find someone who's like you on the pages, and makes you feel like you matter. That's what storytelling is for me.”

When mentioning current and future projects, Spears Jones spoke about her book, titled “The Beloved Community,” and how impactful the community and the people around her have been in the process of writing this book, as well as her poetry writing.

“‘The Beloved Community’ is about how we feel about our connections with each other, how do we sustain them, and how do we fight those who want to break them,” Spears Jones said. “We are living in a world where those connections are very difficult to continue and the people who are around us are very valuable.”


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