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Pulitzer Prize Winner Paul Harding Kicks Off for NYS Writers Institute’s Spring 2024

By Fanny Belaud | January 29, 2024

Paul Harding, at the Campus Center West Boardroom.

Photo Credit: Fanny Belaud / The ASP

Paul Harding, the 2023 National Book Award Finalist and Pulitzer prize-winning novelist in 2010 in the fiction category for his first novel “Tinkers,” launched the New York State Writers Institute’s Spring 2024 events. Paul Harding came to discuss his new book called “This Other Eden” which won the Booker Prize of 2023, and engage in a conversation with both students and other members of the Albany community on being a writer. The event was held Jan. 25, at the University at Albany uptown campus.

The first event, Craft Talk, occurred in the Campus Center West Boardroom for faculty and current UAlbany students, while the second event, Reading/Conversation, was held at the Performing Arts Center in the Recital Hall, and was open to both the public and UAlbany students. Both events had a book signing session for anyone interested.

Campus Center West Book Signing

Photo Credit: Fanny Belaud / The ASP

“This Other Eden” is a book based on a true story of a racially integrated community who took refuge from the intolerance of the world on an island off the coast of Maine. The islanders are poor, hungry, and lawless, with rumors of incest and feeblemindedness growing. 

Harding was asked many questions concerning both his novel and his career as a whole. As many pointed out throughout his book, he works with a beautiful approach to maneuvering light, color, elements, human life, and experiences into a unique story.

When asked about the way he carries his research, Harding stated that he uses Google to develop the vocabulary he implements by looking for specialized language, but attempts to stray away from doing too much research as he lets his mind, experiences, and imagination carry him in the direction the book wants to go. 

When discussing his writing process, Harding does not plan, he discovers. 

In his words, “There’s no formalized way for you to write well. For example, I don’t plan anything out at all, I work on the level of a sentence, I don’t even know what the next word is, it’s like I’m in a boat without a compass, and I like that. But I realize that there are some people, who if they had to write that way, they would never write – make yourself sensitive to moments and opportunities.”

An important question was posed by the moderator and Assistant Director, Mark Koplik, regarding who has the right to tell whose story, “what gives you permission?” The question references whether or not authors have the right to tell the stories of countries and communities they may not be a part of.

“So much of it has to do with how do you pay respect to, and bear witness to the old I in thou, bear witness to other people’s humanity, how do you make gestures of fellowship weather than segregation, respect rather than disrespect. It can never be a dead letter, meaning this or that gives you the right. I think of it as the reader has the right to give me the right or not give me the right, you don’t have to read the book – If we’re not allowed to write about the prevailing reality of our country, of our communities, then it’s hopeless.” Harding said.

Recital Hall, UAlbany Performing Arts Center

Photo Credit: Fanny Belaud / The ASP

Harding said, “When you are writing a book, readers don’t care how you wrote it, they just care about the result – This means that no matter how you want to go about it there is no singular process that makes a writer a writer.”

This event not only celebrated Harding’s literary achievements but also intended to leave attendees inspired and enlightened about the art of storytelling. The NYS Writers Institute’s next event will be a Virtual Author Event (registration required) featuring Angeline Boulley the author of “The Fire Keeper’s Daughter,” a 2021 best-selling debut novel, on Jan. 31, at 4:00 p.m.. 


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