Writing Out Loud: Writers’ Forums Bring New and Influential Voices to Campus

Jennifer Egan will read at a Fiction Forum on Wednesday, February 9th. Photo credit, Pieter M. Van Hattem.

Jennifer Egan will read at a Fiction Forum on Wednesday, February 9th. Photo credit: Pieter M. Van Hattem.

Bestselling novelists. Pulitzer Prize-winning poets. Prominent children’s writers. Cutting-edge cultural critics. Just another semester at The New School.

The New School began offering an MFA in Writing in 1996, but it has been an integral part of New York’s literary scene as far back as 1931, when noted author Gorham Munson launched his pioneering writers’ workshop, one of the first in the nation. From the earliest years, aspiring authors have come to The New School to learn from working writers, a tradition that continues today with the Writers’ Forums, a series held by the Writing Program.

The forums are an extension of our literary seminars, which are all about reading as a writer,, says Robert Polito, director of the Writing Program. It’s kind of a deep immersion in the craft, whether it’s fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or writing for children., At each forum, the visiting author reads, is interviewed by a faculty member, and participates in a Q&A with the audience. This structure fosters open exchange about technique and creative expression, a hallmark of artistic education across The New School.

The upcoming term offers talent from every area of literature. Fiction Forum guests include Jennifer Egan (February 9), author of A Visit from The Goon Squad, and Rick Moody (March 30), author of The Four Fingers of Death and The Ice Storm. Charles North (February 22), a New School workshop alumnus and much-anthologized poet, joins the Poetry Forum line-up, along with National Book Award finalist Gail Mazur (April 11), Whiting Award winner Julie Sheehan (April 25), and others. Author and agent Brenda Bowen (March 8) and author Barbara Shook Hazen (May 10) discuss writing and publishing for children. The semester’s featured nonfiction writers include The New School’s own James Miller (February 16), author of Examined Lives, which received rave reviews in the New York Times and elsewhere.

According to Polito, presenting a varied roster is central to the series’ mission. The goal of the reading series generally is to get as many voices as possible into the program. We have a varied, even eclectic faculty, and that’s supplemented with these forums, offering a truly diverse group of writers talking about why and how they do what they do.,

The forums aren’t just for MFA students, though. Anyone interested in contemporary literature is welcome and encouraged to attend (admission is $5 for the public and free for students and New School faculty, staff, and alumni). After all, bringing the best writing and thought to the public, educating the educated, is a New School tradition.

In my study, I have a poster from 1962 or 1963 from The New School, advertising a poetry forum run by Kenneth Koch,, Polito says. The forums are a vital part of the Writing Program, but they’ve always been a vital part of The New School at least going back to the 1960s. Providing an open forum for authors’ work and ideas has always been a goal of the program.,

For a schedule of Writers’ Forums and related programs, visit The New School’s Events Calendar.