by Jennifer Franklin –
Often called a “hidden gem” and praised as “the most beautiful place in which I have ever read,” The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center is housed in the historic and lovingly restored Philipse Manor Train Station. The Center hosts a series of classes and readings by writers in all genres, runs social outreach programs for youth and adults, hosts a monthly open mic, and operates the Slapering Hol Press. Since HVWC’s founding by poet and editor Margo Taft Stever in 1988, the Center has welcomed literary luminaries including Rita Dove, Toni Morrison, Billy Collins, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Michael Cunningham.
Upon my taking over programming in the fall of 2014, the Center instituted a Program Committee that decides on the novelists, non-fiction writers, and poets invited to read at the Center. It is my job, along with the Program Committee, Slapering Hol Press co-editors (Margo Taft Stever and Peggy Ellsberg), and the SHP Advisory Committee, to invite new and established voices to read for the community. Since I was appointed Program Director, the Center has hosted a diverse group of established writers, including Nick Flynn, Mark Doty, and Margo Jefferson. Emerging writers Joshua Bennett, TJ Jarrett, Rickey Laurentiis, Aracelis Girmay, and Natalie Diaz read at the Center with their most recent books. This fall, the Center will welcome former New York State Poet Laureate, Marie Howe, poet and novelist Victoria Redel, and memoirist Melissa Febos. Sri Lankan poet Indran Amirthanayagam will be the keynote reader for SHP’s annual “War and Peace Reading” to commemorate Veteran’s Day.
The Center’s classes are similar to MFA classes, but far less costly. Most of our students find the instruction so rewarding and productive that they remain in the same classes with the same teachers for years. Classes run for six-week sessions, but the Center also offers one-day Master Classes so that writers who work full time can partake of our award-winning instructors. This season’s instructors include Alex Dimitrov, Fred Marchant, and Kathleen Ossip. Improv comedy, playwriting, and screenwriting are all new classes this season.
In the spring, we will welcome Sergio Troncoso and Lisa Page, who will read from We Wear the Mask, a non-fiction anthology about passing as white in America. Frank Bidart, Martha Rhodes, John Murillo, and Nicole Sealy will read from their acclaimed new collections. Kimiko Hahn and Tamiko Beyer will launch SHP’s newest Conversation Series chapbook. Pamela Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review will speak about keeping a record of all the books she has ever read. Kara Lee Corthron, author of the award winning-young adult novel, The Truth of Right Now, will read and teach a class on YA writing. The Westchester Poetry Festival, our collaboration with The Masters School, will hold craft talks and workshops before the reading this April. The Center is expanding its benefits for all members. Submission Sundays began in June. Students Carla Carlson and Mary Ann Scott volunteer once a month to help members in every genre with cover letters and with deciding what and where to submit for publication.
To become a member of the Center or find out more about our upcoming courses and programs, visit www.writerscenter.org or call 914-332-5953.