Annual Ocean State Writing Conference, Oct. 26-28

Writers invited to gather at the University of Rhode Island for annual three-day writing conference.

Posted on
Masha Gessen photo
Masha Gessen, a Russian and American journalist and author. Courtesy of Random House.

Journalists, editors, memoirists, novelists, poets and other accomplished writers and editors will gather at the University of Rhode Island later this month for its annual three-day writing conference.

Masha Gessen, a Russian-born journalist who has written extensively about Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald J. Trump, will give the conference’s keynote lecture on Friday, Oct. 27.

Free and open to the public, the lecture will start at 4 p.m. in the Agnes B. Doody Auditorium in Swan Hall, 60 Upper College Road on the Kingston campus. Parking is also free.

In her book The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, Gessen wrote of how Putin, a low-level KGB operative, ascended to the Russian presidency and, in a short time, destroyed years of progress.

Gessen is the author of ten books.  Her most recent book, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, is out this month and is a finalist for the National Book Award.

Gessen also writes about gender issues and human rights violations in Russia.

She is a regular contributor to The New York TimesThe New Yorker, The Washington Post and The New York Review of Books, among other publications. She was born in Moscow and lives in New York City.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Masha Gessen to URI,” says Tina Egnoski, conference director. “She’s a fearless activist and journalist whose work is courageous and bold.”

The conference is being held in the fall this year, instead of the summer, to provide participants an opportunity to attend other campus events and give URI students more access to readings and workshops. “In particular,” says Egnoski, “we look forward to robust engagement with faculty, staff and undergraduates.”

Along with workshops in fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction, the conference, in its 11th year, will offer talks in screenwriting and historical narratives, a publishing panel and participant reading.  Featured this year are:

  • Memoirist Kenny Fries, who received the prestigious Creative Capital literature grant for his book, In the Province of the Gods.His book The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, won the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.
  • Novelist Michael Lowenthal, who is the author of The Paternity Test and was an IndieNext selection and Lambda Literary Award finalist in 2012. His previous novels are The Same Embrace, Avoidance and Charity Girl, which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and a Washington Post Top Fiction of 2007.
  • Poet Major Jackson, who is the author of four collections of poetry, including Roll Deep, which was hailed in the New York Times Book Review as a remixed odyssey. His first book, Leaving Saturn, won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

The conference’s publishing panel, “Demystifying Publication and Prizes,” will give participants advice about submitting to literary journals and finding the right agent or editor. Discussions will also focus on changes and trends in publishing. Panelists include Heidi Pitlor, series editor of The Best American Short Stories, and Lucas Mann, author of Lord Fear: A Memoir.

Besides Gessen’s keynote address, the following events will be open to the public: Oct. 26 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., Green Hall, second floor, 35 Campus Ave., a reading with Fries; Oct. 27 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Green Hall, second floor, a reading with Jackson; Oct. 28, from 1 to 2 p.m., Swan Hall, The Robert Leuci Memorial Reading with Michael Lowenthal.

For a full schedule and information about registration and fees, visit or call 401-874-4663. Early-registration discounts for the workshops are offered until Oct. 10. The discount for URI students is $250.

The Ocean State Writers conference is supported by URI President David M. Dooley and Lynn Baker-Dooley; the Office of the Provost, Donald H. DeHayes, the Harrington School of Communication and Media; the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies; the departments of Art and Art History, Communication Studies, English, Film/Media, History, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology and Theater; programs in Africana Studies and in Gender and Women’s Studies; the College of the Environment and Life Sciences; the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies; the University Libraries; and Barrow Street Press.