Every two years, the NY State Writers Institute in Albany gives a prestigious honor to an author and a poet living in New York State. The 2021-2022 NY State author, Ayad Akhtar, and the 2021-2022 State poet, Willie Perdomo, will perform at the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake on Friday, August 19, at 7PM.

Akhtar will be introduced by previous NY State Author, Russell Banks, and Perdomo will be introduced by award-wining poet and Chase Twichell. Banks and Twichell are long-time residents of the Adirondacks, and they’ll welcome Aktar and Perdomo to the North country.

This event is a collaboration between ACW and the NY State Writers Institute in Albany.


AYAD AKHTAR is an acclaimed novelist and playwright whose work explores the immigrant experience, Muslim American identity and the world of high finance. He is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Akhtar is the author of Homeland Elegies, which Dwight Garner of the New York Times called “A beautiful novel about an American son and his immigrant father that has echoes of The Great Gatsby and that circles, with pointed intellect, the possibilities and limitations of American life.” Ayad Akhtar currently serves as president of PEN America, one of the leading defenders of free speech both here and abroad.

Ayad Akhtar

WILLIE PERDOMO is a prize-winning poet and children’s book author who examines and celebrates the Nuyorican and Afro-Latino experience, primarily in his home neighborhood of Spanish Harlem. His poetry collections include Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (1996), a finalist for the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award; Smoking Lovely (2004, revised 2021), winner of the PEN/Open Book Award; The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (2014), a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and The Crazy Bunch (2019), which chronicles a weekend in the life of a group of East Harlem friends in the 1990s. Perdomo is also the co-editor of a recent anthology, Latínext (2020), a celebration of work by emerging Latinx poets who represent an array of nationalities, genders, sexualities, races, and writing styles. A core faculty member at VONA/Voices of our Nation Writing Workshop, he teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Willie Perdomo

RUSSELL BANKS is the internationally acclaimed author of twenty-one works of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, The Book of Jamaica, Cloudsplitter, Lost Memory of Skin, and most recently, A Permanent Member of the Family, short stories, and Voyager: Travel Writings. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. Two of his novels, Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, were made into award-winning feature films. His essays and reviews have been published in major magazines, and he has written screenplays and poetry.

Russell Banks

CHASE TWICHELL work has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Artists Foundation, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Her work received a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Snow Watcher won the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. She was awarded a Smart Family Foundation Award in 2004 for poems published in The Yale Review. In 2010, she received an honorary doctorate from St. Lawrence University. Her most recent book, Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems, won both the Kingsley Tufts Award from Claremont Graduate University and the Balcones Poetry Prize. A new book, Things as It Is, was published by Copper Canyon in the fall of 2018.

Chase Twichell