Donna Liquori is assistant editor for New York Archives magazine, a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, and a columnist for the Times Union, where she writes the BiblioFiles column covering books and authors and the publishing industry.
“My favorite childhood book was “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh, which definitely influenced my decision to minor in journalism at the University at Albany, where I received a BA in English.”
I have too many favorite writers to pick one, so I’ll list a bunch in no particular order: Patti Smith, Aimee Bender, Stewart O’Nan, Stephen King, Richard Russo, William Kennedy, Anne Tyler, Nancy Clark, Alice Munro, Lauren Groff, Ruth Ozeki, Haruki Murakami, Joanna Harris, Julia Glass, Toni Morrison, Lorrie Moore, Annie Proulx, Francine Prose, Amy Hempel."
Favorite poem: “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop because I’m always losing things.
Revisiting my alma mater
By Donna Liquori
I remember in 1987 or so, I wrote about the The Writers Institute for my internship at the Legislative Gazette. As a University of Albany student and aspiring writer, I couldn’t believe my luck. I was in the same room as William Kennedy, an incredible resource to have on campus. I also snapped his picture, went back to the lab and developed it because I was the photographer too that semester.
Over the years, after settling permanently in Albany, I’ve interviewed a number of visiting writers for the Times Union. I’ll always remember chatting with Kazuo Ishiguro, who spoke to me from England. I also met Annie Proulx, Francine Prose and Tom Perrotta. While still a student, I heard Norman Mailer speak.
The books of visiting writers line my shelves. They’re more important to me, not because they are signed editions, but because the authors of those books came here to Albany, putting us on a literary map. And that was all due to the The Writers Institute.
But, it was during the Albany Book Festival, the institute’s first endeavor into a large-scale writers’ conference, that the full impact of these incredible institutions, my university and The Writers Institute, hit me.
I was running late and got to hear Doris Kearns Goodwin wrap up her reading. She was nailing it. People were laughing and sitting forward on their chairs. My friend, a literary agent, looked at me in astonishment. I felt so proud of my alma mater. Here we are, I thought, listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin at my school.
Later, I went to the mystery writers’ panel and heard four of the leading writers in the genre: Laura Lippman, Walter Mosley, Joseph Finder and Linda Fairstein. They told stories, took questions and shared their wisdom with us. I took notes. I wrote down what Lippman said about how the crime itself wasn’t the most interesting part, but how people go about their lives afterward. Then there was the tip from Mosley, who said you should read what you’ve written into a tape recorder to hear what it sounds like.
Around the Campus Center and outside by the fountain, other writers, many local, had their books on display and chatted with the crowds. Old friends, like Mike Virtanen, Dan Nester and Akum Norder, and other authors I’ve met over the years, like Elizabeth Brundage, sold their books and talked about their writing lives.
When I was a student at UAlbany, I took writing and journalism classes. I’ve participated in a writers’ workshop with James Lasdun. I even walked to class once with Toni Morrison, who used to teach here, while we were both heading to the Humanities building. I think of all the literary moments this school has given me, and I’m grateful.
I learned a lot about writing at UAlbany. I gained skills that have taken me far in my career.
On a brilliant, sunny September day, I learned some more tips and tricks that will help my writing. But I learned something else, too. I learned that my school can hold its own with any competing institution, hands down.