Press Releases

New Writers Center at Purchase College

Date Released: 8/2/2010

Founded by Suzanne Kessler, local author Marilyn Johnson and Louise Yelin, the Center will have an Advisory Board of distinguished writers, and an Executive Committee of Purchase writers and writing program heads.

Purchase College announces the launch of its Writers Center in fall, 2010. The Writer’s Center will complement the College’s offerings in Creative Writing, Dramatic Writing, and Journalism and serve as a focus for its many initiatives involving writers and writing. Designed to make Purchase College as well known for writing as it is for the visual and performing arts, the Center will house a community of writers from the college and beyond and highlight the ways that writing links the arts and the liberal arts.


The Writer’s Center was founded by Suzanne Kessler, Vice Provost and Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, local author Marilyn Johnson, and Louise Yelin, Chair, School of Humanities.


Under the direction of Professor Yelin, the Center will be overseen by an Advisory Board of distinguished writers with connections to the College the Westchester area and an executive Committee of Purchase College writers and writing program heads.  Purchase alumni Donald Margulies and Jeremy Gerard will serve on the Advisory Board along with Kate Buford, Benjamin Cheever, Laura Shaine Cuningham,  Al Filreis, Aminatta Forna, Sheila Kohler, Caryl Phillips, Marie Ponsot, Esmeralda Santiago, and David Shields.


Each year, the Center will welcome a group of fellows who will receive  stipends, offices, and access to the college’s library and databases. Yelin announced that Pamela Hart, (South Salem), Christine Lehner (Hastings), and Sarah Bracey White, (Ossining), have been selected as the first Fellows of the Writing Center. They will be joined by Marilyn Johnson (Briarcliff), who will have the title of Senior Fellow and Cathy Medwick who will be an affiliate.


“We are delighted to have them join us and enrich the culture of writing here at Purchase,” Yelin said. Hart, Medwick, White, and Johnson will be in residence at Purchase in the coming year and will conduct workshops, writing groups, special seminars, and community outreach events. They will also have the opportunity to read, do research, and meet other writers and members of the Purchase community as they work on their own writing projects.


The Writers Center has been awarded a grant by the SUNY Office of Diversity and Educational Equality to support writing workshops for students from the local community.


Writers Center Fellows:


Senior Fellow Marilyn Johnson (Briarcliff) is the author of This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (Harper, 2010) and The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasure of Obituaries (Harper Perennial, 2007), a selection for the Borders Original Voices program and a finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize.  She is a poet and has been a writer and editor for Life, Esquire, and other magazines.  She is working on a third non-fiction book and looks forward to helping make the Writer’s Center a useful intersection of area writers and the Purchase community.


Pamela Hart (South Salem) is a writer, poet, educator, curator and editor.  Her poetry has been published in a variety of print and online journals and was nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Her chapbook, The End of the Body, was published in 2006 by Toadlily Press.  As a visiting writer at the Katonah Museum of Art, Hart coordinates Thinking Through Art, which brings together the visual and written arts, and she looks forward to collaborating with staff and visitors at the Neuberger Museum of Art.  She is currently working on a second manuscript of poems and a series of lyric essays.


Christine Lehner (Hastings) is a fiction writer.  She has published two novels and numerous stories. Her most recent books are What to Wear to See the Pope, a collection of stories, and Absent a Miracle, a novel.  She is currently working on a book about taking up beekeeping after 50, falling in love, literature about bees, and a novella, part of a collection of three. In her blog Sort Quench & Dump, she writes about bees, memory and memory loss, forgotten & found books, and hagiography.


Sarah Bracey White (Ossining) is a writer, motivational speaker, and part-time arts consultant. Her literary work includes a collection of poetry, Feelings Brought to Surface, numerous essays and short stories that have been widely anthologized, several novels, and a memoir-in-progress, on which she will be working at the Center.  One of her memoir pieces, “Freedom Summer,” was included in the Simon and Schuster Pocket Books’ anthology Children of the Dream, as well as in Dreaming in Color, Living in Black and White. She has had extensive experience in conducting writing workshops for children and will participate in outreach to local schools and communities through a SUNY Diversity Grant.