Reach the Beach for Writers: Students Compete to Land Spots on Dublin’s First New York Writer’s Retreat Weekend

This October, two students will get the opportunity to listen to and learn from some of the most far-reaching, incisive, and captivating writers of our time. These students will travel with Ms. Rachael Jennings, English Department Chair, to New York City’s The New Yorker Festival.

At the festival, they will attend panels and workshops led by Louise Erdrich, Rachel Kushner, Jhumpa Lahiri, Judith Thurman, Keegan-Michael Key, Henry Finder, and more. In between workshops, students will explore literary landmarks, visit The Strand Bookstore to admire the eighteen miles of books, and enjoy autumnal New York City. The group will take the train to and from Hartford to Penn Station, and along the way, they will write in writer’s notebooks. With a workshop series like the one that waits, the notebook pages will surely fill as the writer’s retreat continues.

To find out more about the contest guidelines and the workshop schedule and speaker bios, please read on. We are thrilled to launch Dublin’s first The New Yorker Festival literary retreat, and we cannot wait to find out which students will be writing, conversing, imagining, and creating stories along the way!

Workshop Sequence:

Saturday, October 8, 10am: The World in Words

With Louise Erdrich, Rachel Kushner, and George Saunders. Moderated by Deborah Treisman.

  • Louise Erdrich is a novelist and poet. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and is the author of fifteen novels, including “Love Medicine,” which received the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction; “The Round House,” which received the 2012 National Book Award for fiction; and “LaRose,” published this past May. Many of her short stories have been anthologized in the “The Best American Short Stories” and the “O. Henry Prize Stories” collections.
  • Rachel Kushner is the author of “Telex from Cuba,” which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and the best-selling “The Flamethrowers,” which was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award and the 2014 Folio Prize. Her collection of short stories, “The Strange Case of Rachel K,” was published in 2015. She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2013 and was the 2016 recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Vursell Prize.
  • George Saunders’s first short story for The New Yorker was published in 1992; since then, he has written numerous pieces for the magazine. He is a recipient of fellowships from both the MacArthur Foundation and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His most recent short-story collection, “Tenth of December: Stories,” won the Folio Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award; his first novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” will be published in February, 2017. His article “Trump Days,” about Donald Trump rallies, ran in the July 11th & 18th issue of the magazine.
  • Deborah Treisman is the fiction editor of The New Yorker and the host of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. In 2012, she received the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction.

Saturday, October 8, 1pm: Home Truths: Writing About Family

With Tessa Hadley, Hisham Matar, Akhil Sharma, and Gary Shteyngart. Moderated by Cressida Leyshon.

  • Tessa Hadley is a novelist and a professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University. She has contributed numerous short stories to the magazine and is the author of six novels, most recently “The Past,” which won the Hawthornden Prize, and two collections of short stories. Her book “Sunstroke and Other Stories” was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2007, and she was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize this year. “The Past,” published in 2015, is about four grownup siblings gathering for a reunion in the English countryside.
  • Hisham Matar is a Libyan-American writer and the author of two novels, “In the Country of Men,” which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and “Anatomy of a Disappearance.” His books have been translated into numerous languages, and he was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. His memoir, “The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between,” was published in July.
  • Akhil Sharma is a fiction writer and an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark. His first novel, “An Obedient Father,” won the 2001 PEN/Hemingway Award for début fiction, and his second, “Family Life,” received the 2015 Folio Prize and the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award. “A Mistake,” an excerpt from “Family Life,” ran in the January 20, 2014, issue of the magazine.Gary Shteyngart is the author of the novels “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” which won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction; “Absurdistan”; and “Super Sad True Love Story,” which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. His memoir, “Little Failure,” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.
  • Cressida Leyshon is the deputy fiction editor at The New Yorker.

Saturday, October 8, 4pm: Jhumpa Lahiri talks with Judith Thurman

  • Jhumpa Lahiri is the author of several books, including “The Interpreter of Maladies,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000, and “The Lowland,” which was a finalist for both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award in 2013. In February of this year, she published her first work of nonfiction, “In Other Words,” a memoir about learning Italian. Excerpts from five of her books were published in The New Yorker. Lahiri also teaches creative writing at Princeton University.
  • Judith Thurman has been writing about books, culture, and fashion for The New Yorker since 1987, and became a staff writer in 2000. She is the author of “Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller,” which won the 1983 National Book Award for nonfiction, and “Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette,” which won the Salon Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for biography. A collection of her New Yorker essays, “Cleopatra’s Nose,” was published in 2007.

Saturday, October 8, 7pm: Keegan-Michael Key talks with Henry Finder

  • Keegan-Michael Key co-created and starred in the Comedy Central sketch series “Key & Peele,” which ran for five seasons. His work on “Key & Peele” was nominated for nine Primetime Emmy Awards, and in 2013 the show received a Peabody Award. Previously, he appeared on the sketch-comedy series “MADtv.” This year, he co-produced and starred in the film “Keanu.” He currently stars in the new Mike Birbiglia film, “Don’t Think Twice.” Zadie Smith’s piece about “Key & Peele” ran in the February 23 & March 2, 2015, issue of the magazine.
  • Henry Finder has been the editorial director of The New Yorker since 1997. He has edited several anthologies drawn from The New Yorker’s archives, including “The 60s: The Story of a Decade,” and, with David Remnick, the humor collection “Fierce Pajamas.”

How to Enter the Contest:

Writing Contest Prompt: Write a story set in New York City. The time and characters and all other details are up to you; however, New York City must be your setting. In your story, please be mindful of a few of Vonnegut’s principles of writing:

  1. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

  2. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

  3. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

  4. Start as close to the end as possible.

  5. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

  6. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Deadline: Thursday, September 29, 2016

Send submissions to Anne Mackey with the following guidelines in mind.


  1. Word Count: Minimum 500 words. Maximum 1,000 words.

  2. Format: Times New Roman 12, double spaced

  3. Each student may only submit one piece of work.

  4. Students may not submit any work that has been submitted to any Dublin School class. Likewise, students may not submit any work that any Dublin School teacher has read.

  5. You may not ask any Dublin School teachers to read your story.

  6. To protect anonymity, students must remove their names from all submissions. Students must e-mail Ms. Mackey with their writing. The document itself should be in PDF form and include simply the title of the work and the work itself (no header, no names). Once the PDF is attached to the e-mail, please send the e-mail to Ms. Mackey with the subject line: “Your Last Name / The New Yorker Festival Contest.” She will print the documents without your name and give those to the reading panel.

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