Tom Piazza Named First Trias Resident – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Tom Piazza Named First Trias Resident

Award-winning writer Tom Piazza has been selected as the first resident of the Peter Trias Residency for Writers. Piazza will participate in a one-year residency on campus to work with the Colleges’ best student writers. He will also offer a public reading and lecture, and participate in a service event for the greater Geneva community.

Piazza will be reading from his work on Thursday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m. in the Blackwell Room.

“I am very proud and excited to be the inaugural Trias writer,” says Piazza, the author of nine books and the recipient of a Grammy Award. “The position is innovative, I think, in the equal weight it gives to writing and teaching, and in its vision of the role a writer might play in the life of an academic institution and its surrounding community.”

“We were moved by his work and consider it to be an important contribution to American letters. We also think that his place in the literary community will continue to grow, and we believe that the Trias Residency will support Mr. Piazza in producing fine, new books,” says Melanie Conroy-Goldman, director of the Trias Residency for Writers, explaining why Piazza was chosen for this competitive residency. “We also felt that Piazza’s insight into New Orleans might provide an interesting point of conversation for Geneva, a very different place, but one which has some surprising parallels. Finally, Hobart and William Smith is committed to interdisciplinarity, and Mr. Piazza’s experience as a music writer made him an especially good fit.”

Piazza’s novel “City Of Refuge” won the 2008 Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. His other books include the post-Katrina classic “Why New Orleans Matters,” the Faulkner Society Award-winning novel My Cold War, and the short-story collection “Blues and Trouble,” which won the James Michener Award for Fiction. A collection of his nonfiction pieces, titled “Devil Sent The Rain,” will be published by Harper Perennial in the fall of 2011.

A well known music writer, Piazza won a 2004 Grammy Award for his album notes to “Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey” and is a three-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Music Writing. Bob Dylan has said, “Tom Piazza’s writing pulsates with nervous electrical tension – reveals the emotions that we can’t define.”

“Fiction writing, in its many forms, is not just a luxury or a curiosity,” Piazza explains. “The creative literary imagination is as important now as it ever was, in the ways it can keep language vital and alive, and help us step into realities unlike our own. I’m looking forward to working with the undergraduates at HWS, and to bringing a few other writers to campus for a good series of dialogues about writing in our time. I’m grateful for this extraordinary opportunity”

Piazza’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Bookforum, The Oxford American, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other periodicals. He is currently a writer for the HBO series “Treme,” set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and is at work on a new novel. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and he lives in New Orleans.

In the fall, Piazza will be in full-time residency at HWS where he will teach an advanced workshop to select students. He will also organize a reading series that will bring two writers to campus, offer public readings and participate in community service events. In the spring, he will be in the low-residency stage of the Trias program, and will work with a select group of students (three or four), making scheduled visits to campus and providing feedback and instruction on a bi-weekly basis through electronic communication, as well as offering public lectures, bringing two more writers to campus and evaluating students’ final portfolios. Students will be admitted to the fall workshop and spring tutorial on an application-only basis. 

The Trias Residency for Writers is supported by The Peter Trias Endowed Fund for Poetry and Creative Writing. This valuable fund was established through a generous bequest from Peter J. Trias ’70. Trias graduated from Hobart with a bachelors in English, and then went on to earn his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1972. In 1976, he published a collection of poems, The House in Venice.

“The applicant pool for the Trias Residency’s inaugural year was enormously impressive. The candidates included writers who had been on national best-seller lists and short-listed for major national prizes. Our international applicant pool encompassed four continents,” explains Conroy-Goldman. “We were overwhelmed by the talent in this group and honored by their interest in the Colleges and in Geneva.”

Trias will forever be distinguished and celebrated at HWS for his generosity as a member of the Seneca Society and as a consistent supporter of the Annual Fund. Though Trias excelled in many fields, writing was his true love, one he wanted to share with future Hobart and William Smith students. He designated Hobart and William Smith as the beneficiary of his estate to establish The Peter Trias ’70 Endowed Fund for Poetry and Creative Writing. It was his hope that this fund would attract poets and writers of distinction to the campus for year-long appointments to add distinguished voices to the creative chorus on campus.

Conroy-Goldman notes, “Tom Piazza grew up just a few miles from Peter Trias’ hometown. In so many ways, this match feels like kismet. We’re so excited about all the possibilities Mr. Piazza’s residency here in Geneva promises.”

For more information about The Peter Trias Residencey for Writers, visit the website at www.hws.edu/trias or contact Melanie Conroy-Goldman, chair of the English Department and director of the Trias Residency for Writers, at trias@hws.edu.