Rita Banerjee and Robin Hemley Interview Neuroscientist David J. Linden on “How Do I Become You?” Polk Professional Series Podcast – Sept. 23, 2021 * 7 pm EDT

Join Director of the Polk School, Robin Hemley, and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing, Rita Banerjee, as they engage in a lively discussion in the first of the 2021 season’s Polk Professional Series, “How Do I Become You?”  The series highlights the career path and accomplishments of of successful writers, journalists, scientists, adventurers, activists, filmmakers and more, all of whom have made a difference by learning to be powerful communicators and to tell stories that count.

Their will be with best-selling author and neuroscientist, David Linden.

When: Sep 23, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join us on Zoom!

David J. Linden, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute. His laboratory has worked for many years on the cellular basis of memory storage, recovery of function after brain injury and a few other topics. He has a longstanding interest in scientific communication and served for many years as the Chief Editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology. He is the author of four bestselling books on the biology of behavior for a general audience, The Accidental Mind (2007), The Compass of Pleasure (2011), Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind (2015), and Unique: The Science of Human Individuality which, to date, have been translated into 21 languages. He also edited a collection of short essays on brain function written for a general audience: Think Tank: Forty Neuroscientists Explore the Biological Roots of Human Experience (2018). His has appeared on the TED Radio Hour, Fresh Air with Terry Gross and many other media outlets

The Vermont Arts Council awards Rita Banerjee a Creation Grant for her new memoir and manifesto on female cool

The Vermont Art Council announces that Rita Banerjee is among the 23 outstanding writers and artists who received a Creation Grant, one of its most sought-after award this year. The grant is funded in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, state, and private donors. Banerjee received a Creation Grant to support the creation of her memoir and manifesto of how female “cool” subverts social, sexual, and economic pressure. Recently, one of the opening chapters of Banerjee’s book “Birth of Cool” was named a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2020. Here is more information about her memoir-in-progress:

In Rita Banerjee’s new memoir and manifesto, she demonstrates that for women, and especially young women of color, keeping one’s cool is a psychic shield against social trauma.  Cultivating female cool is what allows women to subvert social, sexual, and economic pressure.  The memoir follows Banerjee as she keeps her cool through 9/11, the 2008 and 2020 stock market crashes, #MeToo, Trumpism, and the pandemic, and in doing so, finds her own agency and self-expression.

Among this year’s Creation Grant winning proposals are works that span visual arts, literary arts, dance, music, film, and multidisciplinary fields, including a music video exploring unjust land ownership for African Americans; a nonfiction book tracing five generations beginning in Iran and ending in Vermont; a tintype photography series capturing Vermont women and aging; and several works exploring social justice themes.

Artistic excellence is the most important criteria in evaluating an application for this highly competitive award. A record 202 applications were received for the FY2022 program, collectively requesting a total of $808,000.

The Council typically has funding to support approximately 12-15% of requests for the annual grant. But thanks to the Vermont Community Foundation’s Arts Endowment Fund, along with generous contributions from Vermont Performance Lab and individual donors, the Council was able to provide eight additional Creation Grants this year.

Recipients were selected by two independent panels comprised of 28 practicing Vermont artists and arts professionals. Applicants could submit audio or video files for their proposals in place of written applications.

“The range of artistic talent in Vermont takes my breath away,” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman. “We are pleased that new partnerships and generous private donations — so vital in this pandemic year — have enabled us to support the creative endeavors of twenty-three outstanding artists.”

For more information about the Creation Grant program, visit https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/grants/artists/creation

Rita Banerjee’s “Birth of Cool” about 9/11 named Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2020

Rita Banerjee’s essay “Birth of Cool,” which appeared in the Silence & Power issue of Hunger Mountain, was recently named a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2020 edited by André Aciman.

“Birth of Cool” is a braided essay about 9/11, love, coolness, and the death of her grandfather, her first icon of “cool.” In “Birth of Cool,” Rita Banerjee examines her growing infatuation with everything styled and aestheticized. She investigates how 9/11 signaled the death of irony, but not of cool, which she imparts from her idols, from Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix to MTV and Jon Stewart. In “Birth of Cool,” Banerjee explains why she chose a life of aesthetics, style, and emotional distance over that of politics, righteousness, and explicit social engagement.  In this essay, she confronts her own agency and observes how her own sense of cool is birthed as a coping mechanism against social trauma.

You can read “Birth of Cool” online on Hunger Mountain here:

You can read the print version of “Birth of Cool” by order Hunger Mountain, Issue 23: Silence & Power here: https://hungermtn.submittable.com/submit/68385/purchase-back-issue

Join Rita Banerjee’s Workshop on “Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)fiction” at the Ruth Stone House * October 2 & 10, 2021 * Online


Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction
Saturday, October 2 & Sunday, October 10, 2021 * 1:00-4:00 pm EDT
Ruth Stone House | Online

Plato argues that human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. And before staging Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Śākuntalā, the director challenges his actress-lover: “As though in a painting, the entire audience has had their emotion colored through your melody. So now—what shall we perform to sustain the mood?” In this class, we will explore how creating vivid emotional worlds between characters and within storylines can build suspense, sustain drama, and lure the reader deeper in. If you’re currently working on a short story, novel, screenplay, theatrical play, lyrical essay, memoir, or narrative poem which has a unique emotional landscape, come stop by the Ruth Stone House for our next online creative writing workshop led by Rita Banerjee on October 2 and October 10, 2021. Students will read Rita Banerjee’s article, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” from Poets & Writers Magazine, do in-class writing exercises centering rasa, emotion, and suspense, and share out their work with classmates. Register at the Ruth Stone House. Workshop Fee: $150 for 2 Sessions.

Rita Banerjee joins the South Asian Avant-Garde as an Editor-at-Large

Rita Banerjee joins the South Asian Avant-Garde, an international collective of South Asian artists, writers, designers, filmmakers, and activists, as an Editor-at-Large. The SAAG Collective is currently producing the South Asian Avant-Garde: A Dissident Literary Anthology, a forthcoming anthology that features dissident fiction, essays, journalism, plays, poetry, and hybrid, multimedia work. It reclaims radical traditions that have long been excised from South Asian histories, and forges new communities and reinforces necessary solidarities. The digital platform allows work to travel everywhere South Asians live and practice.

In terms of its mission, SAAG states:

“Transgression, experimentation, and true radicalism are rare and expensive in a world structured around majoritarian consensus, conformity, and party-line loyalism. This is especially true for minority voices, who are routinely devalued. We must value creative labor, no excuses. Your support will go directly to the multitude of writers and artists who will be contributing to this project. In our shared commitment to respect creative labor, we’re happy to be partnering with the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, whilst reaching South Asians everywhere.”

To support the South Asian Avant-Garde, please consider donating to the SAAG Collective, or supporting the organization, its artists, writers, and activists through the artwork, books, and other items they have created on the SAAG Perks page here.

Every donation brings us closer to amplifying South Asian voices that are imagining and building better and freer futures for us all.

Celebrate the New York Immigration Coalition on June 8 * 6:30 – 8:00 pm EDT

The New York Immigration Coalition’s 2021 Immigrant Power Gala, A Virtual Celebration is coming up on Tuesday, June 8th at 6:30 p.m. ET.  The event will be hosted on Hopin and author Rita Banerjee will be serving as a host during the gala!

Broadway star Krystal Joy Brown from the musical Hamilton will be performing at the 2021 Immigrant Power Gala, A Virtual Celebration. Join us for this moving tribute to our powerful immigrant community on Tuesday, June 8, at 6:30 pm ET.

And we are thrilled to be honoring NYIC Member of the Year, Masa, and New York State Attorney General, Letitia James!

Register for the NYIC Power Gala on June 8 here!

May 14: VCFA’s MFA in Writing & Publishing Faculty Reading feat. Rita Banerjee, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Ariel Francisco, Frances Cannon, Rob Spillman, Tim Horvath, Erin Stalcup, & more * Zoom, 5:30-7:30 pm

Join the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts as they celebrate the end of the 2020-21 school year with a final faculty reading.

The reading will be held on Zoom from 5:30–7:30 pm ET on Friday, May 14, as part of the Alumnx Weekend and Graduation festivities. Faculty readers include Rita Banerjee, Ariel Francisco, Rob Spillman, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Miciah Bay Gault, Erin Stalcup, Frances Cannon, James Scott, Tim Horvath, and Sean Prentiss.

This event is free and open to the public, so join us to hear from our beloved writers and poets!

Join us on Zoom at 5:30 pm EDT!

Rita Banerjee’s essay “Birth of Cool” will be featured on Goddard’s “Bon Mot” Radio Program on 91.1 / 91.7 FM Vermont – February 28, 2021, 5-6:30 pm EST

Rita Banerjee will be be featured on Goddard College’s “Bon Mot” radio program from 5-6:30 pm EST on Sunday, February 28, 2021.  The radio program will air on 91.1 and 91.7 FM Vermont. The show is hosted by Rick Argan, and Banerjee will be be reading from her poetry collection Echo in Four Beats and her essay “Birth of Cool” from her new nonfiction manuscript on race, sex, politics, and cool.  The show can be live-streamed here: http://www.wgdr.org/ or listened to via podcast archive here: http://archive.wgdr.org/

Check our her essay “Birth of Cool” from her new nonfiction book on Hunger Mountain here: https://hungermtn.org/birth-of-cool-rita-banerjee/

Iterant 2 feat. Rita Banerjee’s Poetry & Flash Essay Launches

The Ruth Stone Foundation just launched its second issue of Iterant,  an interactive multi-media poetry and prose journal.  The October 2020 issue of Iterant, “But We Keep Fighting” features the poetry, prose, audio recordings, and art of Anne Carson,  Matthew Zapruder, Timothy Liu, Sharon Olds, Dara Weir, Charles Mason III, and Rita Banerjee among other poets and artists.

Rita Banerjee’s poems “String Theory” and “Sunlight over Reyjkavík” and her essay “Of Delight” are featured in the new issue of Iterant. Check out her writing here, and check out the audio recordings of her poems and prose here.

Here’s is a short excerpt from the poem “String Theory”:

… but like a child learning to speak
or a visitor in a foreign language, I blended the sounds
of their names together. Each hue was a mirage—

a trick of light, a fascination. Each fired
an unpredictable rhythm of cones and cylinders
in the eye. If color was biological, automatic,
mechanical, what sense could the eye hold?

Read more here.

Many thanks to Walter and Bianca Stone for their incredible editorial support and curation of this new issue of Iterant.

Sept 18: VCFA’s MFA in Writing & Publishing Faculty Reading feat. Rita Banerjee, Erin Stalcup, & David Shields * Zoom, 5:30-7:30 pm

VCFA W&P Faculty Reading
feat. Rita Banerjee, Erin Stalcup, & David Shields
Moderators: Rita Banerjee & Stephanie Reich
Friday, September * 5:30 – 7:30 pm EDT

Join via Zoom Online!
Join via Phone: +1 646-876-9923‬ (Meeting ID: 931-1529-9077)

About Our Readers

VCFA MFA in Writing & Publishing faculty Rita BanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She’s the author of several books including CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, 2018), the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (FLP,  2018), which was nominated for the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize at the Academy of American Poets, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (SPR, 2016), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (FLP, 2010). She is the co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2021), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA from the University of Washington, and her work appears in PANK,  Nat. Brut., Isele Magazine, Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, Electric Literature, Iterant, The Nervous Breakdown, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a memoir and manifesto on how young women of color keep their cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure.


David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (recently named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by LitHub), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice). Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention was published in 2018; The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power appeared in 2019. James Franco’s film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, which Shields co-wrote and co-stars in, was released in 2017 (available now on Amazon Prime, iTunes/Apple TV, Vudu, Vimeo, Kanopy, and Google Play). Shields wrote, produced, and directed Lynch: A History, a 2019 documentary about Marshawn Lynch’s use of silence, echo, and mimicry as key tools of resistance (rave reviews in the New YorkerNation, and dozens of other publications; film festival awards all over the world; available soon on Sundance TV/AMC and First Look Media). A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published fiction and nonfiction in the New York Times MagazineHarper’sEsquireYale ReviewSalonSlateTin HouseA Public SpaceMcSweeney’sBelieverHuffington PostLos Angeles Review of Books, and Best American Essays. His work has been translated into two dozen languages.


Erin Stalcup is the author of the story collection And Yet It Moves and the novel Every Living Species. Her fiction has appeared in The Kenyon ReviewThe SunMonkeybicycle, and elsewhere, and her creative nonfiction was listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays. Erin received her MFA from Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers. She has taught in community colleges, universities, and prisons in New York City, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and Vermont, and is the Cofounder of Waxwing and the Editor of Hunger Mountain.