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UT Austin Creates Writers’ Retreat at Former John Steinbeck Home

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Steinbeck House
Photo credit: Sotheby’s International Realty. The residence, located in Sag Harbor, NY, consists of John Steinbeck's former three-bedroom home and 1.25 acres of waterfront property. Steinbeck won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for “The Grapes of Wrath” and the 1962 Nobel Prize in literature.

AUSTIN, Texas — One of the top creative writing programs in the world, The University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center for Writers, is establishing a retreat for internationally known writers at the Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck’s former residence in Sag Harbor, New York.

A collaboration with the Sag Harbor Partnership, the Township of Southampton and the New York State Assembly and heirs of the Steinbeck estate, the Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat will preserve the legacy of the author’s work and home, provide a residence where writers can work, create opportunities for students, and foster engagement with the Sag Harbor and UT communities.

“The Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat will allow writers the breathing room to unlock their creativity in one of the most inspiring settings on the East Coast as they walk in the steps of one of time’s greatest authors, John Steinbeck,” said UT President Jay Hartzell. “This immersive in-residence program will benefit students, past and present, and broader society. We are grateful to the late Elaine Steinbeck and her heirs who have donated the John Steinbeck Collection to her alma mater and recommended UT’s Michener Center to operate this retreat that will allow writers to pursue ambitious work for generations to come.”

While in residence, writers will live and write in Steinbeck’s former home, where he wrote his final two books and learned that he had won the Nobel Prize. During their stays, writers will also deliver public readings, workshops or other events in the Sag Harbor community and participate in programming with Michener Center students on the UT campus.

Residencies will be offered to writers of fiction, poetry, plays and scripts at different stages of their careers — including both established and promising, emerging writers. Additionally, residencies will be offered to alumni of the Michener Center for Writers.

“During his lifetime, John Steinbeck was committed to supporting young writers and enabling them to succeed,” said Bret Johnston, director of the Michener Center and Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat. “The Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat will continue Steinbeck’s legacy and offer Michener Center alumni an unparalleled resource among creative writing programs.”

The partnership builds upon the University’s existing academic ties to the Steinbeck estate. The Harry Ransom Center is home to the John Steinbeck Collection, which provides the author’s archives of articles, novels, short stories and correspondence for scholars and the public.

John Steinbeck’s wife Elaine Anderson Steinbeck was born in Austin and studied drama at UT Austin. Later, she was instrumental in establishing the John Steinbeck Collection at the Ransom Center.

The first visiting author to stay at the Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat will be Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and playwright Ayad Akhtar, whose work has been published and performed in more than two dozen languages. He is the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama for “Disgraced” and recipient of the 2021 American Book Award for “Homeland Elegies.” Akhtar was named the New York State Author, succeeding Sag Harbor native son Colson Whitehead, by the New York State Writers Institute in 2021.

The University has received donations for startup funding for the Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat and is now fundraising to establish an endowment to support the retreat, including funds for fellowships, operating costs and property expenses.