Albert weaves a dark comedy on young motherhood

Elisa Albert

RENSSELAERVILLE — Elisa Albert, who describes herself as a Los Angeles transplant, will be reading from her soon-to-be released novel, After Birth, at the Festival of Writers.

The annual Festival of Writers, in Rensselaerville, from Aug. 15 to 17, will feature national and Capital Region authors, readings, workshops, children’s programs, and more.

Albert will give a reading on Saturday, Aug. 16., at noon, in Conkling Hall.

Her novel, which is set to be published in February, is a “dark comedy” about a friendship between two women with very small children, and their struggles in early motherhood. It is set in a fictional college town in upstate New York.

“It’s not a memoir,” Albert clarified, although she said the impetus for the novel was her own experience as a relatively new mother, moving to a new town.

She moved to Albany from Los Angeles, when her husband, also a writer, became a professor at the University at Albany.

“I was just kind of obsessed with the dynamics of motherhood, and what women go through during birth and thereafter, with their changing roles and relationships, etcetera,” said Albert.

Writing the book, while raising a young son, was a bit of a struggle, she admitted.

“The house may not be clean and I’m not baking fresh bread all the time,” she said. “But, I have a great support system in my family and friends.”

After Birth is Albert’s second novel; she has also published a book of short stories.

“I always wanted to write, and I always loved books,” she said. “I consumed books with a ravenous hunger when I was younger.”

Albert said she experimented with different types of writing in college and settled on fiction when she attended Columbia University to get her master’s degree in fine arts.

“My writing continued to evolve from there,” she said.

She and her husband, Ed Scharzschild, met at a book event in New York City.

“It’s fun being married to another writer,” she said. “We kind of get each other’s struggles and can support each other and give each other space when we need it.”

Scharzschild will also be reading from one of his novels at the Festival of Writers.

“We haven’t attended the festival before, but I love the idea of it, and I love Rensselaerville,” said Albert. “It is always fun to be in that kind of environment with fellow writers.”

Festival details

This summer marks the fifth celebration of the Festival of Writers.

The festival has grown considerably since its inception in 2009, said spokesman Mark Lewis.

In 2011, it won the Upper Hudson Library System’s Program of the Year award.

The “acclaimed celebration of arts and literature” takes place at a variety of venues throughout the Helderberg hamlet, including the Huyck Preserve and Conkling Hall.

The event begins with an author reception, on the first day, and ends with readings by the winners of a juried competition of writers from the Capital Region and Hudson Valley, on the last day.

Featured local writers at this year’s festival include:

Norman G. Cohen, a Delmar resident, who has published eight works, including fables, children’s literature, and poetry;

John Worth Gordon, a retired United States Air Force veteran, who lives and works on a farm in Livingstonville;

Howard J. Kogan, a psychotherapist living and working in the Taconic Mountains;

Diane Kavanaugh-Black, whose work appears, along with original photographs, on a blog;

Mary Armao McCarthy, of Albany, who is published in various anthologies and periodicals;

Irene Mitchell, a long-time teacher of writing and a poetry editor; and

Barbara Louise Ungar, a professor of English at The College of Saint Rose, and author of three collections of poetry.

National writers include Olivia Bouler, Joann and Arielle Eckstut, Gail Godwin, Pat Hanson, Ellen Larson, Eugene Lindon, Eugene Mirabelli, Stephen O’Connor, Scott Oglesby, Shin Yu Pai, and Ann Stoney.

All proceeds of the festival will benefit the historic Rensselaerville Library.

For full details and to buy tickets, visit www.festivalofwriters.org. 

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