Everything we do

Conceived in the communitarian spirit, the Writers House provides a warm and welcoming home within Penn's pre-professional culture for wild freethinkers, capacious scholars, voracious readers, and creative writers of all styles and stripes. We host an almost outrageous array of writing-related projects, programs, and activities for the Penn and Philadelphia communities: tutoring and literacy outreach projects, reading and writing groups, classes and workshops, book parties and book drives, poetry readings and open mic nights, catered dinners and impromptu coffee klatches. Check out this list:


The 7-Up series is an annual program for which the Writers House invites seven guests to speak for seven minutes each about a topic. Each speaker gives their insight on some aspect of the chosen theme; interesting interpretations and musings always result!

34th Street Poets

For more than ten years, the 34th Street Poets have met weekly to workshop new poems, identifying the strengths in each poem and mapping out possible revisions to improve it. Their work ranges from experimental forms to carefully crafted sonnets. The group is not currently taking new members.

Alumni Mentors Program

This program pairs Penn students with volunteer alumni mentors who work as novelists, editors, publishers, literary agents, screenplay writers for film and television, poets, playwrights, feature writers, humanities teachers in public and private schools, journalists, administrators of arts organizations, university professors, freelance writers, spoken-word performers, arts activists, cartoonists, and in many other capacities.

Alumni Visitors Series

A number of accomplished alumni – poets, fiction writers, editors, screenwriters, journalists – generously lend their wisdom and experience to Penn's current students each semester. These illustrious graduates visit the Writers House to do readings, run workshops, and lead discussions about everything from children's books to contemporary screenwriting. Alumni also work with students after they've left campus, providing advice and guidance to like-minded students via connections we've forged through Writers House. We're especially excited about our innovating on-line discussion group for alumni and student freelance journalists and our (new) opportunity hot-line for students interested in publishing careers. (See our alumni web page for a full list of our alumni partners: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~wh/constituencies/alumni.php.)

Alumni Weekend at the Kelly Writers House

Brodsky Art Gallery

Exhibitions of visual art take place at Writers House during the academic year, from September through May, are typically one month long, and include a reception at some point during the month. We are especially interested in the work of emerging artists. For more information, please contact whweb@writing.upenn.edu.

The Charles Bernheimer symposium

Blutt Singer-Songwriter Symposium

Common Press

The Common Press is the letterpress printing studio at the University of Pennsylvania. The press is a collaboration of interests at Penn, including writing (Kelly Writers House), print culture (the Rare Book and Manuscript Library) and visual arts and design (the School of Design). The facility provides a mixed media environment where students can move between digital and manual image making, collaborating with writers, printmakers and others in the book arts. The Common Press exists to assist in teaching design and to facilitate collaborative projects across the university. It was founded on January 17, 2006, the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth.

Bok Visiting Writers Series

Through a generous endowment gift from Penn alumni Scott (C'81, W'81, L'84) and Roxanne Bok, we are able to invite a remarkable range of writers to the House, year after year. The Bok Visiting Writers Fund allows us to think across literary boundaries and to support and encourage the full breadth of contemporary writing, from translation to digital poetry. Check out our Featured Visitors page for full list of Writers House visitors.


On a regular basis the Writers House, with support from the Vice Provost for University Life (VPUL), the Kelly Writers Housecollaborates with Philadelphia organizations and departments at Penn to create innovative programs that bring together new audiences and communities of writers.

The Eighteenth-Century Reading Group

The Eighteenth Century Reading Group gathers graduate students and faculty to address the cultural productions of the "long 18th century" (Restoration to Romanticism, in essence). Although we concentrate on the literary culture of England, past meetings have covered other cultural forms (trial transcripts, visual arts, music) and other regions (Scotland, Ireland, America, India, Africa). The group is especially dedicated to seminar-style reading and discussion of primary texts, particularly those which are not commonly taught despite their popularity and influence in the period. "I always wanted an excuse to read that" might serve as our unofficial motto. The group meets biweekly, interspersing work-in-progress and speaker visits with primary text discussions. For more information contact Anna Foy or Scott Enderle.

EMERGENCY: poets in dialogue about emergence, influence, and community

Emergency addresses North American poetic practice as it is centered around close-knit communities, long-distance mentorships, new media, and chapbook exchange, asking how theoretical stances and aesthetic practices are transmitted among poets at different stages in their careers. The series was launched in 2006 with support from the Kerry Sherin Wright Prize for programming at Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia, an award designed to support a project that demonstrates aesthetic capaciousness and literary communitarianism. All readings are held at the Writers House and are available online at PennSound. More information about the series is available on the blog at: http://emergency-reading.blogspot.com/

End of Year Party

Each spring, towards the end of the semester, the Hub comes together at the Writers House to celebrate another year gone by. We toast and roast old friends and we welcome new ones, we send those who are leaving us off with style and aplomb. We fire up the grill, we drink wine (only if we're 21!), and we laugh and cry with our friends, and recognize each and every hub member's contribution to this incredible Writers House project.

The Cheryl J. Family fiction program

Featured Visitors

The featured visitors who come to the Kelly Writers House are at the core of our program and our community here. Poets, fiction writers, editors, composers, publishers, painters, musicians, literary agents, screenwriters, essayists, playwrights, journalists: all of these visitors have entered the House. Guests perform from their writing, engage readers in conversation about art and aesthetics, politics and history, offer advice and encouragement to young and emerging writers, and, when we are lucky, join us for dinner. We're grateful to these visitors for their time and their work.


The Writers House offers several internship and fellowship opportunities for eligible Penn students. For more information see here: http://writing.upenn.edu/wh/involved/awards.

Jabberwocky: Writing for Children

Interested in writing for kids -- stories, poetry, picture books? Jabberwocky will bring together all those interested in writing, illustrating, or otherwise being involved in the world of literature for children. If you've ever considered writing for kids, come check out Jabberwocky! For more information email Tracy Byford at tbyford@sas.upenn.edu.

The Sylvia W. Kauders lunch series

Lacan Study Group

The Philadelphia Lacan Study Group & Seminar has been meeting since 1989. It is an open seminar devoted to the discussion of Lacan's main ideas and their application to broader clinical, social, and cultural issues. It functions by discussions of individual texts and presentations by internationally distinguished guest speakers. The Philadelphia Lacan aims to foster an atmosphere of collective work by which to advance Lacanian theory and practice. All are welcome.

Project Director: Patricia Gherovici

LIVE at the Writers House

Approximately once a month, the Writers House airs a one-hour broadcast of poetry, music, and other spoken-word art -- directly from our living room onto the airwaves at WXPN, 88.5 FM! Check the WH Calendar for dates when the show will air.


The New Machine, co-sponsored by the Electronic Literature Organization, is a series that showcases the many literary uses of the computer.

Mind of Winter

In January of every year, the Writers House Planning Committee embraces the post-holiday doldrums with a celebration of winter's comforts, inspired by Wallace Stevens's chilly poem, "The Snow Man." We gather here at the Writers House, stoke a big fire in the parlor, simmer several big pots of soups and stews, and share our favorite winter-themed readings with one another. Let it snow!

"Mods": Twentieth Century Reading Group

A discussion group composed of graduate students and others across the disciplines who are concerned with modernism.

Penn and Pencil Club

A creative writing workshop for Penn and Health Systems Staff. If you're a Penn employee and want to work on your creative writing, contact John Shea at john.shea@uphs.upenn.edu.


PennUmbra is a workshop group for writers interested in writing and sharing fantasy and science fiction. For more information contact wh@writing.upenn.edu.

The Play's the Thing

An exploration of the genre of play writing through an open-ended reading and discussion group. For more information, contact Christine (plays.2006@hotmail.com).


A writing group for professional, graduate, and post-graduate fiction writers looking for a writing community to workshop their work, with an eye towards publication. Contact Sam Allingham (sallingh@gmail.com) for more info.

Robinson Press

The Robinson Press is an imprint project named to help us imagine an extra room beyond our 14-room cottage. In the two years since the project's inception, we have initiated two broadside series - one which features the work of our visiting poets and one, called the "Hub Series," which features the work of our community members. We have learned to design our projects, hand-set movable type, ink and clean the presses, and hand-print the final product. Every year we also collaborate with our partners at the Common Press for special press workshops and embark upon larger limited-editions projects.

Caroline Rothstein Oral Poetry series

In honor of their daughter Caroline, whose longstanding presence and participation in Penn's spoken-word community helped inspire a resurgence of oral poetry on campus, Steven and Nancy Rothstein (CW'75) established a fund to support an annual oral poetry program at the Writers House. Each year we host a program or project featuring oral poetry in one of its many forms: spoken-word, slam, or sound poetry, to name only a few possibilities.

Senior Capstone Programs

Each mid-May, we celebrate graduating seniors who have been closely affiliated with the Writers House community. The names of the celebrated seniors below are links to downloadable MP3 recordings of the seniors' comments, reading or performance, preceded by an introduction given by the Faculty Director, Director, or another key member of the Writers House staff. Attending our "capstone" program are the families and friends of the seniors--a joyous occasion for the community, truly.


An open microphone night. All types of readings are welcome, original or not.

Suppose An Eyes

A poetry working group where poets can come to share and discuss their work. Open to all. Contact Pat Green at patricia78@aol.com.


An interdisciplinary lecture series highlighting current methods of cultural analysis and criticism. Each evening is roughly formatted around a 50 minute presentation and a half-hour question-and-answer session followed by informal discussion and refreshments.

Virginia Woolf Discussion Group

For Virginia Woolf, the politics is in the writing. With this in mind, our discussions will focus on Woolf's language and how it functions in her texts. Specific works will be chosen by the group after our first meeting. At this meeting we'll discuss her essay-writing practice, and focus on her 1940 essay: "Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid." This essay - quite relevant to our world today - is available online, or in Virginia Woolf's /The Death of the Moth. / The discussion will range from Michel de Montaigne to the Dixie Chicks.

Group leader Judith Allen holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Delaware. A Virginia Woolf scholar, she has taught at the University of Delaware, Penn State University, and Penn's College of General Studies. She has published articles on the writings of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, and is currently writing a book on Virginia Woolf and language.


Via digital video broadcast in the Arts Cafe, writers and critics discuss poetry, while participants anywhere can "tune in" through synchronous RealVideo image-and-sound on the web. The first program, July 8, 1999, presented a discussion of William Carlos Williams' "To Elsie." The second program, September 18, featured a reading by and celebration of Shawn Walker's book of poems (the recording of the live webcast can be heard here). For other WH webcasts with writers such as Laurie Anderson and David McCullough, visit the Writers House's webcast page.

Writers House Fellows

Since 1999, the Writers House Fellows program has brought some of the most eminent contemporary writers to the Kelly Writers House. Each Fellow spends two days at the Writers House, meeting with undergraduates in the Kelly Writers House Fellows seminar (led by Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis), giving a public reading, and participating in an interview/conversation which is webcast live worldwide. Funded by a generous grant from Paul Kelly (W'62), the Fellows program enables us to realize two unique goals. First, it allows students (many of them writers themselves) to have sustained and substantive contact with authors of great accomplishment in an informal setting. Second, the program makes it possible for us to connect the traditional study of literature, typically the domain of classroom critical analysis, to open, public dialogue with the authors themselves, which actualizes the experience of great writing. Past Writers House Fellows have included Susan Sontag, Robert Creeley, June Jordan, David Sedaris, Donald Hall, E.L. Doctorow, Richard Ford, Jamaica Kincaid, Grace Paley and Art Spiegelman. For much more on the Writers House Fellows program, see http://writing.upenn.edu/wh/people/fellows/.

Writers House New York

Once a year since 2002, Susan and Louis Meisel have sponsored a benefit at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery at 141 Prince St. in SoHo to raise money in support of the Kelly Writers House Young and Emerging Writers Fund.

Writers without Borders

"Writers without Borders" features writers from around the world whose fiction, drama, poetry, memoir, journalism, and performance art demand an international - and, what's more, a globally minded - readership and response. Through this ongoing series, Penn's provost, Ron Daniels, has challenged the students and faculty who form the literary community at the Kelly Writers House to bring to the intimate cottage at 3805 Locust writers whose voices - whether because of regional unrest, cultural turmoil, aesthetic misunderstanding, the difficulty of travel, problems of translation, etc. - have not been much heard here.

Writers Workshop

For writers, published or working in that direction, interested in sharing their stories while giving and receiving feedback. This is a mixed genre group -- fiction writers, memoirists, creative nonfiction writers and essayists. Writing is submitted via the Internet, but critiqued in person using a traditional writers workshop format with scheduled meetings. For more information, please contact Martha Turner at m-turner@verizon.net.



A community-based genre-friendly writing club, where a group of writers conceive pieces based on, inspired by, or in spite of a suggested piece, topic, or stylistic model. Members of the group will share their pieces (but may choose not to) and will benefit from the constructive critique of the group. The group hopes to see a publication at the end of the year, as the culmination of its members' works. For more information contact Alicia Oltuski at Licicom@aol.com

A Closer Look

A lecture series devoted to providing faculty members and students with the oppurtunity to lecture about a subject of interest to them within film studies. Topics may span any area within film history or theory. If you are interested in lecturing, or would like to learn more about the program, please contact Leslie Davison at ldavison@sas.upenn.edu.

The Compass

The Compass is an informal discussion group that meets weekly to discuss a literary, political, or philosophical idea. Past topics have included "Tourist vs Traveler," "The Perfect Gift," and "Democratic Peace." For more information, please email Ari Paul at apaul@sas.upenn.edu.

The Donne Reading Group (Spring 2003)

Inspired by the work of John Donne through a Penn English course, several Writers House regulars thought to continue their study of Donne by creating a reading group at the Kelly Writers House. Thus, the Donne Reading Group, dedicated to reading about and from John Donne, was born (in January 2003).

Dystopia (1998-1999)

The Ethnographic Writing Workshop Series

Cosponsored by the Critical Writing Program and the Center for Folklore and Ethnography, this series brings distinguished ethnographers to the Writers House for a series of workshops exploring the process and practice of writing ethnography. Intended for graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania who are learning to use ethnography as a scholarly tool, the series will explore issues such as identifying and engaging your readers in your fieldwork and critical reflections on society; crafting and contextualizing your stories; and traversing the harrowing gap between critical theory and the vernacular. We will also be considering ethnography as a genre of writing with perhaps its own poetics. Along with presenting facets of their work and discussing their approaches to writing, our guests will ask participants to bring their own data to the workshops where it will be used in guided exercises and critique in the practice of ethnographic writing. For more information contact Veronica Aplenc at vaplenc@sas.upenn.edu; for a full list of the 2004-2005 workshops, click here.

Fiction Manuscript Writers Workshop

The Fiction Manuscript Workshop is an opportunity for six serious writers in the Penn community to receive thorough critiques of their work from fellow group members. It is expected that each author will read and comment on each other member's manuscript. The group will meet on Thursdays in the Spring of 2003 (March 20, April 10, 17 and 24) from 4:30-6:30 PM. For more information, contact Jeff Phillips.

Gay Talese Lecture Series

The annual Gay Talese Lecture Series was conceived of and is supported by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) in conjunction with the Kelly Writers House. Each year for five years, beginning in 2000, the National Italian American Foundation will sponsor one public performance by an Italian American author of note, to be held at the Kelly Writers House.


A poetry workshop for members of the Planning Committee.

In Words: A Journaling Group

In Words is a group that practices journaling as a community. It is a really fun and informal way to share all kinds of impromptu writing with others. Everyone is welcome. For more information, please contact wh@writing.upenn.edu.

Laughing Hermit Reading Series

Organized by poet and photographer Robin Hiteshew, the Laughing Hermit Reading Series brings poets to the Writers House on Saturday afternoons throughout the year. The 2001-2002 series includes Leslie McIlroy, Aaren Yeats Perry, Alicia Askenase, Panna Niak, Almitra David, Lia Purpura, Anne Colwell, Martha Rhodes, Cheryl Baldi, Moira Burns, Nancy Mitchell, Mary Brownell, David Dodd Lee, and Sean Thomas Dougherty.

Local Spotlight Series (2001-2002)

This series brings in local writers, highlighting the many distinct voices participating in the Philadelphia writing scene.

Manuck! Manuck! A Fiction Writing Group

Manuck! Manuck! is a FICTION writing group that specializes in short fiction. The purpose of the group is to encourage the members of the group to write the best fiction that they possibly can. We feel that a good way to do this is to read, think about, and discuss good fiction. Our discussions often extend beyond the story we are critiquing to encompass theories of what makes great writing great. For more information about this group, please contact Fred Ollinger at follinge@piconap.com.

Mellon Writing Group

The Mellon Writing Groups offer students an experimental, alternative means of satisfying the writing requirement in the School of Arts and Sciences without taking a writing course. This option frees up a course that students might want to devote to fulfilling other requirements or to an elective subject of their choice. These year-long electronic writing workshops bring small groups of students together with a graduate facilitator and faculty mentors to investigate a variety of genres of writing, learn about the conventions of writing in different fields, collaborate on short writing exercises, discuss and review papers written for different classes, and participate in activities sponsored by the Kelly Writers House. Ideas generated by the Writing Groups will apply to a range of courses and help students write effectively for all of their classes.

The New Thing: Perspectives in Jazz Criticism

Co-sponsored by the Ars Nova Workshop, "The New Thing" is a series featuring the jazz avant-garde and the music of John Coltrane.

Nonfiction Writers Group

A workshop open to writers of books, articles for magazines or newspapers, and professional journals. For more information, contact wh@writing.upenn.edu.

The Penn Gastronomic Society

Penn Gastronomic Society's goal is to create an educational and enriching environment for those Penn students who are passionate about gastronomy, through reading, discussion, cooking, and extraordinary events. We hope to have prominent guest speakers and demonstrators, eat out at restaurants, cook for the Kelly Writers House dinners, and much more. For more information, please contact Laura (laurabl@sas.upenn.edu).


A dialogue with contemporary poets. Its newsletter will feature responses by two poets, each to the other's poetry; it will be available on-line and in hard copy at least one week prior to the event. Philly Talks, the event, will present both a reading by the poets and a panel discussion. The panel format is an invitation to extend the conversation together.

The Poet and Painter Series

In collaboration with The School of Design, Penn's Creative Writing Program and the Kelly Writers House the Poet Painter Series is a program where distinguished poets and painters known for their collaborative work present slides talks, poetry readings, discussions, and critique graduate students in their studios. Recent participants have included, Bill Berkson, Kenward Elmslie, Yvonne Jacquette, Maureen Owen, Ron Padgett, George Schneeman, Trevor Winkfield, John Yau, and Geoff Young.

Reality Writes

Reality Writes is a workshop dedicated to sharing and workshopping creative nonfiction.

Sangria: An Artists Group

Open to artists from all the art disciplines, Sangria is an open stage to present and discuss our works, as well as to discuss artistic and political/intellectual issues, to meet other artsts from different fields of arts and to create collaborative works together.

Sharing Our Songs: SOS

Are you a closeted songwriter? Lusty Lyricist? Speechless Mandolin Virtuoso? Open Mic Maven? Full-fledged rockstar? Then think about joining the Kelly Writers House Songwriting Workshop Group! The group will structure itself around the needs of its members. Use it as you see fit! Test out songs; discuss issues of genre, technique, and craft; and -- most importantly -- listen and learn from fellow songwriters. (Bring your instrument if you have one!) Students, faculty, staff, and community members -- from any genre -- all welcome! For more information, contact Dan Fishback at fishback@sas.upenn.edu.


Stylus is a brand new fiction writing group that is seeking new members. It is open to all literary genres (from fantasy and mystery to literary fiction) and all undergraduates. If you have an interest in creative writing and sharing your work with other likeminded writers, please email Sam (samuelmf@sas.upenn.edu).

Talking Film

A student-run film series that brings Penn alumni and others involved in the film industry back to campus, so they can share their insights with the University's current film community. For more information, contact Wesley Barrow at barrow@seas.upenn.edu.

The Virgin Quintet

Thursdays at the Writers House: A West Philadelphia-based jazz ensemble that performs original compositions as well as reinterpretations of a classic jazz repertoire.

Women's Studies/Kelly Writers House collaboration 1999-2000


Word.Doc aims to gather undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and anyone who is interested in writing and narrative medicine to discuss and experience the ways in which medicine, narrative, literature and art inform one another in creative and useful ways. Through writing, sharing and discussing our own narratives, art and ideas in the informal, intellectually-stimulating space of the Kelly Writers House, we explore how narrative, art and medicine connect in our own lives and how we might be able to make use of these relationships. Word.Doc is especially dedicated to open, seminar-style reading and discussion groups for interested students, faculty and affiliates from across the university. Members of Word.Doc will join a listserv and are invited and encouraged to participate in our discussion groups, which will be held at 6:00pm in the Arts Cafe of the Kelly Writers House, and to join us for our other featured events, guest presentations and programs!

Workshop in Curatorial Practices

"Curatorial practices" encompasses an important sphere of the "visual arts". Being a curator offers a diverse range of possibilities of how to involve oneself in, and define one's relationship to, art and culture. This combined internship/workshop will explore basic exhibition presentation (how to present/hang a show), "fieldwork" (visiting artist studios, working with artists on the shaping of their exhibit, seeing/analysing other events and meeting other people in the arts), an interactive discussion forum that will explore art historical, theoretical, and practical concerns confronting contemporary art, and administration/public relations. As time and participant interests permit, there will also be opportunities for informal video art screenings at the Writers House, and reading and discussion of writings in contemporary art and aesthetic theory and practice. This is an extracurricular workshop taking place during the Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 semesters. For information, please contact Peter Schwarz at hschwarz@sas.upenn.edu

Young Authors Club

Formerly the After-school Reading Cooperative, the Young Authors Club is an after-school activity for budding young poets and writers of all kinds. We work with the Penn Alexander School at 43rd and Locust Streets. Penn student volunteers meet once a week with second graders to share the wonderful world of children's literature. This program aims to introduce young authors to the basics of poetics and to encourage them to find their own creative means of expression.