Current Groups

Discussion Group 127: April 7 – 16, 2021

Mohana Ravindranath: Topics in science and tech reporting

How does the media bring complex topics to the public's attention — and how can we do better? We'll look at (and listen to) several examples of tech and science reporting over the past several months, spanning from critical takes on Big Tech hegemony to publications' attempts to communicate Covid-19 risks and the science of vaccines in a rapidly evolving public health emergency. We'll talk about what worked, what didn't, and the types of media, sources and reporting styles that are especially well-suited for making complex topics more digestible.

Mohana Ravindranath reports on health, technology and policy for POLITICO, where she's especially interested in the ways artificial intelligence, apps and the Internet are changing health care — for better and for worse. She won a Jesse H. Neal award for her reporting on federal technology at Nextgov, and previously reported on small business and startups for The Washington Post. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012.

Discussion Group 128: April 19 – 28, 2021

Annie Fang: Women are Revolting! Exploring Womanhood with Fefu and Her Friends

Fefu and her husband like to play a game - he'll be minding his own business, and she'll shoot at him with a shotgun. What is up with Fefu, and who are her friends?? In this group, we will try to find out! Fefu and Her Friends is an Obie-award-winning play written by the late and great María Irene Fornés. Exploring romance, friendship, society, and personal demons, this play is a charming yet mysterious study of characters and the world they inhabit. While the play is often touted as an early feminist work, we will expand our focus beyond the characters as archetypes, while considering its dramatic innovation, contemporary relevance, and whatever else readers bring to the table. Materials include the main text, an interview with the playwright, and production reviews (all easily accessible/provided). It's a play, so let's play!

Annie Fang is an actor, singer, and aspiring dumpling-pleating expert based in Philadelphia. Most recently, she appeared virtually in This Is the Week That Is (1812 Productions). Pre-pandemic, Annie made her professional debut in Man of God (InterAct Theatre), followed by SHIP (Azuka Theatre). She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 with a BA in Economics. She's excited to get involved with KWH again!

Discussion Group 129: May 17 – 27, 2021

David Roberts and Al Filreis: Three short stories: Beattie, Carver and Chekov

This beloved annual group discuss and compare three short stories: Anton Chekov's "The Lady with the Dog," Raymond Carver's "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" and Ann Beattie's "Janus." Texts of the stories will be provided to participants of the group. Each story will be discussed on its own, yet each discussion will help shape how we read and make sense of the other stories. If you are intrigued by the variable form of the short story—even if the three writers are unfamiliar to you—this is great group for you!

Al Filreis is Kelly Professor of English, Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, Co-Director of PennSound, Publisher of Jacket2 magazine, and creator and lead teacher of ModPo, a massive open online course on modern and contemporary American poetry. Among his books are Modernism from Right to Left, Stevens and the Actual World, and Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-60.

David Roberts is a member of the Kelly Writers House Advisory Board, a denizen of the KWH book groups and when he is not reading, works in Manhattan in the investment business. He is a 1983 graduate of the University Of Pennsylvania.

Discussion Group 130: June 7 – 16, 2021

Dylan Leahy: "I Wish I Knew How To Quit You": Brokeback Mountain and its Legacy

This group will focus on Brokeback Mountain, the short story (1997) and its eventual film adaptation (2005). We will begin by focusing on the award-winning short story by Annie Proulx and chart its path to the "gay cowboy movie" directed by a Taiwanese filmmaker that become an Oscar front runner and box office smash in the middle of the (W.) Bush presidency. Much of our time will be spent examining the works themselves but I also hope to explore the complicated legacy of what is arguably the most famous "gay film" in American history. We will also cover some supplemental readings on queer history, gay cowboys, and hopefully a more contemporary film or two that directly grapple with the same themes that Brokeback Mountain does.

What do we make of this acclaimed gay story conceived and written by a straight woman? Of a film adaptation of that story directed, written by, and starring straight men? Of that film's eventual cultural impact and role in defining contemporary gay cinema? Is Proulx guilty of "burying her gays?" Was it only able to achieve such success because of its ultimately tragic ending? What's the deal with all of Lee's long shots of mountainsides while sad guitars twang? Which actor was most robbed by the Academy at the 2006 Oscars? All these questions and more will be tackled in our discussion!

The film and short story are both widely available online and all other supplemental materials will be easily accessible as well (as a pdf if not easily linked).

Dylan Leahy is a writer from Central Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a B.A. in Cinema Studies. Many of his fondest college memories happened at KWH. One of these days he will get around to publishing a short story, he swears.

Prospective Student Group: June 21 - June 30, 2021

Jamie-Lee Josselyn: Narrating Your Self: an exploration of writing by Penn faculty

**For Prospective Students Only!** preference given to rising high school seniors; please write to whbook@writing.upenn.edu for more details

How do writers create and render themselves on the page? Is it the writer's job to transport her reader into an alternate time and place through the creation of scenes and the genesis of thoughtful reflection, or, instead, to make her reader aware of the constructed nature of writing itself? Is it possible—or even preferable—to achieve all of this at once? We will spend the first part of our time together looking at excerpts from beloved Penn nonfiction writing instructor Beth Kephart's recent book, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir to give ourselves a framework through which to consider personal narrative writing. Next, we will read and discuss excerpts from memoirs by Lorene Cary and Paul Hendrickson who are also much-loved nonfiction writing teachers at Penn. Just when things start to make sense, we will transition to writing by Kenneth Goldsmith, who is called "experimental" by some and "uncreative" by others—and who is also a key member of the Kelly Writers House community.

This special 10-day group is a chance for prospective undergraduates to read and think together while exploring the amazing variety of writers who teach in our Creative Writing Program. Consider this a glimpse into what four years at Penn can be.

Jamie-Lee Josselyn is the Associate Director for Recruitment at Penn's Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, a nonfiction writing instructor in the Creative Writing Program, and has worked at the Kelly Writers House as the Assistant to the Faculty Director and Coordinator of the Writers House Fellows Program. She has taught creative nonfiction writing at St. Paul's School's Advanced Studies Program in Concord, New Hampshire, at the Wharton School's Advanced Management Education Conference, at the New England Young Writers Conference, and in the Philadelphia public school system. Jamie-Lee has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from Bennington College where she was the nonfiction editor of The Bennington Review. Jamie-Lee is currently a Senior Fellow at Penn's Hill College House.