Annual programs

Alumni Weekend

May 14, 2016: OPEN HOUSE (20 YEARS!)

The Kelly Writers House is 20 years old! We had a casual celebration of this lively and innovative home for writers and creative people, with plenty of food, KWH alumni and friends, and opportunities to reminisce. We opened up the Wexler Recording Studio, so that you could record your own memories in honor of our 20th year. We loved hearing from you as you renewed acquaintances or got to know this home for writers by joining members of the Writers House community for informal conversation and coffee.


May 14, 2016: 20 STORIES ABOUT 20 YEARS AT KWH

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we invited 20 people to speak about the history and impact of the Kelly Writers House and its community. Our program featured former program coordinators and directors, Penn alumni and friends, and 20 people from throughout the history of KWH who shared their stories. During the reception that followed, we opened up the Wexler Recording Studio, so that you too could record your memories in honor of our 20th year.


May 15, 2015: SO YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY: Andy Wolk (C'70)

How many times have you been to the movies and thought, "I could do that"? Have you ever thought, "I have a movie in me I want to see on the big screen"? Well, this participatory Kelly Writers House workshop helped to launch you into the movies. Or at least learning about them. We dealt with how you can come to grips with developing a screen story, structuring it, writing it, and hopefully selling it.

Andy Wolk’s writing/directing career began with the much-lauded HBO movie Criminal Justice starring Forest Whitaker that made Time Magazine’s “Ten Best” List. Mr. Wolk has been nominated 3 times for the Writers Guild Award and won it once for Natica Jackson starring Michelle Pfeiffer. He has been nominated for the Director's Guild Award several times and has directed numerous episodes of shows such as The Sopranos, Damages,NYPD Blue, Criminal Minds, Without A Trace and The Practice. He has been writer and director on many legal-themed movies including Deliberate Intent, the critically praised 1st movie ever for FX starring Timothy Hutton and (with his brother Peter, also a Penn grad) the acclaimed Fighting The Odds for Lifetime, The Defenders: Payback, Choice of Evils and Taking The First for Showtime. Mr. Wolk’s other writing credits include HBO’s Emmy-winning From The Earth to The Moon and the award-winning Tales from The Crypt starring Demi Moore. He has written features for Miramax, Paramount,Tri-Star, UA, MGM, Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, and AVCO Embassy plus pilots for Fox, ABC, and Showtime.

May 17, 2014: Greg Djanikian and Matt Chylak

Born in Alexandria, Egypt of Armenian parentage, Gregory Djanikian came to the United States when he was 8 years old and spent his boyhood in Williamsport, PA. He is a graduate of the Syracuse University writing program and is Director of Creative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania where he was an undergraduate. He is the author of six collections of poetry, The Man in the Middle, Falling Deeply into America, About Distance, Years Later, So I Will Till the Ground, and, most recently, Dear Gravity. He has been awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, two prizes from Poetry magazine (the Eunice Tietjens Prize, and Friends of Literature Prize), the Anahid Literary Award from the Armenian Center at Columbia University, and multiple residencies at Yaddo. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The American Scholar, Boulevard, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies including Best American Poetry, Good Poems, American Places (Viking), Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem (Knopf), Seriously Funny (Georgia), Becoming Americas: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing (Library of America), Poem in Your Pocket (The Academy of American Poets), Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (Norton), 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day (Random House), among others.

Matthew Chylak is a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned honors in Creative Writing for his poetry collection Selections from 11:37, a series of poems that explore the nature. He currently resides in Center City, working on new poetry projects and writing for his music blog Context Blues

May 11, 2013: Nick Spitzer

Nick Spitzer, the producer and host of American Routes, is a folklorist and a professor of anthropology and American studies at Tulane University. Nick specializes in American music and the cultures of the Gulf South, and received a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas in 1986 with his dissertation on zydeco music and Afro-French Louisiana culture and identities.

American Routes, which is distributed by PRX, reaches nearly a million listeners each week on over 268 stations and via its website.

Nick has been a cultural commentator and producer for NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air, CBS’ Sunday Morning, and ABC’s Nightline. He directed the film Zydeco: Creole Music and Culture in Rural Louisiana (1986), and has produced or annotated two dozen documentary sound recordings. In 2002 he co-curated ‘Raised to the Trade’: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He is an essayist and co-editor for the book Public Folklore (1992, 2007) and co-author of Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul (2006).

Nick’s radio experience goes back to the 1970s, when he served first as program director of WXPN-FM, the college radio station at Penn in Philadelphia, where he majored in anthropology. After graduation, he was afternoon drive host on the popular “underground” rock station WMMR-FM in Philadelphia, and later worked as a deejay on the legendary progressive country station KOKE-FM during the early boom days of the Austin music scene.

His interests include ethnography of the Gulf Coast, cultural creolization, American vernacular music/culture, and public cultural policy. Nick received a Guggenheim fellowship for work on traditional creativity in Louisiana Creole communities.

May 12, 2012: A live taping of Slate Magazine's "Hang Up and Listen" featuring Stefan Fatsis (C'85), Josh Levin, and Mike Pesca

"Hang Up and Listen", Slate's weekly audio sports podcast, combines all the passion, arcane knowledge and armchair quarterbacking of mainstream sports talk shows with an intellectual curiosity that appeals to both rabid sports fans and those who barely pay attention to the Super Bowl. Each 50-minute episode features three panelists: Slate sports editor Josh Levin, and regular NPR sports contributors Stefan Fatsis (C'85) and Mike Pesca. Frequently joined by guests from other publications and broadcast outlets, the hosts cover a wide range of topics including international and mainstream American sports, the business of sports, and less well-known games and teams. To listen to past episodes of Hang Up and Listen, please visit: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/hang_up_and_listen.html.

Josh Levin is a senior editor at Slate in charge of the sports and technology sections, and the host of "Hang Up and Listen", the magazine's weekly sports podcast featuring Stefan Fatsis and Mike Pesca. He has written more than 200 articles for Slate, and has also contributed to the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, Men's Health, the San Francisco Chronicle, Play: The New York Times Sports Magazine, and the Washington City Paper.

Stefan Fatsis (C'85) is an author, reporter and familiar voice to public-radio listeners nationwide. He has written three books: A Few Seconds of Panic: A Sportswriter Plays in the NFL, the Plimptonian story of his summer as a training-camp placekicker for the Denver Broncos; Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, chronicling the twisted subculture of the quintessentially American board game and the author's descent into it; and Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America's Heartland, about a troupe of antiestablishment baseball entrepreneurs and their nose-thumbing creation, the Northern League. Fatsis is a panelist on Slate's sports podcast "Hang Up and Listen," and writes regularly for the magazine. He also has written for the New York Times, that paper's (sadly defunct) Play magazine, Sports Illustrated, SI.com, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Deadspin, Kissing Suzy Kolber and other publications.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City. Pesca enjoys training his microphone on anything that occurs at a track, arena, stadium, park, fronton, velodrome or air strip (i.e. the plane drag during the World's Strongest Man competition). He has reported from Los Angeles, Cleveland and Gary. He has also interviewed former Los Angeles Ram Cleveland Gary. Pesca is a panelist on the weekly Slate podcast "Hang up and Listen". Pesca, whose writing has appeared in Slate and The Washington Post, is the winner of two Edward R. Murrow awards for radio reporting and, in 1993, was named Emory University Softball Official of the Year.

May 14, 2011: Jennifer Egan & Sam Donsky

Jennifer Egan is the author of The Invisible Circus, which was released as a feature film by Fine Line in 2001, Emerald City and Other Stories, Look at Me, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2001, and the bestselling The Keep. Her new book, A Visit From the Goon Squad, was published in June 2010. Also a journalist, she writes frequently in the New York Times Magazine.

Sam Donsky (C'07) is a second-year student at Penn Law School. He has been involved with Kelly Writers House since 2003 and first shared the KWH podium with Jennifer Egan in May 2005. Donsky's first poetry manuscript, Poems vs. the Volcano, is a collection of 100 poems – one for each movie that he has seen since graduating from college.

May 15, 2010: Beth Kephart & Alice Elliott Dark

Beth Kephart is the author of ten books, including the National Book Award finalist, A Slant of Sun (1998, W.W. Norton and Company); the BookSense pick, Ghosts in the Garden (2005, New World Library); the autobiography of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, Flow (2007, Temple University Press); and the critically acclaimed novels for young adults, Undercover (2007, HarperTeen), House of Dance (2008, HarperCollins), and Nothing but Ghosts (2009, HarperCollins). A fourth young adult novel, The Heart is Not a Size, will be released in March 2010 and a fifth, Dangerous Neighbors, is slated for a fall 2010 release from Egmont. Beth Kephart's acclaimed short story, "The Longest Distance," appears in the May 2009 HarperTeen anthology, No Such Thing as the Real World. She is a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize, among other honors. Kephart's essays are frequently anthologized, she has judged numerous competitions, and she has taught workshops at many institutions, to all ages. In the fall of 2009, Kephart will teach at the University of Pennsylvania and serve as the readergirlz author in residence. Kephart is the strategic writing partner in the boutique marketing communications firm, Fusion. She is at work on a novel for adults.

Alice Elliott Dark is the author of two story collections, Naked to the Waist (1991, Houghton Mifflin Co.) and In the Gloaming (2001, Simon & Schuster), and one novel, Think of England (2002, Simon & Schuster). Originally from Bryn Mawr, PA, she attended Kenyon College and the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Chinese studies. She received her MA from the Antioch University program in London. Dark has published stories in Doubletake, Book Magazine, Five Points, and Redbook, and contributed essays and reviews to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Harper's Bazaar. Her short story "In the Gloaming" was included in the Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike, and also selected for The Best American Short Stories 1994 by Tobias Wolff. In 1997, it was adapted into an HBO film starring Glenn Close and directed by Christopher Reeve. She is the recipient of an NEA grant and has led numerous workshops. Currently, she lives in New Jersey where she is the Writer in Residence at Rutgers-Newark University.

May 16, 2009: Nick Spitzer's "American Routes: Songs and Stories from the Road"

Folklorist Nick Spitzer is professor of communication and American studies at Tulane University where he began as a Mellon Humanities Fellow in 2004. Nick is also the producer and host of the radio program Louisiana Folklife: A Guide to the State (1985), and The Mississippi Delta Ethnographic Overview (1979) for the National Park Service. He helped create the Folklife Pavilion at the 1984 World's Fair, where he curated The Creole State: An Exhibition of Louisiana Folklife (1984-2004). He served as senior folklife specialist at the Smithsonian (1985-1990) and artistic director for the Folk Masters concert/broadcasts from Carnegie Hall and Wolf Trap (1990-1997) and the Independence Day concerts broadcast from the National Mall (1992-2001).

Nick has been a commentator/producer for NPR's All Things Considered and Fresh Air, PBS's Great Performances, CBS' Sunday Morning, and ABC's Nightline, and Evening News with Peter Jennings. Spitzer directed the film Zydeco: Creole Music and Culture in Rural Louisiana (1986), and has produced or annotated two dozen documentary recordings. In 2002 Nick co-curated 'Raised to the Trade': Creole Building Arts of New Orleans at New Orleans Museum of Art. He is co-editor of the book Public Folklore (1992, 2007) and co-author of Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America's Creole Soul (2006, Penn Press). A former resident scholar at the School of American Research in Santa Fe and a Fellow of the American Folklore Society, Spitzer received the Benjamin Botkin Award in Public Folklore, an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Excellence in Broadcasting Award for American Routes, and was named Louisiana Humanist of the Year in 2006 for cultural recovery efforts after the catastrophe. His interests include Gulf Coast ethnography, cultural creolization, American vernacular music/culture, and public cultural policy. Nick was a 2007 Guggenheim Fellow working on traditional creativity in Louisiana Creole communities.


May 17, 2008: A poetry reading featuring former students of Professor Dan Hoffman

For many years the Poet-in-Residence and Director of Creative Writing at Penn before his retirement, Dan Hoffman taught literature courses in the English Department as well as one poetry workshop each year for students of exceptional ability. That one workshop, it turns out, was the foundation upon which Penn's Creative Writing Program was built. The success of Dan's work as a teacher is also evident in the many students who have developed fine careers as poets and teachers themselves.

Readings by Dan's former students — Christina Davis (C'93, G'93), Michael Jennings (C'71), Jay Rogoff (C '75), and J. Allyn Rosser (G'88, GR'91) — were followed by Dan's reading of selections from the work his late wife, the poet Elizabeth McFarland Hoffman.



May 12, 2007: A Celebration of Young Alumni Fiction Writers

Click on the image to see a video

Click above for a QuickTime video excerpt: Jessica Lowenthal introduces Courtney Zoffness and Courtney begins her reading

Michael Hyde ('95), whose stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and who recieved a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship in fiction from the Sewanee Writers' Conference and a FundaciÛn ValparaÌso artist grant, read from his short story collection What Are You Afraid Of? which won the 2005 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. "Her Hollywood"

Courtney Zoffness ('00), who founded and ran the "Speakeasy" open mic series at the Kelly Writers House, has published nonfiction in Ladies' Home Journal, the Earth Times, and New York's daily Metro, among others, and fiction in publications such as Redivider, the Pedestal Magazine, Washington Square Review, and the Fish Prize Stories Anthology — an international contest. Zoffness works as a copyeditor at Rolling Stone magazine and as a ghostwriter. She's also at work on a novel of her own. She read an excerpt from her book Is It a Fish?

Laura Dave's writing has appeared in Self, Glamour, The New York Observer, and ESPN the Magazine. She is the recipient of a Henry Hoyns Fellowship, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship, and an AWP Intro Award in Short Fiction. She read an excerpt from her first novel, London Is the Best City in America (Viking 2006), which is currently being developed as a major motion picture at Universal Studios.

A free, downloadable recording of the entire event is available here.