Annual programs



The Hartman Family Screenwriting Series allows us to host an annual event with a successful professional screenwriter so that aspiring moviemakers in the Writers House community can get a taste of the writers' room. Past events in the series have featured Scott Neustadter (500 Days of Summer, The Fault in our Stars) and John Leguizamo (Ice Age, Romeo + Juliet).

Alec Sokolow, nominated for an Academy Award (Toy Story) has worn many hats in his career as a professional writer. A career in Hollywood has taken him from writing late night TV comedy to having written some of the most memorable studio films of our time. His credited film work has topped one billion dollars in worldwide Box Office receipts and includes Toy Story, Cheaper by the Dozen, Garfield, Evan Almighty, Daddy Day Camp, and Money Talks. Alec hails from New York City and resides in Sagaponack, NY.

Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve is a novelist, screenwriter, film producer and teacher. She is currently adapting the Young Readers edition of the 2017 National Book finalist Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar for Aladdin Books / Simon & Schuster, due to be published in 2019. She is also working on a film adaptation of the Wesley Stace novel Charles Jessold: Considered as a Murderer and her own young adult book series, Hurricane Ike. With Aline Brosh McKenna as producer, (showrunner, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and screenwriter, The Devil Wears Prada), Van Cleve is also working on an original screenplay currently entitled I'm With Her. Her middle grade novel, Drizzle, received starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, and won the Pennsylvania students' choice award for best middle-grade novel. For many years, she was the creative partner of actor and writer John Leguizamo, during which time she produced the films Joe the King, (winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival), Pinero, (a Miramax release starring Benjamin Bratt) and Undefeated (an HBO film starring Leguizamo) as well as worked with Steven Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election, Downsizing) and Frank Pugliese (showrunner, House of Cards). Her other novels are Cranberry Queen (optioned by Miramax Films) and The Difference Between You and Me. She graduated with a dual degree from the Wharton School and the College of Arts & Sciences, was captain of Penn women's crew, and lives with her husband and two sons in Philadelphia.

October 29, 2016: "THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION" Alumni Authors Series

In honor of Penn's Homecoming, join us for a discussion of the presidential election with political journalists Jim Newell (C'07) of Slate and Emily Schultheis (C'11) of CBS Interactive, moderated by Penn faculty member Dick Polman, national political columnist at Newsworks. Before becoming a politics writer in the Washington bureau of Slate, Newell wrote for Salon and Wonkette. Until joining CBS Interactive, Schultheis served as the primary reporter covering Hillary Clinton and the 2016 Democratic primary for the National Journal. Polman covered the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 U. S. presidential campaigns for The Philadelphia Inquirer where he wrote for 22 years, most notably as the national political writer/columnist.

November 7, 2015: "Buzz Bissinger in conversation with Beth Kephart"

In honor of Penn's Homecoming, join us for a reading by Buzz Bissinger, followed by a reception in the Writers House dining room. The event is open to everyone, but seats are limited! So do RSVP to say you'll come.

Penn alumnus Buzz Bissinger (C'76) is among the nation’s most honored and distinguished writers. A native of New York City, Buzz is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Livingston Award, the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award and the National Headliners Award, among others. He also was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He is the author of the highly acclaimed nonfiction books: Friday Night Lights, A Prayer for the City, Three Nights in August, Shooting Stars, and Father’s Day. Buzz has been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine since 1996. His August 2007 Vanity Fair article “Gone Like the Wind,” about the saga of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, was optioned by Universal Pictures. In 2009 he became a sports columnist for The Daily Beast. He is a longtime contributor to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. His teleplay and screenwriting work includes collaborations with directors Alan Pakula, Peter Berg, Greg Hoblit, Todd Field and Tim Kring. Buzz also spent the 2000-2001 television season in Los Angeles as a co-producer and writer for the long-running television series NYPD Blue.

November 1, 2014: "Writing for Children and Young Adults"

In honor of Penn's Homecoming, join us for a reading and panel discussion of writing for children and young adults, moderated by moderated by Liz Van Doren and featuring four alumni writers, Lorene Cary (C'78), Beth Kephart (C'82), Jordan Sonnenblick (C'91), and Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve (C'88).

November 9, 2013: "HOW TO TEACH POETRY TO 42,000 STUDENTS AT ONCE"

In November 2013, Professor Al Filreis taught ModPo, the massive open online course on modern and contemporary American poetry hosted at Penn's Kelly Writers House, to tens of thousands of students around the world. How did we bring the close reading of poetry to a group of learners on the Internet? Many joined this panel of instructors, TAs, and students to learn about MOOCs, humanistic pedagogy, and Writers House innovations in open learning. To see how this happened click here.

October 27, 2012: "Memoir Writing"

In October 2012, homecoming guests joined alumni authors at Kelly Writers House as they read from and talked about their work in memoir. Panelists included Pulitzer Prize-winner Buzz Bissinger (C'76), whose latest book is Father's Day: A Journey Into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son; essayist and performer Cynthia Kaplan (C'85), whose "true stories" are collected in Why I'm Like This and Leave the Building Quickly; Beth Kephart (C'82), author of multiple memoirs and young-adult novels, and of the forthcoming Handling the Truth; and James Martin (W'82), author of In Good Company, which tells the story of his conversion from GE executive to Jesuit priest, and eight other books. Pennsylvania Gazette Editor John Prendergast (C'80) moderated the discussion.

November 5, 2011: "The Creative Economy" Panel Discussion

In November 2011, homecoming guests joined the Kelly Writers House for a discussion of how "The Creatives"—out-of-the-box, big picture thinkers and problem solvers—are driving the new economy, sponsored by our new Creative Ventures project. Panel guests included Gary Steuer, Chief Cultural Officer for the City of Philadelphia; Cheryl J. Family (C' 91), Senior Vice President/Brand Strategist of MTV Networks; Veronica Jurkiewicz (C'04), Performance Coordinator of the UPenn Department of Music and Co-founder of Classical Revolution; and Alex Mulcahy, Owner of Red Flag Media and Founder of GRID magazine, a local free magazine that focuses on urban sustainability. The discussion was moderated by Peter Decherney, associate professor of Cinema Studies and English at the University of Pennsylvania.

October 30, 2010: "Kelly Writers House 15th Anniversary Celebration"

In October 2010, Kelly Writers House celebrated its 15th Anniversary with a reading by former students of Al Filreis, Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House. Readers included Suzanne Maynard Miller (C'89), Alicia Oltuski (C'06, G'06), Eric Umansky, and Kerry Sherin Wright.

November 7, 2009: "Does a great poem do any good?" with Al Filreis

In November 2009, guests were treated to a stimulating, wide-open discussion of one brilliant, compelling modern poem, and were asked to consider questions such as does a great poem do any good? and does it have practical value?. Leading the discussion was Al Filreis, Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, Kelly Professor of English and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing.

"The next page in book publishing?" panel discussion

This panel discussion featured readings by top alumni non-fiction writers followed by a provocative panel discussion about the future of the book business and ambitious writing, featuring Buzz Bissinger (C'77), Vanity Fair contributing editor and best-selling author of Friday Night Lights, Three Days in August, and his collaboration with LeBron James, Shooting Stars; Dennis Drabelle (G'66, L'69), a contributing editor, and the mysteries editor, of The Washington Post Book World (where he won the National Book Critics Circle award), and author of the new book Mile-High Fever: Silver Mines, Boom Towns, and High Living on the Comstock Lode; Matthew Algeo, (C'88), award-winning radio reporter and author of Last Team Standing and his latest, Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure; David Borgenicht (C'90), publisher, editor and evil mastermind behind the controversial bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; and moderator Stephen Fried (C'79) author of five books including the upcoming An Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Created a Hospitality Empire that Tamed the Wild West. The event was co-presented by the Kelly Writers House and the Nora Magid Mentorship Prize.

November 1, 2008: "Extreme Sportswriting" panel discussion

In November 2008, the Homecoming Reception followed a raucous, full-contact panel discussion about the future of sports and journalism with Stefan Fatsis (C'85), NPR and Wall Street Journal sports commentator and best-selling author of Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic; Buzz Bissinger (C'77), Vanity Fair contributing editor and best-selling author of Friday Night Lights, Three Days in August, and A Prayer for the City; Jon Wertheim (Law '97), Sports Illustrated senior writer and author of Running the Table, Transition Game, and Venus Envy; and moderator Stephen Fried (C'79), author of Husbandry, The New Rabbi and Thing of Beauty. The event was co-presented by Kelly Writers House, the Nora Magid Mentorship Prize, and the Penn Alumni Club of Philadelphia.

October 20, 2007: "Memoir and Me" panel discussion

In October 2007, the Homecoming Reception followed a panel discussion featuring three nationally-known alumni authors discussing personal writing and reading from their new memoirs: Jeffrey Goldberg, award-winning correspondent for The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and author of the acclaimed memoir Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide; Cynthia Kaplan (C'85), humorist, actress, Huffington Post columnist, and author of the cult-classic memoir collections Why I'm Like This and Leave the Building Quickly; and moderator Stephen Fried (C'79), award-winning investigative journalist and author of Husbandry: Sex, Love & Dirty Laundry: Inside the Minds of Married Men, which is comprised of his personal essays.

October 28, 2006: "The Real Life of a Nonfiction Writer" panel discussion

In October 2006, the Kelly Writers House presented its second annual Homecoming Celebration of Alumni Nonfiction Writers, which featured a panel discussion on "The Real Life of a Non-Fiction Writer," with a stellar lineup of Penn alumni writers in journalism and nonfiction, including Financial Editor at NBC Today Jean Chatzky, C'86, Political Correspondent for GQ Magazine Lisa DePaulo, C'82, best-selling author and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor Buzz Bissinger, C'76, and award-winning author and columnist Stephen Fried, C'79. The discussion concerned itself with how working writers juggle lives, careers, families, editors, and critics.

November 5, 2005: First Annual Panel Discussion on Nonfiction

In November 2005, the Kelly Writers House presented its first annual Homecoming Celebration of Alumni Nonfiction Writers, which featured a panel discussion on some of the current legal and ethical controversies facing journalism, and how they might affect the future of non-fiction writing. Panelists included best-selling author and Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger (C'76); New York Times White House correspondent Richard Stevenson (C'81); best-selling author and sports columnist at NPR and the Wall Street Journal Stefan Fatsis (C'85); and senior producer for broadcast standards for NBC News Lisa Green (C'82). The discussion was moderated by award-winning author and columnist Stephen Fried (C'79). Hearst Magazine's Editorial Talent Director Eliot Kaplan (C'78) made a short presentation after the panel discussion. The event also celebrated the Nora Magid Mentorship Prize, an award given to a Penn undergraduate nonfiction writer each year in honor of the late and much beloved Penn writing teacher and mentor Nora Magid.