About the Kelly Writers House

Founded in 1995 by a group of students, faculty, staff and alumni, the Kelly Writers House is an actual 13-room house at 3805 Locust Walk on Penn's campus that serves as a center for writers of all kinds from Penn and the Philadelphia region at large. Each semester the Writers House hosts approximately 150 public programs and projects--poetry readings, film screenings, seminars, web magazines, lectures, dinners, radio broadcasts, workshops, art exhibits, and musical performances--and about 500 people visit the House each week. They work, write, and collaborate in seminar rooms, a publications room, the "hub" office, a cozy living room, a dining room, a kitchen with plenty of space for conversation, and "the Arts Cafe," the wonderfully open south-facing room that was originally the parlor. Writers House also has a strong virtual presence. Our ongoing interactive webcasts give listeners from across the country the opportunity to talk with writers such as Ian Frazier, Richard Ford, and Cynthia Ozick. And via our dozens of listservs and email discussion groups, we link writers and readers from across the country and around the world. Through its many programs and projects, the Writers House promotes the full range of contemporary literature, addressing writing both as a practice and as an object of study.

The intrepid band of students, faculty and Penn staff who formed the Writers House in the fall of 1995 were committed to a form of literary communitarianism. The mission statement they wrote--it's really a declaration of academic independence--expresses this idealism.

So far as we know, there is no other facility like the Kelly Writers House anywhere. There are a few projects that are somewhat similiar and we have tried to take stock of these.

The administrative structure of Writers House reflects its mission. Writers House is uniquely self-run. What began in 1995 as a volunteer committee of 20 people, has grown into a wide network of people who sponsor and enact the Writers House Events. The Writers House Planning Committee now consists of a 90-member volunteer group of undergraduate and graduate students, Penn faculty, staff, and alumni whose intellectual energy and collective spirit guides the House. The House also has a growing staff, including 15 student workers, a live-in resident intern, several part-time assistants, a Program Coordinator, and a Director, as well as a Faculty Director; together these staffers oversee the daily activities of the House, working side-by-side with our wide network of volunteers. Renovations, funded through the generous support of Penn alumnus Paul Kelly (C'62, WG'64), have readied the Writers House for the 21st century. Our ongoing supporters include: The Provost's Office of the University of Pennsylvania; Friends of the Kelly Writers House, including the Williams Carlos Williams Circle; Penn's Vice Provost for University Life; the Hillcrest Foundation; the Alice Cooper Shoulberg Scholarship Fund for the Support of Creative Publishing; the Roxanne and Scott Bok Endowed Visiting Writers Series Fund; the Parents of the Class of '99; Anonymous Donor--to support the annual print publication of Xconnect; Harold Rosenberg; and Paul Kelly. More information is available online about our past and current programs, our webcast archives, our series and programs, and our publications.

We are delighted to have received recognition for what we do. The House was named "Best Reading Series" in the "Best of Philly 2000" issue of Philadelphia Magazine, and in November of 2000, our website was chosen as a Yahoo.com "Pick of the Week." More important to us are the conversations and learning that the House and its ambience--physical and virtual--help foster. By bringing emerging and established writers into dialogue with each other, encouraging collaborative learning and providing a welcoming and open space for writers and readers, we have helped secure the centrality of the literary arts at Penn and in Philadelphia.

The Kelly Writers House Archive is housed in the Special Collections Department of Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania. If you wish to see any of these materials, visit the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.