Writers House announces next year's fellows

The Daily Pennsylvanian
July 21, 2005

Writers Richard Ford, Cynthia Ozick and Ian Frazier will visit Penn this spring as part of the Kelly Writers House Fellows Program.

From its beginning in 1998, three years after the Kelly Writers House was founded, the Fellows Program has hosted many celebrated writers, including the late essayist and novelist Susan Sontag, award-winning author of "Ragtime" E.L. Doctorow and celebrated baseball writer Roger Angell.

Students who take the Kelly Writers House Fellows seminar, offered in the spring semester, study the writing of each of the fellows prior their arrival. Then, over two days, the students spend time with the writers, engaging in a series of events ranging from academic seminars to intimate dinners.

The program, established by alumnus and Trustee Paul Kelly, aims to surpass the conventional passive relationship that students have with the writers whose works they study in class by putting them in close contact with the writers in an informal setting.

Choosing the fellows is no easy task, Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis said.

"We do not want a talking head. We want a famous writer to deeply interact with students," Filreis said.

"Given the structure [of the class], you can imagine that there are certain things that I look for in a writer. Not just a star, not someone who doesn't want to interact," he added.

Rather, Filreis looks for authors who are accessible to young writers.

"We're looking for someone who likes the idea of the Writers House, its philosophy of a participatory literary democracy," he added. "It's been very good to see these big-name writers get very comfortable."

The writers selected for next year's class are an eclectic group, in keeping with Filreis' desire to create a balance among the writers' genres and personalities.

Richard Ford is a novelist and short-story writer, best known for The Sportswriter and its sequel Independence Day, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Cynthia Ozick, also a novelist, focuses on Jewish-American life in her writing. Her recent novel Heir to the Glimmering World was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize.

Ian Frazier writes mostly nonfiction and humor pieces. The themes of his nonfiction writing include American history and nature. Along with his longer pieces, Frazier has also written for The New Yorker.

Filreis believes that each of the writers will highlight a different strength for the students in the program.

"Ozick will teach us how a beautiful sentence can be written, Frazier will teach the students about how the nonfiction writer needs to be part of the story and Ford will teach us how to be unafraid to write about male themes, the male dilemma," Filreis said.

Recent College graduate Jamie-Lee Josselyn, who will become the Kelly Writers House fellows coordinator in August, took the class the last two times it was offered.

"It's a very unique class -- probably the best class that I've ever taken at Penn," Josselyn said.

"You prepare with such a different energy for this class. It's such a great opportunity to talk with people who have become legends in their field. The face-to-face conversation is incomprehensible; it makes this type of career seem possible," she added.

Every event in the program takes place in the Kelly Writers House. Some of the events, such as the writers' readings and interviews, are open to the public. For those unable to attend, the fellows' individual interview and conversation sessions with the students can be viewed via Webcast.