Praise for the Kelly Writers House

"An amazing day at the U. of Penn Writers House. All these years I've been working in the dark--they showed me how to switch on the lights. Go there."--Susan Cheever on her Facebook page the day after she returned home from her two-day visit as a Writers House Fellow in February 2011

"I want to support the Kelly Writers House—of all places in the U.S.—because I think it is the most exciting, balanced, serious, productive and just plain energetic literary project." —Marjorie Perloff, eminent critic and literary historian of modern and contemporary avant-garde writing.

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"It's one of those things, I have to say, that's happening here, which is really weird. This isn't the first time I've done this kind of situation, but I think I've never been in a place where I felt there were so many smart questions and so many people that I just felt – I mean it's your work all these months. Really I feel, well, we're in the right place, we're in the same zone together, and I'm very grateful for that."—the late Susan Sontag, during her visit as a Writers House Fellow in 2003.

"You have created at once a a center of artistic and personal social power, a non-bureacratic, unconventional power in one spot without being marginalized in the process. Brilliant." —Nick Spitzer, a Penn alumnus and host of NPR's radio show, American Roots.

"I had a wonderful time at Writers House. Among its other virtues, it was the first academic setting I can remember that felt entirely stimulating and generous and, well, un-creepy; the first about which I've felt I'd like to be some sort of part some time in the future." —Michael Cunningham, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Hours and a Writers House Fellow in 2002.

"The Kelly Writers House offers a unique opportunity for writers both in the fiction and nonfiction fields. Connie and I have an abiding admiration for journalists, particularly those who have taken on the challenges of journalism in this new media age. Al Filreis is the perfect captain to navigate these waters and provide the Kelly House writers at Penn with an opportunity as at no other college institution." —Maury Povich (C'62)

"I have never ever experienced such a loving and caring poetry group. You have done miracles at the Writers House."—Susan Howe, after her visit as a Writers House Fellow, March 2010

"[F]rom now on I'll think of Writers House as one of the best places to read in the States." —Peter Cole, a poet who gave a reading on October 8, 2007.

"There is the House that Ruth Built, there is even the House of Pain, but no house is like home for writers than Kelly Writers House. Get yourself a key and enter your soul."—Doug Glanville, Penn alumnus & former Philadelphia Phillies player who discussed his book on March 3, 2010.

I certainly wouldn't have developed into the writer or the person that I am today, if the Writers House hadn't taken my ideas seriously and made the writing life seem possible. Every day there is a moment in which I realize how lucky I am to be pursuing exactly what I want to do in life. The Writers House has played a major role not only in giving me access to this life of poetry but also helping me build confidence in myself and my work. I will never forget you or my experiences at the Writers House. I've become so enamored with the community outreach work that you let me do at the house that I've applied for a program coordinator position at a literary non-profit in San Francisco, in which I will certainly be able to apply all that I have learned from observing you and the marvelous things you do at KWH. —Aichlee Bushnell, C'09, recipient of the Behrman Family Scholarship for a Young Writer

"I've described Kelly Writers House and these online book classes with many friends who attended other fine institutions and none of them have ever heard of such programs. Penn, and Kelly Writers House, are very, very special."—Bruce Finsilver, Penn alumnus.

"'Learning to Love a Poem—a Lively Discussion with Al Filreis' was one of the most intellectually rigorous evenings I have spent in many years and an acknowlegment by the University that learning shouldn't stop when you get your degree. The evening was one of the high points of my 45 years as a member of the Penn family." —Sharon Weinstein, College of Women '64.

"For me the Writers House is among the greatest attractions at Penn - proof that a large urban school can offer a small, intense intellectual community. Reading the New York Times article I was excited by the idea of a college program recruiting based on artistic merit, and I soon afterward wrote my application essay about my interest in the Writer's House." —Kieran, an applicant for admission to Penn's class of 2012.

Click on the image of Jennifer Egan and hear her praise the Writers House (9/14/06)

"KWH (via the website) continues to provide a small oasis of personal space in my very crazy days. The moments I steal here and there are a guilty pleasure." —Renee Burroughs

"The Kelly Writers House performs an incredibly important and unique function in our society, preserving our literary heritage and supporting new writing, not least of all innovative writing, and so it exists as our vanguard even as it concerns itself with preserving our past intact, acting in both generative and restorative capacities. My recent participation in a scintillating session of PoemTalk, and subsequently my reading to a welcoming and attentive audience at the Kelly Writers House was, moreover, a marvelous experience I shall never forget. I am most honored to be a part of the Kelly Writers House world. KWH is not only an important chapter of our cultural history; it also keeps that history for us all." —Burt Kimmelman

"The Writers House is the biggest thing to have happened to Penn since William Smith and Benjamin Franklin argued about education or since Ezra Pound met William Carlos Williams." —Dennis Barone, a poet and chairman of the St. Joseph's College English department

"[The Paul Robeson Celebration] was an event that reminded me of why I work (and live) in an University community and having Writers House as a place to come together to share our thoughts and experiences is especially heartwarming. It was an evening when even this very shy person felt at ease and welcomed as was willing to share some private thoughts and passions. Thank you for making a difference to me and to our community." —D. L. Wormley, a long-time community activist and member of the University City District staff

"We are so happy that we "discovered" your cozy corner of the campus shortly after I retired six years ago. While we've participated in the programs in a more limited way than we'd like, we have found that every time we come to KWH it has been a fascinating experience. The Fellows program has broadened our reading ...adding works from those whom we had previously read and introducing us to others. And there are precious few such intimate settings where one can listen to the McPhees, the Fords, the Ozicks and the Doctorows (among others) read from their works and respond to questions. Meeting Penn undergraduates and being able to see how they are energized by the Writers House is so encouraging. Everyone needs a place that they can call their own, and it's wonderful to see so many claiming Writers House." —Steve Heuman, a Philadelphian and regular attendee of Writers House Fellows events

"How could it be that this tiny cottage could serve as the foundation for inspiring a love and thirst for knowledge and community for anyone lucky enough to stumble upon it, for moving such hugely famous, seemingly untouchable writers—Roger Angell and Adrienne Rich, for instance—to re-examine their perspectives after lifetimes of thinking about writing and education, instilling them with a completely re-imagined hope for the open-ended possibilities of creativity, activism, memory, love and the university as an institution itself? There need be no other justification than this—that how you teach is as important, if not more so, than what you teach. Out of the countless ideas I took away from my courses at the Writers House, one that I find most relevant to my own future is the confidence that I have not been at Penn to be getting an education, but to be becoming somebody." —Elissa Bassini C'05, a participant in two Writers House Fellows seminars

"There is no community like a literary community. It is probably a contradiction in terms to look to these networks for the more isolated voices that, in their way, must value the House more than the groupies. But they sometimes emerge—as in the debate about what the House is really for." —Robert Lucid, Professor of English Emeritus and founding member of the Writers House "hub" or Planning Committee

"I feel as if I've waited for awhile to find a place like the Writers House." —Brooke Palmieri C'09, just two weeks into her freshman year

"The Kelly Writers House is one of the great success stories at Penn." —Sam Preston, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Arts & Sciences

"The people at the Writers House have created such a lively and hospitable environment that I love to walk in and teach there. I just finished reading a manuscript about the University of Chicago in the 1950's and that literary environment, and I thought that Writers House might have saved a lot people in that era."—Max Apple, author of The Oranging of America and many other books, and member of the Writers House "hub" since autumn 2001

"Creative Non-Fiction with Max Apple was an oasis in a semester full of Wharton classes during my senior year. Not only was the workshop genuinely useful (Max's flat-out rejection of unoriginal fluff, though jarring at first, proved to be some of the most refreshing, honest feedback I ever received on any sort of writing I did at Penn), the setting was unique. I'd go from the sterility of Huntsman Hall to the warmth of the House and instantly feel the creative part of me wake up. It didn't just stem from the degree of relaxedness I felt when Max asked us for the latest gossip every class. It was everything from the couches, to the trees outside the upstairs window, to the kitchen. Drinking freshly-brewed coffee mid-class? Priceless."—Vicky Sakr, W'06

"It was a great pleasure and stimulation to read at Writers House. It's a unique place in the university writing program, one that gives new meaning to the often empty phrase, a writing community, and I wish you and it good fortune in your funding, programs, and talented young writers from the campus and the Philadelphia area."—Ted Solotaroff, founder of the influential literary journal American Review

"The Writers a wonderful idea. Just great!" —David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian

"I came home [from the three-night "9 poets reading themselves through modernism" program] exhausted but excited and with vivid images from the Writers House events flickering across my mind. Some are very funny (Ron Silliman's face squeezed by laughter after he remarked that he'd "gotten Gertrude Stein's body"), some emotional (Charles Bernstein's melancholy gaze as he finished his reading), all suffused with the glow from the woodwork but also with the glow from the collective comraderie. Those three evenings really were about community. Really—the whole thing was amazing."—Lyn Hejinian, poet and author of My Life among many other books

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"Thank you so much. I've really been incredibly impressed with the faculty and the students I've met here. In many many years of doing this, this has been the nicest two days I've spent on the road. It's really been a great and wonderful thing."—Tony Kushner, playwright and 2001 Writers House Fellow [for more, see video at right]

"How I wish Writers House had been in existence when I was an undergraduate English major at Penn!"—Wendy Univer, independent documentary writer/producer, Penn Class of '76

"I like living in Oregon but (through the Writers House) virtual Philadelphia remains my cultural oasis."—Hilda Beltran Wagner, Penn alumna who graduated before the Writers House was founded but who has been a participant in many online discussion groups and webcast programs

"As always, I am proud of what Writers House has brought to the Penn campus and to the extended Penn community here in the field, and grateful that we can all feel a part of the ongoing literary life of the University in this way." —Robert Shepard, literary agent and Penn alumnus who participated (from San Francisco) in the webcast featuring historian David McCullough

"I think due to KWH Penn will be attracting the next generation of writers for years to come. And building new audiences, too." —Barbara Blake School of Engineering and Applied Science, Department of Bioengineering

"The book certainly would never have happened had it not been for the Writers House coming into my life."—Lisa Sandell, after the publication of her novel in verse, The Weight of the Sky

"I know you must hear this all of the time, so I'll just join the chorus. You've done such a wonderful thing by establishing the Writers House Fellows course and by opening up the Monday evening and Tuesday morning sessions to the entire community. It goes a long way towards making Penn a center of culture in the city." —Karen Rile, alumna, novelist and member of Penn's Creative Writing Faculty

"I came to Penn knowing full well that the Kelly Writers House would be a vital party of my four years at Penn. I cam to Penn already part of a community. I felt like I was set for life. (Four years feels like life when you're 18.) Now it's time to graduate.... I just love the Writers House that much. Leaving the House will be one of the hardest things I ever do. Probably harder than leaving home for college.... You are all wonderful, amazing, beautiful, talented, kind, generous etc. people and I'm just happy (and blessed) that I got to know you these last four years."—Jill Ivey, C'06, long-time hub activist and member of the KWH staff, writing to her hub friends after the April 2006 end-of-year hub party.

"What you have created at Writers House is a wonderful environment. If it had existed at the time I was a student, I would like to believe it would have made my experience far more enriching and enjoyable than it was." —Evan Sarzin, (C '75)

"I did my MA at Temple when the Writers House first emerged from the mists. I'm from the romanticized days when Writers House put Philly back on the map as a viable 'poetry scene' as opposed to just mid-way between New York & DC." —Barbara Cole, poet & critic, Poetics Program, SUNY-Buffalo

"As [Director] Jennifer Snead gave me a tour of the Kelly Writers House, I could see myself on one of the green couches typing away on my laptop, asking my friend if there was any more pizza in the kitchen before going next door to Paul Hendrickson's class on "Documentary Writing." I could not imagine a better place to pursue my career in journalism. At no other university or college did I find such a homey writing atmosphere." —Eric Karlan, avid high-school journalist, candidate for admission to the Class of 2009, and son of a 1975 Penn alumnus

"I keep telling everyone I see that this is an amazing thing you have here, this house of writers. It exists in no other space that I can think of in the United States. We were talking about that earlier, this question of a place for writers and translators, where poets and artists can come together and work, in a sense, in collaboration. It is amazing. So thank you."—Ben Hollander, poet and participant in "UnAmerican Poetry," a conversation about writing, translation, globalization, politics in the Middle East, the foreign poet's relation to language in March 2001

"When I was at Penn, the Writers House was home to a weekly open mic night and a lot of large cardboard boxes, and not much else. I can't get over what it's turned into. It's really great to see—especially at a school I care so much about—such an active hub serving undergraduate writers." —Dave Koch, 1998 Penn graduate and editor of The Land-Grant College Review, a New York-based print magazine of fiction, nonfiction and visual artwork.

"Honestly, I still feel intoxicated by the passion of all the writers as well as the tremendous warmth and friendship that filled the room. It was so wonderful for me to be exposed to this incredibly creative environment because I live my life in a world focused on being a mom and a businesswoman. The Kelly Writers House really is an extraordinary place which any student would be fortunate to experience. I love the whole concept of community and family that permeates the project. I join all the other alumni who say: Too bad I didn't get to experience this!"—Pattie Moss Simon (C'78), after attending "Writers House New York" at the Meisel Gallery in SoHo, November 13, 2003

"I've been a supporter of WH since day one or close to it – for the same reason I would support a trapeze artists' house: they and writers have a gift that I was not given and need to be nurtured and hopefully well-rewarded for the pleasure they provide to 'ordinary' people." —Alex Newmark, Wharton '63

"The warmth in the room could heat a city block."—Susan Meisel of Meisel Gallery, New York City, after the 2003 "Writers House New York" program

"The online book group on Moby-Dick was terrific. I appreciate the work you all are doing. I wish that such an environment existed when I attended Penn!"—Peter Rogers, College '77

"It is hard for me to find words to express my gratitude to Penn, to the Writers House, and to my fellow alumni for this wonderful month of learning. I spend my days knee-deep in bullet points, powerpoint, and corporate strategy, so this discussion was a lovely counterpoint and the one thing I looked forward to all month long. I'm a poetry newbie. This was a great opportunity to get my feet wet, read some great poetry, and interact with some very cool Penn people."—Amy Alfano, College '97

"I want to thank you for getting me reading again. Your program has been such an incentive. The experiences really have meant a lot fo me and have led me to other reading as well. Thanks for everything—and your continuing e-presence."—Joyce R. Cummings, Grad '64

"The Writers House has really become the best aspect of education at Penn."—Craig Saper, professor of media and film studies who presented on the Fluxus movement in October 2001

"I've attended four graduation weekends at Penn, including my own and my son's. This was the single best event I've ever attended - intimate, educational and even spiritual. Congratulations on great work!!"—Joel Schwartz, M.D., Penn alumnus, after attending the "Senior Capstone" program on May 15, 2004

"We're very proud of Moira. The Writers House was one of the things that led Moira to choose Penn, and her experiences there have given her a foundation of confidence on which to build as a writer, something that I am certain she will do. Thank you for helping to create a setting where Moira and others like her (and unlike her) can begin to find their voices. As we both know, universities are not always the best places for that sort of thing. Too often they're all about discovering every other voice but one's own." —Todd Moody, parent of Moira Moody C'06

"[The Homecoming weekend panel of nonfiction writers] was far and away the best activity or event I have attended as an alumna. It thoroughly reinforced the value of being part of the Penn community and reminded of everything I loved about being at Penn."—Amie Thornton, '87

"I eagerly watch my email and have come to realize that WH is a cultural institution. And thanks for offering it so generously to the community. That makes it a cultural treasure." —Rick Weiss of Trident Productions, Philadelphia (1981 Temple U. graduate), participant in the Andy Wolk Screenwriting Symposia, January 2003

"[Andy Wolk's] love for the genre and pride in his own work were inspiring to an aspiring writer like myself." —Niels Rosenquist, attendee of Wolk's master class on the "Nuts and Bolts of Writing a Screenplay," January 2004 [more]

"I really like what the Kelly Writers House is doing — there's nothing like it in New York."—Brian Kim Stefans, poet and participant in a live interactive webcast discussion on the state of contemporary poetry

"You folks are rapidly becoming a national resource, not just a Penn or Philly one. Keep up the great work."—Ron Silliman, poet who has read at and attended many Writers House programs

"Writers House makes me think I'm not alone in my dream of becoming a writer."—Laura Dave, a young writer from Penn's class of '99

"What I see that makes us so exceptional is the spirit of the Writers House—that we welcome with open arms all kinds of writers and thinkers, that we usually remember to put out some cups of water for the readers. We sometimes have flowers out to cheer us up, or handmade snowflakes, that we write by hand on the dry-erase board the reading of the evening, and offer coffee and tea to any wanderer who stops in to look around. We have homemade dinners for the writers we dream of becoming, and some just because we're hungry. We answer every email and each request to read, even if it takes a little bit of time since we're so busy. This spirit is based on the big dreams and the little details. It is wholly contagious and so I bring it with me." —Courtney Mandryk, artist and 2002-03 Writers House staff member, on her departure for Michigan's MFA program

"The Writers House in general has also aided in the surfacing of my true wild self. To me, the Writers House is a place where creativity and intellectualism reigns, where people go to create art and come into themselves.... I truly believe that people at the Writers House have a higher level of consciousness than most people. I often feel like I'm in some sort of French salon or Bohemian artists' group when I am at the Writers House, and I want to contribute to this atmosphere. All year I have been struggling to figure out what I want to do with my future, what I am most passionate about, how I should spend my time, etc. However, one thing I did know was that I liked the Writers House and the classes I took there."—Carly Weinreb, C'07, member of the 2007 Writers House Fellows seminar

"I am impressed with the effort at Writers House to reach beyond faculty and students and embrace staff and support their creativity and talent. I can attest to how I, as a staff member, was thrilled to see Tony Kushner during his visit last year (never dreaming that the reading from his upcoming play set in Afghanistan would be so pertinent to today's news). I remember feeling at the time that this was a real perq of working for Penn, out of the realm of experience if employed by a finance or accounting firm, pharmaceutical company, or retail or health industry organization. I've often thought that these special perquisites should be celebrated."—Marilyn Kraut, Penn staff member (Office of Human Resources)

"The Writers House Fellows seminar was an utterly fantastic experience— and one that I will honestly always cherish as the highlight of my undergraduate career at Penn."—Ariel Horn, a student in both the 2001 and 2002 Fellows seminars

"The Kelly Writers House provides a forum for discussion, and discussion leads to self-discovery. In discussing shared words and visuals with equally interested parties, whether opinions commingle or clash, one learns a little more about oneself."—Lenya Bloom, C '01, who wrote a paper about Writers House while at Penn

"What you are doing with these online discussion groups is very exciting and helps redefine the concept of the university." —Judith Vaughan, Penn alumna & participant in one of the Alumni Book Groups

I wanted to thank you for including me in the Russell Banks visit and events. I don't know that I've experienced anything like it since coming to Penn, especially the dinner conversation. For me, it was both Russell and the Writers House atmosphere. The staff and the students have created a salon, and my evening and morning there will remain a high mark in my Penn experience. I received it as an extraordinary experience of mind and heart. Our students are very fortunate to have the Writers House.—Will Gipson, University Chaplain, after novelist Russell Banks' visit as a Writers House Fellow, February 2004

It isn't every day that, as a student, you get the opportunity to sit down and have a one-on-one critique session with a professional in any industry, much less an exclusive one like screenwriting. The lessons and skills I learned are things I will remember and utilize in my writings for the rest of my life. —Robert Forman, participant in the Andy Wolk Screenwriting Symposium (for more about the Wolk Symposium, click here)

"After sitting through a long list of goodbye speeches given and for people I've never seen before, I can honestly say I don't think I will ever again in my life grow to love and really feel the loss of so many people I've never met in such a short span of time! You Writers Housers are soul people! And as I left tonight, I couldn't help but feeling that the part of my heart that feigns an affinity for vagrancy may just have found itself a home...."—Christy Bunner, masters-level continuing education student, reacting to her very first impression of the Writers House community after attending the May 5, 2003, end-of-year "hub" celebration as a new member of the Planning Committee

"Since the introduction of KWH and the emergence of Penn's support for a greater number and variety of writing courses, the student experience has been greatly enhanced. In earlier years (I first started teaching here about 1989) there were a very limited number of seats in writing classes, and class size (although capped at 15) was usually at least 18 (because instructors, or at least I, always admitted desperate kids who needed the class for their writing concentration but had applied too late.) It's possible, but certainly not ideal to do a craft writing seminar with 18 kids. They write less and they are critiqued less. It's not an optimal experience with only 3 hours of in-class discussion per week.—Karen Rile, novelist, Creative Writing faculty member, and long-time "hub" member

"Due to your hard work and inspiration, the Writers House has become one of Penn's greatest assets, no small feat." —Lee Spelman Doty, Penn trustee

"Perhaps my most exciting learning experiences have occurred at the Kelly Writers House ..., where students like myself engage in self-directed, interactive learning in a centralized writing community. I frequent poetry readings and weekly lectures by authors, editors, and writers." —Julie Farkas, C'99

"I have been so grateful to have the Writers House because it is what a creative community should be about. Its presence is equally as vital to Penn as the libraries, and at times more vital."—Diana Falchuk, C'99

"Just received and read the brochure on the Kelly Writers House. WHAT AN AMAZING THING! Really, it sounds like a dream come true—real funding, real commitment from faculty and administration and students. It's so rare to find contemporary writing given much attention at all in the academy these days, and this program sounds just—just perfect. I'm astonished, also thrilled, that you had the energy to put something like this together." —James Longenbach, University of Rochester faculty member and poet