November 2015

Sunday, 11/1

Monday, 11/2

Todd VanDerWerff: Writing about TV

Povich Journalsim Program

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Todd VanDerWerff is the culture editor for Vox and the former TV editor of The A.V. Club. He's also worked at several newspapers and on a pig farm. He's supposed to write a book one of these days, so keep an eye out for that.

Tuesday, 11/3

A reading by Julia Elliott

Cheryl J. Family Fiction program

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Julia Elliott’s fiction has appeared in Tin House, The Georgia Review, Conjunctions, Fence, Best American Fantasy, and other publications. She has won a Pushcart Prize and a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award. Her debut story collection, The Wilds, was chosen by Kirkus, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, and Electric Literature as one of the Best Books of 2014 and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her first novel, The New and Improved Romie Futch, is forthcoming in October 2015. She is currently working on a novel about Hamadryas baboons, a species she has studied as an amateur primatologist. She teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where she lives with her daughter and husband. She and her spouse, John Dennis, are founding members of the music collective Grey Egg.

Wednesday, 11/4

The symposium in memoriam Terrence Des Pres

40th anniversary of The Survivor

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM: Symposium

7:00 PM: Readings

watch: part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this event via KWH-TV
listen: to part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this event
visit: a special page for this event

The symposium in memoriam Terrence Des Pres at the Kelly Writers House will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of his influential study of survivorship and writing (bearing witness), The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (1976), a major work on Holocaust testimony. Much contemporary scholarly and journalistic work about the impact of genocide on survivors owes a debt to Des Pres and The Survivor. The Survivor was among the first systematic studies – from the point of view of literary theory, literary history and writing – of the writing and other forms of expression of genocide victims and intended victims.

Featured presenters include Peter Balakian, a poet and scholar who has written extensively about the Armenian genocide; Penn professor Al Filreis, who has taught a course on literary representations of the Holocaust for more than three decades; Carolyn Forche, poet and editor of the groundbreaking 1993 anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness; Annette Insdorf, professor of film at Columbia and author of Indelible Shadows: Film and Holocaust, a landmark study in the subject; Rabbi Joseph Polak, an infant survivor of the Holocaust; Alan Rosen who has worked extensively with Holocaust testimonies over the course of his career; and Leona Toker, faculty member at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who has written extensively on survivorship.

Co-sponsored by: the Provost's Interdisciplinary Arts Fund, Writers Without Borders at the Kelly Writers House, the Wexler Family Endowed Fund for Programs in Jewish Life and Culture, the Jewish Studies Program, and the Faculty Director's Discretionary Fund at the Kelly Writers House

Thursday, 11/5

Lunch with Matt Bai

Povich Journalsim Program

12:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

hosted by: Dick Polman
watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Matt Bai is an author, journalist, screenwriter and Yankee fan. He’s also one of the nation’s leading voices on American politics. Matt is best known for stories that explore change in society — generational, technological, economic — and how that change is breaking down old institutions and transforming the politics of a new century. His second book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, was published in October 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf. Matt is the national political columnist at Yahoo News, which he joined in January 2014. Before that, he was chief political correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, where he covered three presidential elections, and a columnist for both the magazine and the Times. Everything you ever wanted to know about Matt (including his brief but stellar acting career) is in his official bio.

A conversation with Felix Salmon

Weber Symposium

5:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

RSVP: or (215) 746-POEM
watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Felix Salmon is widely admired as one of the most insightful commentators on the finance world today. He combines an outsider’s willingness to speak truth to power with an insider’s understanding of how to make power actually listen. He is well known for tackling subjects from regulation to derivatives with a zest and a sense of fun unusual in financial writing. As the senior editor at Fusion, Salmon is breaking new ground in bringing intelligent financial analysis to a wider and younger audience, using animation, videos, data visualization, and more. This is just the latest step in his career as a popular online voice; he has written for Roubini Global Economics, Conde Nast Portfolio (where he originated the Market Movers financial blog), and most recently Reuters, where his work was awarded numerous accolades including the Loeb Award. This experience allows Felix to bring a practitioner's insight to technology, digital media, and the internet. Viral sharing; the relationship of text and images online; the future of news, criticism, and tastemaking — Salmon speaks on all of these with great acumen. His work also has appeared in a variety of print publications, including Wired, The New York Times, New York magazine, and Euromoney magazine

Friday, 11/6

Saturday, 11/7


2:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

rsvp: or call (215) 746-POEM

Renew your acquaintance or get to know this lively and innovative home for writers of all ages and genres as you join members of the Writers House community for informal conversation, coffee, and light refreshments. Advance registration is not required, but we'd love to hear from you. RSVP to or call (215) 746-POEM.


In conversation with Beth Kephart

Alumni Authors Series

4:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

rsvp: or call (215) 746-POEM
watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

In honor of Penn's Homecoming, join us for a reading aby 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.

Sunday, 11/8

Monday, 11/9

Lunch with Fred Bowen

Povich Journalsim Program

12:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

hosted by: Dick Polman
RSVP: or (215) 746-POEM
watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Fred Bowen was a Little Leaguer who loved to read. Now he is the author of 21 action-packed chapter books for kids, including his most recent, Out of Bounds. He has also written a weekly sports column for kids in The Washington Post since 2000. For years, Fred coached kids’ baseball, soccer and basketball teams. Some of his stories spring directly from his coaching experience and his sports-happy childhood in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Fred holds a degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from George Washington University. He was a lawyer for thirty years before retiring to become a full-time children’s author. Bowen has been a guest author at hundreds of schools and conferences across the country, as well as the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, and The Baseball Hall of Fame. Fred lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife Peggy Jackson. Their son, Liam, is the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC) and their daughter, Kerry, is in a Masters program in Denver studying to become a teacher and a reading specialist. Fred's website is

A meeting of the Writers House Planning Committee

5:00 PM in the Arts Cafe


From the time of its founding in 1995-1996, the Kelly Writers House has been run more or less collectively by members of its community. Our original team of intrepid founders—the group of students, faculty, alumni, and staff who wanted to create an independent haven for writers and supporters of contemporary writing in any genre—took for themselves the name "the hub." "Hub" was the generic term given by Penn's Provost, President, and other planners who hoped that something very innovative would be done at 3805 Locust Walk to prove the viability of the idea that students, working with others, could create an extracurricular learning community around common intellectual and creative passions. To this day, the Writers House Planning Committee refers to itself as "the hub"—the core of engaged faculty, student, staff, and alumni volunteers from whom the House's creative energy and vitality radiates.

Tuesday, 11/10

Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and Al Filreis in conversation

Wexler Program in Jewish Life and Culture

12:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

RSVP: or call (215) 746-POEM
watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Leslie Gilbert-Lurie is a writer, lawyer, and philanthropist, whose highly acclaimed memoir, Bending Toward the Sun, was published in 2009. In addition to co-chairing both L.A. County’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Welfare’s Transition Team and Human Rights Watch’s California Committee South, Leslie recently served as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles County Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Welfare. Gilbert-Lurie also is a founding member and past president of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, and for fourteen years she also served as a board member and three-time past President of the Los Angeles County Board of Education. Leslie also is a member of Facing History and Ourselves, The Skirball Cultural Center, and the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Leslie spent a decade as an executive at NBC, during which she oversaw NBC Productions and the Comedy division, co-wrote television episodes, and co-founded an in-house production company, Lurie-Horwits productions. As a lawyer, Leslie worked at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg and Tunney and served as a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Law Clerk. While at UCLA, she was the Student Regent, on the Board of Regents of the University of California.

About Bending Toward the Sun:

"This book is heartbreaking yet inspiring, a story told by three generations – the grandmother, who is a child survivor, the mother, a successful American professional, and the daughter, full of talent, promise and hope. At its core, this book is a study of how the Holocaust experience wraps itself around each woman – creating extreme fear of separation, setting off depression, filling mind and memory with haunting evil and indefinable ghosts. Yet it also tells us of hard won wisdom for living distilled from pain and loss, of life force driven by the will to overcome suffering, of Jewishness lost and Jewishness reborn, of unquenchable love – all passed on and shared between the generations through the filter of the Holocaust. Gripping, exhausting, exciting, devastating – this book is at times hard to read but always impossible to put down."

-- Rabbi Irving Greenberg

Founding President, Jewish Life Network; former Chairman of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

On Billie Holiday in Philadelphia: Farah Griffin and John Szwed

Bernheimer Symposium

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

John Szwed, author of Billie Holiday: the Musician and the Mythand Farah Jasmine Grffin, author of If You Can’t Be Free Be a Mystery will discuss Billie Holiday’s time in Philadelphia for this year’s Bernheimer Symposium. Established in the memory of Comparative Literature teacher and scholar Charles Bernheimer by Writers House Advisory Board member Kate Levin (GAS'96), the Bernheimer Symposium is organized each year by the Writers House Program Coordinator, who takes the opportunity to think expansively about programming possibilities.

John Szwed is an anthropologist, musician, and writer who has taught African American Studies, Film Studies, Music, Anthropology, and Performance Studies at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and Columbia University, where he was Director of the Center for Jazz Studies. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and in 2006 was awarded a Grammy for Doctor Jazz, a book included with Jelly Roll Morton: the Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax. Szwed has published widely as a journalist, and his books include So What: the Life of Miles Davis, Space is the Place: the Lives and Times of Sun Ra, Alan Lomax: the Man Who Recorded the World, and Billie Holiday: the Musician and the Myth.

Farah Jasmine Griffin is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She received her B.A. from Harvard (1985) and her Ph.D. from Yale (1992) Professor Griffin’s major fields of interest are African American literature, music, history and politics. The recipient of numerous honors and awards for her teaching and scholarship, in 1996-97 Professor Griffin was a fellow at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. She is the author of Who Set You Flowin'?: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford University Press, 1995), the co-editor (with Cheryl Fish) of Stranger in the Village: Two Centuries of African American Travel Writing (Beacon, 1998), If You Can't Be Free Be A Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (Free Press, 2001) and the editor of Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus (Knopf, 1999). Her most recent book is Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II.

Wednesday, 11/11

Whenever We Feel Like It

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

hosted by: Michelle Taransky

watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

The Whenever We Feel Like It Reading Series is put on by Committee of Vigilance members Michelle Taransky and Emily Pettit. The Committee of Vigilance is a subdivision of Sleepy Lemur Quality Enterprises, which is the production division of The Meeteetzee Institute.

Louis Bury is the author of Exercises in Criticism: The Theory and Practice of Literary Constraint (Dalkey Archive), which uses rules and procedures to write poetic and autobiographical criticism about works of literary constraint. He is Assistant Professor of English at Hostos Community College, CUNY, in the Bronx, New York City. He writes about art for Hyperallergic and is currently at work on a constrained book about ecology and individual choice. His creative and critical work has appeared or is forthcoming in places such as Bookforum, The Brooklyn Rail, Jacket Magazine, Jacket2, Aufgabe, The Volta, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Boston Review, and The Believer.

Doug Nufer is the author of at least seven novels and three books of poetry. Most, if not all of them, are based on formal constraints, in the tradition of the Oulipo. His novels include Never Again (Black Square, 2004), Negativeland (Autonomedia, 2004), By Kelman Out of Pessoa (Les Figues, 2011), and Lifeline Rule (Spuyten Duyvil 2015). His poetry books include We Were Werewolves (Make Now, 2008) and Lounge Acts (Insert Blanc, 2013). Louis Bury has written introductions for two of these books.

Thursday, 11/12

Zine Workshop

6:00 PM in the Dining Room

rsvp required: (seats are limited)

In this hour-long, hands-on workshop we will learn about the history of zines, from their roots in the punk revolution of the ’70s to the current culture of DIY publishing and distribution—and how you can become a part of it! We’ll look through a large selection of zines for inspiration, then learn how to make two different types of book construction and a bookbinding technique that you can use when making your own zines at home.

Katie Haegele is a freelance journalist who has written two books—a memoir called White Elephants and an essay collection called Slip of the Tongue—but when it comes to publishing, her true love is the punky, scrappy, democratic medium of zines. Visit her online at

Friday, 11/13

Saturday, 11/14

Sunday, 11/15

Monday, 11/16

Lunch with fiction writer Robin Black

Creative Writing program reading

12:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

RSVP: or (215) 746-POEM
watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Robin Black's short story collection If I loved you, I would tell you this, was a finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize and an O. Magazine Summer Reading Pick. Her debut novel Life Drawing has been called a “magnificent literary achievement,” by Karen Russell; and of Black's writing Claire Messud has said “(she) is a writer of great wisdom, and illuminates, without undue emphasis, the flickering complexity of individual histories.” Black's stories and essays have been widely published including in The New York Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, The Southern Review and One Story. Winner of the 2005 Pirates Alley Faulkner/Wisdom Prize for a Short Story, she was the 2012-13 Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bryn Mawr College and has taught most recently in the Brooklyn College MFA Program. Black, who holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, lives with her family in Philadelphia. Her forthcoming book titled CRASH COURSE: 52 Essays From Where Writing and Life Collide will be out from Engine Books, April, 2016.

Brodsky Gallery Opening: The Limner

Work by Sinéad Cahill

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

The Brodsky Gallery is an art gallery integrated with the ground floor of the Writers House. Up to six exhibitions take place during the academic year from September through May. Openings feature a reception for the artist and an accompanying program; examples include panel discussions, poetry readings, film screenings, and technique demonstrations by the artist. Through exhibiting a diverse array of art media and cross-disciplinary programming, the Brodsky Gallery at KWH seeks to engage Penn students and the broader Philadelphia community with the interrelationships between literary and visual arts. Thanks to the generosity of Michael and Heidi Brodsky, whose support makes our gallery space possible, the Brodsky Gallery is a permanent project of Kelly Writers House.

Sinéad Cahill is a Philadelphia-based artist who uses stone lithography and fabric to construct pillowy sculptures, badges, and quilts. Cahill earned her degree at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and recently completed a post-graduate apprenticeship at the Fabric Workshop and Museum here in Philadelphia. She teaches stone lithography at Fleisher Art Memorial and is a recent recipient of a John Anson Kittredge Foundation Grant.

Tuesday, 11/17

A poetry reading by Michael Davidson

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Michael Davidson is Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century (Cambridge U Press, 1989), Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word (U of California Press, 1997), Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics (U of Chicago, 2003) and Concerto for the Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body (U of Michigan, 2008). His most recent critical book, Outskirts of Form: Practicing Cultural Poetics was published in 2011 by Wesleyan University Press. He is the editor of The New Collected Poems of George Oppen (New Directions, 2002). He is the author of six books of poetry, the most recent of which is Bleed Through: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013). He is the co-author, with Lyn Hejinian, Barrett Watten, and Ron Silliman, of Leningrad (Mercury House Press, 1991). He has written extensively on disability issues, most recently “Hearing Things: The Scandal of Speech in Deaf Performance,” in Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities, Ed. Sharon Snyder, et al (Modern Language Association, 2002), “Phantom Limbs: Film Noir and the Disabled Body,” GLQ 9:1-2 (2003), Universal Design: The Work of Disability in an Age of Globalization, The Disability Studies Reader, ed. Lennard Davis (Routledge, 2010), and “Pregnant Men: Modernism, Disability, and Biofuturity in Djuna Barnes,” Novel 54.3 (Summer, 2010).

Wednesday, 11/18

Speakeasy Open Mic Night

7:30 PM in the Arts Cafe

watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Our student-run open mic night welcomes all kinds of readings, performances, spectacles, and happenings. Bring your poetry, your guitar, your dance troupe, your award-winning essay, or your stand up comedy to share.

Thursday, 11/19


RealArts@Penn program

5:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

hosted by: Anthony Decurtis
watch: a video recording of this event via KWH-TV
listen to an audio recording of this event

Kevin Powell is one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voices in America today. Kevin is a native of Jersey City, raised by a single mother in extreme poverty, but managed to study at Rutgers University in New Brunswick thanks to New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund. Kevin has gone on to be the author of 11 books, including Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays. Among his upcoming books is his memoir of a very difficult childhood and youth, The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood. It will be released in November 2015 by Simon & Schuster. In 2017, he will publish a biography of Tupac Shakur, the late rapper and controversial American icon. Kevin's writings have also appeared in, Esquire, Ebony, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and Vibe Magazine.

The Education of Kevin Powell is a raw, deeply painful accounting of a life born of poverty, racism, abandonment, abuse, and complicated love. It is a memoir as much about a mother as it is about her son, a memoir born out of stunning writing and surprising vulnerability. A memoir of rage and insight, heartbreak and hunger. Powerful, brave, and unforgettable.”

—EVE ENSLER, author of The Vagina Monologues

“Powell’s ‘education’ is one with lessons for all of us, a riveting story of conflicted manhood, the ups (and definitely the downs) of the class structure, and the ongoing racial drama that has characterized America from the jump. To understand Powell’s triumphs, defeats, and refusal to give up, even when all the odds were against him, is to understand America writ large. His personal commitment to justice and equality for all, made clear here as the outgrowth of a life often marked by injustice and hardship, is one we should all hope to mimic.”

—TIM WISE, author of White Like Me

“Poignant and transformative. This story of Black male life in our patriarchal culture, from boyhood to manhood, is raw and passionate. It offers a true and honest portrait of all that Black males endure to survive and, more importantly, to cope with trauma, and to heal and thrive. It should be read by everyone who claims to care about the fate of Black males in America.”

—BELL HOOKS, author of The Will to Change

Friday, 11/20

Saturday, 11/21

Sunday, 11/22

Monday, 11/23

Tuesday, 11/24

Wednesday, 11/25

Thursday, 11/26

Friday, 11/27

Saturday, 11/28

Sunday, 11/29

Monday, 11/30

LIVE at the Writers House

7:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

listen to an audio recording of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 this event

LIVE at the Writers House is a long-standing collaboration between the people of Kelly Writers House and WXPN (88.5 FM). Six times annually between September and April, the Kelly Writers House hosts a one-hour broadcast of poetry, music, and other spoken-word art, all from our Arts Cafe onto the airwaves at WXPN. LIVE is made possible by generous support from BigRoc.

Amanda Miska is Editor-in-Chief of Split Lip Magazine. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from American University. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in JMWW, Storychord, decomP, Matchbook, Hippocampus Magazine, the Prairie Schooner blog, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She lives and writes and raises two kids in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Laura A. Warman is the author of How Much Does It Cost? (Cars Are Real Press), Drone Love (Gauss PDF), and Will Go Fast (Hysterically Real). She is the founder of Glass Press, a publisher of art and poetry on flash drives, and a member of DAD PRANKS, a feminist art collective. Warman has had work in shows at MOCA Cleveland, Time-Based Art Festival, Flying Object, and Open Engagement.

Rachel Milligan is the author of Queen Carrion, chosen by Mary Ruefle as a finalist in the 2015 BOAAT Summer Chapbook competition, forthcoming in Summer 2016. She is a graduate of Temple University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work can be found in The Iowa Review, Bedfellows, Smoking Glue Gun, and elsewhere.

Die Ashley is a post-Christian angel boy, Trans Planet curator, and poet whose work is about Catholicism, metaphysics, and surviving schizo affects. They have appeared in AQNB, Vida, xoJane, Salon, The Fanzine, and elsewhere. Their book, No Greater Love, is available through Punk Hostage Press.

Madeleine Dubus earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her stories have appeared in Queen Mob's Teahouse and Berfrois. Originally from the Boston area, she currently lives in Philadelphia where she teaches writing.

P.E. Garcia is the Dead Letters Editor for The Offing and an Editorial Assistant for The Rumpus. His writing has appeared in Hunger Mountain, Prairie Schooner, and more. His chapbook is available from Awst Press. Born and raised in Arkansas, he now lives in Philadelphia where he's a PhD student at Temple University.

Featuring Musical Guest Sunny Ali