Awards and fellowships

Kelly Writers House Junior Fellows

Funded from 1998 through 2008 by Kelly Writers House supporters Ralph Saul, a Penn alumnus and a life-long Philadelphian, and his wife Bette Saul, the Kelly Writers House Junior Fellow enables recent Penn alumni to continue their study of literary arts.

The Kelly Writers House Junior Fellow receives a grant. She can accept this money in the form of an honorarium and/or use the money on creating programs for and at the Writers House, including paying honoraria for other visiting readers or speakers, or paying expenses for a program or series that involves equipment, food, materials including books, etc. The one stipulation is that the Award year culminate in a project or presentation that takes place at the Writers House for the benefit of the Writers House community.

The main idea behind the program is to encourage students who have made substantial use of the Writers House during their undergraduate careers to stay connected with the Writers House community shortly after they graduate while they continue to do their own writing and explore the writing-related issues that engage them.

2017-2018 Junior Fellow: Gabriel Ojeda-Sague

In the tradition of the uproarious theater of the Cockettes, the experimental verbal collages of Lypsinka, and the plays and poetry of Jackie Curtis, the Writers House brings you a night of drag queens writing, writers dragging, and all things words and wigs. Curated by the Kelly Writers House Junior Fellow of 2017-2018, Gabriel Ojeda-Sague, this event commissions four new performances by artists working at the intersection of these two ostensibly disparate fields.

2016-2017 Junior Fellow: Nick Defina

Reading English translations of work originally written in German, Yiddish, and Russian, poet-translators Ariel Resnikoff (GR’20) and Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach (GR’19), joined 2016–17 Junior Fellow Nick Defina (C'16) for a multilingual presentation that capped off Nick's year of thinking and writing about literary translation.

2014-2015 Junior Fellow: Hannah White

As the 2014-2015 recipient of the Kelly Writers House Junior Fellows Prize, Hannah White designed a project to open up the Writers House for conversations about mental health and illness from a writer’s perspective. For a kick-off event held on September 9, 2014, Hannah invited eight speakers from the Penn community and beyond to discuss written works that exemplify the storied relationship between writing and mental illness (from Perks of Being a Wallflower to Pushkin and Sylvia Plath).

2012-2013 Junior Fellow: Grace Ambrose

Grace Ambrose (C’11) invited fifty people to help her produce an alternative guide to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When complete, “In Open Letters a Secret Appears: A People’s Guide to the Philadelphia Museum of Art” will be a set of fifty postcards that offer experimental responses to art objects at the PMA. The poems and riffs of “In Open Secrets” explore the possibilities of the postcard format as a not-so-secret letter, and Grace actually mailed the lot to emphasize the point. The project officially launched in February with a program at the Writers House: Grace described the mail-art origins of her work and invited poet CAConrad to read from his book A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, which features poems that draw inspiration from works of art. Rapt audience members included friends from the ICA and the PMA, fellow alumni, and many of the poets, artists, and musicians who contributed to the project. To view on online version of “In Open Secrets,” visit:

2011-2012 Junior Fellow: Genji Amino

Genji Amino organized a series talks about poetics, pedagogy, and alternative spaces for each. The series culminated in a presentation by Amino about a summer school of poetics he co-founded with the help of the Junior Fellows award money.

2010-2011 Junior Fellow: Thomson Guster

For his Junior Fellow project, Thomson Guster produced the ninth issue of Heat Map, a catalog of secret punk histories and millenarian obsessions. KWH featured a release party for the magazine on April 6, 2011.

2008-2009 Junior Fellow: Matthew Abess

Matt Abess spent the year exploring the "Topography of Testimony," by leading a course on the topic. The work of the course culminated in a lunchtime presentation by Matt and class participants Cecilia Corrigan, Ned Eisenberg, Kim Eisler, Trisha Low, and Kaegan Sparks. The program touched upon: afflicted screaming, disastrous writing, trauma circuits, reading habits, and memory ruins.


2007-2008 Junior Fellow: Moira Moody

Moira Moody Throughout the year, Moira Moody invited Philadelphians – students, Hub members, local writers, alumni, and other friends and community members – to help build a literary "scrapbook" of the city, a collection of work written in response to historical artifacts. Visit the project website for more information and for a fantastic array of poems, essays, stories and photographs that document and re-imagine Philadelphia's rich history.

2006-2007 Junior Fellow: John Carroll

John Carroll

John Carroll, a Penn Class of ’05 graduate, spent the spring of 2006 auditing the Kelly Writers House Fellows course, which featured visits from Richard Ford, Cynthia Ozick, and Ian Frazier. Particularly struck by Richard Ford’s idea of finding “a place to stand” in his New York Times op-ed “Our Moments Have All Been Seized,” John carried the idea with him throughout the semester, which helped him find similar ideas in the texts of Ozick and Frazier.

John's Junior Fellows project, “A Place To Stand Productions,” is a result of this time in the course digesting and talking about this idea of “a place to stand,” a place that Ford would like us to find through literature. John's project involves a daily recreation of a text — whether a poem, song, excerpt, quote, short story, etc — that will help someone find that place to stand. John will then mail these recreated texts — which he will recreate on a typewriter, in true Ian Frazier style — to randomly selected addresses in Philadelphia.

Each recreated text will come with a mailing and web address for the recipients to respond and find more information. If someone is particularly struck by the recreated text or the project’s aims, John hopes they will reply and become part of a network that will grow throughout the year — and hopefully beyond. John's final program — scheduled for April 19, 2007 at 6 PM — will include readings of selected texts, as well as thoughts from the participants who have received “A Place To Stand” mailings and have joined the network.

2005-2006 Junior Fellow: Roz Plotzker

Roz spent her time as an undergrad interested in HIV prevention, inspired by volunteer work with Philadelphiaís syringe exchange program Prevention Point. It led to her independent study with women injection drug users, when she represented HIV risks with correlations and logistic regressions. Now, she wants to return the voices and faces to the numbers.

Roz's Junior Fellows project, "Positive Soliloquies," is a documentary about two women living with HIV in Philadelphia. At the Spring 2006 public screening of the film, they will both be present to discuss their experiences and answer questions.

When completed, Roz hopes this film will be used as a resource for HIV activism in Philadelphia, as well as a source of inspiration for HIV positive women.

Very special thank you to Chase Bowman and to Julie Furj, my partner in crime.

2004-2005 Junior Fellow: Beandrea Davis

Heading west from Penn to my southwest Philadelphia neighborhood, I am always amazed at how, upon crossing 49th street, I seem to enter a different world. East of 49th street on just about any block spanning from Walnut to Baltimore, the streets are mostly tree lined and litter is kept at a minimum. Yet just steps away along this same span of blocks on the west side of 49th, greenery is the exception rather than the rule, and trash is scattered about the streets and sidewalks. Even more striking in contrast are the racial economic differences on each side of 49th street. Whites - many of whom are Penn-affiliated - make up the majority of the largely middle and upper class neighborhood that reaches east to Penn's campus. West of 49th street, however, the neighborhood is composed primarily of African-Americans whose economic status varies from low to middle income.

These contrasts fascinate me largely because they appear side-by-side in such close physical proximity, making the sense of separation that 49th street symbolizes at once concrete and illusive. Thus, through photographic study, creative nonfiction prose, and the collection of oral histories from community interviewees the project will explore the following related questions:

What constitutes "good" and "bad" neighborhoods in the southern portion of West Philadelphia? What physical markers feed and/or contradict such notions in the neighborhoods? How does a neighborhood's proximity to the Penn campus affect how it is perceived? What role do racial and socioeconomic politics play in popular perceptions of a neighborhood's status? How does Penn - an institution mammoth in size and influence - affect the development and stability of neighborhood communities?

This interdisciplinary visual arts project - featuring the black and white photographic image, creative nonfiction prose, and oral history collection - seeks to engage the Kelly Writers House community in a dialogue about the significance of 49th street as an urban interstice and dividing line between residential neighborhoods bordering the University of Pennsylvania campus. The project, entitled Crossing 49th, will culminate in a month-long House exhibition, with a combined opening reception and community reading bringing together various members of these communities.

Ultimately, this project aims to critically examine existing relationships between and among Penn as an institution and the West Philadelphia residential communities that surround its campus, with an eye for stimulation constructive dialogue about how the literary and visual arts can contribute to the transformation of these relationships.

Why at the Kelly Writers House? What I like most about he Writers House is its ability to be an institution that attracts Penn students, faculty and staff, as well as people who are unaffiliated with the university, to its community of diverse writers and artists. As the House prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary next year, Crossing 49th will provide a unique opportunity to further expand its tradition of promoting collaborative dialogue across constituencies by engaging the House community in a timely conversation about how the literary and visual arts can help illuminate and shape university-community relationships.

For a glimpse at this project, click here.

2003-2004 Junior Fellow: Adrienne Mishkin

Adrienne Mishkin's (C'03) Junior Fellows project, "A Year In Dialogue," is a series of poems written in response to programs and events at the Writers House during the 2003-2004 academic year. These poems were written in collaboration with other members of the Writers House Planning Committee, or "hub," and printed all together in a chapbook as a record of the kinds of ongoing, creative conversations that grow out of the Writers House community. "A Year in Dialogue" culminated with a launch party and celebration of the chapbook and the writers who contributed to it.

2002-2003 Junior Fellow: Blake Martin

Blake Martin (C'01) is a writer and photographer with a real love of art that stems from real life. As an English major at Penn, he focused on non-fiction & documentary writing, attempting to render the outside world in the tradition of non-fiction greats George Orwell, James Agee, and others. This work led Blake to wonder: "What would happen if I let my subjects render themselves?" "What would happen if I dissolved the line between subject and object?"

One Junior Fellow Award and over twenty rolls of film later, Blake and three young adults at the Attic Youth Center (a community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth in Center City, Philadelphia) have embarked on a collaborative journey to explore what happens when you give someone the means to express him or herself through photographs.

This question and others will be explored in the show "Disposable Cameras :: A Lesson in Self-Representation," which will be exhibited during the month of September, 2003, at the Kelly Writers House.

2000-2001 Junior Fellow: Andrew Zitcer

Andrew views archives as an opportunity that allows us to grasp at our past and relive it in a variety of ways. He is interested in collecting these moments and manipulating them utilizing a diverse set of creative processes.

Andrew has collected sounds and words from various parts of his life. These aural texts form the basis for poetry, inspired by the re-conceptualization of experience that these ambient recordings prompt. The second order of the project is the manipulation of these aural and textual archives. Through the use of digital signal processing and emerging computer technology, Andrew reorganizes and comments upon the original source material.

1999-2000 Junior Fellow: Aaron Levy

During his year as Junior Fellow, Aaron Levy was editor of Other Voices, an (e)journal of cultural criticism, co-organizer of the lecture series Theorizing in Particular, coordinator of Phillytalks, a lecture series on contemporary experimental poetry, and editorial assistant at Handwritten Press, a local small press. His most recent photography exhibit at the Kelly Writers House was "notes towards flight." Recently released from Handwritten Press was Windore, a collection of his recent photography and prose poetry.

As Junior Fellow, Aaron organized a conference on visual abstraction and language >> I call it art: Naming and Abstraction.

Initial program: proposal towards the architecture of poetry

1998-1999 Junior Fellow: Joshua Schuster

During his year as Junior Fellow, Josh organized two programs: "The Future of Institutions" and "Pseudonomy in Writing." He also published a chapbook with Handwritten Press, titled Project Experience.