Awards and fellowships

The Kerry Sherin Wright Prize

2018-2019: Jacob Kind and Sam Friskey

This year’s prize supported two winners: Jacob Kind (C’20), who will develop a blog about drag culture in Philadelphia, and Sam Friskey (C’20) who will focus on playwriting.

Sam Friskey's event - "Why Is It So Hard to Write Plays on Climate Change?" - brought playwright Madeleine George to the Writers House for an evening of play readings and discussion. Madeleine George's plays include The Sore Loser, Hurricane Diane (Obie Award), The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Pulitzer Prize finalist; Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Susan Smith Blackburn finalist), Precious Little, and The Zero Hour (Jane Chambers Award, Lambda Literary Award finalist). Madeleine is a founding member of the Obie-Award-winning playwrights' collective 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.), the Mellon Playwright in Residence at Two River Theater in New Jersey, and the Fellow for Curriculum and Program Development at the Bard Prison Initiative at Bard College.

2015-2016: Maya Arthur

This year's Kerry Prize winner Maya Arthur (C’18) will used the prize funds this year to create a zine library at Kelly Writers House.

2014-2015: Gina DeCagna

This year’s Kerry Prize winner Gina DeCagna explored the multifaceted world of artists' books. For her interactive Kerry Prize program, Gina unfolded her own large-scale, accordion-style collectivist book sculpture, I YOU ME, spread it throughout the Writers House on walls, floors, and other surfaces, and invited Hub members to write and draw on the mega-book’s surface.

2013-2014: Kenna O'Rourke

For Philadelphians, "localness" is all too often generalized into cheese steaks, Rocky, and cold pretzels. What does it really mean to be "local," one of hip urban America's favorite buzzwords, and what does it mean to be Philadelphian? Join genuine Philadelphian legends of local — Jane Golden (director of the Philadelphia MuralArts program), Daniel Denvir (writer for City Paper), Ann Karlen (director of Fair Food Philly), and Grace Ambrose (DIY and local music/art/feminism proponent) — for a conversation of "the local" as a cultural and philosophical concept. This year's Kerry Prize winner, Kenna O'Rourke, will moderate, and a reception featuring delicious locally sourced food will follow.

2012-2013: Kate Herzlin

The Kelly Writers House Home Project is a collaboratively written play, organized by Kate Herzlin for the annual Kerry Prize Program. We'll host two performances of the play, performed throughout the rooms of Writers House. Intimate, site-specific, pick-your-own-adventure theatre at the homiest place on campus. We'll even feed you. What could possibly go wrong?

2011-2012: Alex Marcus

Food Writing: A Panel Discussion

Responsible Food Systems: A Panel Discussion

This year’s Kerry Prize went to Alex Marcus (W’12) for the Penn Food Summit, which he organized with help from Sam Sharf (C’12), Kristen Martin (C’11), and Jenny Chen (C’14). Alex and crew conceived the summit to bring together enterprising groups of students from nearby colleges and high schools and introduce them to culinary leaders, including food writers and reviewers, chefs and restaurateurs, and farmers and farm-to-table activists. Featured summit speakers included Deb Perelman, of the blog Smitten Kitchen (who was nearly mobbed by a pack of adoring fans); Judy Wicks, founder of White Dog Café (whose legendary ethos has helped put Philadelphia on the national food map); and Rick Nichols, Penn writing instructor and food columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer (who has a room named for him at Philly’s famous Reading Terminal Market). Attendees participated in a roundtable keynote discussion about food matters critical to college students and capped off the summit with a fast-paced cooking competition judged by two local chefs. (Cornell’s pork tacos took top prize — sorry Penn!)

2009-2010: Trisha Low

For her Kerry Prize project Trisha Low (C'11) asked the Hub: "what does it mean to be a woman?" and Hub members Erin Gautsche, Michelle Taransky, Cecilia Corrigan (C'10), Lee Huttner (C'10), Rivka Fogel (C'11), Violette Carb (C'11), Arielle Brousse (C'07), Lindsey Todd (C'12), Allyson Even (C'13), and Trisha herself responded to the question with art and writing that translated the academic discourse of feminism into more personal vernaculars. Drawing on the divergent aesthetics of Riot Grrrl zines and pinups, Trisha gathered the work into a book, "Live Paper Dolls," which she printed and bound using 15th Room Press equipment. We celebrated the release of "Live Paper Dolls" with an interactive panel discussion, moderated by Trisha, featuring former KWH staffer and Riot Grrrl Allison Harris, editor and writer Sadie Stein, and Penn grad students and fabulous feminists Katie L. Price and Julia Bloch.

2008-2009: Jillian Budd

The 2008-2009 Kerry Prize winner, Jill Budd, spent the summer of 2008 researching the history and production of radio plays before developing her own script. A Few Small Calculations is a play about a slightly mad (and somewhat lonely) scientist devoted to the creation of a perfect calculating machine, in the misguided hope that the resulting success and fame will change his drone-like days in the laboratory. We held the premiere live reading of Calculations in the KWH Arts Cafe, with parts played by Hub members Jamie-Lee Josselyn (C'05), Richard Lawrence (C'07), and Seth Laracy (C'04), who channeled the grand old days of radio with their campy vocal stylings.

2007-2008: Matthew Abess

With support from the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (CPCW), Matthew Abess (C'08) spent the duration of Summer 2006 at the Sackner Archive of Concrete & Visual Poetry researching "concrete text-sound" poetry and in particular the work of innovative writer Bob Cobbing. Matthew's research culminated in two major projects, "Make Perhaps This Out Sense Of Can You," an exhibition of Cobbing's work at the Rosenwald Gallery of Penn's library; and this year's Kerry Sherin Wright Prize program: "Suddenly Everyone Began Reading Aloud" an evening of readings and discussion in celebration of Cobbing's the life and work.

2006-2007: Scott Glassman and Julia Bloch

Scott Glassman and Julia Bloch used the Kerry Prize to establish a poetry series called EMERGENCY.

What does it mean to be an emerging poet in America today? Does Dana Gioia's claim that "poetry has vanished as a cultural force in America" ring true for poets at the cutting edge of literary production? Does today's emerging poet face increasing isolation and shrinking audiences, or is a quiet renaissance taking place, one centered around close-knit communities, long-distance mentorships, new media, and chapbook exchange? How are theoretical stances and aesthetic practices transmitted among poets at different stages in their careers?

The Emergency Series at Kelly Writers House seeks to answer these questions, highlighting perspectives on the current state of American poetry through the diverse experiences of its practicing poets. By bringing together emerging and established poets for readings and discussions, it aims to create an ongoing dialogue about the role poetic lineage plays in a poet's development, and its impact on the vitality of the craft.

2005-2006: Josh Schuster and Jessica Lowenthal

Poetry, Politics, Proximity: For this year's Kerry Sherin Wright program, hub members Josh Schuster and Jessica Lowenthal commissioned new work from six writers: C.A. Conrad, Jamie-Lee Josselyn, Jenn McCreary, Jena Osman, Frank Sherlock, and John Taggart. Josh and Jessica asked each of the six writers to compose work about the microclimate and micropolitics of their neighborhoods -- within 100 meters -- focusing, in particular, on changes and tensions they may have noticed since the recent, intense conservative turn in American governmental practice. A list of questions prompted each writer to think about a broad range of local subjects, from neighbors and their noises to the relationship between economy and ecology.

2004-2005: Phil Sandick

Phil's Kerry Prize proposal was to bring poet Hal Sirowitz to the House in the spring of 2005 for a reading and an afternoon workshop with Penn undergraduates. These events are scheduled to take place on March 24, 2005.

Hal Sirowitz

Hal Sirowitz is the author of three books of poems, Mother Said, My Therapist Said (Crown) and Before During and After (Soft Skull Press). In the spring of 2004 Father Said will be published, also by Soft Skull Press. He is the recipient of a Frederick Delius Award and The Susan Rose Recording Grant for Contemporary Jewish Music. Mother Said will be released on CD with music composed by Alla Borzova, sung by Paul Sperry. John Flansburgh of the rock group, They Might Be Giants, has recorded him for Hello Records, and the group spoke about him during their Mother's Day interview for NPR's Studio 360. Garrison Keillor has read his work on NPR's Writer's Almanac. Sirowitz has performed on MTV's Spoken Word Unplugged, PBS's Poetry Heaven, and NPR's All Things Considered. Awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a 2003 New York State Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, Sirowitz is also the best selling translated poet in Norway, where Mother Said has been adapted for the stage and has been made into animated cartoons. Hal is the former Poet Laureate of Queens, New York. He has a poem in Garrison Keillor's anthology, Good Poems, in Poetry in Motion from Coast to Coast (W.W. Norton), in Poetry After 9/11 (Melville House Publishing) and in 110 Stories: Writers Respond to 9/11 (NYU Press). He worked for 25 years as a special education teacher for the New York City public schools. Hal is married to the writer Mary Minter Krotzer.

2003-2004: Mytili Jagannathan

The first winner of the Kerry Sherin Wright Prize was hub member Mytili Jagannathan. Mytili's proposal brought California-based writers Sesshu Foster and Karen Tei Yamashita to the Writers House, in collaboration with Asian Arts Initiative, on September 18, 2003.

Sesshu Foster is the author of two books of poetry, Angry Days and City Terrace Field Manual, and a recent novel, Atomik Aztex. He also co-edited the anthology Invocation L.A.: Urban Multicultural Poetry.

Karen Tei Yamashita is the author of three novels, Through the Arc of the Rainforest, Brazil-Maru, and Tropic of Orange; and an experimental mixed-genre work, Circle K Cycles.

To read the 9/19/03 Daily Pennsylvanian article on this event, click here.

Brian Cope

The second winner of the 2003-2004 period, Brian Cope was rewarded for his role in bringing Brendan Lorber to the Writers House on March 18, 2004.

Brendan Lorber is the editor of LUNGFULL! magazine. He can be found in the secret laboratory of his Brooklyn farmhouse all night cooking up such chapbooks as The Address Book (1999), Your Secret (2001), Dash (2003) and, with Jen Robinson, Dictionary of Useful Phrases (2000). He's the cocreator, with Tracey McTague, of Book of the New Now (2002). A longer book, Welcome Overboard, is in the works. He has artwork, poems and essays in journals from Fence to The Chicago Tribune, and has been translated a number of times. He also runs the Zinc Talk/Reading Series. Click here for Brendan Lorber's talk.

Download a recording of this event here.