Programs to Support at the Kelly Writers House

A general gift to the Kelly Writers House will help support all of the following programs and projects. Designated gifts may also be directed towards a particular project. Gifts may be given to our "Friends" campaign—which provides term support—or to our endowment. To find out more about how you can help the Writers House, please contact us:

There are many projects and programs to support at Writers House. Scroll down the page to read about some of them or jump to: events and programs, student learning opportunities, initiatives and projects, and capacity building.

Events and Programs

Each of our literary programs—a reading, lecture, panel discussion, performance, celebration, or workshop—is a marvelous production. Students, faculty, and staff come together to envision each event, invite the guest, reserve lodgings, order books, inform interested professors and their students about the author's work, make posters and Facebook pages, send out listserv announcements, and set the stage. The hard work pays off as each week hundreds of people visit the Writers House to enjoy our readings, meet with writers, and discuss contemporary literature over the delicious reception handmade in our very own Kane-Wallace Kitchen. A gift to support one of these events sees us through the production of one of these events, from start to finish.


"Speakeasy," our twice-monthly open-mic night ("poetry, prose, & anything goes" is the series motto), is our longest-running student-run series—and it is the program that gets the word out among undergraduate populations more effectively than any other. The students who volunteer to run the project learn how to manage resources, efficiently set up and promote each event, and (most impressively) create a succession plan to ensure the longevity of the project. In the past, some student managers have endeavored to publish a Speakeasy Anthology, a selection of the year's open-mic greatest hits—still others have sponsored themed events like our Prohibition-inspired "Speakeasy Speakeasy" or our annual Halloween "Spookeasy."

Named Annual Symposium Featuring an Eminent Screenwriter

"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." So wrote Robert Forman (W'06), after his three-day experience working closely with director and screenwriter Andy Wolk (C'70). "These screenwriting seminars were more than inspiring, they were downright useful," commented Suzanne Maynard Miller, herself an alumna (C'92) who returned to Philly, and to the Writers House, to join the symposium. Few projects are received as excitedly as those programs and workshops we hold with working screenwriters. This endowment permits us to continue, and further deepen, an already well developed activity for which our student and alumni constituencies clamor.

Named Annual Symposium in Mass Market & Popular Culture

The Writers House is a haven for writers and writing of every kind and genre, and there has long been an interest among Writers House-affiliated students and faculty in the written work of "genre writers" (fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, etc.), reviewing, and pop-culture journalism. The House has featured dozens of workshops, performances and mini-courses through which popular artist and pop-culture journalists have encouraged and nourished young talents seeking a wide readership. Rolling Stone critic Anthony DeCurtis teaches a course on pop-culture reviewing and criticism that has students standing in line along Locust Walk to 40th Street trying to get in. Lisa Scottoline's workshop on the genre of the legal thriller was SRO. Our program with infamous skeptic and science blogger PZ Myers of Pharyngula had people seated all the way back to the dining room. This gift will enable us to firmly establish a key aspect of our varied program—the creation of Penn's Symposium in Popular & Mass Market Writing at the Kelly Writers House, an exciting event featuring interactive, student-centered workshops and presentations with some of the most sought-after writers in the world of popular culture.

Named Annual Symposium Featuring an Eminent Novelist

Joan Didion, Jennifer Egan, Russell Banks, Susan Sontag, Maxine Hong Kingston, John Updike, John Edgar Wideman (C'64), A. S. Byatt, Michael Cunningham, Dorothy Allison, David Sedaris, Paul Auster, Richard Ford, Norman Mailer, and Rick Moody. These are among the famous novelists who have read and discussed their fiction at the Writers House. Michael Cunningham's rave response to the charged yet informal atmosphere of the House was typical of these greats: it was, he said, "the first academic setting I can remember that felt entirely stimulating and generous." We seek to consolidate this already significant legacy of eminences in the world of fiction—to name and endow an annual event with one of these greats, which could take the shape of a lunchtime discussion, a public reading, a workshop, or an interview-conversation.

Program Series in Poetry

In its first decade, the Kelly Writers House gained a national and international reputation in the literary world at large, but especially in the area of poetry. Poets, artists, critics and professors of poetics yearn to be on our annual roster of featured guests and to be affiliated with various Writers House poetics projects (English 88; the PennSound poetry sound archive; our radio program, "LIVE at the Writers House"; the PoemTalk podcast; the rich and robust source of poetic critique that is Jacket2; etc.). By providing support for visitors' honoraria and the costs of hosting poetry events and series, this gift will secure the status of the Writers House as one of America's most important venues for contemporary verse.

Supporting Student Learning

As the site of Penn's ultimate practicum, the Writers House has already, in its short history, sponsored specific apprenticeships for over one hundred students. These students may be writers and artists, or they may simply come to the house with a passion for reading or an interest in arts management, arts funding, and humanities programming. Currently, over two dozen students form the paid staff, and many more volunteer interns comprise the House's unpaid staff. These student staffers do the real work of the House: curating literary programs, creating new publications, developing marketing strategies, and supporting our annual Friends campaign, among many other duties. In the process of shaping the culture of the Writers House, the students gain immeasurable work experience—in addition to spending time with their favorite faculty members, fellow students, and of course the eminent writers we welcome to the House as our guests. The following internships are available to be supported, and afford a student a years' worth of learning in practice.

Arts Organization Internship

Many of the undergrads who closely affiliate with the Writers House seek learning opportunities to explore how arts organizations are founded, managed, staffed, budgeted, and programmed. Each year we help place students keen to learn about arts management in jobs and internships around the country, yet the Kelly Writers House is itself already a model for teaching students how an arts-oriented learning community can be created outside the curriculum. This gift enables us to pay a modest stipend to two students working in Arts Organization & Management. The interns will work closely with the Director and Program Coordinator to help conceive programming for the coming year, invite visiting artists, learn PR and outreach, make contacts in the Philadelphia and New York art worlds, and work on projects to strengthen the participatory-democracy style of Writers House decision-making.

Editorial Internship in Literary Publications

Through this school-year internship, a student will learn the basics of editorial work: soliciting manuscripts, planning issues, layout and design. He or she will also work with the Director of the Writers House in the effort to revivify the community of student literary magazines, encourage the start-up of new publications, and galvanize young talent around the very idea of publishing. The successful intern will gain fantastic resume fodder in applying for post-graduate jobs in the editing and publishing worlds, and we at the Writers House will use the contacts we've made—including many former Writers House students themselves—to place a student with such interests.

Internship in Digital Literary Media & Digital Archiving

This school-year internship offers a student an education in new media as they apply to the contemporary art scene. The student learns how the ambitious PennSound poetics archive is designed, how to set up and run a live interactive webcast, how to match the aesthetic with the technical on the occasion of any given literary event the Writers House is hosting. This is a rare opportunity for a student to synthesize interests that once seemed antithetical—writing and technology—but are now, thanks in part to the innovations of the Kelly Writers House, deemed vital to the future of the arts.

Internship in Urban Arts Partnerships

Due in part to the participatory-democracy format of the Writers House, we pride ourselves on being open to partnerships and collaborations with arts organization across the Delaware Valley. The student who gets this internship will manage the enterprise of our myriad partnerships: leveraging goodwill by maintaining consistent working relationships with the leadership at each organization, making coherent programmatic sense of the resources gained through those relationships, and helping to make the partnerships visible as a central part of our mission. A partial list of the organizations with which we have collaborated on programs and events includes: the 215 Festival; the Asian Arts Initiative; the Free Library of Philadelphia; International House; the Mayor's Commission on Literacy; One Book One Philadelphia; the Philadelphia Fringe Festival; and the Walt Whitman Cultural Arts Center.

Internship in Arts Marketing & Entrepreneurship

The Writers House has been commended many times as a literary free-enterprise zone and a practicum, a site where writing—usually deemed the work of solitary virtuosos—comes to be understood as necessarily collaborative, engaged, relevant and applicative. To be sure, virtuosos abound at 3805 Locust, but they also learn how to take RSVPs and manage waiting lists, make sure recording equipment is working and ready, mingle with audiences, sell books, and, prior to the event, tell the literary world that a great program is going to take place. This last skill—assiduous, creative PR and marketing—makes or breaks a literary community with ambitions of significant intra- and extramural outreach. The intern in arts marketing and entrepreneurship, already skilled on the literary aspects of the House, will become well versed in strategies for making contemporary art relevant—will be learning no less than how to take a circumscribed community and draw the circle around the widest arc.


From its inception, the Writers House has recognized that young and emerging writers benefit from having an open environment in which initiative and innovation are actively encouraged. We still make every effort to operate our programs in such a way that there is ample room for experimentation. The following projects are among those we operate to provide our community with opportunities to explore their interests in nonprescriptive, far-reaching new ways.

Kerry Prize

The Kerry Prize, so named for the Writers House's first director Kerry Sherin Wright, is awarded each Spring by a representative committee of affiliated writers to a member of the KWH community based on proposals. The prize will go to the person who proposes to create an event or project that best captures the aesthetic capaciousness and literary communitarianism that is a founding idea of the Writers House and is indeed the hallmark of Kerry's work as our director. Recent winners have hosted a panel talk on the personal vernacular of feminisms and how the zine culture of the early 1990s furthered the discussion; produced a staged reading of a new radio play; and established a reading series celebrating the work of emerging poets.

Student Literary Publications Grant Fund

The Writers House has been the catalyst, incubator and financial supporter of a number of exciting new student-led publishing ventures, including the nationally distributed literary journals Xconnect, Combo, and Phillytalks; an acclaimed small press, Handwritten Press; and Jacket2, the world's premiere online resource of poetry and poetic criticism. This fund would provide the start-up money for enterprising students who wish to start their own magazines—magazines like Penn Appétit, Doublespeak, F-Word, and Kedma. The Writers House's support through this fund allows students to explore the challenges and rewards of publishing, and to gain real, self-directed editorial experience.

New Media Projects/Digital Technology Programming

Since the first days of the Writers House, when the founding group of students, faculty and alumni imagined a space for writers by designing a virtual "house" on the web, innovative uses of new media and technology have been at the heart of the Writers House project. Indeed, the intrepid writers of the House embrace new media as a tool for making both artistic and programmatic innovation and for building extended community. All Writers House programs are recorded, and the vast majority are webcast live and later made available and for free streaming or download on the web. Our website is a treasure trove of audio and video files, and PennSound represents one of the richest archives of free downloadable files an arts center has ever produced. KWH operates a slate of annual alumni book groups that pull together groups of literary-minded people from around the globe for borderless book discussions; it has also held seminars in an Arts Café proxy in Second Life. Writers House-affiliated students learn the technology as an integral part of their arts education (a new-fangled practical pedagogy in itself). Maintaining and upgrading the computing capacity that drives this series of inter-related projects—as well as keeping pace with new technology as fast as it comes out—presents real costs; this gift names and endows the collectivity of new media and digital technology projects at the Writers House, allowing us to pioneer new ways to make the interchange of ideas readily available.

New Student Initiatives Fund

Each semester—each week!—new students, faculty, staff and alumni come to the Writers House with great untried ideas. A sophomore in Comparative Literature who is passionate about literary criticism starts a series featuring Penn's best theorist/critics; a local journalist, a Penn alumna, wants to create a writing group for Philadelphia-area freelance journalists; a pre-med student who is an avid reader wants to host a series of discussion about the importance of clarity and empathy in medical writing. Over the years the Kelly Writers House has given the crucial initial support to all of these projects, and more. This named endowment will enable us to fund our new initiatives—creative ventures that are at the core of the Writers House mission. The Writers House is, along with everything else, a center for literary entrepreneurship.

ArtsEdge Residential Writer Program

ArtsEdge is a collaborative residency project designed to encourage the careers of emergent writers. Through ArtsEdge, recipients of this proposal-merited prize are offered a one-year residency in an apartment and studio space near Penn's campus. ArtsEdge aims to support the work of emerging writers, to foster an environment that will inspire innovative writing, and to enrich West Philadelphia by encouraging young writers to live and work here. Residencies last for one year and include an apartment, studio space in the AIR Space artistic nexus on 40th Street, and close affiliation with Penn's writing communities. During the course of their residencies, writers will be encouraged to develop at least one project at the Writers House—such as a reading, a panel discussion, or discussion group. Qualified applicants (with graduate degrees or appropriate experience) may also be considered to teach a writing course at Penn in the spring semester.

Capacity Building

While our minds are always on our programs, our roots are in our House—a beautiful 14-room Victorian cottage at 3805 Locust. A large part of our charm is granted us by the fact that we can call ourselves a home for visiting writers, and have visiting writers feel truly at home—taking a break on our porch, catching up on reading in our garden, meeting for a discussion in our Karlan Family Alcove, or brewing a pot of tea in our kitchen on a chilly day. We are committed to maintaining our infrastructure. These giving opportunities allow us to maintain and improve our space; some are naming opportunities that protect and support entire rooms of the House in perpetuity.

The Fairer House Fund

I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer House than Prose...

Emily Dickinson's words are among the first thing you see when you walk into the Writers House. While Emily spoke of a metaphysical dwelling (and while we try to live there with her!), our real House has needs as well. Kelly Writers House thrives in part because of its unique setting; it is truly a House, warm, homey, and welcoming. Every event sponsored by the Kelly Writers House takes place within the cottage at 3805 Locust, which is why it is so important to keep the needs of the space in mind; we are committed to maintaining its ambience in order to foster the spirit of literary community that drives our programming, while ensuring that it has the capacity to host such programs. While the University of Pennsylvania covers necessary structural maintenance expenses, improvements and updates are left to us. Endowing this fund would allow the Kelly Writers House to undertake any urgently needed capital improvements to the space. Some projects our staff has been planning to undertake include, but are not limited to: a new lighting system in our Arts Café; the construction of an outdoor stage in our Class of 1942 Garden, complete with spot lighting and sound system wiring; and new furniture and carpet replacement for the classrooms on the second floor. This gift would allow us to update our space for a contemporary audience, while maintaining the integrity of the historic building.

The Creative Publishing Room

The Writers House creative publishing room—called "the pub room" by its editorially inclined student denizens—is busy from morning until night, as the staff from a wide range of journals use our meeting space and state-of-the-art computers, scanners and printers to produce the latest issues of a wide range of excellent magazines, and where our student staffers edit our print materials and online offerings. By providing space and technical support to Penn's established student magazines, including the Penn Review, F-Word, and First Call, Writers House has given literati at Penn one central location for meeting to review submissions, scan art, lay out journals, and host production celebrations. This gift names the Publishing Room and perennially enables us to provide our student publishers and editors with a cutting-edge production facility.

Classroom/writing workshop room "209"

The coziest classroom at the University of Pennsylvania is called "209"—the number given it by the architect who designed the renovation of the Writers House in 1997. The room it designates—a quiet, tree shade-blessed nook, with its comfy leather couches, warm lighting, and tree-brushed windows—deserves to borrow more comity from its name. This gift names and endows the room in which writing workshops gather by afternoon and where literary clubs and writing tutors convene by night.

Classroom/seminar room "202"

Our main classroom, temporarily called "202," is a beautiful Victorian bedroom that has been thoughtfully converted into a state-of-the-art seminar room without compromising its original charm. It seats 15 comfortably as a working group (writing seminars gathered around a long table) and seats up to 25 for evening readings and discussion sessions—short story workshops, journaling clubs, poetry discussion groups, and children's book writing groups alike. The room is outfitted with a large flat-panel screen, a computer rack with every manner of recording and playback media, and a remote keyboard so that teachers and discussion leaders can take participants through real-time revisions of a manuscript, work on a poem line by line, or view a scene from an art film in progress. Our 202 is formally on the roster of Penn classrooms, an always-scheduled space that is central to the Writers House as a learning community.

The Arts Café

The lovely south-facing parlor on the main floor of the 1851 Tudor cottage at 3805 Locust Walk is the main venue for our programs. It is one of those rare rooms in which a book discussion circle of 15 and a rapt crowd of 60 there to hear a great writer feel equally comfortable, equally at home. The aura of this room—"heartwarming" is indeed the word—sets the tone for the intellectual intimacy that characterizes the whole Writers House project. The Arts Café is the very heart of the House. This gift permanently names the most important and most oft-visited space in the Writers House, and endows all the costs associated with maintaining the room, the upgrade cycle for all the built-in technology, improvements to lighting and acoustics, and running programs that take place there.