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Kelly Writers House: Celebrating 15 Years of Changing the Literary Landscape

October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09

Kelly Writers House
For the past 15 years, the Gothic cottage at 3805 Locust Walk has been the lively and innovative second home for writers of all ages and genres, engaging countless members of the Kelly Writers House community in an array of activities, in person and online. Photo by Catherine A. Imms.

The Kelly Writers House, founded in 1995, will celebrate its 15th anniversary during Homecoming Weekend, on Saturday, October 30, with an Open House beginning at 2 p.m., followed by KWH 15th Anniversary Celebration—a reading by former students of Al Filreis: Suzanne Maynard Miller, Alicia Oltuski, Eric Umansky, and Kerry Sherin Wright at 4 p.m. in the Arts Café.

Established by a group of Penn students, faculty, staff and alumni, the Kelly Writers House was founded to be a hub, “in which creative writing activities could be organized, promoted and shared.” It was named in honor of Rita P. and Thomas J. Kelly, Jr., the parents of Penn Emeritus Trustee Paul K. Kelly, C’62, WG’64, whose $1.1 million gift made the house possible. Built in 1851, it had been the long-time home to Penn’s former chaplain for many years.
Led by founding director Al Filreis, the Kelly Professor of English, the house now runs over 300 programs and projects a year, including book and poetry readings, lectures, screenings, workshops, webcasts, exhibits, seminars and more. Originally run by a volunteer committee of 20 people, the Writers House has expanded to a 90 member planning committee and a full-time staff. On the jacket of the CD made when the KWH turned ten, Dr. Filreis noted that, “several academic and poetic generations, changed the local literary landscape.”

Today it is estimated that over 500 people visit the house each week to participate in its many programs. Tomorrow alone, KWH will host a lunch discussion with author and journalist Will Bunch at noon, a lecture by science historian, professor and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Arthur I. Miller, at 3 p.m. and finally, Speakeasy: Poetry, Prose and Anything Goes, their bi-weekly open mic night at 8 p.m.

Over the past 15 years, KWH has welcomed world-class authors such as Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, Jamaica Kincaid, Grace Paley, Gay Talese and John Edgar Wideman through its fellowship program. This year’s KWH fellows will be Susan Cheever, Edward Albee and Majorie Perloff.

There are many ways to get involved, from attending programs to joining a reading or writing group, to mentoring or offering support by becoming a Friend of the Kelly Writers House.

For more information, or to register for the Open House, visit http://writing.upenn.edu/wh/ or call (215) 746-POEM.

Almanac - October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09