A House of Possibility

Supporting Kelly Writers House


The Future of the Writers House

When the Kelly Writers House was established in 1995, our Planning Committee chose Emily Dickinson’s idea of “Possibility” as a founding principle. “Possibility” — for Dickinson and the Writers House — represents the extraordinary power of writing to transform the world.

Over 25 years later, the Kelly Writers House thrives on Possibility. Students of all backgrounds come here for transformative experiences, to nurture their writing and ideas in a supportive community.

Join us as we launch an endowment campaign to raise $10 million by May 2026, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Writers House and the intended retirement of Al Filreis, the founding Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, after 40 years as a member of the Penn faculty.

Enter the old, modest Tudor-style cottage at 3805 Locust Walk and I’ll guarantee that within ten minutes you will discover the learner-centered community we’ve intentionally made — a collaborative space both lovingly supportive and intensely challenging. It might be an avid conversation going on in the kitchen or on the famed Green Couch, the topic probably not curricular, yet the very way we learn will seem at stake because we are teaching each other. It might be a workshop, seminar, symposium, or interactive webcast happening in our Arts Café or upstairs classroom or studio, but you’re not likely to hear a lecture. We created the Writers House in 1995–96 in order to remind ourselves as students, educators, neighbors, friends, citizens, and supporters of the arts that committed acts of intellectual and aesthetic collaboration are the means by which people best address complex problems, admire beautiful and compelling language, and learn to be responsive to the possibility dwelling in each other. Our model is the poem that is at first seemingly impossible to understand: alone we are stumped, but then we do a collaborative close reading, and finally we realize that meaning, if it is to be powerful, is always co-created. We mean only together.

Al Filreis
Kelly Professor of English
Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, 1995–present


Giving Opportunties

The Possibility Fund

The Possibility Endowed Fund supports the entirety of the Writers House. Its capaciousness reflects the founding principles of the Writers House as a House of Possibility: a place for intellectually adventurous initiatives, collaborative work, and a learner-centered approach.

Established in honor of Al Filreis, the founding Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, the Possibility Fund will support all the activity that happens in the house and online: the projects and events, the prizes and internships, the collaborative learning. You can join the alumni, parents, community members, students, and friends who have already committed to securing the future of our house by making a gift.

Anyone can contribute to the Possibility Fund in any amount to help guarantee the permanence and sustainability of the Writers House. Thanks to a generous donor, we have a challenge match of one-million dollars. For each and every gift to the Possibility Fund, our challenge donor will make a matching gift, dollar for dollar.

Already a Friend?

If you already give annual gifts to the Writers House: thank you! We hope you will consider increasing — even doubling — the amount of your annual support during our campaign. Through the end of our campaign in May 2026, any increase to your previous annual gift will be invested in the Possibility Fund.

Double your impact!

Thanks to a generous donor, we have a challenge match of one million dollars. For each and every gift to the Possibility Fund, our challenge donor will make a matching gift, dollar for dollar.

Collaborative Education and Programming

The Kelly Writers House is, at its core, a house of writing and for writers—and we have welcomed numerous eminent novelists, journalists, screenwriters, songwriters, poets and more over the years. We are an internationally recognized leader in writing, teaching, collaborative discussion, and learning by doing—publishing, and printmaking have been central to our mission since we opened our doors.

Publication and Printmaking Fund

Dozens of student-conceived, student-edited publications have found a home at the Writers House, providing experiences that carry young Penn people into careers in media, publishing, editing, newspapers and magazines, design, and more. Our productive partnership program, the Common Press, is a fully operational letterpress studio—Penn’s only letterpress—where students learn the venerable art and craft of design and text, setting type by hand. An endowment gift to name our Publication and Printmaking Fund ensures that the Kelly Writers House is always able to maintain its dedication to physical printed media, letterpress projects, student publications, and more.

A gift of $1 million endows and names the Publication and Printmaking Fund.

International Programming Fund

Our community spans the globe, with tens of thousands of people who join us online for live-streamed events, book groups, and online courses — and featured writers who visit the KWH from far-flung places to present their work in the Arts Café. Endowing our international efforts will enable the Kelly Writers House to engage directly with our global community, through webcasts, online discussions, and international travel.

A gift of $500,000 endows and names the International Programming Fund.

Youth and Community Outreach Fund

Since its inception, the Kelly Writers House has found creative, effective ways to share our enthusiasm and resources with the community. That community finds a home at the Writers House and includes grade school students through regular creative writing programming, cancer patients through Writing a Life with the Abramsom Cancer Center, and gender non-conforming youth through the transcribez writing workshop. We believe in the power of language and writing, and that everyone has a story worth sharing.

A gift of $500,000 endows and names our Youth and Community Outreach Fund.

Creative Learning Community

The Kelly Writers House is a home to some of the most skilled young writers in the nation. Many of these students receive our support prior to and through the application process, as well as, of course, during their years at Penn, and after graduation through internships, awards, mentoring, and connection back to Writers House programming.

Kelly Writers House Apprenticeships

The Writers House famously and proudly “runs on student power” in every sense, with nearly forty-five undergraduate workers contributing specialized skills on a day-to-day basis. These paid positions on the Writers House staff are as rigorously educational, and as instructive and formative, as any internship, with specific knowledge-based goals set and increasing responsibility given semester by semester. By endowing an apprenticeship position, you ensure that students of all backgrounds can find professional experience at the Kelly Writers House, building on their expertise over four years.

A gift of $100,000 endows and names a Kelly Writers House Apprenticeship. We are seeking funding for 20 apprenticeships.

Poetic Practice Graduate Fellowship

Doctoral students in fields such as Comparative Literature, English, Africana Studies, Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies and more have found the collaborative pedagogy of the Writers House essential to their academic research as a Poetic Practice Graduate Fellow. By endowing, naming, and making permanent the Poetic Practice Graduate Fellowship, you will help ensure that the Writers House will always support academic exploration and investigation in partnership with a wide range of Departments at Penn.

A gift of $200,000 endows and names a Kelly Writers House Poetic Practice Graduate Fellowship.

Gathering Spaces

Students are the life of the Kelly Writers House and providing spaces for them to gather, read, study, exchange ideas, to talk deeply and long, and of course to write, is among our highest priorities as stewards of our 170-year-old Tudor-style cottage.


A crucial, conducive space for use by our students is our Library, comfy with overstuffed chairs, a small round table for chatting and collaborating, a long countertop-style desk equipped with computers — and housing hundreds of books, many signed by featured authors who have been our guests over the decades.

A gift of $500,000 names and maintains the Kelly Writers House Library.

Seminar Room 202

Thousands of students have discovered the Kelly Writers House through courses taught in the building. The intimate experience in the 202 Seminar Room has been a memorable turning point for so many students seeking to discover what it’s like to feel at home while learning. The sounds of laughter, gasps of surprise at some literary revelation, and sometimes of tears over the revelatory effect of intense discussion, emerge from that room as a regular feature of life in our cottage.

A gift of $500,000 names and maintains Seminar Room 202.


For more information about supporting Kelly Writers House, contact Andrew Beal, Associate Director of Development and Finance at Kelly Writers House, at abeal@writing.upenn.edu, 215-573-4846.

To learn more about the Kelly Writers House, visit us online or at 3805 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104.