The Power 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 the power of Possibility. Students of all ages and backgrounds come here to pursue transformative experiences, to nurture their writing and ideas in a supportive community.

Join us as we ensure the future of the Kelly Writers House by building $10 million in endowment gifts by 2026, when we will welcome a new Faculty Director and celebrate the retirement of founding Faculty Director Al Filreis, after 30 years of innovative learning and 30 years of community collaboration here at the Writers House.

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

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 Junior Fellow

The Kelly Writers House Junior Fellow program enables recent Penn alumni to deepen and extend their relationship to the Kelly Writers House community through a grant that encourages and supports continued creative work post-graduation and culminates in a public presentation that takes place at the House.

A gift of $250,000 endows and names a Kelly Writers House Junior Fellowship. We are seeking two fellowships.

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.

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.

Digital Ventures Fund

The Digital Ventures Fund would support our most capacious and far-reaching initiative: to make our vast digital resources freely available to anyone, anywhere. The project encompasses several interrelated projects, including PennSound, by far the largest online collection of digital poetry recordings in the world; PoemTalk, the monthly podcast hosted by KWH Faculty Director Al Filreis since 2007; Jacket2, the online magazine of writing about poetry and poetics; and ModPo, our famous, award-winning open online course on modern and contemporary poetry, which engages tens of thousands of students each year (currently 54,000 people from 179 countries—a total of 360,000 since 2012). The Digital Ventures Fund will ensure that every public event continues to be live-streamed, that our recording studio continues to be available for use by students, faculty, and the wider community, and that our student interns continue to have meaningful training in digital media and recording, video and audio production, and digital design.

We are seeking a $2 million endowment. Gifts at any level support initiatives including student podcasts, PoemTalk, ModPo, and PennSound. A gift of $50,000 or more will establish a named fund that supports the Digital Ventures program at the Kelly Writers House.


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