The Big Pencil Awards Night 2013

Location: WAB – 740 University Ave.

Writers & Books is pleased to announce the Big Pencil Awards Night.Join us on Saturday, November 16, from 6 – 9 p.m. as we honor those individuals who have made significant contributions to the Rochester literary community.

Local Honorees: Gregory Gerard, Steve Huff, Donna Marbach, David Schickler, Mary Widger and Patricia Braus on behalf of Rochester Education Foundation’s program Give Back, Give Books.

The evening will begin with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, proceed with the presentation of awards, and conclude with fine teas, coffees and desserts.

Teacher of Youth – Donna Marbach

donna-marbach-240x300Donna Marbach’s poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have been published in a variety of anthologies and periodicals. She has served as editor for the national monthly writer’s magazine ByLine, and for FootHills Publishing, a small poetry press. She co-founded Pensimientos, a bilingual literary magazine by and for middle school students in Guadalajara, Mexico. She is also a co-founder and past president of Just Poets, Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the celebration of poetry and poets ( Her work has appeared in Blueline, Hazmat Review, Homestead Review, Quercus Review, The MacGuffin, The Red Wheelbarrow, The Pearl, and more. She has also been a featured poet in The Centrifugal Eye and selected to be among the poets featured in Rochester’s Poet Walk. In 2010 Donna co-authored Twisted Pair with Dave Tilley and is currently on the advisory board of the children’s magazine The Magic Dragon, for which she writes a column on poetry and other creative writing. She is also a visual artist.

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I am delighted we are able to honor Donna Marbach as recipient of the Big Pencil Teacher of Young People Award. Donna has been inspiring young creative minds at Writers & Books for over a dozen years. Every summer she teaches at least a couple of classes for our SummerWrite youth camp program. Her classes often incorporate the visual arts as well as the literary arts. What amazes me most about Donna is her ability to connect with any student who walks into her classroom. She can change tactics on the spot and shift her lesson to accommodate a brilliant writer, an antsy but motivated kid, a reluctant artist, or even a whole pack of wild young boys! She has the know-how to make every class she teaches a successful experience for every kid in the room.

In addition to teaching in our SummerWrite youth program, Donna has also taught as a visiting poet in the schools, as well as for our adult classes, and for our outreach programs that have touched the lives of at-risk populations, such as teen mothers. Donna brings an incredible joy and passion to her work that spreads easily to her students. We greatly value her creativity, inspiration, and dedication to the literary arts and the youth of Rochester!

– Sally Bittner Bonn, Director of Youth Education

Teacher of Adults: Gregory Gerard

imageGregory Gerard’s work has been recognized by Tiny Lights, Image OutWrite, and Geva Theater. He teaches writing part-time at Writers & Books, Rochester’s contemporary literary center, and has been a guest instructor at the University of Rochester’s Scholars Creative Writing Program.His memoir, IN JUPITER’S SHADOW (2009, Infinity Publishing), chronicles a religious boy’s struggle with forbidden attraction. It explores how we all receive messages about what we “should be” in life and how we sometimes work to hide truth from the most important person in our lives: ourselves.His debut novel, THE MARTINI CHRONICLES (2013, Kindle Direct Publishing), is a serialized story tracking the indissoluble friendship between a gay man and married woman. Each chapter comes with a themed martini recipe and thought-starter discussion questions. Gerard keeps the writing hot and the martinis cold at

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Greg and I go way back. My first job at Writers & Books was working the evening shift at the Front Desk and by some stroke of luck Greg was always teaching those nights. We would chat, I’d make copies for his class, he’d crack jokes and talk about his website ( Greg is an extraordinary instructor; his continuously full class rosters prove that. I can’t think of an instructor I admire more and I am proud to call him my friend.

– Chris Fanning, Public Relations Associate

Supporter of Writers & Books: Mary Widger

photo-8Mary Widger grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. College brought her to the Northeast, and Rochester eventually became her new hometown. After being an art therapist and art educator, Mary changed directions and went to Library School. She worked as a librarian at the George Eastman House and the Rochester Historical Society. Later Mary was a librarian at the Harley School. After retiring, Mary joined the board of Writers and Books in 2006 and has served on the Development, Program and Nominating committees. Reading and books have been an integral part of her professional and family life. Her daughter Emily is a Special Education teacher in Baltimore, Maryland bringing words to the lives of children with autism. Her son William is a writer in Los Angeles building his career with words.

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If you say the name Mary Widger to anyone on the board or staff of Writers & Books you get an immediate smile and hear the words, “I love Mary.” Why? Because Mary not only knows everyone’s name but she also knows his or her story, and she asks you how you are doing every time she sees you. Because Mary is always thoughtful, intelligent and creative in her contributions at meetings, and she offers great insights. Because Mary is always there in a pinch, always lovely and always a paragon of integrity.

– Alexa Scott-Flaherty, Development Director

Literary Community: Steve Huff

Steve Huff (1)

Steven Huff has worked in the book world for more than 30 years, in publishing and in retail. He served in various capacities at BOA Editions, first as assistant, then as managing editor, and, from 1996 to 2003, as publisher. He was director of adult education at Writers & Books from 2007 to 2013, during which time he also taught writing at several area colleges. Steve now teaches at the Solstice Low Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College. He has his own publishing company, Tiger Bark Press, based in Rochester, which now has national distribution and has just released its 11th book.

A Pushcart Award winner in fiction and a finalist for the O. Henry Prize, his poetry and fiction have appeared in Ploughshares, the Hudson Review, and numerous other journals and anthologies; and his poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac and in Ted Koosers American Life in Poetry. His books are The Water We Came From (Poetry, FootHills 2003); More Daring Escapes (Red Hen Press, 2008); and A Pig in Paris (Stories, Big Pencil Press 2008). From 2002 through 2007 he was host of Fiction in Shorts, a weekly story feature on WXXI-FM and WJSL.

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Writer: David Schickler

Davidforweb(pp_w432_h540)David Schickler is a screenwriter and author. His new memoir, The Dark Path, was released in September 2013. He is the co-creator and executive producer of the new Cinemax television series Banshee. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Kissing In Manhattan and the nationally bestselling novel Sweet and Vicious. He has written original and adapted scripts for Universal, Lions Gate, Sidney Kimmel and Wildwood Films.

His books have been published in nine countries and his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Travel & Leisure, and Zoetrope, as well as on Selected Shorts. His short story The Smoker won an O. Henry Award and was optioned by Paramount Pictures.

Organization: Give Back, Give Books

REF Book Day! 004Give Back, Give Books supports literacy activities and the purchase of new, high interest books for students in the Rochester City School District. Since 2006, REF has donated more than 32,000 new books to city students and supported a wide array of book clubs, parent-teacher reading activities, and many other activities. It is the only program in the area through which educators can apply for up to 200 new books to add zest and excitement to supporting student reading. Books are given for student use through the Teachers’ Choice application process. The philosophy behind the program is simple: Rochester city school students need to become better readers. To be a be a good student, you need to be a good reader. REF motivates students to read. Since 2006 REF has given books through this program to students in every school. Each year up to 5,000 books are donated through this program, with some students receiving one book and others as many as 10 books to read. At the end of the school year, most of the books are required to go home with students to support their home libraries.

The program energizes students and teachers. As one educator reported to us in her application this year: “Kids love books and owning their own book is a BIG deal to these students. It is not only a gift to them, it is a gift to their family – students will read a beloved Seuss book literally hundreds of time — by themselves, to moms, dads, grandmas, cousins, friends — anyone who will listen to them!” An evaluation of Teachers’ Choice in 2011 noted that the practice of giving students books as part of an educational project taught by teachers in the classroom exemplifies “some of the best practices in reading instruction.” By building the student’s home library, the learning can continue. A recent review by the Center for Governmental Research of programs supporting literacy in Rochester praised Teachers’ Choice for helping to “build a culture of reading in many schools, often extending to families.” We are pleased to be able to use books to encourage literacy and to help build bridges between educators and parents in Rochester.

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