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November 2016

Dear Friend of Writers & Books,

Imagine, for one moment, if Joe Flaherty had not had the singular vision to open a literary center here in Rochester 35 years ago. Imagine living in a city in which there is no independent literary center to offer affordable writing workshops to adults and youth, or to bring top-notch literary talent—including Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Carol Oates, Ernest Gaines, and many more to the city for readings. Throughout Writers & Books’ history, tens of thousands of writers and readers of all ages have found a home here, taking workshops, honing their talents, and passionately discussing books with fellow book lovers.

I agreed to succeed Joe as executive director and move back to western New York, where I grew up, because I knew that in the United States comparably few cities can boast of having a literary organization quite like Rochester has with Writers & Books. Here, people of all ages and walks of life can be inspired to tell their stories—people like Abby Johnson.

When she was ten-years old, Abby’s parents registered her for SummerWrite classes. In one of these classes, she wrote poems that were prominently displayed in a photography exhibition at Image City. Seeing her poems in public made her feel empowered and proud. “This is mine,” she thought at the time. “I did that.” In the years that followed, she often had moments of hesitation about whether being a writer constituted a “real job.” Through her experiences at Writers & Books, Abby became more confident that there are many ways to be a successful writer. “Writers & Books helped to create my sense of self, of knowing what I wanted to be.”

Abby was so captivated by her experience at Writers & Books, in fact, that she became an apprentice in the program at age sixteen. Three years later she became the SummerWrite Coordinator, and in these roles she has helped inspire the next generation of young writers. But Abby learned something, too: “I was reminded that words coming together to tell a story is magic. Writers & Books teaches people that writing should be celebrated and embraced.” Today, Abby is a senior at Vassar College. She will graduate next May with a degree in English/Women’s Studies, and plans to pursue an MFA degree in creative writing.

In order for us to continue to inspire generations of readers and writers, we need your help. We can’t do it without you. Your gift helps us to offer intensive writing workshops for adults, week-long SummerWrite classes for youth—nurturing in them a lifelong love of creativity, reading, and writing—and allows us to bring award-winning, nationally recognized authors to the city. For 35 years, Writers & Books has been a stalwart in the Rochester community, a place where people convene to share their stories in workshops and at local author readings. If you are reading this letter, it’s because having a strong, supportive literary community right here in Rochester matters to you.

It matters to us, too. Please consider making a gift to Writers & Books’ Annual Fund. We are truly grateful for your support! Whatever your interests and whatever your means, we ask you to give a gift that is significant for you. You never know whose life you will inspire.

With sincere appreciation, 

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Kyle Semmel, Executive Director

P.S. Our revamped winter workshop catalog publishes soon, and will include articles on craft, interviews, and more. It’s thanks to the generosity of people like you that we’re able to offer such a variety of classes and events!

“Writers & Books—that shining star in Rochester’s cultural life—was an essential resource for me as a young writer.”   —Andrea Barrett, MacArthur “Genius” and National Book Award-winning author of Ship Fever