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Downton Abbey Is Downright Addicting

The following blog post is written by Kristen Zory King.

There’s no ignoring it – Rochester (and many other cities around the world) has gone slightly mad with Downton fever. From the beautiful costumes to the titillating drama, we’re utterly, irrevocably consumed. And it’s no wonder – in time when every other television program is a competition, violent cop show, or a reality romp showing west coast nouveau-riche behaving badly, Downton is a welcome change. (Don’t get me wrong – I do love to veg-out in my pajamas to watch a nicely dressed woman throw champagne in another nicely dressed woman’s face, but I don’t think it’s wrong to occasionally want more out of my programming).  Last spring, I hosted a Downton Abbey discussion series at Writers & Books and it was so popular, I brought it back for season four. Every other Monday, a large group of fans come to Writers & Books for tea, scones, and delicious debate. I am consistently awed and amazed at the discussions we have at these meetings – the attachments people have for these characters is real. Between the well drawn characters and their relationships, the dialogue that moves the scenes, and the wonderful emotion from a fantastic cast, Downton has us itching for more after each episode. Downton Abbey is a cross-generational hit that delights like a good novel.

For those of you looking for something to tide you over from week to week (or even, dare I say it, when the season is over), check out these books:

  • Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke – “Beautiful, melancholy and richly detailed, Rutherford Park elegantly depicts the lives within an English country house on the cusp of a new age. Elizabeth Cooke evokes classic authors like Vita Sackville West and Frances Hodgson Burnett.”
  • Park Lane by Frances Osborne – “Fascinating. . . beautifully written. . . . Frances Osborne brings the decadence of Britain’s dying aristocracy vividly to life in this story of scandal and heartbreak.”
  • The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – “A propulsive story of love, manners, culture clash, and store-bought class from a time long past that proves altogether fresh.”
  • The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn – “An enchanting read of Rachel Hore/Downton Abbey ilk, big storytelling stuff of social and political change spanning the First World War and beyond. It’s a glorious read, highly recommended.”
  • The House at Riverton by Kate Morton – “The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars…it is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades.”
And please join us for our discussions on January 27, February 10, and February 24 from 7:00-8:30. Hope to see you there!
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90-Second Newbery Winners

Picture your favorite Newbery winner.90 Second Newbery

Now summarize it 90 seconds.

Now ad dialogue, costumes, sounds and lighting.

This is the challenge faced by the hundreds of participants in the 90-Second Newbery contest. Each year, youth all over the country are encouraged to take one Newbery winner and convert it into a 90-second video clip. Since it’s inception three years ago, the program has grown immensely. Founder James Kennedy, author of The Order of Odd-Fish, along with sponsor KidLitFoundation now hold six screenings at various locations across the country.

Writers & Books in collaboration with RCTV had three winners in the contest this year. Each summer our two organizations come together to host a youth workshop. Below are links to the fruits of this collaboration via James Kennedy’s website.

Congratulations to all the finalists, especially our home town victors!


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2 Pages / 2 Voices Performance & Winners

W&B  and Geva Collaboration:

2 Pages / 2 Voices winners announced


Rochester NY –  Writers & Books in collaboration with Geva Theatre are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 2 Pages / 2 Voices submissions.



Bundle of Bytes, by Melissa Fox Pheterson

T.M.I. by Steve Donner

They Were Real, by Maria Brandt

Obsolete, by Bill Capossere

Servants on Strike, by Len Messineo

Science of the Damned, by Byron Wilmot

Beware the Jabberwock, by Ted Wenskus

Benched, by Mark Jabaut

Transition Department, by Hank Shaw

In Memoriam, by Terry Lehr


2 Pages / 2 Voices is an evening of short plays written by area writers and read by area actors. Each play must be no more than two pages in length and contain no more than two characters. The only other stipulation for this year’s submissions is that at some point in the play the word “fox” must be included.

Performance of plays – TUESDAY FEBRUARY 4, 2014, 8PM at Writers & Books.

On Twitter – @WritersandBooks @Gevatheatre #2Pages2Voices


For more information contact Chris Fanning at



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Why This Year is the Year to Check Out Our “If All…” Program

The following blog post is written by Rylie Day.

If you have followed Writers & Books for very long, you have probably heard of our program “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book”. If you haven’t and even if you have, here’s a short overview. Each year, Writers & Books selects a title to read, promote, and discuss. The book serves as a mean of bringing people together in literary experience and discussion throughout Rochester. Beginning in January and continuing through March, events are held throughout the Rochester area, all of which are centered around the selected read. At the end of March of each year, we dedicate three days of dizzying excitement to the visit of the book’s author. The title we settled on for 2014 is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. If you have participated in this event before, we hope that you will continue the tradition this year. If you have not, then we enthusiastically encourage you to do so. Below are a few reasons why this year is the year to start (or continue!) to partake in this incredibly rewarding program by reading The Snow Child.

1. The fairytale: The Snow Child is inspired by a children’s book with the same name, based off of the Russian folktale, Little Daughter of the Snow. Written in three lengthy sections, Ivey includes an excerpt from the tale before she begins each part. By doing so, she allows for the reader to guess (or assume!) as to what may happen, while perpetuating a sense of fantasy and magic. In short, this tale is capable of speaking to and awakening the child within us.

2. The mystery: Seeing as The Snow Child is based off an already established and relatively well known story, the reader may find him/herself tempted to assume he/she knows the outcome, especially seeing as Ivey includes excerpts from the tale itself. However, there is an underlying sense of mystery from cover to cover which leaves the reader spell-bound, captivated, and yearning for more. It is far from predicable. Ivey’s story-telling is magical, as is her ability to keep the reader mesmerized from curiosity striking beginning to heart-breaking end.

3. The setting:
Set in the Alaskan wilderness during the 1920’s, this unique setting tells a story of its own. Whether it is the ever-present wildlife, the portrayal of the homesteading and hunting lifestyle, or the lush descriptions of snow-capped, mountainous Alaskan terrain, Ivey sheds light on a world very dissimilar to our own. It begs for you to grab a mug of something warm, wrap yourself in a blanket, and get lost in the wondrous world of snow.

4. The characters: Whether it is the brokenhearted, delicate Mabel, the stoic, introverted Jack, the effervescent, non-traditional Esther, or the mysterious girl of the snow (whose name I will leave for you all to discover), each of these characters add to the story in their own invaluable ways. What’s more, the palpable growth they all experience by the book’s close make you cherish them all the more.

5. The events!: This year Writers & Books has organized a number of unique events all of which have to do with The Snow Child and its premise. Besides children’s events, book discussions, and writing workshops, there will be craft sessions, musical endeavors, and Alaskan themed videos, discussions, exhibits, and more! The highlight of the event will of course be visit with Eowyn Ivey herself when she visits Rochester from March 19-21. For the full list of events, take a look at our website’s “If All of Rochester…” Calendar using this address:

If this hasn’t given you reason enough to start The Snow Child immediately, then check out our website for more information, an author autobiography, book reviews, related reading, a book excerpt, and more. (

Happy reading!

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Reading Resolutions

Well, it’s hard to believe that it’s already a week into 2014. If you’re the type to make resolutions, them I’m sure you all have decided which one (or ones) you plan on pursuing, which ones are unrealistic, and which ones may or may not be something to put off until 2015. (There’s always next year, right?) Well here at Writers & Books, we too have racked our brains for what we want from the next twelve months, what may or may not have worked in 2013, evaluated past and present tactics to tackling tricky resolutions, and of course what all of these means for our literary lives. Here is the result. A handful of us have put together some thoughts on what books we have our eyes on, our reading and/or writing successes since last January, and proven approaches we return to as we look towards a fresh year of reading — all with a personal twist that we hope expands your reading lists, encourages you to keep the promises you made to yourself this year, and inspires you to realistically and successfully reevaluate and/or reemphasize your reading lives.

From the coordinator of our Gell Center in the Finger Lakes, Kathy Pottetti:

My bookclub “LitChicks” has already selected our first three books for 2014, one for the January, February and March and here they are:

January’s selection is The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Mamid, February’s selection is Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, and March’s selection is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, our 2014 “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book”, which I’ve already read and could barely put down. It was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I was completely transported…to Alaska with the Snow Child.

In my book club we all make suggestions, and the book that has the most “votes” is the selected read for that month. January’s choice was agreed upon primarily because the author is from another culture, which opens up your mind & the various awards he’s received since the publication of his book in 2007. Below is a link to the book’s wikipedia information.

February’s selection was a unanimous vote to read Far From the Madding Crowd classic novel and, being a love story, is a perfect tie-in for Valentine’s Day! Lastly, The Snow Child was a given, since our group meets right before the author’s visit in March. (For the complete schedule of “If All of Rochester…” 2014 which includes author Eowyn Ivey’s visit, take a look at our website using this link: )

For myself, personally, each of these books strikes a cord within. I value learning about other cultures, so I was very interested when The Reluctant Fundamentalist was recommended. Reading classic novels is high on my New Year’s Resolution list, so I avidly agreed to this one. Being a staff member of W&B I always am excited about the “If All of Rochester” program we have each year, especially this year because The Snow Child is so well written and gripping. It will be a joy to meet Eowyn Ivey and be a part of this event!

Each New Year brings with it certain expectations to exceed from the previous year, and for 2014 my reading list is to read more Classic Novels, and learn more about the “why” behind it.

Happy Reading in 2014.

From Alexa Scott-Flaherty, our Director of Development:

As a mother of a two and a half year old, one of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to read a book that is not a picture book. And to try and stay awake each night to read two pages, rather than one, of the novel sitting by my bed.

From Kristen King, our Director of Strategic Initiative:

Last December I had many resolutions for the upcoming new year – write more poetry, eat healthier, have more self-confidence, push myself harder, take note of my blessings, listen to more music, watch less TV, the list goes on and on. 2012 had ended on an unsatisfying note, and I wanted more for myself, more out of my life (semi-ironically, one of my resolutions was to want less, and yet everything else on that list pointed to more, more, more!). I also resolved to read more books. I was a precocious reader as a child and all throughout high school, gobbling up anything I could get my hands on. I stopped reading in college – well, I didn’t stop reading, as an English Literature major with a French Literature minor I ready plenty (averaging over 2,000 pages a semester) – I just stopped reading for pleasure. So in 2013, my first full year away from academia, I pledged to read twenty-four books, two for every month.

Now here we are in December 2013 and I’ve met some goals and forgotten about others. Did I eat healthier? Well I eat almonds more regularly… Did I write more poetry? No, but I did a lot of editing on old pieces and even had a poem published in Cactus Heart Press. Did I watch less TV? Yes, but only on the physical television, I consume crazy amounts of media on my laptop. The only resolution that I have meet fully and with complete vigor is my reading challenge. In 2013 I read 39 books.

Some of those 39 books were great, some were so terrible it was a literal eye-sore to get through them. Some were life changing, some I can’t even remember the name of a single character. But all of these books, however wonderful or littered with plot holes, made me happier. In 2013, I am thrilled to say I rediscovered my love of reading, remembered that reading is so much more than escapism – it is an activity that can bend the mind, teach, build vocabulary, imagination, and empathy. So in 2014, I have one simple resolution: keep reading.

From Sally Bitter Bonn, our Director of Youth Education:

I rarely make a plan to read particular books. I am a firm believer in reading the right book at the right time, and I let the books find me. I am leaning toward memoir right now, and do have some recently acquired unread books on my shelf and nightstand. But I am not making a plan for what I will read. I look forward to seeing what 2014 will uncover for me.

And from myself, Rylie Day, the blog coordinator and lowly front desk employee:

Just as 2013 marked Kristen’s first full year as a college graduate, seeing as I earned my degree in English Literature from Nazareth College just a few short weeks ago (I’m still waiting for my diploma in the mail), 2014 is my turn to experience the freedom (and responsibility) that being a college graduate brings. Being an English major, it is no surprise that most of my academic career involved intense reading, deliberate annotation, and at least one elaborate, obscure thesis a month (maybe an exaggeration here, but only a small one). For the past several years, I have defined my life in terms of the beginning and ending of semesters, due dates, and maintaining an impeccable GPA. As a result, if there was time at the end of the academic day (which, also working full time was a BIG if), I was more often than not entirely mentally exhausted. It left very little time for recreational reading and thus, I characteristically utilized my breaks to dedicate myself to reading books for fun. (This past summer I read more than fifteen books, nearly all of which were more than 400 pages.)

So for 2014, I excitedly and nervously dedicated myself to several goals for the New Year, some of which I will share with you now:

1. Seeing as I now have no excuse to put personal writing on the back burner, I will make it more of a priority this next year. This includes sending out those query letters I’ve drafted but have been too scared to send, entering my fiction pieces into contests (FINALLY), and stop making excuses about my projects being “incomplete” or “needing more work.”
2. Dedicating more of my time to this blog… My hopes is that it will be something with a different spin and an original feel when compared to other blogs. Ironically enough, early in my writing “career” (if it can be called that) I vowed to never conform to the trend of internet writing, self-publishing, e-books, etc. I wanted to do it the “old-fashioned way.” I’m an old soul. However, this past year has made it very clear to me how necessary it is to network via social media and how beneficial it is to have experience in the internet writing, especially in terms of blogging. So, I hope to offer insight, creativity, imagination, and/or reinvention to the Writers & Books blog this year. I will let you all be the judge as to whether or not I accomplish this in the next several months.
3. And now for the reading. Not having the college element in my life is, admittedly, terrifying, but it is also quite exciting. Instead of trying to fit in as many reads as I can in between semesters, I am left with the ellipses that is the rest of my reading life…or least the ellipses that is my reading life in the next year. I can read without pressure. This is not to say that I did not enjoy my academic reading. Nothing is further from the truth. I love academia. However, now that my every day life is not utterly revolved around it (tear?), I choose to enjoy the freedom that this entails; and so, I originally planned on reading 25 books this year (approximately 2 books a week). Then I realized that book length is definitely something that needs to factor into this equation; and so, I revised this original goal to 25 books OR 7500 pages which is 25 books at, at least 300 pages per book – an attainable goal I believe, considering that I have a few interesting picks with which to begin…
— After finishing The Snow Child on New Year’s Day, I immediately opened up Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. This was the first book sent to me after I joined author Ann Patchett’s book club (the author which inspired me to be a writer…more on that later…potentially). Seeing as this is a nearly 800 page book, I wanted another project to work on simultaneously and so I vowed that by the end of December, I will have re-read (for the ump-teenth time) The Chronicles of Narnia by the legendary C.S. Lewis. In this re-read I want to truly absorb anything and everything that these underrated books have to offer. The language, the plot, the characters, the message. They are true gems in our literary world. I learned this at a young age (again, more on this later…potentially). I want to relearn the childhood lessons and relive the childhood memories this year.

Well, my friends, we hope that putting ourselves out there was worth it. We hope that sharing what 2014 means to all of us has inspired you to revise and/or expand your New Year’s Resolution List and to include the reading and writing elements of your life. If you had already done so before this post, we hope that it encourages you to honor your promises. If you hadn’t we hope it inspires you to make some new goals.

But most of all, we hope that our blog continues to promote your personal reading.
And because we would love to have evidence of this, I will be running a blog in the first week of February which is dedicated to all of YOU.

What I would like to know is….

What books are you dedicating yourself to this year?

Email me a few titles, along with some explanations, if you feel the need, and I will post results a month from now. You can also submit on site at 740 University Ave. A very brief and friendly form is available at the front desk (I will more than likely be there to accept it!) or in any of our classrooms. Also, look to our social media outlets for similar opportunities.

Please contact Rylie Day at

Keep living, keep loving, bust most importantly keep reading.

The WAB staff.