About Us

Writers & Books is a Rochester, NY-based literary arts center with a mission to foster and promote reading and writing as lifelong activities for people of all ages and backgrounds.


We believe:

        • in the power and importance of the written word;
        • in celebrating the value of the written word as both a tool for communication and an art form;
        • that storytelling is a vital aspect of the human experience;
        • that reading builds empathy and brings people together;
        • in creating safe space for voices of all backgrounds, beliefs, origins, and abilities; and
        • in engaging children and youth to have a lifelong passion for literature



Founded by Joe Flaherty, Writers & Books incorporated as a 501-c-3 nonprofit in 1981, and in 1985, moved to its permanent three-story home in Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. Today, the organization delivers a robust calendar of public programs, including Rochester Reads, a community-wide one-book project; SummerWrite, a reading and writing camp annually serving 575 youth K-12; writing workshops for adults; reading series; and panels and talks. Writers & Books owns and operates Ampersand, an in-house independent bookstore, and Gell: A Finger Lakes Creative Retreat, a 24-acre site in Naples, NY. Our programs serve a direct audience of 10,000 and an indirect reading, radio, and television audience of 15,000.




Selected Highlights


Writers & Books begins its literary life as The Book Bus, a mobile bookstore and book distributor. Founded and operated by Joe Flaherty, The Book Bus travels throughout the northeastern United States, engaging new audiences with small press books and their authors.


With Joe Flaherty at the helm, The Book Bus ceases its travels and is reimagined as Writers & Books, operating out of a storefront in a commercial/residential neighborhood in Rochester, NY.



SummerWrite, WAB’s flagship program for youth, launches.


Writers & Books is named one of NY State’s Primary Arts Organizations by the New York State Council on the Arts.


Writers & Books receives a bequest of a 24-acre property in Naples, NY, supported by an endowed fund administered by the Rochester Area Community Foundation.


Gleason Lodge at Gell: A Finger Lakes Creative Retreat, Naples, NY, is constructed.


Writers & Books inaugurates Rochester Reads, a city-wide one-book program, with Ernest Gaines as featured novelist.


The 740 University Avenue facility is expanded and upgraded to include a glass-enclosed atrium with accessible entrance, elevator, and restrooms.


Writers & Books conducts a successful capital campaign, paying off its mortgage on 740 University Avenue and establishing a reserve fund.

Joe Flaherty retires and is succeeded as executive director by Kyle Semmel.


The organization’s first Strategic Plan is written.

Alison Meyers assumes the position of executive director in May 2019.

Ampersand Books, WAB’s in-house indie bookstore, is established in September 2019.



Our headquarters at 740 University Avenue, Rochester, are currently closed due to COVID-19. We plan to reopen our doors to the public, Thursday-Saturday, in October 2021. Our campus in Naples, NY, Gell: A Finger Lakes Creative Retreatis also closed to the public, with repairs and upgrades planned for spring 2022.