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Who Are You? Chris Fanning

For the next couple of months, we will be doing a series of blog posts from our staff members called “Who Are You?” The following is from our Public Relations Associate, the amazing Chris Fanning.

I’m a People Person.

I grew up in Geneva NY and went to private school with the same 24 kids from ages 5 to 18. When I graduated from DeSales High School and my parents left me that first day at St. John Fisher College I think we hugged and I shouted “Call you tomorrow!”. I was on my own.

I received a Service Scholarship through SJFC, which eventually led me to perform my 200 hours of community service a year at Writers & Books. I didn’t know it at the time, but the connections I made that year would lead to my first job after college. I never left.

As the PR Associate at 740 University Ave I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the brightest people in the Public Relations field in Rochester. A small group of us meet once a month to discuss up coming events and what’s new in the arts & cultural sphere. Though I am the youngest member of the group, I am proud to consider these “fellow People Persons” my friends.

Nothing makes me happier than getting the word out about an event and then seeing new faces come through our door. If All of Rochester Read the Same Book is no exception. Every March we orchestrate an entire months worth of book discussions, film screenings, and receptions focused around one book. We turn Rochester into one big book club.

This year’s book, Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, takes place partially in Mexico. Our Kick-off party Friday March 1st will include a Scavenger Hunt, food provided by our neighbor Salena’s Mexican Restaurant and live Mexican music by Trio Los Claveles. For more information on this and other If All events, check out our website at

“Socialite” would imply that I have money and “Popular” would suggest that people know who I am, but People Person feels like a good fit to me. Want to discuss a collaboration over coffee at Starry Nites or come get a tour of our building? Call me at 473-2590 ext 105 or e-mail (Insert a poster of me leaning against a bookshelf with my arms folded and a big cheesy smile here).

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Interview with Steve Huff

For this week’s staff interview, we talked to Steve Huff, Director of Adult Education. We talked about some of the cool new business of writing classes we’re offering, the man who changed his life, some writing advice, and his early experiences with Writers & Books.


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Character Love

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a post by Writers & Books Webmaster Greer Nelson on the book characters she’s in love with: 

When I was a little girl I read much, much more than I socialized, and so the first time I fell in love, it was not on the playground but on a the pages of a book. My first crush when I was about six years old was on Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. At the time, I remember thinking that being around the same height would be a plus, but mostly I was in love with his humor bravery and dedication. I believe at once point I had the wedding planned. Everything was flower print. Hobbits like floral, after all.

The thing about reading a good book, especially when you’re young is that you can get absolutely lost in the world the author creates, immersed in it to a deep degree. The characters become real, perhaps more real than you are, since they are the ones who are doing deep, meaningful things, and you are the one laying on your bed reading about them. Characters especially stood out to me and I won’t lie, I fell in love over and over again throughout my childhood and never with a real person. By the time I hit 14 and met Severus Snape the internet was around and I could chat with other girls who had the same greasy, fictitious crush. It was bad company, honestly. Fights broke out. But it was fun. There was swooning involved.

Though I don’t get crushes like that as often these days, I am past the stage of being embarrassed by falling for a character in the pages of a book. What is the author’s intent if not to create a person so vivid and lifelike that we can empathize with them to a degree not unlike being in love? So on Valentines day, if you’ve ever loved a character, even a little bit, take just a moment to remember the one you left behind on the pages of a book.

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An Important Experiment: The Geva Cohort Club

The following is a post from Alexa Scott-Flaherty, Director of Development: 

Sean Daniels, Director and Artist at Large (how cool is that job title?!) at Geva Theatre Center is conducting a groundbreaking experiment in how to bring audiences in to the creative process. In the process he is revolutionizing the way in which we, as artistic organizations, engage with our audiences and patrons. And he’s asking the question – what can we do to make it possible for the Rochester community to own the work we do? A big and important question.

The experiment: Give 20 Rochesterians unlimited access to how Geva puts up a play (welcome at all rehearsals, technical rehearsals, previews, openings, receive rehearsal and show reports daily, social meetings with the actors and directors, etc.) in exchange for them sharing it with their communities (journal about our experience online on blogs, Facebook, etc). The group is called the “Cohort Club” and I’m a member. The play is a new comedy, The Book Club Play by Karen Zacarias. When Sean described the “Cohort Club” to all of us he said, “I’m picturing a high school kid next to a soccer mom, next to a donor, next to someone who has never been before next to a member of the local orchestra. Ideally, we make this group look like Rochester.”

So, since last week I have: attended the meet & greet on the first day of rehearsal and met the cast and crew, communicated online with the other cohort members, read rehearsal reports and everyone’s blog entries, received invites for countless cool opportunities (like a tour and discussion of the entire technical process, a party where the cast members read the cohorts words aloud and bring us to life so we feel what its like for the playwright to hear her words aloud, and more), and attended rehearsal. Wow.

So, why me? Why am I a cohort? Partly because Writers & Books and the Book Club Play share some common ground (we are a literary center focusing on, well, books…) but also because I care passionately about what Sean’s doing here. We need a revolution! If we want art organizations like regional theatres, dance companies, art galleries, literary centers, etc. to survive and really to THRIVE, we need to open up our doors. We need to truly engage with audiences and not just give them tours. I want to see how this goes and I want to be a part of how it goes.

Also, theatre is my love. Dear to my heart, most especially new plays. It’s what I did (and sometimes still do) in NYC, before I came back to Rochester. In fact, sitting in rehearsal today, I had a visceral memory of another experience not so unlike this cohort club, although all of my own invention. I was 24 years old and had only been in NYC for about 6 months after leaving The Shakespeare Theatre in D.C. and I was like many actors, desperately auditioning and trying to find my people. I came home one day to find a message on my answering machine (yes, I had an answering machine) from Phil Hoffman (yes THE Phil Hoffman) saying he would meet me for coffee. I replayed that message 100 times. I wanted to work with him and his theatre company LAByrinth and I told him so at our coffee. We got along right away and I asked him if I could sit in on the entire rehearsal process for the next play he was directing, a new play at LAB. He thought I was crazy and would be too busy and I told him I’d assist him in any way he needed as long as I could be there to watch the play go through the entire process. Finally, he said yes. It was the most magical experience, to this day, that I may have ever had in the theatre. It shaped the artist I am today. It helped me to find a home in NYC with those very actors and directors.

What was so special about it was that rehearsals are WHY actors love the theatre. Rehearsals are just about the most fun you will ever have in your life. They are also the most exhilarating, challenging, daring, scary, inspiring, sexy, moving…. You name it. They are juicy. In 3 to 4 weeks a play is born. It’s intense. To watch great actors and directors in rehearsal is… life changing. This is what Sean knows and what he is betting on. That if you come in to that room you will know this too and you will make sure your local theater survives. So, when Sean asks you to be a member of the next cohort club, say yes.

P.S. On my way home from rehearsal today I laughed so hard picturing a moment involving a pillow toss that was rehearsed over and over until a magical moment spontaneously occurred. This is what we all live for in comedy. There’s not much better than that.

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Upcoming Events

Looking for something to do this weekend? Writers & Books has got you covered…

An Evening of Storytelling with Rafe Martin
Thurs., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
$8 general public/$6 W&B members

Join us for an evening of storytelling for people of all ages with Rafe Martin. Rafe is the author of over 20 books that have been translated into many languages including Swedish, French, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, Korean, Japanese and Portuguese. Speaking as both an author and a storyteller, Rafe has appeared in thousands of schools, libraries, festivals, and conferences in nearly every state—including Alaska and Hawaii—and as far away as Japan. Among his many books are: Birdwing, The Boy Who Loved Mammoths and Endless Paths.
Rafe’s appearance at Writers & Books is supported by Language Intelligence: Professional Language Services.

Book Kick-off: Sex and Manifest Destiny: The Urge That Drove Americans Westward, by Martin Naparsteck
Thursday, Jan 31, 7 p.m.
$3 W&B members/ $4 general public

Reading and Reception

First Friday
Friday, Feb 1, 6-9
Free and open to the public

On Friday, February 1st, Michael Klein will be performing at Writers & Books. Klein is a classical guitarist and graduate student at the Eastman School of Music. He will be performing works by Bach, Sor, Brouwer, and more. There will also be an open mic, hosted by Norm Davis from 7-9. For more information please visit or call 585-473-2590 x107. 

One-Day Blogging Boot Camp: How To Launch Your Blog, Grow Your Audience and Earn Money
Saturday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m. -1:30 p.m.
$50 W&B members / $60 general public

Have you always wanted to start your own blog? Now’s your chance to learn everything you need to know to launch your blog, find your audience and eventually make some money from it. In this one-day, hands-on blogging workshop, you’ll create a plan for launching your new blog. You’ll come up with ideas for blog posts to write. You’ll learn about marketing tools to help you get the word out and grow your traffic. You’ll even discover how to eventually leverage the content and information on your blog to earn an income. Bring a notebook and pen, and get ready to dig in and create your blog.