The Big Pencil Awards Night

December 1st, 2012
6:00-9:00 P.M. 
Writers & Books @ 740 University Avenue

Writers & Books is pleased to announce the Big Pencil Awards Night. Join us on Saturday, December 1st from 6:00-9:00 P.M. as we honor those individuals who have made significant contributions to the Rochester literary community. The eventing will begin with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, process with the presentation of awards, and conclude with fine teas, coffees, and desserts.

Local Honorees: Lead Ruekberg, Grant Holcomb, David Cay Johnston, Henry Padron, Brad VanAuken, and John Roche on behalf of Just Poets. 

For more information, visit our website: wab.org

Books We’re Thankful For…

Books We’re Thankful For….A post from Development Director, Alexa Scott-Flaherty.


I am lucky to have been born into a family where nothing was more powerful and magical than words and stories. From a very early age my sister and I both remember the joy of looking up new words in the dictionary, of memorizing poems, of being able to quote passages from the great books, and of being old enough to finally read highly discussed books like Moby Dick. We met and had dinner with amazing writers like Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Allen Ginsberg, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros and Tim O’Brien before we graduated from high school. Our world was one of words.

My earliest memories all involve books—ending any bad behavior as soon as I was threatened with the possibility of “no book tonight,” reading in my bedroom under the covers with a flashlight late into the night, re-enacting The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with all of my friends. It is an understatement to say I am thankful for books. It is a more accurate statement to say books give me a profound connection to other people and to the world.

This morning I am thankful for a few particular books. One of them is New Hat, Old Hat by Stan and Jan Berenstain. My young toddler invokes the name of this book whenever she is frustrated, tired or joyful as a way of asking me to connect in with her and curl up for a snuggle. Sometimes we actually read the book and sometimes we don’t (when she is screaming “new hat, new hat” from her car seat for instance is a time when we just know she needs a little attention), but for her this book means comfort. Connection. It is the first book she loved. I am grateful to this book for opening up the love of reading to my child. Another book I am thankful for is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I read this book when I was in college and have never looked at my day-to-day life the same again.

Over Thanksgiving I asked a few people I love to share a book they are thankful for. Here is what they wrote:



The Tao. It’s the best cure for a challenging day.” – my husband, Jon Itkin

“I am thankful for Jeanette Winterson’s Written On the Body for showing me – at such a crucial time- that is was possible to write so freshly about love.” – my sister, Caedra Scott-Flaherty

OLD FILTH” by Jane Gardam. It’s always a joy to find a book you missed along the way. Three people I love recommended this book to me in one week, now it’s my new favorite novel.” – Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” – it provides a theme of gratefulness. I am grateful to be able to run my hands through my sons’ hair, give them a hug. I am not sure if you have read it, but it was a gift for Bauby just to have ‘written’ it” – Kathy Cleary, Writers & Books Board President

The Little Prince  by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I am grateful for The Little Prince, which I read for the first time while living in Paris during the revolution of 1968 – “Egalite! Liberte! Sexualite!” Reading it felt like a miracle – in the midst of a frightening (though I must admit exciting) experience!”  – my mom, Liz Scott

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I read this transcendent novel for the first time as an aspiring writing, and it became my talisman and the bar against which I measured my own work. It captures perfectly the mystical sadness of the Pacific Northwest.” – Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad 

Genoa by Paul Metcalf. This is the book that really taught me the importance of reading books that at first seemed especially difficult or vastly different from the typical narrative we are used to. In a certain sense Genoa is more like writing a book in the way a composer might create a symphony, rather than the typical literary narrative. After about 50 pages of learning how to read it I entered a world of literary discovery that I had never before encountered, and still recall that first reading with great excitement. It taught me, in practical terms, that every book deserves to be read for at least the first 50 pages–you just never know what wonderful gift that simple commitment might give back to you.

–Joe Flaherty, Founder & Executive Director of Writers & Books

Who Are You?: Joe

For the next couple of months,w e will be doing a series of blog posts from our staff members called “Who Are You?” The following is the first of nine from Joe Flaherty, our Executive Director.
When I was a kid I read a lot. Not because I thought it was cool, because it wasn’t then as it isn’t now. Of course, there weren’t as many distractions back then—TV was around, sure, but we weren’t allowed to watch more than a couple of hours a week.
Well, to be fair, I really shouldn’t say there weren’t other distractions, because there were. For instance, there were unlimited opportunities to go out, (at least in warmer weather,) and play pickup games of basketball, touch football or baseball. Or maybe you could play a little chess and checkers, although I have to admit I was never very good at chess, and after a year or two of trying, pretty much gave up on beating anybody with of an IQ much above 85 or so.
Even with all  those other distractions, however, there were opportunities to get in some high quality extra reading time at unexpected moments, like during classes. There were a lot of courses I really wasn’t that interested in, probably for the same reasons as I gave up on chess—I just wasn’t that good at them, and didn’t want to put in the effort when there was something more interesting to do, like read books.
So, whenever I had to take classes I wasn’t that interested in—math and French, for instance—I would bring in whatever book I was reading at that time and camouflage it behind the appropriate textbook and resume reading. What was really convenient was that textbooks were usually pretty large—hardbound and all that—and most of the books I liked were much smaller paperbacks. Of course, there was one real danger involved with this strategy, as any good reader can attest, and it is this: once you really get into a good book you become oblivious to the world around you.
Due to that one innate problem associated with reading, I would often wind up in the Principal’s office writing, “I will not read novels in math class.” 500 times or more. What would happen would go something like this: the math teacher, Mr. Shirley, would call on me to answer a question, and, as you can imagine, I wouldn’t hear him. He, however, would translate my lack of response as adolescent insubordination. So, he would leave his desk, and the comfort of the blackboard, and walk down the aisle towards me, (my desk would always be at or near the back of the room, if I had any say in it,) repeating my name over and over again, “Mr. Flaherty?   Mr. Flaherty!”
What Mr. Shirley didn’t realize was that not only was I not in the same room with him, I wasn’t even in the same century—I was in King Arthur’s court or on a buffalo hunt with my fellow Sioux warriors. Mr. Shirley, though was having none of this insolence—nor would Mr. Landers in French class. Fortunately, one of the upsides of having to write all that “I will not read novels in (fill in the blank”) writing in the office was that I got a chance to work on perfecting my handwriting. Not quite as exciting as reading, but better than math.