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Writers & Books Receives Regional Development Grant

Writers & Books Retreat Center Receives Grant

Gell: A Finger Lakes Retreat prepares for expansion project


Rochester, NY: Writers & Books has been awarded a $527,000 regional development grant from New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and Empire State Development (ESD) to expand its retreat center in South Bristol, NY.

Since its founding in 1981, Writers & Books has played a vital role in developing and shaping Rochester’s vibrant literary scene, giving this medium-sized city a literary hub to rival those in much larger cities like Boston, Minneapolis, Denver, and Seattle. Thousands of local writers have honed their creative writing skills while taking workshops and classes at the literary center. Through a myriad of programs, Writers & Books has enriched the city’s literary culture by inviting authors like Ann Patchett, George Saunders (who gave his first public reading at Writers & Books), Octavia Butler, Tim O’Brien, Allen Ginsberg, and Marge Piercy to Rochester for workshops and events. Its summer camp program, SummerWrite, sees approximately 800 Rochester area youth come through the center every year.

Writers & Books owns a retreat facility. Gell: A Finger Lakes Creative Retreat is located in the Bristol Hills near Naples NY. The facility was bequeathed to Writers & Books in 1989 and has given the organization the opportunity to hold writing retreats, conferences, and residency programs in a serene and creative environment. The inspiring solitude of Gell creates a unique opportunity for writers. It offers individuals the ability to connect with nature and themselves as artists as part of the creative process. Writers in residency at Gell often describe feeling inspired by their surroundings; the gurgle of the stream, the rolling hills outside the Lodge, and the various walking trails into the woods. Allowing a larger group of writers, and others, the opportunity to communally share this experience over a period of several days would create an even more powerful result.

This substantial regional development grant will allow Gell the opportunity to evolve into its next phase. The project plan outlines an expansion to the Gleason Lodge, the largest facility on the grounds. This expansion would include 16 bedrooms, six bathrooms, lounge areas, and expanded parking. The expansion will allow Gell the ability to house writers and participants in classes, workshops, and conferences centered on the arts and creativity, who will stay at Gell for periods as short as two days and as long as a month. In addition to these residential programs, the facility will offer one-day workshops and other programs, host school trips, and hold literary events and festivals.

 “We’re thrilled that NYSCA and ESD believe in our project and have made such a significant investment in its future,” says Kyle Semmel, Executive Director of Writers & Books. “A grant of this size goes a long way toward realizing Writers & Books longterm goals for our rural facility, and we’ll soon launch a capital campaign to match this grant, $55,000 of which has already been secured. The expansion of our Gell location opens up a world of opportunity for Writers & Books and for the Finger Lakes region. Once the project is complete and running at full capacity, we’ll be able to greatly expand our programming at this location. We’ll see an influx of writers and creative individuals from around the country and, indeed, the world. They will enjoy the serene beauty and creative potential that Gell and the surrounding Finger Lakes region have to offer.”

 The Gell expansion project is scheduled to break ground in fall 2018 and will be completed by spring 2019. Additional project details and construction plans available upon request.