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The Actors and Writers Book Club

The Actors and Writers Book Club
What began as a conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Program, the WGAE Foundation’s Actors and Writers Book Club brings a high-profile actor and writer into high schools to read and discuss works of literature, with the mission of getting students excited about reading, writing, story telling and the importance of language skills.

Since 2009, The program has targeted under-served areas in the country, visiting places like Watertown, NY, Pittsburg, PA, St. Louis, MO, and Buffalo, NY.

News on the Actors and Writers Book Club:

02.13.12 | It's not often that high school students get to spend a morning picking the brains of an Emmy award-winning writer, a critically acclaimed novelist and a TV star who has appeared on the hit series "30 Rock." Clearly, it wasn't your run-of-the-mill morning at Lafayette High School on Friday. Screenwriter Tom Fontana, novelist Thomas Kelly and actor Dean Winters held court in the library of the West Side school. It was part of an ongoing outreach effort by the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation to encourage reading and promote the craft of storytelling. Read More.

10.15.11 | The Actors and Writers Book Club held an event at Automotive High School in Brooklyn, NY where actor Donnie Wahlberg (Bluebloods, Saw franchise, The Sixth Sense), and author Michael Patrick MacDonald read from MacDonald's memoir All Souls: A Family Story from Southie. They also took time to answer questions about remembering where you come from and the notion of destiny. Read More.

05.19.11 | NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS ANNOUNCES GRANT TO WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST FOUNDATION; $10,000 grant will support Actors and Writers Book Club. Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, today announced that the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation has been recommended for a grant of $10,000 to support the Actors and Writers Book Club, which will bring established actors and writers to underserved high schools to read and discuss classic works of literature. The NEA grant will be matched by $10,000 pledged to the WGAE Foundation by an anonymous donor. Read More.

05.14.10 | The Actors and Writers Book Club held an event at Mount Lebanon High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Actor William Baldwin read a selection from John Steinbeck's "East Of Eden" to two sessions of one hundred students each. After the reading, Baldwin and filmmaker/writer Susanna Styron discussed the novel and then took questions about the creative process. Read More.

11.16.09 | Actress Katherine Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and author/writer Tom Kelly (Payback, The Rackets, Empire Rising) visited Watertown High School to launch the inaugural “Actors and Writers Book Club.”

Watertown Daily Times, November 17, 2009

Actress visits city school to spark interest in literature

Kathryn E. Erbe of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' and writer Thomas P. Kelly take questions from students Monday at the launch of the Actors and Writers Book Club at Watertown High School.

Actress Kathryn E. Erbe of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" discussed literature with Watertown High School students Monday, kicking off the Actors and Writers Book Club.

The book club is a new organization that will send an actor and a writer to high schools to discuss works of literature with students, in an effort to get students excited about reading and writing. Ms. Erbe said she decided to get involved with the book club because she loves to read and she thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to youths.

"I've been a voracious reader since I was 13, so that's why I got involved with the book club," Ms. Erbe said. "And I know high school can be hard, so I wanted to talk to kids of that age, too."

Book club founder Thomas P. Kelly discussed literature with Watertown students. Mr. Kelly is a novelist who wrote the book "Payback," and is the literacy director for the Writers Guild of America, East.said.

Watertown High School was chosen for the launch of the program because of a collaboration between Mr. Kelly and Watertown English teacher Emily G. Sprague. Watertown is also the type of location the book club wants to target, because it's far from a major metropolitan area, Mr. Kelly said

"We're staying away from places like New York City, because there, you can throw a stone 10 feet and hit actors and writers," he said. "We want to go to places like Watertown, where it might be more exciting for someone to come to talk to students."

Ms. Erbe read an excerpt from the book "The Rules of the Game," written by Amy Tan. Then Mr. Kelly discussed the piece from a writer's perspective. The book centers on a young girl whose family moved from China to San Francisco's Chinatown.

Ms. Erbe used books as an escape when she was growing up, and as a way to better learn about herself and other people, she told students.

"I love this book because the way she talks about the emotions of these characters and their interactions with family members moved me," Ms. Erbe said.

English 12 students read part of the book during a short-story unit, Mrs. Sprague said. Mr. Kelly and Mrs. Sprague chose that book because the English students are familiar with it, and because Ms. Erbe loves the book.

Mr. Kelly and Ms. Erbe took some questions from students after their talk.

Students asked Mr. Kelly: "When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?" and "Can you explain your writing process?"

Mr. Kelly told students that he decided to become a writer when he was 16, and that he wakes up every morning to write when he's working on a novel because they take years to write.

Students asked Ms. Erbe about her acting career with questions such as: "What was it like to be in one of the 'Mighty Ducks' movies?"

Ms. Erbe told the students that making the movie was a lot of fun, and that she had to be careful in a lot of scenes so she didn't look taller than her co-star, Emilio Estevez.

After just a few questions, the bell rang and students filed out of the auditorium to their next class. Even though the speakers had less than an hour with the students, Mr. Kelly was happy with the first meeting of the book club.

"We want to spark the interest of students in reading, writing and storytelling," he said. "And to let them know that these things can be fun."

Fox 28 WNYF, November 16, 2009

"Payback" Author & "Law & Order" Actress Meet With WHS Students

Watertown High School seniors received a visit from a well-known actress a high-profile author, who were on hand to get students excited about reading, writing and story telling.

Katherine Erbe, who stars in the television drama "Law & Order: Criminal Intent", and Tom Kelly, who wrote "Payback", "The Rackets" and "Empire Rising", helped launch the Actors and Writers Book Club Monday.

"We felt it was a good team to send a writer and an actor out to talk about a work of literature, to talk about the process," said Kelly.

During two assemblies, Erbe read a story to students, Kelly discussed the writer's perspective and then held a question and answer session.

"I hope that they can go on to see the importance of story-telling and hearing stories in their families and telling their own stories," said Erbe, who is known for her role as Detective Alexandra Eames on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

The Actors and Writers Book Club is a program which targets under-served areas in the country.