Writers' Café

About the Café

The Writers' Café is an on-campus writing and meeting space housed in the Writing Center. The Café meets during Fall and Spring Terms.

Writing can be a solitary art. Whether you are a Writing major or are simply deeply interested in writing, take time to find an informal community of Pitt writers at the Writers' Café. Make contacts with other writers, try your hand at different genres, let guided freewriting exercises jumpstart your process, and share feedback on works-in-progress with peers from all over campus. At the Writers' Café, you'll get leads on publishing opportunities and contests and enjoy a supportive environment for trying out your work on new readers and listeners. 

Each session is facilitated by at least two practicing creative writers, often from the Pitt faculty. Typical sessions include craft talks, writing in response to prompts, and sharing that writing. Coffee, soft drinks, and snacks are available free of charge. Start your weekend the "write" way by being part of the Writers' Café.

All of the Writers' Café sessions are held in the Writing Center, 317B O'Hara Student Center.

The Writing Center has a number of creative writing faculty on staff as tutors, and you are ALWAYS WELCOME to get one-on-one feedback on poetry, fiction, and nonfiction at the Center. 

If you have questions, contact Barbara Edelman or Julianne McAdoo, Writers' Café coordinators via email or at 412-624-6556.

Spring 2016 Sessions 

Fridays from 3:30 to 5


1/22   Terrance Hayes: Word Riffs

This session will explore the various ways language—especially a single word (like "pocket" or "zong" or "or")—can prompt both stories and songs. Poet Matthew Zapruder writes an "object poem" riffing on the word "pocket." Thomas Sayers Ellis writes a list poem riffing on words that contain "or." ​M.NourbeSe Philip writes a poem riffing on little more than fragments of words. After listening to examples of poems inspired by single words, we will write our own word riff poems. 

Terrance Hayes is the author of How To Be Drawn (Penguin 2015), a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, and Lighthead (Penguin 2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award. His other books are Wind In a Box (Penguin 2006), Hip Logic (Penguin 2002), and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999). His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship.

2/5     Robert Yune & Marc Nieson: Dialogue 

This session, led by Robert Stevens (who publishes novels and short stories under the name Robert Yune) and Marc Nieson (short story writer, essayist, screenwriter) will focus on different ways to develop dialogue. Through a few examples and craft exercises for participants, we’ll explore different ways that dialogue can help characterize, enhance scenes, and move the plot along. 

As a Navy brat, Robert Yune moved 11 times by the time he turned 18. In 2012, he was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award in Short Fiction and was one of five finalists for the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, selected by Sherman Alexie and Colin Channer. His fiction has appeared in Green Mountains Review, the Kenyon Review, and Los Angeles Review, among others. His debut novel Eighty Days of Sunlight was published this summer through Thought Catalog Books.

Marc Nieson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and NYU Film School. His background includes children’s theatre, cattle chores, and a season with a one-ring circus. His memoir Schoolhouse: Lessons from the Heartland is forthcoming from Ice Cube Press (2016) and recent fiction is in Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet (Press 53). His award-winning feature-length screenplays include Speed of Life, The Dream Catcher, and Bottomland. He serves on the faculty of Chatham University, and is fiction editor of The Fourth River. He’s at work on a new novel, Houdini’s Heirs. For more information, visit www.marcnieson.com

3/18   Jeff Oaks & Craig Bernier: Place and the Neglected Senses

Most writers default to the visual when describing a scene or dramatizing a moment. Humans are amazing visual creatures, of course, but what about those other senses we have? How can we get in touch with them? How might they be used to evoke memories, complicate a place, and/or help a writer to break into new material? We'll propose some exercises that explore place from the often neglected worlds of taste, touch, smell, and hearing.

Jeff Oaks is the author of four chapbooks, Mistakes With StrangersShiftThe Moon of Books, and The Unknown Country. He has published poems in literary magazines including Field, Mid American Review, Ploughshares, and Assaracus.  His essays have appeared in Kenyon Review OnlineAt Length, Creative Nonfiction and My Diva: 65 Gay Men Write about the Women Who Inspire Them. He’s the recipient of three fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, an Individual Artist fellowship from the Pittsburgh Foundation, and the 2008 winner of the Tina and David Bellet Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Craig Bernier comes to Pitt with nearly a decade of teaching experience. He's also supported his writing with occupations ranging from line cook to technical writer, bartender to carpenter, dishwasher to kennel cleaner, sailor, pizza deliveryman, and bat-remover. Work is a key theme in his stories, which are largely set in his native southeastern Michigan and Detroit. While enlisted in the U.S. Navy, he served aboard numerous Pacific Fleet combatants. He is a veteran of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.  His writing has appeared in Great Lakes Review, Western Humanities ReviewCreative Nonfiction, Dogwood Journal, Roanoke Review, Gigantic Sequins, and the Akashic Books compilation Detroit Noir. His collection of short fiction, Your Life Idyllic, won the St. Lawrence Book Award. 

4/8     Sherrie Flick: Food and Memory

In this session we’ll look at the way memories of food can help evoke evocative setting and create a vibrant emotional atmosphere in different kinds of writing from nonfiction to fiction to poetry. Through a series of generative writing exercises, we’ll practice relaying taste and experience, which often involves thinking about setting, time, and character.  

Sherrie Flick is the author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness and the short story collection Whiskey, Etc. She teaches in the MFA and Food Studies programs at Chatham University. Her food writing takes a variety of forms, from personal essay to recipe to review to fiction, and has appeared in PloughsharesPittsburgh Post-GazettePittsburgh Quarterly, and the anthology Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food, among others.