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, Writers' Café coordinator, via email or at 412-624-6556.

Fall 2016 Sessions • Fridays from 3:30 to 5


9/16    Joy Katz and Charles Legere: Song of My Selves: Using Multiple Voices 

Walt Whitman made a country in the form of a poem, “Song of Myself.” He was the narrator, standing at the center, grandly erasing the boundary between himself and us. But who is Us right now? In our poems and stories, how can we write from, or sweep in, multiple voices, crossing race, gender, and class lines (among others)? After reading poems and paragraphs that do this, we'll write drafts of poems and paragraphs of our own. 

Joy Katz's second full-length collection, a National Poetry Series finalist, is All You Do is Perceive. Her poetry manuscript in progress is White: An Abstract, an attempt to document American whiteness. Katz is co-founder of the activist art collective Ifyoureallyloveme. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Heinz Foundation, she teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University and in Carlow University 's Madwomen in the Attic workshops.  

Charles Legere is a poet, a Visiting Scholar in the Humanities Center at Pitt, and a writer for Carnegie Museums. He runs a poetry-writing dinner group, pitches in on a living room reading series, is starting a small press, and volunteer-tutors English as a Second Language. One recent publication: a critical essay on the context of the Anglosphere for 21st-Century American poetry. He has a 6-year-old son.

9/30 Kathleen George: PLAY: Finding the Game  

Plays are often a game between writer and audience. Plays are full of . . . play.  We will do a few exercises and will share them with each other, aiming to find the skills to generate a give and take with an audience. We will explore the idea that the dialogue IS the action. We will also try to notice when a play—or even a few lines—is bigger than its literal meaning (and that’s good!)

Kathleen George lives in Pittsburgh where she is a professor of theatre and writing at the University of Pittsburgh. In her theatre career she has directed many plays for Pitt and for the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival. Theatre publications include Rhythm in Drama, Playwriting: The First Workshop, and Winter’s Tales:  Reflections on the Novelistic Stage. She often teaches playwriting. She is the author of the novels Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds (nominated for an Edgar Award for best novel by the Mystery Writers of America), Hideout, Simple, and A Measure of Blood. All seven of these titles are part of her procedural thrillers set in Pittsburgh. Also in 2014 she released The Johnstown Girls, a non-series novel about the Johnstown Flood. Kathy is the editor of Pittsburgh Noir, a collection of short fiction, the author of her own short story collection The Man in the Buickwww.kathleengeorge.com

10/21 Carl Kurlander: Making a Scene: How Everything Horrible in Life Can Make Good Material for the Movies

Memorable movies often come from characters facing great obstacles. Whether it is Rocky, who feels like a bum and needs to fight himself and Apollo Creed to prove he is somebody; Juno, a pregnant teenager who makes her own choices informed by her unique point of view; or the disparate characters of The Breakfast Club, who spend a Saturday morning in detention together forced to examine how they see themselves and each other. Participants in this session will learn the basics of screenplay structure, examine what makes a good story for the screen, and think about compelling characters and a situation that would put those characters in conflict. Working alone or with a partner, participants will create a 2- to 3-page scene in screenplay format. Writing a screenplay may appear simple, but often takes years and dozens of drafts; this session aims to give students a sense of the process. 

Carl Kurlander spent two decades in Los Angeles as a screenwriter (St. Elmo’s Fire) and TV writer/producer (Saved by the Bell) before returning to his hometown to teach at the University of Pittsburgh for what he thought would be a one-year Hollywood sabbatical. For the past fifteen years, he has been a Senior Lecturer in the English department where he produced The Shot Felt Round The World—about Jonas Salk and his team developing the first polio vaccine—a documentary that began as a class with Pitt students. The film won the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award and was broadcast on both the Smithsonian Channel and the BBC. Carl also co-executive produced the Starz TV series The Chair, featuring two directors making different movies from the same script, which won the 2015 DGA and Television Critic’s Awards. Carl is the faculty adviser for the student group Pitt in Hollywood that led to the creation of the Steeltown Entertainment Project, a nonprofit that for the past decade has helped build Pittsburgh into a top regional film production center. 

11/4    Jonathan Moody: The Power of Allusion

Name-dropping for the sake of name-dropping is frowned upon in literature. However, the power of a salient allusion can cause the quiet moments in a lyrical narrative to resonate with acuity.  We will explore how poets use allusion, not to alienate the audience, but to enhance the depth of their poems—from Larry Levis’ reference to the composer/violinist Vivaldi in “Winter Stars” to Willie Perdomo’s shout-out to playwright and poet Miguel Piñero in “Spotlight at the Nuyorican Poets Café.” We’ll examine how songwriters rely on allusion as a tool for compression: in the chorus of Frank Ocean’s “Nikes” and in the multi-layered verses of Drake’s “Views.” Workshop participants will work towards creating a draft of a poem that uses 1-2 allusions that will expand the tone.

Jonathan Moody holds an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh.  He’s also a Cave Canem graduate fellow whose poetry has appeared in various publications such as African American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Borderlands, Boston Review, The Common, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast Online, and Harvard Review Online. Moody is the author of The Doomy Poems (Six Gallery Press, 2012). Olympic Butter Gold, his second collection, won the 2014 Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize.  He lives in Fresno, Texas, with his wife and son and teaches English at Pearland High School.