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.

Spring 2017 Sessions • Fridays from 3:30 to 5


January 27  Writing from the Archive with Adriana Ramírez and Lauren Russell      

In an interview in Room magazine, the poet M. NourbeSe Philip writes, “There is a sense in which archives are a double-edged sword. On the one hand the archive—as we understand archive—provides a rich source of information, often historical, that we can mine. On the other, there is the fact that these archives are often very one-sided—having been constructed and preserved by the very people who were responsible for destroying the cultures and histories of so many peoples.” This workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to explore the challenges and possibilities of working with research, historical documents, and archives. Documents will be provided, though participants are welcome to bring their own.  

Adriana E. Ramírez is an award-winning nonfiction writer, storyteller, digital maker, critic, and performance poet based in Pittsburgh. More information on her can be found at aeramirez.com.      

Lauren Russell’s first full-length book, What’s Hanging on the Hush, will be out from Ahsahta Press in 2017. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Cave Canem, and VIDA/The Home School. She is Assistant Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh.  


February 24  Environmental Writing with Barbara Edelman and Mark Collins

Author Terry Tempest Williams writes that "natural engagement is not an interlude but a daily practice, a commitment each generation must renew." Come out to renew, try out, or continue that daily practice through writing! This session will offer strategies for writing in response to the environment—including drawing from the lists of everyday life. Through readings, discussion, and guided exercises, you’ll experiment with ways to generate poems, stories, or essays via engagement with the natural world.
Barbara Edelman is a lecturer in English at Pitt, where she coordinates the Writers’ Café. Her poetry collection Dream of the Gone-From City is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in February 2017. She’s the author of two poetry chapbooks and recipient of a PA Council on the Arts grant in poetry. Her poems and short prose have appeared in various journals including Raleigh Review, Prairie Schooner, and Arts & Letters, and in several anthologies.

Mark Collins is an instructor in the environmental studies major in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of three books, most recently Wayward Tracks (In Extenso, 2016). He is also coeditor, with Margaret Mary Kimmel, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Children, Television, and Fred Rogers, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He earned his Master in Fine Arts degree from Pitt and is a miserable hockey player.   


March 17 Speaking Politics: Poetry and Prose in the New World with Jan Beatty and Jane McCafferty

In this session, Jan Beatty and Jane McCafferty will offer prompts that get you writing poems or prose poems that are political without being mere didactic shouts in the wind. What makes a piece of writing both political and powerful? How do understatement and metaphor act when you’re dealing with an “actual” news story or socially charged issue? How do you integrate social and political realities into your writing in an alive, present way? 

Jan Beatty’s fifth book, Jackknife: New and Collected Poems, is forthcoming in January 2017 from the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her last book, The Switching/Yard, was named by Library Journal as one of ...30 New Books That Will Help You Rediscover Poetry. Other books include Red SugarBoneshaker, and Mad River, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She is host and producer of Prosody, a public radio show featuring the work of national writers. She directs the creative writing program at Carlow University where she teaches in the MFA program.

Jane McCafferty is the author of two novels, One Heart, and First You Try Everything, both from HarperCollins, and two books of short stories, Director of The World, and Thank You For The Music (HarperCollins and Pitt, re-issued by CMU press.) Her work has received awards such as an NEA, The Drue Heinz Award, two Pushcart prizes, and The Great Lakes New Writers Award, and in 2016 she won the TalkingWriting award for essay. She is currently at work on short stories and poems, and she teaches at Carnegie Mellon, in the community for Pittsburgh Memoir project, and for Madwomen in the Attic.


March 31  The Living Object: Image in Poetry and Prose with Geeta Kothari and Judy Vollmer

This session will focus on how a single image or brief sequence of objects functions in poetry and prose. Objects create the poem's visual field. They create the context for prose. A singular object can sustain a poem's lyrical movement, drive a story’s plot, or create momentum in an essay. And objects give the writer a way into narrative, providing clues for drafting and revising. In conjunction with writing exercises, we’ll talk about how writers can create effective images and use them to develop and deepen a narrative, in poetry and prose.

Geeta Kothari teaches writing and is the director of the Writing Center. She is also the nonfiction editor of the Kenyon Review and a co-founder of the www.novelworkshop.org. Her writing has appeared in various anthologies and journals, including New England Review, Massachusetts Review, and othersHer essay "If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?" is widely taught in universities and has been reprinted in several anthologies, including Best American Essays. She is the editor of ‘Did My Mama Like to Dance?’ and Other Stories about Mothers and Daughters, and her short story collection, I Brake for Moose and Other Stories will be published in February 2017.                

Judith Vollmer is the author of five full-length books of poetry, including The Apollonia Poems, winner of the Four Lakes Poetry Prize of the University of Wisconsin Press (2017). Vollmer’s poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in Poetry International, The Women’s Review of Books, Agni, Poet Lore, The Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire and elsewhere. She is a Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awardee of the University of Pittsburgh, and Emeritus Professor of English, Pitt Greensburg; currently she teaches in the Drew University MFA Program in Poetry & Poetry in Translation.