Writers' Café

About the Café

The Writers' Café is an on-campus writing and meeting space housed in the Writing Center. The Café was established in January 2003, and it 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. 

Sessions are facilitated by 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 Sarah Leavens, the Writers' Café coordinators, via email or at 412-624-6556.

Spring 2019 Sessions • Fridays from 3:30 to 5


February 1 • 2 Hours, 3 Tricks, 3 Starts • Nancy Krygowski

For me, writing is about getting started. Once I get started, I can get to a draft, and once I have a draft, I can usually get to a finished product. But how to start? Using a bit of constraint—some kind of self-imposed rules—can free up your brain and send you to interesting places. This session is about tricking ourselves into getting started. We’ll read a few poems to prime the writerly pump, then dive into three prompts that offer the kind of constraint that opens up creativity. We’ll work fast, so you’ll leave with three starts and maybe even three drafts.

Nancy Krygowski’s first book of poems, Velocity, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. She is a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, a Pittsburgh Foundation Grant, and several residencies. Krygowski leads poetry workshops in Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic writing program in addition to her work at Literacy Pittsburgh teaching English to refugees and immigrants. Her most recent poems have appeared in Rattle, Barrow Street Review, and Cortland Review.

Feb 15 •  Constructing Scenes • Tim Maddocks, Gabrielle Pastorek, Tyler McAndrew

As writers, we strive to craft engaging and compelling scenes, always looking for ways to bring our characters to life and to navigate conflict in our stories. Join us as we practice a series of writing exercises geared toward developing character, tension, and meaning in scenes.

Gabrielle Pastorek is a freelance writer who holds her MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh and bachelor’s degrees in English and French from Ohio University. Her short stories have appeared in Blotterature, Blue Monday Review, Dappled Things, and other journals. 

Tyler McAndrew’sfiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been published in literary journals such as Salt HillGulf CoastWater-Stone Review, and others. He teaches in the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Tim Maddockswrites essays and stories and teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh. When he’s not writing, teaching, or researching, he serves as an editor forLongform.organd Sampsonia Way.You may find his most recent writing in PublicSource.

March 1 •  Finding the Beginning of Your Story • Brad Felver

This session will aim to differentiate between strong story openings and weak ones. What makes one compelling and the other forgettable? How can you catch the eye of readers (and editors!) without relying on gimmicks? How much pressure is fair to place upon a story’s beginning? We will look at famous beginnings, as well as some lesser-known ones, as we discuss how exactly they are juggling all the various demands. Ultimately, we will spend some time writing some new beginnings of our own.

Brad Felver wrote the story collection The Dogs of Detroit (University of Pittsburgh Press), which won the 2018 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. His other honors include an O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Prize special mention, and the Zone 3 Fiction Prize. His fiction and essays have appeared widely in magazines such as One StoryNew England ReviewHunger Mountain, and Colorado Review. He lives with his wife and kids in northern Ohio.

March 22 • The Art of the Interview • Jeanne Marie Laskas  

An interview is not about gathering information. It's about unearthing clues to character. It's a wonderful tool for writers of all genres to begin to master. In this session we'll experiment with some tricks of the trade. Spoiler alert: the hard part is learning how to listen. 

Jeanne Marie Laskas is the author of eight books, including the New York Times bestseller Concussion, the basis for the 2015 Golden-Globe-nominated film starring Will Smith. She is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, a correspondent at GQ, and a two-time National Magazine Award finalist. Her stories have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Esquire. She serves as Distinguished Professor of English and founding director of the Center for Creativity at the University of Pittsburgh, and lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.