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 2017 Sessions • Fridays from 3:30 to 5


September 22   Flash Fiction and Using Constraints to Write—Peg Alford Pursell & Tom McWhorter

One of the many paradoxes of creativity is that it benefits from constraints. We might think the imagination needs total freedom, but the reality of the creative process is that it's often entwined with formal requirements and strict conventions, as is common in poetry based upon particular verse forms. It’s not until we encounter an obstacle that the binds of cognition are loosened, giving us access to unexpected connections simmering in the unconscious. Constrained writing—a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some linguistic condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern—isn’t reserved for poetry. Flash fiction has the obvious constraint of limited word counts. We’ll try our hand at writing short pieces, imposing constraints on them.
Peg Alford Pursell is the author of Show Her a Flower, A Bird, A Shadow (ELJ Editions, March 2017), a collection of flash fiction, micro-fictions, and hybrid prose with praise from Antonya Nelson, Peter Orner, Joan Silber, and others. Her work has appeared in Permafrost, the Los Angeles Review, Joyland Magazine, and many other journals and anthologies. She is the founder and director of the national reading series Why There Are Words and of WTAW Press. A native of Southwestern PA, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her at www.pegalfordpursell.com.
Tom McWhorter is a lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh and the Department of English’s Internship Coordinator and Academic Integrity Officer. He earned an MFA in fiction and a JD from the University of Utah. Tom teaches courses in Writing, Composition, and Public & Professional Writing (PPW). His stories have appeared in The Madison ReviewShort Story, and New Stories from the Southwest.


October 6 Writing with Voices: Audio Poetics and the Art of Appropriation—Erin Anderson          

Note: This session will be in digital lab CL 435, NOT in the Writing Center, and we have room for just 20 participants. Please reserve a seat by emailing edelman@pitt.edu. We’ll keep a waiting list after 20 register. 

In this session, we’ll consider how to make use of recorded voices as materials for writerly invention. We’ll listen to short works of sound poetry/audio art and then try our own experiments in audio appropriation and remix. Participants will get hands-on experience with audio editing, while exploring the creative potential of writing with the voices of others. This session welcomes writers from all genres and backgrounds. No previous experience is expected or required. Please bring headphones (required) and a USB thumb drive (optional), if you’d like to save your work.

Erin Anderson is a multimedia storyteller, audio producer, and assistant professor in the Writing Program, specializing in digital narrative. Her work spans across genres and platforms, including narrative podcasts, multimedia nonfiction, and gallery installations. She is the author/producer of “What Hadn’t Happened,” winner of The Atavist’s Digital Storymakers Award (2013) and Our Time Is Up, winner of a Sarah Lawrence College International Audio Fiction Award (2016). Her radio/podcast work has recently aired on Serendipity and KCRW’s UnFictional. She is currently developing an audio installation for the Smithsonian Institution’s ACC Creativity and Innovation Festival, which will debut October 2017. 

October 20 All Over the Place: Writing Settings and Landscape—Jim Daniels & Chauna Craig

In a New York Times interview, the novelist and screenwriter Richard Price said that where you're from is "…the ZIP code for your heart." Wherever we're from, we carry those places with us wherever we go. As writers, we are often influenced by those places, however they find their way into our words on the page—in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or dramatic writing. Through cross-genre readings, discussion, and guided exercises, we’ll practice writing place and landscape in our work.

Jim Daniels is the author of numerous poetry books, including his most recent, Rowing Inland, Wayne State University Press, and Street Calligraphy, Steel Toe Books, and the forthcoming The Middle Ages, Red Mountain Press. His fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, was published by Michigan State University Press. He edited the new anthology Challenges to the Dream: the Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards, Carnegie Mellon University Press. “The End of Blessings,” the fourth short film he has written and produced, appeared in many film festivals. A native of Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Chauna Craig is the author of the story collection The Widow’s Guide to Edible Mushrooms (Press 53, 2017).  Her stories and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, SmokeLong Quarterly, Seattle Review and elsewhere.  Her work has been cited in Best American Essays and in the Pushcart Prize anthology. A Montana native, she now lives in western Pennsylvania and is professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

November 3 Writing as a Wisdom Project—Catherine Gammon 

Combining the practice of imaginative writing with meditation in the Zen tradition, this session of the Writer’s Café invites intimate and creative study of the mind. We will start with a short introduction and meditation before engaging playfully with language. When we write together—from a prompt or prompts—and read aloud, we will listen and respond to ourselves and to one another receptively, without bringing our usual emphasis on skill and craft to bear. Our writings and responses will be explorations, and our conversations will be based in imaginative insight rather than literary critique. Please be prepared to write with paper and pens, even if you are accustomed to composing on a keyboard.

Catherine Gammon is a fiction writer and Soto Zen priest. Her novel Sorrow (Braddock Avenue Books, 2013) was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her novel Isabel Out of the Rain was published by Mercury House in 1991, and her shorter fiction has appeared in literary journals for many years, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, and New England Review among them. Catherine served for ten years on the MFA faculty of the University of Pittsburgh before beginning residential training at San Francisco Zen Center’s Tassajara and Green Gulch Farm. She was ordained in 2005 by Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. Since leaving Zen Center residence, Catherine has offered Writing As A Wisdom Project classes, workshops, and retreats in many venues. (Info at writingasawisdomproject.wordpress.com.) She lives again in Pittsburgh.

November 10 The Ossip and Composition Awards

Come and hear the winners of the Ossip and Composition Awards read their work. The Ossip Award recognizes excellence in writing for Seminar in Composition. The Composition Award recognizes excellent work in advanced Composition courses.