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. 

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

Fall 2018 Sessions • Fridays from 3:30 to 5



September 7    The Stranger, The Better—Anjali Sachdeva 

As children, most of us love reading fairy tales, fantasy novels, ghost stories, and other weird tales. Sometimes as adults we find ourselves directed to read--and write--more "serious" or realistic work. But writing about strange worlds and stranger people can be creatively liberating, and can even be a great way to understand real-world problems. During this Writers' Cafe we'll use strange-but -true scientific discoveries as a starting point (a list of amazing discoveries will be provided!) and will spend some time writing about imaginary worlds and the people that inhabit them. 

Anjali Sachdeva’s debut story collection, All the Names They Used for God, was published in 2018 and spans centuries, continents, and a diverse set of characters navigating strange and surreal situations. The stories range from a dystopian tale about genetically modified septuplets who are struck by a mysterious illness to a story about Nigerian schoolgirls using special powers to survive the aftermath of a Boko Haram kidnapping. The New York Times Book Review says, "The brilliance of these stories...is their embrace of both the known and the unknown, in a combination that feels truly original," and Roxane Gays calls it "One of the best collections I've ever read." Sachdeva's fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, Yale Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Literary Review, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at the University of Iowa, Augustana College, Carnegie Mellon University. She currently teaches English at the University of Pittsburgh.

October 5 Writing on the Body—Jennifer Lee & Ellen McGrath Smith

Writing is often understood as disembodied from the present moment, with the writerly mind “transcending” the physical world and its own physical container. What happens when we cultivate an in-the-moment awareness of the body in our writing, even foregrounding the body in our process? In Jennifer Lee’s session, we’ll begin with a simple breath awareness meditation, then write a short—autobiographical, mythological, lyrical—story of our body. In Ellen McGrath Smith’s session, we will do somatic writing exercises to bring bodily consciousness into the act of writing.  

Jennifer Lee writes essays on art and the body, some of which have appeared in Mid-American Review, Critical Quarterly, and Hotel Amerika, among others. She is the recipient of an Edward Albee Foundation Award and winner of the Jellybucket Creative Nonfiction prize. Jennifer Lee teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh and is the co-founder of Bloomfield Yoga.

Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, The Dog Makes His Rounds and Scatter, Feed, and a full-length collection of poetry on yoga and alcoholism, Nobody's Jackknife. Her work has won the Orlando and Rainmaker awards, and an Academy of American Poets Prize.

October 19  The Sense of an Ending in Poetry—Marsha de la O and Phil Taggart

Join poets Marsha de la O and Phil Taggart in an exploration of the challenge of ending a poem.  We all want to end our poems with a striking image that packs a lot of power.  In this workshop we’ll look at how that power might actually be working.  It could clench the poem tight as a fist, open a huge imaginative space beyond the poem, or reflect a shadow back on everything that came before such that the meaning is changed.  Or something else entirely. We’ll look at a number of poems with this in mind, and then offer the chance for participants to address their own work and explore endings through a pair of writing prompts.

Marsha de la O’s upcoming book from Pitt Poetry Series, Every Ravening Thing, is due out in Spring 2019.  Antidote for Night, won the 2015 Isabella Gardner Award and was published by BOA Editions.  Her first book, Black Hope, was awarded the New Issues Press Poetry Prize. She has published extensively, including recent poems in The New Yorker and the Kenyon Review, with work forthcoming in Prairie Schooner and North American Review.

Phil Taggart has three collections of poetry.  His latest is Rick Sings (Brandenburg Press). His other two are Opium Wars (Mille Grazie Press) and an art book with artist Ann Harithas, Cowboy Collages. He served for nine years as the Poetry Editor of Art Life, ten years co-editing Askew and is currently editor of Spillway with Marsha de la O. Phil runs a weekly poetry reading at the EP Foster Library in Ventura, CA.

November 2  Depth and Dimension—Robert Yune

In this session, we'll focus on different techniques that can add zest to your prose or poetry--and even open up new thematic possibilities. 

As a Navy brat, Robert Yune moved 11 times by time he turned 18. After graduating from Pitt, he lived in Pittsburgh for the next 15 years. In the summer of 2012, he worked as a stand-in for George Takei and has appeared as an extra in movies such as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Fathers and Daughters. His fiction has been published in Green Mountains ReviewKenyon Review, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. In 2009, he received a writing fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  In 2015, his debut novel Eighty Days of Sunlight was nominated for the International DUBLIN Literary Award. Other nominees that year included Lauren Groff, Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie.  His debut story collection Impossible Children won the 2017 Mary McCarthy Prize and will be published in 2019 by Sarabande Books.

November 9  The Ossip and Advanced Composition Awards

Come hear award-winning undergraduate writers read their work.