About the Café
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. Start your weekend the "write" way by being part of the Writers' Café.
This fall, all of the Writers' Café sessions will be held remotely, via Zoom. Register for each session via the registration links listed below.
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.
Spring 2021 Sessions Fridays from 3:30 to 5 :30 on Zoom
3/12/21 • Toi Derricotte • Writing About Hard Stuff
Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwkcOCrpj0iHtI7ELq5YeaUng85Ww51ru4g
This cafe session will be held from 3:30-5:15pm. At 5:30, we will reconvene for the Dedication of the Julianne MacAdoo Award in Fiction. The dedication will be held from 5:30-6:15. Attendees are welcome to attend one or both of these events.
Dedication of the Julianne MacAdoo Award in Fiction
This year the Writers’ Café annual fiction award will become the Julianne MacAdoo Award in Fiction, in memory of our dear friend and colleague who passed away in November of 2019. After the very slightly shortened Writers’ Café session, we’ll hold an event to dedicate the award, including brief reminiscences and a short reading of Julianne’s fiction. All are welcome to attend—whether you choose to stay after the session or come only for the tribute. To avoid disrupting the session, we’ll re-open the space for tribute attendees at 5:20. Use the same zoom link above to register.
3/26/21 • Robin Clarke • Writing to Heal
Registration Link: pending
This special session of the Writer’s Cafe is for anyone who would like to release, at least a little bit, the grip of the past on the present. We will begin with a discussion of how disturbing past experiences can get stuck in our memories and what we can do to get unstuck, including a list of outside resources. We will also use guided imagery and meditation to ground ourselves in the truth of the present: that our suffering does not determine who we can become, that we are not alone, and that we are loved. Then, we will use writing to deepen compassion for self as we explore how we have suffered and how we have survived.
Robin Clarke is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her first book of poems, Lines the Quarry (Omnidawn, 2013), won the Omnidawn 1st/2nd book prize for poetry. With the poet Sten Carlson, she co-authored a chapbook of poems entitled Lives of the Czars (nonpolygon, 2011). An excerpt from her memoir-in-progress, Those Little Anodynes, won the 2016 Tupelo Open Prose award. She lives in an intentional co-housing community with her partner and their two daughters.
2/12/21 • Against Wholeness: In celebration of intrusion, interruption, uncertainty and the suggestive fragment
Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMtcOqqqjgvGtSZkjmWOhlBAgxNGzW2B1SU
Two disabled writers look at strategies for resisting the perfect poem, essay, or story in celebration of the creative power of imperfection. How can our craft as poets and prose writers open us to the real dilemmas, conflicts, and interruptions of living in the world in a spirt of openness, acceptance, and vulnerability?
Sheila Black lives and writes in San Antonio, Texas, where she tends to hope for more rain. She is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Iron, Ardent from Educe Press. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, The New York Times, The Spectacle, So to Speak, Lily Poetry Review and elsewhere. She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability and a co-founder of Zoeglossia, a new non-profit that seeks to build community for disabled poets. She works at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP).
Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. Her writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review, The New York Times, and other publications, and in several anthologies, including Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. Smith has been the recipient of an Orlando Prize, a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship. Her chapbook, Scatter, Feed, was published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2014, and her book, Nobody's Jackknife, was published in 2015 by the West End Press.
Fall 2020 Sessions Fridays from 3:30 to 5 :30 on Zoom
10/9/20 • Point of View in Genre Writing: Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, the Weird • David Harry Tannenbaum and Dan McMillan
Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJErcuqsqTksGd2ewxvAKqjT4AdAzdqrck3R
Fresh, concrete images are at the heart of quality fiction. This workshop will focus on specific techniques for point of view and how these techniques allow authors to use images to create characters-as-people. We will address some of the challenges and opportunities that writing quality genre fiction entails and why writing characters-as-people is so doggone challenging in genre fiction. What one person notices when they walk into a room is not what anyone else would notice. Their 'noticing' is unique to them, and what a person notices speaks volumes about their worldview and who they are as a person--real and alive, even if the world they inhabit, and the images they notice, are far removed from the realities of mundane life.
David Harry Tannenbaum was born and raised in Pittsburgh and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Electrical Engineering. He is the award-winning author of three novels: STANDARD DEVIATION, a story built around an Asperger’s Syndrome child and the difficult personal relationships that spectrum people must navigate; OUT OF THE DEPTHS, a fictional account of the ravages of survivor’s guilt on a Holocaust survivor; and ADVENTURES IN THE LAW, a collection of stories taken from his law career—as a registered patent attorney for Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, and later, as head of the Intellectual Property Section of Fulbright & Jaworski in Dallas, Texas. Under the pen name of David Harry, he has also published nine mysteries/thrillers set on South Padre Island, Texas, featuring Jimmy Redstone, an aging former Texas Ranger, and Angella Martinez, a relative newcomer to law enforcement. David is a former Vice President of the Southwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. He and his wife Mary now reside in South Florida and Pittsburgh where he is currently writing a new detective mystery series tentatively titled THE SEMINAL SOCIETY.
10/30/20 • The Stranger(s) • Justin Phillip Reed
Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIqcOivqDIvEteNGK4OCAhgCRt0JdbGuXDW
What image won't stop replaying behind your eyes as you lie there in the dark? What sound made you switch on the light? Horror tends to reveal to us—and allow us to engage with—unacknowledged fear, repressed desire, and our most crucial priorities. Enduring writing, like enduring horror, suspends the individual in stark confrontations with the creep inside. In this session of the Writer's Cafe, we'll engage different "scenes" of horror media and write directly toward what frightens, disturbs, and repulses us—all with the aim of better recognizing who we are when we're alone.
Justin Phillip Reed is an American poet, essayist, and amateur bass guitarist whose preoccupations include horror cinema, poetic form, morphological transgressions, and uses of the grotesque. He is the author of two poetry collections, The Malevolent Volume (2020) and Indecency (2018), both published by Coffee House Press. Born and raised in South Carolina, he participates in vague spirituality and alternative rock music cultures and enjoys smelling like outside. He is the 2019-2021 Fellow in Creative Writing at the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh.
11/13/20 • On Lies and Truths about Sex and Bodies • Deesha Philyaw
Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcqce6trjooGNNv-EhIoe71CC8iqJiEMO-8
From an early age, we are taught lies about sex and bodies, ours and other people’s. We’re taught to diminish or mistrust our bodies and our desires. We’re taught that we don’t measure up, that we aren’t enough, but also that what we want and need is too much. In this Writer’s Cafe, we’ll identify these lies and explore the truths they obscure. Then, we’ll respond to creative writing prompts that celebrate these truths in fun, provocative, and, hopefully, healing ways.
Deesha Philyaw’s writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Brevity, dead housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Baltimore Review, Cheat River Review, Electric Literature, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. Her fiction debut, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, a collection of short stories about Black women, sex, and the Black church, was longlisted for a National Book Award. Learn more about Deesha at deeshaphilyaw.com.