Writers' Café

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. 

If you have questions, contact Barbara Edelman or Sarah Leavens, the Writers' Café coordinators, via email or at 412-624-6556.

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.

Dan McMillan has a B.A. and M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University where he focused on pop culture studies, and fiction and poetry writing. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Pittsburgh where he currently teaches composition, creative writing, and technical writing at the Swanson School of Engineering. He is interested in the ways in which cultural mythologies (like the American Dream) both author and reflect society’s shared values and tensions and can simultaneously bind us and blind us. He is also interested in genre fiction and how contemporary authors have broken and blurred strict genre lines like hard science fiction or horror to create remarkable works, both written and visual (think Netflix’s Stranger Things as one such example). He enjoys discovering the fresh and new, writing that explores the familiar in unfamiliar ways, and seeing students make connections between the larger cultural stories we tell about ourselves and how those stories shape our individual identities in complicated ways.

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.