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.


Spring 2022 Sessions Fridays from 3:30 to 5

:30 on Zoom

4/8/22 • Emily Maloney • Writing Small, Writing Big: Making the Personal Essay Matter 

Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEod-ChqT4qE9cRx6nek_tVjkHFaysPbZj0

You want to tell your story, and you know what you want to say. But how can you make your story matter to a larger audience? What happens when the personal becomes the universal? This workshop aims to address the "so what" that often dogs the personal essay, and addresses how the structure of the personal essay can influence its contents, deciding what to show and what to tell, and the role of research, while making lived experiences into publishable pieces.

Emily Maloney is the author of COST OF LIVING (Henry Holt, 2022). Her work has appeared in Glamour, Virginia Quarterly Review, Best American Essays, and the American Journal of Nursing, among others. She has worked as a dog groomer, pastry chef, general contractor, tile setter, and catalog model and sold her ceramics at art fairs. She has been awarded fellowships from MacDowell and the Illinois Arts Council, has an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Pittsburgh, and lives in Evanston, Illinois.


3/18/22 • Revitalize Your Creativity with the Editors of Collision Literary Magazine

Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwkceipqjMoH9fJPyf76mUrlVliY6i1iZP-

In order to be a writer, you have to write. But…what if you’re not feeling it? What if you’re missing…something…but you just can’t figure out what? What if you’re in a creative rut?

Join the editors of Collision Literary Magazine for a workshop to zap you out of your writing rut. In this workshop, you’ll write and revise a short piece in a genre of your choice. As editors of a literary magazine, Trish and Kari will also touch on common revision issues found in literary submissions. Be prepared to experiment and find a new and exciting future for your writing.

Founded in 2001, Collision Literary Magazine publishes undergraduate writing and art from all over the world. Collision accepts fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and art, with a particular interest in experimental work that challenges style and structure. It is a student-run publication housed under the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh. 


2/11/22 • Damian Dressick & Christina Fisanick • Mining the Past: Personal and Public Histories as Catalysts for Fiction and Memoir

From individual memories and family fables to events that make international headlines, our histories are connected in ways we don’t often consider. Most of us are accustomed to imagining our life stories as chronological, fixed narratives that occur in a vacuum distinct from the world beyond our front doors. In this workshop we will introduce writers to exercises they can use to excavate both personal and collective histories to generate fresh material for flash fiction and memoir. Expect surprising recollections and inspiring connections. 

Damian Dressick is the author of the novel 40 Patchtown and the flash fiction collection Fables of the Deconstruction. His writing has appeared in more than fifty literary journals and anthologies, including W.W. Norton’s New Micro, Electric Literature, Still: The Journal, Post Road, New Orleans Review, Cutbank, Smokelong Quarterly, and New World Writing. A Blue Mountain Residency Fellow, Dressick is the winner of the Harriette Arnow Award and the Jesse Stuart Prize. He co-hosts WANA: LIVE! a (largely) virtual reading series that brings some of the best Appalachian writers to the world. Damian also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the journal Appalachian Lit. For more, check out www.damiandressick.com

Christina Fisanick is the author of Digital Storytelling as Public History (Routledge 2020), The Optimistic Food Addict (MSI 2016), and dozens of other books, essays, and poems. Her writing has appeared in Feminist Teacher,Survivor LitStill: The JournalJournal of Appalachian StudiesThe Awakenings Review, among others. In addition to being a writer, Fisanick is Professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania. She and her honors students have collaborated for the last decade with the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh to create more than 300 digital stories focusing on the history of northern Appalachia. Fisanick is co-chair of the Northern Appalachian Network (NAN), President of the Writers Association of Northern Appalachia (WANA), and the co-host of the WANA LIVE!: Reading Series, a weekly video livestream and podcast featuring writers from throughout northern Appalachia. Find more at christinafisanick.com



Fall 2021 Sessions Fridays from 3:30 to 5

:30 on Zoom


11/12/21 • Tereneh Idia • Persuade Me in 500 Words or Less: Inspiring Short-Form Writing, from Tweets to Features

Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUkcu-upj0rG9YzRTrZA3WjOvHc2GoOuCJD

If you’re anything like my boyfriend, you believe the more words you use, the more you can persuade someone. (Do not tell him I said this.)

More often than not, no matter what we are saying, we have limited time and space to capture and keep someone’s attention—let alone convince them that our point of view is valid. From headlines, tweets, and captions, to pitches, op-eds, and essays: how do you make your point in a short period of time?

In this workshop we will play around with different forms of communication we encounter everyday and explore how to make the strongest case with the fewest words.

It is an exercise that I hope will be fun and informative.

Tereneh Idia is an award-winning designer and writer focused on issues of social justice, environment, design, arts and culture.

Her work has appeared in Pittsburgh City PaperPublicSourceNew Pittsburgh CourierPittsburgh Post-GazetteAfroPunkThe North StarStarTrek.com, The Frick Museum, Pittsburgh, and the book TENDER: a literary anthology & book of spells: evidence.

Her journalism awards include: Winner of the Golden Quill 2019 and 2020 for best columnist in daily paper and nominated again in 2021. The Robert L Vann Pittsburgh Black Media Federation Award for 2020. The 2020 Association of Alternative News Media Best Column Billy Manes Award winner for best column in the United States and Canada, nominated again in 2021.


10/22/21 • Diana Khoi Nguyen & Chet'la Sebree • Resistance: Writing About or Against Aggressions


Registration Link: https://pitt.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYkc-ytqzwsG9AjITKl_Krx8n8Za_KGHiWp 

In this craft session, we will look at pieces which address everyday aggressions: micro and macro. Some of these may be pieces which are in dialogue with another piece of creative writing, or in response to a personal or social incident in real life. What does intentional writing as an act of resistance, of rectifying the record, of reclaiming injustice look like? Nguyen and Sebree will alternate conducting close readings of poems before facilitating writing exercises for the group. There will be time for writers in attendance to share works written during this session.

A poet and multimedia artist, Diana Khoi Nguyen is the author of Ghost Of (Omnidawn 2018) and recipient of a 2021 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to winning the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest, 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Colorado Book Award, she was also a finalist for the National Book Award and L.A. Times Book Prize. A Kundiman fellow, she is core faculty in the Randolph College Low-Residency MFA and an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
Chet'la Sebree is the author of Field Study, winner of the 2020 James Laughlin Award, and Mistress, winner of the 2018 New Issues Prize and nominated for an NAACP Image Award. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from American University and has been awarded fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, the Stadler Center, the Vermont Studio Center, and Yaddo. Her poetry and prose have been published in journals and anthologies including Dr. Ibram X. Kendi & Dr. Keisha N. Blain’s Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. Currently, she is the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.


10/8/21 • Catherine Gammon • From Prompt to Publication: Creative Play in a Burning House

Registration Link: 

After exploring what living in a burning house might mean for us—as individuals, members of families and cultures, writers—we'll write together from a series of prompts, not defined as poetry or prose but to which we may respond in any form. We’ll read some responses and investigate how we work with our own raw productions, asking of a piece whether—just as it is, fresh from our playful imaginations—it is too dangerous, too messy, too shapeless, incomplete, or whatever we may see as an obstacle to sharing it with others. What work does the piece ask of us to become a “piece” at all? Should we leave it as is, incorporate it into another piece, build from it, set it aside to rest awhile, throw it away? How do we decide? And out of what assumptions, doubts, and curiosities are our questions born? 

Catherine Gammon is author of the novels China Blue (2020 Bridge Eight Fiction Prize, Bridge Eight Press, 2021), Sorrow (Braddock Avenue Books, 2013) and Isabel Out of the Rain (Mercury House, 1991). Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, and Iowa Review, among many others, most recently in Cincinnati Review, The Missouri Review, and Always Crashing, and online at The Blood Pudding and Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Her work has been given support from the NEA, NYFA, the American Antiquarian Society, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and Djerassi. From 1992 through 2000, Catherine taught creative writing full-time at Pitt, before leaving for residential Zen training at San Francisco Zen Center, where in 2005 she was ordained a priest. She lives again in Pittsburgh. More at www.catherinegammon.com and at www.littsburgh.com/qa-catherine-gammon-author-of-china-blue-and-sorrow/