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. 

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. 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.

Spring 2020 Sessions Fridays from 3:30 to 5


1/24/20 • Approaches to Waking the Dead • Jeff Oaks

This workshop is devoted to getting you to write again, especially if you feel burned out, are afraid you’ve run out of ideas, or are bored by your present writing. We’ll look primarily at poetry examples and exercises but prose writers are welcome too.

Jeff Oaks’ debut book of poetry, Little What, was published by Lily Poetry Review Books in September 2019. A recipient of three Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships, Jeff Oaks has published poems in a number of literary magazines, most recently in Best New Poets, Field, Georgia Review, Missouri Review, Superstition Review, and Tupelo Quarterly. His prose has appeared in At Length, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Kenyon Review Online, and Water~Stone Review. Both poems and prose have appeared in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, and My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them. He teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.

2/7/20 • Writing the Fool’s Journey • Brittany Hailer

Tarot is a way for each of us to learn our own story through symbology and folklore.   What does a golden lion mean to you?   What about an open green path?   Brittany can tell you some things, of course, but really you are the teller of your own fortune.   Each student will draw a card and receive a short reading.   Brittany will then assign prompts based on the card each student receives.   Students will explore the symbology and mythology associated with the character they draw from the Major Arcana, or Fool's Journey, in the tarot deck.

Brittany Hailer has been reading tarot for over ten years.   She's used them as a source of healing and storytelling in her own memoir and in the classroom.   She's taught tarot workshops at the Allegheny County Jail, Chatham University and University of Pitt Greensburg, rehab centers and various writing and yoga retreats.   Brittany is a journalist, educator and poet based in Pittsburgh.   Her book Animal You'll Surely Become published in 2018 from Tolsun Books is a collection of essays about tarot, trauma, addiction and magic.


2/21/20 • Wonderfully Weird:  Experimenting With Your Writing • Collision Literary Magazine staff

We've all conducted experiments -- from cookie recipes to science fairs -- but what does it mean to experiment with your writing?   How can experimental techniques spark creativity and open up new avenues of thought?   This Writer's Cafe' will demonstrate ways to challenge, subvert, and play with writing conventions -- especially those revolving around style, structure, and genre -- to craft unique and powerful pieces.   So, come armed with a pencil and a rebellious spirit, ready to break some rules.

Hannah Heisler is a sophomore majoring in Linguistics and French.  She is the Arts Editor of Collision Literary Magazine and a senior staff photographer at The Pitt News.

Sandra Fairclough is a junior majoring in English writing and literature.   She is the Poetry Editor of Collision Literary Magazine and a peer tutor at the Writing Center.

Thalia Gambone is a junior majoring in English literature.   She is the Fiction Editor of Collision Literary Magazine.

Ali Aijaz is a junior majoring in Chemistry and English literature.   He is the Nonfiction Editor of Collision Literary Magazine.

Hannah Woodruff is a junior majoring in English writing and literature.   She is the Editor in Chief of Collision Literary Magazine and a peer tutor at the Writing Center.  


3/20/20 • Ear to the Ground: Sound as Foundation • Justin Phillip Reed

It's easy to presume that words and sentences exist simply to represent or communicate.   But what if you treat word choice as a musical composition?  If the writing is a scene that certain words build from the ground up, which instruments will you use to engineer it?   In this workshop, we will not make sense.   We will uses senses to make sound to make something new.   We will propose imaginative scenarios and determine what they sound like.  We will put ourselves at the mercy of words that do rather than mean, and then write experiments driven mostly by music.   We will work toward a legible creation that is its own score and sound effects, exhales its own space.   Bio:  from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/justin-phillip-reed

Justin Phillip Reed was born and raised in South Carolina.   He earned his BA from Tusculum College an an MFA from Washington University, where he was also Junior Writer-in-Residence.   Reed is the author of the poetry collections The Malevolent Volume (Coffee House Press, forthcoming Spring 2020) and Indecency (Coffee House Press, 2018), winner of the National Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry.   His chapbook is A History of Flamboyance (YesYes Books, 2016).   His work has appeared in African American Review, Best American Essays, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, Obsidian, and elsewhere.  In 2019 he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation.   The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, the Conversation Literary Festival, and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis, Reed currently lives in Pittsburgh. 


4/3/20 • Finding Your Voice in Creative Nonfiction • Paola Corso

When writing personal essays, you may know the facts and the story you want to tell, yet these alone may not create compelling prose for your reader.   Who tells the story and how is what gives your writing personality and style to make your work distinctly your own.   In this workshop, we'll look at examples of notable literary voices and techniques to develop a voice and style that has your name on it!

Paola Corso is the author of poetry and fiction books set in her native Pittsburgh where her Italian immigrant family found work in the steel mills.   Most recent are The Laundress Catches Her Breath, winner of the Tillie Olsen Award in Creative Writing, Once I Was Told the Air Was Not Breathing, and her forthcoming collection Vertical Bridges:  Poems, Essays, and Photographs of City Steps.   Her nonfiction has appeared in venues such as The New York Times, Women's Review of Books, and U.S. Catholic.   Corso is co-founder and resident artist for Steppin Stanzas, a grant-awarded poetry and art project celebrating Pittsburgh city stairs.