Annual Writers' Café Writing Contest

The Writers' Café has offered an undergraduate writing contest 
in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction each spring term since 2004.

Browse past winners of the contest.

Submissions for the 2022 contest are CLOSED.

EXTENDED Submission Deadline: Sunday March 27, 2022, 11:59pm

Prizes: $300 for first place in each genre and $200 for second place in each genre.

This year's fiction awards will be given in memory of Julianne McAdoo, Pitt writer & Writing Center colleague. 

2022 Contest Judges:
Fiction: Catherine Gammon
Nonfiction: Emily Maloney
Poetry: Lauren Russell

Eligibility: All currently enrolled Pitt undergraduates who have attended at least one Writers’ Café session this academic year (September 2021–March 18, 2022). 


  • Poets — 1-3 poems (no more than 3 pages per poem)
  • Prose Writers (fiction and nonfiction)  one submission per genre, up to 5,000 words. 

In all genres, names should not be included on your work; students may submit in more than one genre, but each submission should be accompanied by a separate entry form. Submitted work will not be returned. 

  • Download and complete an entry form
  • Each submission must include a title. Do Not put your name on your submission. Your name goes only on the entry form.
  • Submit your entry form and submission via email attachment in a Word file to Include “Writers' Café Contest” and the genre of your submission in the subject heading.
  • Winners will be notified by email; the names of the winners will be posted on the Café web page.
  • 2022 Contest Deadline:  Extended to Sunday March 27, 2022 at 11:59 p.m.

Meet the Judges:

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 and at

Emily Maloney is the author of Cost of Living (Henry Holt, 2022), an essay collection about her transformation from patient into EMT and in the pharmaceutical world, set against the backdrop of the failure of the American healthcare system. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Glamour, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Atlantic, the North American Review, and the American Journal of Nursing. She has also worked as a dog groomer, pastry chef, general contractor, tile setter, catalog model, and has sold her ceramics at art fairs. She has nonverbal learning disability, a neurologically-based developmental disability similar to autism. Her essay, “Cost of Living,” which originally appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, was selected for Best American Essays 2017, edited by Leslie Jamison. Emily is also a MacDowell Fellow (17, 18), a 2019 Illinois Arts Council Fellow, and a 2015 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh MFA program. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, with Ori Fienberg, and their dog, Millie. Read more about her work at
Lauren Russell is a poet and writer in hybrid forms. She is the author of Descent (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2020), which won the 2021 Anna Rabinowitz Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and What’s Hanging on the Hush (Ahsahta Press 2017).

A 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry, she has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and VIDA / The Home School, and residencies from the Rose O’Neill Literary House, the Millay Colony, and City of Asylum/ Passa Porta. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, boundary 2, The Brooklyn Rail, Cream City Review, and the anthologies Bettering American Poetry 2015 and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, among others.

From 2016 to 2020, she was assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh. In the fall of 2020, she joined the faculty of Michigan State University as an assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and director of the RCAH Center for Poetry. Read more about her work at