Writers House Pittsburgh is a long-term residency for both emerging and established writers, and a community space for literary organizations and individuals across the Rust Belt and Appalachia. As we launch, in September 2020, the Writers House will support four year-long writers-in-residence.
We currently envision this as a physical home and support community for writers focused on telling true stories with a broad interpretation -- from memoir and literary journalism, graphic and visual essays to documentary and protest poetry, experimental forms and, in some cases, novels and screenplays that are deeply researched and/or tackle critical issues.
There couldn’t be a more important time to support nonfiction storytelling.
We’re open to writers who may not have formal writing education or who may be emerging as a writer later in life. We seek writers for whom a year of housing stability and creative community would alter their life for the better, or would offer them an opportunity to recalibrate and/or launch more confidently. This includes all writers affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID. We’re also open to journalists who may have been recently affected by newsroom cuts, who’d like to work on a book or transition to freelancing. We seek to offer residencies to writers who are often poorly served by MFA communities and literary/media organizations, including writers of color and those identifying as LGBTQIA+. Each resident will have a living and writing space of their own, be paired with a mentor appropriate for their work and goals, and will have teaching or public programming opportunities via the House.
Applications for these residencies are now open and will close on July 29th. All US residents are eligible to apply. We especially encourage those who currently reside in the Rust Belt and/or Appalachia, particularly those who call Pittsburgh home, to apply.
You can find our residency application here, as well as information regarding our application review team.
A Community Space for Writers
Ultimately, post-COVID, the House will also be a community space for workshops and literary events. We hope to safely take these steps during the summer of 2021. Until then, we will be hosting some online classes and events, and partnering with local libraries and organizations to host safe programming or public arts projects.
Although we have so many great literary organizations and groups in the region, most are brick-and-mortarless, and may lack productive space to meet and write. The House will offer deeply subsidized memberships or fully-funded sponsorships to groups, organizations, and writing educators for use of workshop and gathering space. We are particularly eager to offer writer-teachers the space and support they may need to host workshops.
Writers-in-Residence will have the opportunity to host workshops and organize programming. Eventually, we will establish a community writers-in-residence program that will allow for established local writers to offer free office hours and mentorship to community members.
The house is located in the Edgewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh in a home dating around 1900. It’s considered a Pittsburgh Victorian, a big brick box with stunning woodwork, stained glass windows, and tall plaster walls. This three-story residence is truly special and currently undergoing renovations in preparation for our first four residents. We’re doing most of the work ourselves and recruiting assistance from other writers with handy skills (all at a safe distance and masked). You can follow that exciting transformation on Instagram!
A Listening Tour
In our first year, the Writers House team, including residents, will take part in a (virtual or safely distanced) listening tour with community members, organization leaders, library and school administrators, booksellers and writers, publishers and artists, and others to hear more about their goals, needs, and partnership interests. In doing so, we will better understand the larger landscape in which we reside and identify the most appropriate partnerships, programming, public art projects, and uses for our community space. Our 2020-2021 residents will have the unique opportunity to participate in this process and help propose / design future opportunities in the house and post-COVID local programming / opportunities. These decisions will all be grounded in our desire to serve the community at large, support nonfiction storytelling across the city and region, and bridge some of the divides we see in Pittsburgh’s current literary landscape.
In this three-month campaign, we’re seeking the seed-funding necessary to offer fully-funded, year-long residencies to four writers and the time to establish the House’s long-term community programming and opportunities. Our campaign goal is $26,000 – the baseline cost for four residents. This is $6500 per writer.
If we surpass our goal, additional funding will go toward the following:
- stipends for mentors working with writers-in-residence ($2000 each)
- additional fellowship support for residents (up to $5000 each)
- the establishment of and stipends for community-based writing fellows who would 1) serve the community by offering free monthly “office hours” (in person or virtual) to writers in the region seeking support and/or 2) complete a neighborhood-focused public arts project in Pittsburgh. ($5000 each)
Special Thanks for your Support
Between the start of our campaign and its close on October 1st, we will add new donor gifts to our crowd-funding each week – from signed books and essay/manuscript reviews to admission for donor-only, virtual workshops or conversations with a range of published authors across the country and more! New donor gifts will be updated here, within our campaign, and highlighted on our Instagram account.
Maggie Messitt is Co-Founder and the Executive Director of Writers House Pittsburgh. Messitt is a journalist, editor and social entrepreneur who has spent 20 years working inside under-covered communities in South Africa and the American Midwest. In South Africa, she was the editor/publisher of an award-winning community newspaper and the founding director of a nonprofit training women journalists inside the former apartheid-era homelands of Lebowa and Gazankulu. She is the author of The Rainy Season, a work of narrative and immersion journalism, long listed for the 2016 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award.
Messitt has edited the work of writers ranging from students to Pulitzer and Orange Prize winners, and managed editorial projects for the BBC, POV Documentary Films, Wisconsin Public Television, and others. She has taught writing in newsrooms and conferences, traditional university settings, alternative arts communities, and prison classrooms. She was the 2015 Scholar-in-Residence at Bowers Writers House (Elizabethtown College), 2015 Kenyon Review Peter Taylor Fellow, 2016 Clayton B. Ofstad Endowed Writer-in-Residence (Truman State University), and the Creative Nonfiction Judge for the 2017 Oregon Literary Fellowships (Literary Arts).
More recently, Messitt was the National Director of Report for America, a national service program addressing critical coverage gaps in newsrooms & communities across the country. During this time, she grew the program from 3 journalists in Appalachia to 60 journalists in 50 newsrooms across the country and established the foundation for an expansion to 250 journalists in 2020.
Messitt is currently a Mellon Fellow in Narrative Journalism at Denison University and core faculty in the Creative Nonfiction MFA program at Goucher College.
Kevin Haworth is Co-Founder and an Advisory Committee Member of Writers House Pittsburgh. Haworth is a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Creative Writing and the author of five books: the novel The Discontinuity of Small Things; the essay collections Famous Drownings in Literary History and Far Out All My Life; a collection of essays about writing, Lit From Within: Contemporary Masters on the Art and Craft of Writing, co-edited with Dinty W. Moore; and most recently, the Eisner-nominated Rutu Modan: War, Love, and Secrets, a book-length study of Israel’s most famous comics artist.
Winner of the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Outstanding Debut Fiction and first runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Haworth has been awarded residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Ledig International Writers House, and Grin City.
Formerly the Executive Editor of Ohio University Press & Swallow Press, he has taught at Arizona State University, Antioch Writers Workshop, 826 Michigan, Ohio University, Tel Aviv University, and Carlow University. He now teaches writing and literature at Carnegie Mellon University and lives in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood with his family.
We’re currently establishing an advisory committee of writers, librarians, and others with the aim of including a balance of team members based in Pittsburgh and across the country with an emphasis on the Rust Belt and Appalachia.
We’re currently securing fiscal sponsorship for grant-writing and fundraising purposes and will eventually establish our own 501c3.