Pitt-Greensburg Writers Festival: celebrating storytelling, authors, and more

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg will host its 16th annual Writers Festival April 11 through April 15. This year’s line-up features Chicago authors Ben Tanzer and Joseph Peterson, a Pitt Year of the Humanities celebration of stories and storytellers, an alumni writers reunion, and more. All festival events are free and open to the public.

This year’s festival is made possible through funding support from Pitt’s Year of the Humanities and the Pitt-Greensburg Office of Academic Affairs. For more information about the festival or about the writing community at Pitt-Greensburg, contact Lori Jakiela, professor of English and Creative Writing, at 724-836-7481 or loj@pitt.edu.

The Pitt-Greensburg Campus Store will be open until 7 PM each evening during the Writer’s Festival so that attendees can purchase a book before the event begins each night.  The books are available now and will be 10% off the regular price.


Monday, April 11 – 7 p.m. – Village Hall 118

Ben Tanzer and Joseph Peterson open the week’s events with readings from their respective works.

Ben Tanzer is the author of “Orphans,” which won the 24th Annual Midwest Book Award in Fantasy/SciFi/

Horror/Paranormal and a Bronze medal in the Science Fiction category at the 2015 IPPY Awards; “Lost in Space,” which received the 2015 Devil's Kitchen Reading Award in Prose Nonfiction; “The New York Stories;” and “SEX AND DEATH,” among others. He has also contributed to “Punk Planet,” “Clamor,” and “Men's Health,” serves as senior director, acquisitions for Curbside Splendor, and can be found online at tanzerben.com, the center of his vast lifestyle empire which includes the popular literary blog, “This Blog Will Change Your Life.”

Joseph Peterson is the author of the epic poem, “Inside the Whale,” and the novels “Beautiful Piece,” “Wanted: Elevator Man,” and “Gideon’s Confession.” He is the author, most recently, of the story collection, “Twilight of the Idiots.” He attended Wheeling High School and received his BA in philosophy from the University of Chicago. Peterson has worked in an aluminum mill, carried the hod for bricklayers, tended bar, and taught high school in the inner-city. He currently works in publishing and lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters.


Tuesday, April 12 – 4 p.m. – Powers Hall 118

Tanzer and Peterson will offer an informal talk/open workshop on Tuesday, April 12 in Powers Hall 118. The workshop is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. To register, e-mail loj@pitt.edu with name and contact information.


Wednesday, April 13 – 7 p.m. – Cassell Hall 116

This year, the festival will feature a Digital Storytelling Showcase. Students from the Digital Storytelling class will present their work and discuss the art and craft of digital storytelling.


Thursday, April 14

Writers and storytellers will offer a panel discussion at noon (in the Mary Lou Campana Chapel and Lecture Center) and a reading (in Powers Hall 100) at 7 p.m. focusing on the theme, “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.”

The event, part of The University of Pittsburgh’s Year of the Humanities celebration, will feature authors Thomas Sweterlitsch, Sarah Shotland, Ben Gwin and Eric Boyd. The noon panel discussion on storytelling and the writer’s life in the digital age will be moderated by Pitt-Greensburg professor and author Lori Jakiela.

Thomas Sweterlitsch is the author of the best-selling novel, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” a book “The Post-Gazette” called “a near-future cyberpunk thriller in the tradition of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling; a funny, gloomy meditation on technology and mental illness in the tradition of Phillip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard; a cynically outrageous mystery less in the tradition of Chandler than that of James Ellroy. . . .a bleak, gorgeous romp through a pornographic and political American id.” Sweterlitsch has worked for 12 years at the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and daughter.

Sarah Shotland is the author of the novel “Junkette.” She is a novelist and playwright whose work has been performed in New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, and Florida; and internationally in Chongqing, PRC, and Madrid, Spain.  Her most recent play, “Cereus Moonlight,” was commissioned by miR Theater.  After opening on the Space Coast of Florida, it played at the 25th annual Rhino Fest in Chicago.  

Shotland is the co-founder and program coordinator of Words Without Walls, which brings creative writing classes to jails, prisons and rehabilitation centers in Pittsburgh, PA. She is co-editor of the literary anthology “Words without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence & Incarceration” with Sheryl St. Germain, published by Trinity University Press in spring 2015. A member of the Literary Arts faculty at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts, Shotland also teaches in Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing program.  

Ben Gwin is the fiction editor at Burrow Press Review. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in “The Normal School,” “Bridge Eight,” “Word Riot,” “Mary: A Journal of New Writing,” and others. His novel, “Clean Time: The True Story of Ronald Reagan Middleton,” will be published this year. Previously, the manuscript was shortlisted for the 2014 Pressgang Prize, and named a semifinalist for the 2015 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize. Gwin lives in Pittsburgh with his daughter.

Eric Boyd’s work has appeared in “Prison Noir,” edited by Joyce Carol Oates, and “Words Without Walls,” an anthology from Trinity University Press, featuring work by folks such as Oates, Nick Flynn, Terrance Hayes, Dorothy Allison, and Tim O’Brien. He is the author of “Whiskey Sour,” a collection of short prose pieces. His work has been widely published in journals, including “Vol. 1 Brooklyn,” the “PEN America Journal,” “The Offing,” “Guernica” and others. Boyd is a graduate of The Foundry MFA program, and lives in Pittsburgh, where he’s at work on a story collection, “Brownfields.” A short book of six-word stories/poems, “Q&A,” is forthcoming in the UK from PoetryPulse press.


Friday, April 15 – 7 p.m. – Mary Lou Campana Chapel and Lectre Center

Pitt-Greensburg alumni will be featured during this book launch for the second edition of the “Route 30 Anthology.” The collection, edited by Pitt-Greensburg alumnus Michelle Boring in consultation with Pitt-Greensburg professor Lori Jakiela, celebrates the success of Pitt-Greensburg’s writing graduates who have published books and had their work published in national and international literary magazines. As part of the launch celebration, alumni authors will read from their work, and Pitt-Greensburg senior capstone students, will present work from their capstone manuscripts. A reception will follow the readings.

Publication Date

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - 9:30am