Get Ready for Stories Capturing Work at Pitt-Greensburg’s 2024 Writers Festival

“It sounds like a joke—a professor, a social worker, an editor, and a high school teacher walk into a bar where the bartender is a poet—but it captures the spirit of the 2024 Writer’s Festival at Pitt-Greensburg,” says Dave Newman, assistant professor of Creative Writing at Pitt-Greensburg. “This year’s lineup features writers from wildly varied backgrounds but with the same goal—to tell stories in precise language.”

The festival, which runs from Monday, March 25, through Thursday, March 28, features luminaries such as award-winning professor Jane McCafferty, social worker Vessa Yankevich, high school teacher Rebecca Schumejda, bartender Richard Gegick, and a newly appointed editor of the acclaimed Pitt Poetry Series, Nancy Krygowski.  

All events and readings are free and open to the public.

“We always try to host the best storytellers in our area,” says Newman. “But, this year, we’ve pulled in a couple great writers from outside the state. Rebecca Schumejda teaches at an alternative high school in Upstate New York and is one of the premier working-class poets in America. Her book Waiting at the Dead End Diner focuses on her time as waitress, and it really infuses the daily grind of servers with this beautiful sense of humanity. Her new book, Sentenced, is a heartbreaking exploration of mental health, crime, and family. It really personalizes a lot of what we see in the news.”

Lori Jakiela, the director of the Creative and Professional Writing Departments at Pitt-Greensburg, adds, “Vessa Yankevich is another writer who personalizes the news in a really intimate way. Her first chapbook, Bronzer Alert, about being locked inside Western Psych as a social worker while an active shooter was roaming around is just brilliant. It’s absolutely terrifying and, at the same time, shows how people often come together during a tragedy. Her new narratives expand on that. In her social work and in her writing, she really captures the stories and the spirits of people who are often overlooked.”

Last year, Jane McCafferty, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, had a chapbook produced by Pitt-Greensburg’s Publishing Class. This year, she returns to read some of those poems. “I’ve loved Jane’s stories and novels for years. It was so great to work with her on her chapbook,” Newman says.  

McCafferty will be reading with Nancy Krygowski, one of the new editors at the Pitt Poetry Series. “Nancy is such a wonderful poet. She’s gutsy and honest, and her poems really sing about their subjects,” Jakiela says. “She writes so well about moms and daughters, husbands and wives.”

Most years, the Literary Festival is organized by Jakiela and Newman. This year, Jakiela has been on sabbatical, writing a novel and touring to support her most recent memoir, They Write Your Name on a Grain of Sand. “It’s been fun to watch it come together from a distance this year,” she says. “I’m really excited to be a spectator and a participant.”

“With Jakiela off, I’ve really had to depend on the students for insight,” Newman says. “They’ve been great, especially Cruser,” he adds, referring to student writer Caitlin Cruser, who has published poems in New York Quarterly, and who has an essay coming out in the journal Moonlighting.

Cruser, who will be reading with Gegick on Thursday, says, “Gegick's poems were some of the first I read about working in the service industry. His work continues to inspire me in my writing.” 

“We always want our students to make connections, both on the page and in person,” Newman says. “It’s so great for them to get to read with professional authors. Meeting someone with a book is an important spot on the map to where they’re heading.”

Newman, an award-winning author of seven books, is excited about the range of writers during this year’s festival. “This is the first year where we’ve had writers outside the academy. It’s important for us to have a range of voices. Sometimes, the literary world gets hung up on degrees. Yankevich and Gegick, with their backgrounds in social work and the service industry, really bring fresh perspectives and underrepresented stories to the page.”  

All events are on the Pitt-Greensburg campus and are free and open to the public. For more information about any of the festival events, or about the Creative & Professional Writing Program at Pitt-Greensburg, contact Dave Newman at or 724-836-9930.

All authors will be accompanied by Pitt-Greensburg student writers reading from their own work.


2024 Writers Festival Schedule:


Poetry Reading: Jane McCafferty and Nancy Krygowski

  • 5 p.m. Fireside Lounge
  • Reception/Book Sales & Signing



Pendulum Literary Magazine Launch

  • UPG Student Writers read their work published in the student-literary journal Pendulum. The night will highlight student writers with national publications, including Caitlin Cruser, Eva Webber-Smith, and Kaiden Ciongoli.
  • 6 p.m. Fireside Lounge



Zoom Poetry Reading with Rebecca Schumejda and Vessa Yankevich

  • 5 p.m. via Zoom
  • Register to receive the Zoom URL.



Richard Gegick Chapbook Launch with Lori Jakiela

  • Gegick and Jakiela will read from their most recent books
  • 6 p.m.–Fireside Lounge
  • Reception/Book Sales & Signing


Publication Date

Thursday, March 21, 2024 - 16:15