From its inception, the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series has had two charges. The first: to make central to the intellectual endeavors of the university the study and writing of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It is not our belief creative writing is simply an attractive addition to the main body of intellectual work that is undertaken by the university. The writing of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction is itself intellectual work. The writers who read in our series aren’t just artists/performers. They are artist/teachers/thinkers. Their work is read by our students; they meet with our classes, have lunch, and talk with graduates and undergraduate. They are here to demonstrate the connection between art and thinking.
The PCWS brings notable writers to Pitt’s main campus every year. Thanks to funding from the office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences, the series is free and open to the public and features contemporary writers with extraordinary talent in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Writers who have come in the past include George Saunders, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gay Talese, Richard Ford, John Edgar Wideman, John McPhee, Dan Chaon, Lucille Clifton, Anne Carson, Mark Doty, and Michael Ondaatje, among others.
The series is free and open to the public because the connection between the public—and the University of Pittsburgh and the writers and teachers within it—is fundamental. Though the PCWS events take place on Pitt’s campus, many members of the greater Pittsburgh community attend the readings and the audiences routinely number 200-250.