Chatham University

A gathering of full- and low-residency Chatham MFA students, local writers, and nationally-known faculty at Chatham University's beautiful and sustainable Eden Hall Campus.

July 19-29, 2019
Eden Hall Campus

The Summer Community of Writers brings together an eclectic mix of low- and full-residency MFA students, local writers, and faculty for a 10-day experience that features daily workshops, dynamic craft lectures, faculty and student readings, and field trips to local points of interest. MFA students earn six course credits with attendance, and community members gain the chance to connect with Pittsburgh's vibrant writing community.

Sample Day Schedule

7:30am ▶ Breakfast in dining hall
9:00am ▶ Workshop
12:00pm ▶ Lunch in dining hall
1:30pm ▶ Craft lecture
2:30pm ▶ Open for writing and conferences
5:00pm ▶ Dinner service begins in dining hall
6:00pm ▶ Dessert and cocktail hour @ EHC Lodge
7:30pm ▶ Faculty Reading @ EBC

"Probably one of the only times in my life that someone allows me to have two hours every day to just write."

Writing in the Rain
Eden Hall Barn
Talk during Summer Community of Writers

Summer Community of Writers is an integral part of your time at Chatham. This six-credit course is mandatory for completion of your degree, and offers a chance for full- and low-residency students to connect, network, and collaborate.

Student Workshops

You will participate in eight three-hour workshops in your genre of choice every morning under the guidance of our expert and accomplished faculty. In groups of no more than twelve, you will generate drafts, follow prompts, deeply consider your own and each other's work. For full-res Chatham MFA students, SCW is often the perfect bridge between the first and second year, and a space for them to keep their thesis-writing momentum going. For anyone, workshops provide concentrated, personalized attention on your writing in a community of like-minded word-lovers.

Lectures & Conversations

Most afternoons, you will attend a conversation or lecture led by one of our faculty members or guests on some relevant aspect of writing craft or writing life. We work to make these talks applicable to any writer in any genre. For instance, you might learn about the lyric impulse in poetry and prose, or how to expertly handle exposition. Or, you might learn from local editors, agents and publishers about the journal or press submission process, or about how to start a creative writing outreach program like Words Without Walls.

"There is this writing community here that doesn't really exist anywhere else."

Reconnect with your work while enjoying the lush setting and collegiate atmosphere of our Eden Hall Campus. Summer Community of Writers serves as a resource to Pittsburgh writers and MFA alumni seeking an affordable, engaging writer’s retreat in a unique setting.

Community members can:

  • stay at Eden Hall or commute
  • sign up for a 4-day or 10-day program
  • attend craft lectures and publishing talks
  • participate in readings and social gatherings


Reading on Barn Stage



Group discussion at Summer Community of Writers


Nature Walk at Eden Hall Campus

Reading in the Barazzone Center

"My relationships with people I already knew have definitely been strengthened, and I made new friendships with people I wouldn't normally have met."

See who will be leading SCW this year:


Julie Kasdorf

Julia Spicher Kasdorf is the author of four books of poetry: Sleeping Preacher; Eve’s StripteasePoetry in America; and Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields. Her awards include the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, the Great Lakes College's Association Award for New Writing, a Pushcart Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry.

She has published a collection of essays, The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life, and the biographical study, Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American. With Joshua R. Brown she edited new editions of Yoder's regional classic Rosanna of the Amish, and Fred Lewis Pattee's local color romance The House of the Black Ring. With Michael Tyrell, she co-edited Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn. She is now working with Christopher Reed on the exhibition and catalogue Field Language: Paintings and Poetry by Warren and Jane Rohrer.

She is Professor of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State, where she teaches creative writing.

Aisha Sloan

Aisha Sabatini Sloan is the author of The Fluency of Light (2013) and Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit (2017). Her most recent book of essays was nominated for the University of Iowa's Essay Prize and won the CLMP Firecracker award for nonfiction. She is the Helen Zell Visiting Professor of Creative Nonfiction at the University of Michigan.

Sherrie Flick

Sherrie Flick is a fiction writer, food writer, and freelance writer and copy editor living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her book publications include the flash fiction chapbook I Call This Flirting, Reconsidering Happiness: A Novel, and the short story collection Whiskey, Etc. (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2016.) Her food writing appears in The Wall Street Journal, Ploughshares, Pittsburgh Quarterly and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as well as the anthology Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food.

Deesha Philyaw

Deesha Philyaw is co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney's, The Rumpus, Brevity, dead housekeeping, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Apogee Journal; Essence, Ebony, and Bitch; and various anthologies. Deesha is a Fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People.

Creative Nonfiction logo

Creative Nonfiction magazine is true stories, well told. Each issue demonstrates the depth and versatility of narrative nonfiction and proves that smart, engaging narratives can make any subject fascinating and meaningful. Recent issues have tackled themes ranging from dangerous creations to science & religion, and from adaptation to how we teach.

10-Day Workshops

Poetry w/ Julia Spicher Kasdorf


Voice–a term used in various ways to signify many things–has the power to embarrass literary scholars, rally the disenfranchised, and confound the beginning poet. For us, it serve as a focus for questions about persona, performance, the politics of utterance and silence, innovation, collaboration, and the revision of poems. Students can expect to read essays and published poetry outside of class, and to write at least one new poem for each workshop session.

Creative Non-fiction w/ Aisha Sabatini Sloan

Curating the Essay

In an essay about the artist Cy Twombly, Roland Barthes writes, "I am not copying the product, but the producing, I am putting myself, so to speak, in the hands’ footsteps." How does this attempt to replicate Twombly's posture as a painter inform Barthes' relationship to writing? In this class, we will look at writers who have played with other art forms as part of their writing process. We will borrow tactics from architecture, haiku, film, collage, music, fashion design—letting these strategies inform our approach to the essay.


4-Day Workshops

Deep Dive: Exploring space and place in writing w/ Sherrie Flick

This four-day multi-genre workshop uses the many interior and exterior spaces of Eden Hall campus to explore setting as a craft element. Through field study notes, exercises in how memory affects the writing of place, and examples of place-based writing as inspiration, we will construct and deconstruct the ways in which setting helps us tell our stories. This workshop actively explores the natural world. Please bring walking shoes, sunscreen, and bug spray.


Writing on Sex and Bodies w/ Deesha Philyaw

“Why do writers have such a hard time writing about sex?” an interviewer once asked Toni Morrison. In this workshop, writers will consider Morrison’s answers to the question and take on the challenge of writing about sex and bodies, be it tender, taboo, titillating--or all three. Contemporary flash prose and personal essays will form the basis for discussion and writing exercises designed to inspire and encourage participants’ exploratory writing. Additional exercises, rooted in celebration of the sensual and the erotic, will guide participants toward writing on sex and bodies that is both daring and reflective.

Keynote Speech

“Real Material: Lessons from Life in the Body” w/ Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Craft Lecture

"Place and Information" w/ Julia Spicher Kasdorf

With everything on the internet, where is the poet's place? This workshop will be an inquiry into the way some poets make use of information and specific locations—an investigation of the ways we write to capture attention and make place in the digital age.

Eden Hall Campus isn't just sustainable: it's beautiful. Nestled in the rolling hills of Gibsonia, just 20 miles from Pittsburgh, Eden Hall offers plenty of inspiration for nature and place-based writing with hiking trails, gardens, farm-fresh food and more.

Nature Walk at Eden Hall Campus

Tents set up at Eden Hall Campus

Eden Hall Farm Barn Exterior

Amenities for those staying at Eden Hall Campus during SCW include: 

  • The option to camp outdoors or stay in the award-winning sustainable Orchard Hall Residence Hall
  • Access to the Eden Hall pool, hiking trails, bowling alley and scenic grounds
  • Shuttle service to and from Pittsburgh
  • Optional dining packages at Eden Hall’s dining hall, offering organic, locally-sourced food with vegetarian, vegan and some specialized dietary options.

Dining Hall Prices:

  • Breakfast: $8.25
  • Lunch/Brunch: $9.80
  • Dinner: $10.80

Barazzone Center Dining

"Beautiful place! A much needed oasis."


SCW fulfills English 710 in the MFA course list. Full-residency students must take it once during their program of study; low-residency students must take it twice.

  Tuition Room Board Total
MFA Student Residency $5,748 $250 $250 $6,248

Credit-seeking students should register for the Summer Community of Writers through the University portal, or speak with their adviser.  


Community Members & Chatham MFA Alumni

Flexible registration allows you to choose the program that best suits your needs.

  Tuition Room
Session A: Sex & Bodies (July 20-23)  $300 $100 $112 $512
Alumni discount $240 $100 $112 $452
Session B: Space & Place (July 25-28)  $300 $100 $112 $512
Alumni discount $240 $100 $112 $452
Sessions A+B $600 $225 $252 $1,077
Alumni discount $480 $225 $252 $957

Registration for the 2019 Summer Community of Writers is open until June 15!

MFA Alumni & Community: Register for SCW 2019 here

 Note: a $100 non-refundable deposit will be due at registration. Workshop availability is contingent upon enrollment.


For-credit and non-credit options available. ACT 48 available for-credit only.


For more information or registration questions, e-mail Joe Bisciotti at or call (412) 365-1685. For alumni discount, please contact Joe Bisciotti.

Photo credit: Brittany Hailer; Sheila Squillante; Rachel Kaufman; Karen Smith Linehan; Juliana Farrington; Dakota Lueck; Melissa DiGiovannantonio.