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 joining us at 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 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.

Candace Jane Opper

Candace Jane Opper is a writer, a mother, and an occasional visual artist. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, Longreads, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Literary Hub, and Vestoj, among others. Her first book, "Certain and Impossible Events," was selected by Cheryl Strayed as the winner of the second annual Kore Press Memoir Contest, and will be published in 2020. She holds an MFA from Portland State University and is the former producer and co-host of Late Night Love Affair, a podcast about books written by women. She works at Casey Droege Cultural Productions, and lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, writer Patrick McGinty, and their son.

Sam Smith

Sam Smith received her MFA from Chatham University, where she acted as managing editor for The Fourth River and earned Best Thesis in Creative Nonfiction. She is currently a reader for IDK Magazine, development coordinator for Rainbow Writers, and co-facilitator for the Queers Write Pittsburgh workshop series.

Robert Yune

As a Navy brat, Robert Yune moved 11 times by the time he turned 18. After graduating from Pitt, he lived in Pittsburgh for the next 15 years.

In the summer of 2012, he worked as a stand-in for George Takei and has appeared as an extra in commercials and movies such as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Father and Daughters.

Yune’s fiction has been published in Green Mountains Review, Kenyon Review, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. In 2009, he received a writing fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

In 2015, his debut novel Eighty Days of Sunlight was nominated for the International DUBLIN Literary Award. His debut story collection Impossible Children won the 2017 Mary McCarthy Prize and will be published in August 2019 by Sarabande Books.

Ryan Rydzewski

Ryan Rydzewski is a writer based in Pittsburgh, where he covers everything from food to education to the environment. He writes features for Pittsburgh Magazine and is a contributing editor at NEXTpittsburgh.

Cedric Rudolph

Cedric Rudolph teaches middle-school writers at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school (CAPA). He reads and edits for local journals. He also contributes to LOCAL Pittsburgh magazine. In his spare time, he searches for love, reads as much as possible, and pretends that mixed CDs are still a thing. In May 2018, he received his Poetry MFA from Chatham University. His poems are published in Christianity and Literature Journal and The Laurel Review.

Jill Yeomans

Jill Yeomans started her editorial career in 2006, acquiring young adult fiction and picture books at Little, Brown. Over the past decade, she has worked as a freelance editor for many major publishing houses, broadening her range to include adult fiction, horror, and memoir. She is a staff editor at Creative Nonfiction Magazine. As an author herself, she has co-written books with James Patterson, authored a middle grade series for HarperCollins, and as a ghostwriter, she has worked on several New York Times bestsellers. Jill is also the owner of White Whale Bookstore, and you will often find her hand-selling books to her community in Pittsburgh, where she revels in sharing her love of reading and discovering what her customers are clamoring for.

Lainy Carslaw

Lainy Carslaw is an essayist, fiction writer, and gymnastics coach who lives in the North Hills of Pittsburgh with her husband and three sons. She holds an MFA from Chatham University and a poetry degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work can be found in The Nasty Woman, Bad Hombre Anthology, several editions of The Madwomen in the Attic Anthology, Technique Magazine, Pink Pangea’s travel writing website, and her local newspaper, The Hampton News. She recently put out a collection of inspirational essays titled, Unexpected Light. Currently, she is working on a novel and a second collection of essays about working in a Family Business.

Heather McNaugher

Heather McNaugher teaches literature and writing at her alma mater, Chatham University, where she is also nonfiction editor of The Fourth River. She is the author of Second-order Desire and System of Hideouts and two poetry chapbooks, Panic & Joy and Double Life. Her poems have most recently appeared in Oyster River Pages, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and The Cossack Review, and her nonfiction in Fourth Genre. She’s lived in Seattle and Brooklyn and received her Ph.D. in English from The State University of New York at Binghamton. A nostalgic librarian, she once worked for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where you will find her on a weekly basis wandering among the novels.

Sheilia Squillante

Sheila Squillante is the author of the poetry collection, Beautiful Nerve, and three chapbooks of poetry: In This Dream of My Father, Women Who Pawn Their Jewelry and A Woman Traces the Shoreline. She is also co-author, along with Sandra L. Faulkner, of the writing craft book, Writing the Personal: Getting Your Stories Onto the Page (Sense Publishers, 2015). Recent work has appeared or will appear in places like Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Indiana Review, Waxwing, and River Teeth. She directs the MFA program in creative writing at Chatham University, where she edits The Fourth River, a journal of nature and place-based writing. From her dining room table, she edits Barrelhouse online. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband, Paul Bilger, a philosopher and experimental photographer, and their children.

Brittany Hailer

Brittany Hailer has been reading tarot for over ten years. She's used them as a source of healing and storytelling in her own poetry and in the classroom. She's taught tarot workshops at the Allegheny County Jail, Chatham University and University of Pitt Greensburg, rehab centers and various writing and yoga retreats. Tarot is a way for each of us to learn our own story through symbology and folklore. What does a golden lion mean to you? What about an open green path? Brittany can tell you some things, of course, but really you are the teller of your own fortune. Brittany is a journalist, educator and poet based in Pittsburgh. Her book Animal You'll Surely Become published in 2018 from Tolsun Books is a collection of essays about tarot, trauma, addiction and magic.

Jason Vrabel

Jason Vrabel is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer. Originally trained as an architect and planner, his writing focuses on affordable housing and other related social justice issues. He's a recent Writers Fellow at Creative Nonfiction and founder of

Hannah Highsmith Cloninger

Hannah Highsmith Cloninger is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she teaches courses in English, Creative Writing, and Women’s Studies. When she's not writing syllabi, lesson plans, rubrics, or awkwardly in third person, she squeezes in as much poetry reading and writing as possible. Hannah graduated from Chatham’s MFA Program in April 2018—and bought herself a lovely faux-laurel crown off Etsy soon after.

Vivian Lee Croft

Vivian Lee Croft is the Founder and Director of Write Pittsburgh (Girls Write and Rainbow Writers), a Pittsburgh-based creative writing collaborative serving writers through (mostly) free workshops. The teen program, Girls Write Pittsburgh is a partner program of Dave Eggers' International Alliance of Youth Writing Centers. Vivian also leads creative writing workshops for youth-serving organizations, summer camps, and high schools, and she teaches in nontraditional spaces throughout Pittsburgh. In 2018, she adapted the Creative Nonfiction Foundation’s Writing Away the Stigma workshop series for teen writers, assisting author Yona Harvey in teaching the series. Vivian has obtained degrees in Journalism, English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and Communications and Rhetorical Studies. She is a Maenads Fellow at Chatham University and was named as Chatham's 2019 Margaret L. Whitford Fellow where she is pursuing her Master's Degree in Creative Nonfiction Writing with a concentration in the Teaching of Writing.

Trevor Dawson

Trevor Dawson is a graduate of Chatham University, where he was the recipient of the Margaret L. Whitford fellowship. His work has appeared in Secret Destinations, Mangrove, Mosaic, Cardinal Sins, and elsewhere. He can be summoned for speaking engagements by speaking his name three times into a cracked mirror.

10-Day Workshops

Summer Short Forms w/ Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Designed for both poets and writers of prose, this workshop invites you to experiment with forms that fall between the cracks or blur genre: prose poem, micro memoir, lyric essay, flash fiction. Drawing on literary practices that range from ancient Japan to yesterday's tweet, we will take advantage of the brief but intense summer session to read, write, and share dazzling but brief, concentrated works of literature.

The Writer as Curator w/ Aisha Sabatini Sloan

This multi-genre workshop will be based on the idea of curation. How can we orient toward research and pre-writing, whether we're writing stories, poems, essays, novels or memoirs, in a way that opens up plenty of space for playful revision? We will think about the curation of stories through objects, sounds, images, and experiences. We will consider structure and flow the way we might talk about an art exhibit. By preparing an installation through visuals and objects, we will have the opportunity to walk through and modify the literary experience we are trying to create on the page.


Community Workshop

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

Saturday, July 27, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., Eden Hall

This 3-hour session will look at the natural environment for inspiration.  We will walk Eden Hall's grounds and write in response to prompts and exercises, using published authors' work to guide us.  

Cost to enroll:  $100

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.  


Registration for the 2019 Summer Community of Writers is open!

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.