Yinz going to AWP?

We are and we’re stoked about it! We’re sharing a table with local presses Six Gallery and Low Ghost, and authors Daniel McCloskey, Elwin Cotman, and Robert Isenberg. (558, in the back corner with the cool kids.) We’ll also be debuting the first Rahnd Table Anthology at the conference, because it’s about damn time we made a book happen.

This isn’t my first time going to AWP but it’ll be my first time with a table of my own to sit at, and the extra level of preparation that takes is a new adventure. I spent some time table-sitting for the Fourth River (Chatham’s literary journal) during my grad school days and it’s a completely different perspective on the bookfair. I’m excited to get to spend more time doing it this time around.

I’ve done AWP before, so I’ve got some idea of what to expect. This year, I’m hoping to smooth out some of the mistakes I’ve made in previous years by doing some advanced preparation. Aside from the details like travel plans and getting the final polish on the Rahnd Table anthology, there are three things I’m going to do before leaving for the conference that (I think) will help me get the most out of my time there.

1: Check out the panels and pick the ones I really want to attend, because I always say I’m going to do this and I always end up huddled over my program at lunch on Thursday with a highlighter, overwhelmed and not sure what I’m doing next. Having at least an outline of each day’s schedule in mind will hopefully keep me from running around like a crazy person trying to see it all, like I was my first AWP. I think I went to a panel during every time slot the first day that year, and by halfway through Friday my head felt like mush and I hadn’t spent a single minute in the bookfair—arguably the coolest thing about the conference. My plan this year: Pick out 3-5 panels that are “definites,” 3-5 “maybes,” and make a point of saving energy to go to the off-site readings after hours.

2: Practice my elevator pitch, because that’s something else I’m notoriously bad at: selling myself to potential publishers or agents. In past years I’ve been too intimidated by the idea to even approach the people who might open up new opportunities for my writing. I also don’t want to be that person who spends the whole conference talking about myself—not only are those people annoying, but you don’t learn as much when you’re talking as when you’re listening—and I might never be in a situation during the conference where I need to give my elevator pitch. But on the off chance somebody asks me that dreaded question (“So what do you write?”) whilst mingling, having a concise answer ready could be the difference between them being interested and not.

3: Know who’s going to be there. Putting in an hour or two of quality time with Google search can help me map out which tables at the bookfair I really need to swing by, which readings will be the most up my alley, and which panelists might have things to say that most directly relate to my own writing style and career. Not that a poet has nothing to teach a fiction writer, but with so many people in one place it’s impossible to meet even a small fraction of them. Knowing who at least a few of the agents, publishers, and fellow writers are before I go will (hopefully) help me pick the right small fraction.

Granted, I don’t claim to be an expert at the AWP experience. If you guys have some pre-planning tips I’d love to hear them! Either way, I hope to see you at our table in L.A.

3/12: Marshall James Kavanaugh and Stephanie B at Cyberpunk Apocalypse


We’ll be back at Cyberpunk Apocalypse in the North Side on March 12 for a pair of touring PA poets making a stop in Pittsburgh. Marshall James Kavanaugh is touring his poetry collection Travel by Haiku and Stephanie B. is touring her essay collection Letters to Aunt Lucy. You can check out more details of their tour on their Facebook page.

The Cyberpunk Apocalypse library is also going to be open for your perusal and purchase. There’s loads of good stuff on those shelves, from vintage young adult to how-to woodcrafting guides. (There’s a couple pictures of the library in the Cyberpunk update from last year, though they don’t really demonstrate the collection’s full majesty).

Book sale at 7, reading at 8.

BYOB, free and open to the public!

3-12 reading flyer

November 27: Gratitude reading

As promised, the Gratitude reading is coming up next week! This is our first Friday reading, because what better day to read about gratitude than Black Friday (the ironically least grateful day of the year)?

This is also our first reading at Artisan (5001 Penn Ave), which is a super-cool gallery/tattoo shop/cafe that all yinz should be hip to!

Doors at 7:30, reading starts at 8 (like we do). The flier below contains pretty much the same deets, but I’m amused by turkey clip art, so I’m posting it anyway.

gratitude flyer

The future n’at

So the Haven’s coming up on its first anniversary as a public entity. We’ve been floored over the last year by the outpouring of support, and all the fantastic readers we’ve been able to bring together. The plan for the Haven is to be a community, a place to gather and work and share words with each other. The Haven Presents reading series was a fantastic start, but over the past couple months we’ve been gearing up to take the Haven to the next level.

Not that we’re abandoning our reading series! We’ve had so much fun with these events and we’ll be hosting two in the 2015-2016 season: A Gratitude-themed reading in late November, and one we’re really excited about in the spring tentatively entitled “Cluster Fuck: When Your Life’s a Mess.” More details on those will be coming at you soon. But we’ve decided to cut back on the reading series so we have more time and energy to put into the new events we’ll be introducing to the calendar in spring of 2016: A series of workshops, and an open-to-the-public retreat.

We’ve been doing retreats as the Rahnd Table writing group pretty much since our inception. These retreats have been so remarkably helpful in letting us take time to produce words or even just clear our heads to let words start to form. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s in a budget motel in Crafton or a gorgeous cabin in the Allegheny Forest–it’s the gathering of writers, the new place, the relative lack of distraction that has been so invaluable to all of us, and that’s what we want to share with the rest of you. Our first retreat will happen in the summer of 2016, so if you’re interested in that keep your eyes open here for updates.

As far as workshops, we have (tentatively) three courses planned: A world-building workshop, a short story workshop, and an exploration of the history of science fiction. These workshops will happen in the spring of 2016 and will be led by various members of the Haven who are experts in these particular topics.

So while there’s not much actual information going on here in terms of when you can sign up and what exactly we’ll be doing at any of these new events, we just wanted to stop by and let you know they will be happening! If the turnout at our readings has been any indication, the Burgh’s ready for as much word fun as we can throw at it.

Cool writerly resources to make yourself hip to

Just a couple things that tickled my fancy when doing writerly research on the interwebs. Figured I’d leave them here, in the hopes someone else might be similarly tickled.

Query Shark

It doesn’t seem fair that something so short as a query letter can be so important in the agent/publication/being-an-actual-Writer process, but then life’s not fair, and at least there’s shit like Query Shark. Professional literary agent critiques actual query letters, suggesting revisions, pointing out what works and what doesn’t. Hasn’t been updated for a little while but there’ll be something in the 10+ years of posts to set you on the right track.


This site’s been around for a while, so I’m probably in fact the last person to find out that it exists, but just in case I’m not–this site has a wealth of resources, not just for freelancers, but for writers in general. Site is updated daily with new jobs and calls for submissions. Maybe their coolest resource is the list of creative writing contests with no entry fees, which can be often difficult to find on other contest listings.

Upcoming Events: August 2015

Bean feast? Clam bake? Whatever! It’s an all-girl reading

Date: August 10 (Monday)
Place: Bayardstown Social Club, 3008 Penn Avenue (Strip District)

A night of words from the literary ladies of Pittsburgh. Fiction writers and poets from around the city, and on a Monday night, because don’t you need something to look forward to on a Monday? And at a new place, Bayardstown, because who wouldn’t want to host a reading in an awesome space like this:


We’re seriously excited about our reader line-up and this location. And we’re also stoked to present…

Worst Case Ontario @ Cyberpunk Apocalypse

Date: August 23 (Sunday)
Place: Cyberpunk Apocalypse, 1200 Boyle Street (North Side)


Five poets out of Canada on a tour across the US. You can read more about the group and their tour at their tumblr. Reading will be outdoor, weather permitting. There will no doubt be fine edibles and beverages. Good words and good times guaranteed.

Publishing a novel: The struggle is real

It’s been a big year for Pittsburghers–and friends of the Haven–publishing first novels. There was Sarah Shotland’s beautiful Junkette, Jacob Bacharach’s The Bend of the World, and the much acclaimed Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a sci-fi success story for local writer Thomas Sweterlitsch, just to name a few.

This month marks the release of Eighty Days of Sunlight, the debut novel for local writer and professor Robert Yune. Robert was this particular Havenite’s teacher and thesis advisor during my studies at Chatham. When I was his student, I could always count on Robert to give me the straight-up truth about my writing, to tell me where it wasn’t working (workshop parlance for “this sucks”) and through his guidance I identified and duly slaughtered a large portion of my darlings. My writing is indefinably better for it.

So it’s pretty fitting that three years post-graduation, he’s still saying exactly what I need to hear in his article on Thought Catalog, “How I Published My First Novel Against All Odds.” It chronicles the ten-year journey Yune took from starting his novel to finally seeing it in print. It is simultaneously disheartening and inspiring–disheartening if you’re hoping this novel thing’s going to be easy, and inspiring if you’re mid-struggle and just need to know someone else has made it through. Also it features this great description of the struggle to find an agent:

It felt like the scene in The Dark Knight Rises where Bane cripples Batman. Except my fight lasted for three years, with no end in sight.

I had two choices: I could either feel sorry for myself, or I could write another book. So, I felt sorry for myself. Then, I started writing a second novel.

Robert Yune’s book launch for Eighty Days of Sunlight is tomorrow (Saturday, June 12), 7PM, at East End Book Exchange in Pittsburgh, and the book is also available for sale on the internets.

Upcoming Readings: Gender Swap date change and a Bean Feast

Gender Swap: May 19, 8PM
Cyberpunk Apocalypse

With both the Submit-In and the Sausage Party in mid-April, we felt we were getting a little overly-ambitious doing another reading on April 30 (we’re still kinda new at this and we get so excited about ideas we sometimes forget about the logistics). So we’ve pushed the Gender Swap back to May 19. More details about the line-up and whatnot to follow soon!

Bean Feast (and maybe Clam Bake!) coming in June
To finish out our gender-themed reading series, we’ll be doing an all-female reading in June. Details on this one are still forthcoming, but we’re excited to announce we may be exploring a new venue for this one, an outdoor spot that looks just lovely.

As always, if you’re interested in sharing your words with the world, let us know! Gender swap will involve stories or poems written from the narrative voice of a gender not your own (interpreting this however you will for those who don’t fall on the gender binary) while the Bean Feast will be open only to readers who identify as female (sorry dudes, you already had your sausage party).