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Wildcat Lit Fest

An inspiring day designed for writers of every skill level - Age 18+

July 29, 2023 8 am - 9 pm

Come Write with us in a Historic Mansion!

Workshops & Events

Your choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop + more

Poetry: Phil Terman

Morning Workshop: 

Immerse yourself in poems by beloved poets (such as James Wright, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lucille Clifton) and allow them to inspire you to draft your own poems, and share these drafts with each other. In the process we’ll talk about poetry in general, and how it can help us live our lives—and write more of our own poems.

Afternoon Workshop:

In this workshop, in the first half, we’ll read and explore a few choice poems that are grand examples of the “empathic imagination” (how do they do it?) as inspirations to draft and share our attempts to write our own poems in the second half.

Screenwriting: Jon Bernstein

This fun and friendly workshop led by Jon Bernstein is designed to take you through the full process of writing a feature film screenplay. Jon will introduce you to the key craft elements of story structure, plot, scene development, character, theme, genre, and dialogue and show you how they work together to grip an audience's emotions. You will learn how to create and evaluate story ideas, explore how characters' inner wants and immediate goals shape and drive a screenplay's action, see what constitutes compelling plots and subplots, and learn how to construct a scene. 

Non-Fiction: Lori Jakiela

Morning Workshop: 

Focusing on both the fundamentals of the creative nonfiction genre, with special emphasis on memoir and personal essay writing, this workshop is for anyone who wants to enrich their life, and the lives of others, through the power of shared human stories.

Afternoon Workshop:

Together, we’ll work on writing exercises devoted to helping us pay attention to the tiny, beautiful, heartbreaking, heart-opening things around us. We’ll read work from writers whose way of seeing our world in all its intricate and complicated crazy-quilted-ness (I’m looking at you, Mary Oliver; I see you, Hemingway and you, James Baldwin) and use those examples as springboards for our own writing/seeing practice.

Plein Air Hike: Tabassam Shah

Optional During Lunch Time:


Come join us for a short walk through the woods of Wildcat Mansion, where the sights and sounds of the forest and spring waters fuel inspiration for your writing. Plein air writing uses nature as a writing prompt and encourages writers to observe and react while being out of doors or out on the trail. Draft a poem or any other genre of writing while on foot and/or reflect and write after our hike.

Fiction: Dave Newman

Morning Workshop: 

The goal of this workshop is to take what you know about the world (family and friends, co-workers and colleagues, yourself and the things you’ve observed) and create a narrative piece based on bad choices and unfortunate circumstances.

Afternoon Workshop: 

The goal of this workshop is to show how a novel works by going over a few terms then applying them to your material. You’ll bang out a tiny novel by breaking down each fictional element—character, setting, etc.—then putting the elements to work in the world you plan to create.

Other Happenings


Head Wildcatter and successful screen writer Jon Bernstein will share the history of the mansion, its link to the area’s roots in the oil industry, and the vision to become a literary hub for the region.

Open Mics 

Share your work with fellow writers. Evening literary and music soiree starting at 7 pm.  

Book and Community Resource Fair 

Browse author's works, literary and community informational tables. Interested in a table? Email

Faculty Reading and Panel Discussion

Workshop leaders will read their work and hold an open discussion about the festival.



* For questions about the workshops or festival contact *  


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Lit Fest Schedule: 

July 29, 2023 8 am - 9 pm

8:00      Registration and Light Breakfast

8:30      Welcoming Remarks

8:45      Keynote with Jon Bernstein

9:15      Break

9:30      Session One 

11:00    Book Fair and Open mic activities 

12:00    Optional Box Lunch (Optional Plein Air Hike)

1:30      Session Two 

3:00      Open Mic and Book Fair 

4:00      Closing Presentations 

5:00      Dinner Break (Bibo's, Trails, Benjamin's?)

7- 9       Open Mic and Networking Soiree

* Optional Box Lunches: Turkey and Provolone, Honey Ham and Baby Swiss, or Vegetarian *  

* Participants wishing to stay overnight at the Mansion will be given a 20% discount on room rate. Contact for lodging inquiries. *

Workshop Leaders


Nonfiction: Lori Jakiela 

Lori Jakiela is the author of seven books, including the memoir Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe, which received the Saroyan Prize for International Literature from Stanford University. Her most recent book, a collection of poems titled How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen? Poems at Mid-Life, received the 2021 Wicked Woman Prize from Brickhouse Books. Her work has been published in The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Brevity, Chautauqua Magazine and more. Her next book, a hybrid memoir called We Write Your Name on a Grain of Rice: On Cancer, Love and Living Even So, is forthcoming from Atticus Books in October 2023. She directs the undergraduate writing program at The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and teaches creative writing in the doctoral program at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Her column, “Let Yourself Go,” appears regularly in Pittsburgh Magazine. She lives in Trafford, Pennsylvania with her husband, the author Dave Newman, and their children. Her author website is

Phil Terman.webp

Poetry: Philip Terman

Philip Terman’s most recent of his ten books and chapbooks of poetry are This Crazy Devotion (Broadstone, 2020), Our Portion: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House, 2015) and, as co-translator, Tango Beneath a Narrow Ceiling: The Selected poems of Riad Saleh Hussein (Bitter Oleander, 2021). Currently, he directs The Bridge Literary Arts Center, is co-director of the James Wright Poetry Festival, and of the Jewish Poetry Reading Series, sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Buffalo. Terman conducts poetry workshops and coaches writing hither and yon. He’s collaborated with  composers, visual artists, and performs his poetry with the jazz band Catro.

Dave Newman.webp

Fiction: David Newman

Dave Newman is the author of seven books, including The Same Dead Songs: a memoir of working-class addictions (J.New Books, 2023) and East Pittsburgh Downlow (J.New Books, 2019). His collection The Slaughterhouse Poems (White Gorilla Press, 2013) was named one of the best books of the year by L Magazine. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in magazines around the world, including Ambit (U.K.), Tears In The Fence (U.K.), Gulf Stream, Belt, and the legendary Nerve Cowboy. He appeared in the PBS documentary narrated by Rick Sebak about Pittsburgh writers. Winner of numerous awards, including the Andre Dubus Novella Prize, he lives in Trafford, PA, the last town in the Electric Valley, with his wife, the writer Lori Jakiela, and their two children. After a decade of working in medical research, he currently teaches in the Creative and Professional Writing Program at The University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg. His website is


Screenwriting: Jon Bernstein

Jon Bernstein wrote the screenplay for Disney's MEET THE ROBINSONS, which received a Heartland Award and was named a Truly Moving Picture. He also wrote the screenplays BEAUTIFUL (starring Minnie Driver, directed by Sally Field) and RINGMASTER (starring Jerry Springer). He has written screenplays for Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks, and has written original television series for the CW and NBC-Universal.


Plein Air Hike: Tabassam Shah 

Six years ago Tabassam moved to Clarion, Pennsylvania and took a step back from the academic life of a history professor. Author of Red & Crescent Moons. She began writing poetry as a young teen to process her struggles with the notion of difference as a child of Pakistani immigrants growing up in the foothills of Southern Appalachia. Through poetry, her emphasis on difference gave way to a focus on the similarities within humanity across the globe. Lately the muse connects her with the natural world, and her writing is often an extension of her

Get Your Tickets! 

July 29, 2023 8 am - 9 pm

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