The Residency

A Year in-Residence

The Writers House is a physical home and support community for writers focused on telling true stories with a broad interpretation -- from memoir and literary journalism, graphic and visual essays to documentary and protest poetry, experimental forms and, in some cases, novels and screenplays that are deeply researched and/or tackle critical issues. 

There couldn’t be a more important time to be focused on nonfiction storytelling. 

We’re open to writers who may not have formal writing education or who may be emerging as a writer later in life. We seek writers for whom a year of housing stability and creative community would alter their life for the better, or would offer them an opportunity to recalibrate and/or launch more confidently. We’re also open to journalists who may have been recently affected by newsroom cuts, who’d like to work on a book or transition to freelancing. We seek to offer residencies to writers who are often poorly served by MFA communities and literary/media organizations, including writers of color and those identifying as LGBTQIA+. Each resident will have a living and writing space of their own, be paired with a mentor appropriate for their work and goals, and will have teaching or public programming opportunities via the House. 

APPLICATIONS for residencies starting in September & October 2021 will open in April and close May 31, 2021. Decisions will be made in late June.

All US residents are eligible to apply. We especially encourage those who currently reside in the Rust Belt and/or Appalachia to apply.  

The House

The house is located in the Edgewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh in a home dating around 1900. It is a big brick box with detailed woodwork, stained glass windows, and tall plaster walls -- a Pittsburgh Victorian. This three-story residence is truly special and underwent renovations in the summer of 2020 in preparation for our first four residents. The house has a lot of character, but it's quirky like anything still standing at one hundred and twenty years old.  We'll be posting updates throughout November and December now that our first residents have moved in and settled.

Residency FAQs

What’s included in my residency? 

As a resident, the House is your home for the length of your residency, typically 10-to-12-months. All utilities and internet are included. Professional cleaning of common spaces is also included and will take place twice a month. All writers are responsible for their own food and cleaning up after themselves throughout the house. Each writer has a fully furnished sleeping and writing space – either combined or separate – and they are responsible for regularly cleaning those spaces, as well as working with all residents to manage other basic tasks around the house (taking out garbage, etc.).  

Residency fees are due on the 15th of each month


Can you tell me more about the physical house?

The House is located in the Edgewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. It dates around 1900 and has three stories. Like many homes in Pittsburgh, it is situated on a hill and there is a long set of stairs that take you from the street level to the front porch. Unfortunately, due to this, the house is not ADA compliant. 

The first floor is currently like any other home – dining room, living room, full bath, kitchen. This is also where Founder Maggie Messitt has a writing studio and where she is most days. Eventually, we envision the dining room as a workshop space, but for now, it’s a great place for dinner.

The second floor is where all four resident bedrooms are located, as well as a full bath. Two bedrooms on the second floor are extremely large, so they are considered both sleeping and writing spaces. And, two of the bedrooms are reasonably sized, but smaller.

The third floor has a very large workshop room / lounging space, two writing studios (for the occupants of the two smaller rooms), and a full bath. 


What is expected of residents?

There are no specific deliverables expected from residents. We do discuss your writing goals, support you with mentors along the way, and check in throughout your stay. But, mostly, the expectation is that you’ll use your time in the house to work toward your writing goals and to invest in the community inside.

If you apply and are invited to join the House, it is because you’re seeking time inside an intentional community 1) bound by writing and 2) that offers stability (and opportunity) in an uncertain time. Whether your reasons to apply are personal, professional, or financial, the nature of the House—considering mission alone—means each resident is here to navigate this time in a supportive, communal setting. 

A year-long residency is unusual. In fact, as far as we’re aware, this is the only residency that supports writers for one year. Given this, we ask residents to be respectful of everyone’s need to focus or have privacy, while also making an investment in one another. We encourage residents to coordinate some meals together each week (supported by a generously donated weekly meal box) and the House founders host a regular dinner (typically every other weekend).

This is not for everyone—joining the house means moving in with three other writers (strangers) for a year.  This is not just housing, it's a writing community.


Is the House doing any programming or events during COVID?

Although we won’t be hosting in-person events or workshops throughout COVID, conversations around virtual partnerships and editorial public art projects are happening and we’ll be piloting virtual workshops throughout Winter 2020-2021.  Opportunities will be offered to residents when they come available, but residents are encouraged to consider and communicate any collaborations they might want to broker during their time in residence. However, this is not a requirement.

The House will broker virtual reading opportunities throughout the region for residents. As invitations for collaborations or other opportunities come to the House, those will be offered to / discussed with residents.


How will residents safely move into the house during COVID? 

All incoming residents must test for COVID prior to their move-in date. We’ll work with every resident to make this transition as smooth and stress-free as possible.

What does mentorship look like for residents?

Mentorship will differ from resident to resident. Based on your personal goals for the year, you will work with us to assess the ways in which a mentor may support those. These could be editorially-focused, but they do not need to be. This is a flexible, goal-driven resource. In some cases, a writer may be seeking opportunities to connect with several individuals who’ll help them consider their personal or professional goals in new ways. This is a special part of the residency for many.


How is the House managing COVID?

During this time, so many writer and artist residencies are temporarily closed for public health reasons. Since we’re not cycling writers in and out throughout the year, we’re able to function safely provided everyone works together to follow basic guidelines:    

  1. Masks must be worn outside of the House.
  2. Distancing must be practiced outside of the House.
  3. Follow CDC guidelines for hand-washing and sanitizing.
  4. If a resident is unmasked and around others outside of the House, they need to communicate with the House and make a safe plan to return. Quarantine and/or testing will be required. This is especially a concern if they’ve been unmasked indoors with others, or outside and within close proximity of others for an extended period of time. 
  5. If a resident travels or overnights anywhere other than the House, they should coordinate with the House and establish a safe plan to return. Quarantine and/or testing will be required. If residents make plans to visit family and connect with loved ones throughout the year, these are the basic precautions that allows that to happen and residents to stay healthy.

In our inaugural year, as we navigate the pandemic and the new house, residents are in a pod with the House Founders’ family (whose children are currently attending school virtually). This is part of what allows us to make this residency happen throughout the pandemic. Like anyone who establishes a pod, this requires communication and working together.

Note: The above outlined guidelines may be adjusted over time based on the rise of regional cases and changes in CDC, PA, Allegheny County, or Pittsburgh guidelines. 


Is work outside of the house allowed?

Unlike your typical short-term residency, this is a space where you’re balancing your writing life and work life. Sometimes those overlap, but for so many this is not the case. Currently, all of our residents work virtually. During COVID, if your work is not virtual and requires you to work physically outside of the house and/or travel, include this within your application so we can have any COVID-related discussions necessary.


Can residents have visitors at the House?

Unfortunately, at this time, given the state of COVID, we are unable to host visitors. Like everyone during this time, we’re navigating outdoor visits at a distance. However, if residents do have family or an acquaintance they’d like to walk through the house and show them around, we will absolutely work with you to make that happen. It just requires communication and coordination. We’ll all mask up and welcome them with you! 

In future years, this will change.  


What is included in a resident’s bedroom and personal writing space?

The house is fully furnished. 

Like short term residencies, you shouldn’t have to focus on anything more than settling in and navigating this new space and community. Realistically, we would like to avoid moving furniture in and out of the house with each resident and we do not have storage space to move our furniture out of the house for a resident to move their furniture in. However, each bedroom and writing space have been thoughtfully filled with furniture and rugs to feel both welcoming and ready to be made your own. Your books and personal items will transform the space and feel authentically yours quite quickly. Your writing space, whether it’s within your room or separate, includes an antique desk and bookshelves. 


Do residents need to provide their own bedding?

No. We make sure every room is ready for your arrival. Our goal is to make this as simple and easy of a move as possible. We have two sets of bedding for you. However, you’ll need to supply your own towels.


Is there laundry on-site?

Yes! We have laundry facilities in the basement available to you.


Can I bring my cat or dog?

Unfortunately, no.

As we opened applications for the house, we received a lot of questions from potential applicants re: whether or not cats and dogs would be allowed. Before responding, we had several thoughtful conversations with a range of residencies about this and listened to the reasons why other residencies don't allow animals. The only residencies that do allow animals, and they are very few (two that we’ve been able to identify), are able to offer private housing -- a cottage or an apartment -- to individual residents. Based on the important feedback we received (from allergies, insurance, and equitability across all residents), we understood that we needed to say 'no' to those who asked about pets of any kind. We know this is not a new challenge within residencies and writers and artists with ESAs.

Among the several reasons why we can't allow pets is the unique nature of the house—a shared space ratherthan private units. This requires us to think about allergies and fear of the individual and the collective. 

However, provided all residents are comfortable (and we take this seriously), we have a canine-occasionally-in-residence, Zambi, who will add a little extra life to the space. 

When do applications open for 2021-2022?

Applications will open in late March or early April 2021 and decisions should be made by early June. Residents move in throughout September.