Pittsburgh East Writer's Workshop

In January 2004, Ellen Spain, active in PennWriters' since 1991, in Area 3 (SW PA). started the Pittsburgh East Writer's as a (pro bono) support and educational group for PennWriters' members in all genres, residing in Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs to Greensburg. Later, Ellen opened membership into the Pittsburgh East Writers to the public. In addition to the monthly group critique sessions, Ellen has been offering free writers' workshops at the library to the public for the past eight years. Workshop details are posted to this site. In 2012, Ellen stepped down as Coordinator due to her heavy work schedule as an Editor, a Writer, and her non-profit volunteer duties. She appointed her Assistant Coordinator, Chuck Rakiecz, a member of PennWriters' and SF/Mystery writer, to the Coordinator position. Ellen will continue to handle the PR and Programs as the Assistant Coordinator to January 2013.



All genre fiction manuscripts, including memoir writing, that you want critiqued should be works in progress, not published works. You should first proof your own manuscript for spelling and punctuation errors before presenting it to the group. If you want your manuscript to be line edited, check the Yellow Pages for Proofreaders and Editorial Services. The members review your manuscript during the round-table meeting on the above Critique Elements. Please state your writing's title, chapter number, and a one minute synopsis about your manuscript before reading your manuscript to the group. It is recommended that you let someone else read it and you listen to what is read as another method for you to self-edit. A piece is reviewed no more than twice by the group, but members are completely free to review each other's work in depth outside the monthly sessions. Reviewing services are expected to be reciprocal. A writer who wants work reviewed must also review work presented by other writers.

You should make six copies, up to ten double-spaced pages, for the group to critique. These are passed out to members who review them according to the Critique Elements and return comments in writing if possible at the end of the author's reading. Each person at the table gives comments without interruption, first stating what was positive about the story before critiquing on the nine points. The author then discusses the comments and a general discussion can follow if time permits.

To join the Pittsburgh East Writer's critique group, send your name, telephone number, writing experience including memberships in other writer's groups, your current genre interests, and your publications, to Chuck Rakiecz at chuck.rak.writer@gmail.com.


  1. PREMISE: (Does story idea work? How is it unique from what is already published?):
  2. IMAGERY: (Does the story use the five or six senses?):
  3. PLOT: (Is there logical order/transitions?):
  4. CONFLICT: (What are the internal and external conflicts of each main character?):
  5. SETTING: (Are the time, place and environment clearly identified?):
  6. CHARACTERS: (Are they realistic/believable and how are they affected by the events. Are they developed showing their personality, cognitive ability & reasoning, physical characteristics, etc.):
  7. POINT OF VIEW: (The story is shown from whose eyes? Hopefully not the third party author.):
  8. VOICE: Does the dialogue originate from the (main) character's voice or thoughts?
  9. STYLE: (Whose voice is telling the story: the characters or the author? Is the voice unique?:
  10. TONE: (Is the reading consistent and easy to follow? Listen to what you have written.):
  11. ACTION: Is the pace continual though out the story using good dialogue and thoughts?
  12. HOOKS: On page one, chapter one, is there a lead-in that entices the reader to continue? Is this enticement continued at the beginning and end of each chapter throughout the book?
  13. INFORMATION DUMPS: Avoid this. Let the characters provide the information and back story through their natural dialogue and thoughts.
  14. ENDING: Does the book end with the same theme as promised in chapter one?
  15. GRAMMAR: If the editor finds more than one grammar error in a chapter, the publisher will consider you a sloppy writer and reject your manuscript without further reading. Running your manuscript through "Spell Check" is not finalizing your work. If you don't know how and when to use caps, punctuation marks, verbs, sentence structure, and more good grammar, purchase a used/previous edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. and keep it on your computer desk next to your Thesaurus.

Pittsburgh East Writer’s Meeting format:

Meetings are held the third Saturday of each month at the Monroeville Public Library and begin at 10:00 AM and end before 1:00 PM. Schedule is posted below.

There are no dues to belong to the Pittsburgh East Writer's and being a member of PennWriters' is not mandatory but highly suggested or a membership into a professional writer's group like RWA, Sisters in Crime, PARSEC or HWA, EPIC, MUSE, and others. Thus far, Ellen has underwritten all costs involved in presenting the workshops and reimbursing guest speakers. Please note that tuition will be included in future workshops. Ellen shares information on writing and the publishing field electronically with the regularly attending members via the "PW Pgh East Writer's E-BULLET newsletter".

If the weather is bad, use your judgment about the safety of traveling to the library. Certainly staying safe is more important than attending a meeting. When in doubt play it safe.

PennWriters' Inc. www.pennwriters.org is a 501(c)3 organization and is established to :

  1. Promote excellence in writing;
  2. Help aspiring authors learn how to become published via traditional, professional venues;
  3. Advance the careers of published writers;
  4. Facilitate professional networking between members and traditional publishers; and
  5. Act as a liaison between authors and booksellers.
Directions to the Monroeville Public Library: http://monroevillelibrary.org/.


Monroeville Public Library’s first floor conference room
Third Saturday morning of each month, April thru December, 10:00 AM to 12:30, weather permitting. There will be no meetings in January, February, and March of 2012.
To Be Announced
Click here for 2009 programs, 2010 programs, 2011 programs and 2012 programs.