Pitt faculty member talks Littsburgh, an online platform celebrating literary Pittsburgh


TPN File Photo

A close up of a book.

By Aoqin Yan, Staff Writer

For Pitt faculty member Nick Courage, encouraging others to read is a lifestyle.

He founded Littsburgh in 2015, an online platform for local literary activities, as well as a resource to foster connections among authors, publishers, reviewers and public professionals. The organization is also dedicated to providing professional advice not just to literary workers locally, but literature lovers throughout the country.  

Courage is an author of middle grade fiction. He also works as a publishing consultant and teaches the English department’s “Writing Youth Literature” course. He said he established Littsburgh for Pittsburgh residents and students to know about the literary events that take place in Pittsburgh. 

“I thought I could just make a little website and list literary events and authors, [so that] there’s sort of a central place that people can find all the cool stuff that’s happening in literary Pittsburgh,” Courage said. “And in the process of building Littsburgh, I found out that the Pittsburgh literary scene is so much bigger than I even thought.”

In addition to sharing news about local literary activities in Pittsburgh, Littsburgh conducts interviews with authors to share insights on the writing and publishing industry. Littsburgh publishes the interviews to social media platforms such as TikTok.

Heather McAdams Caldwell, Littsburgh’s content strategist, is a publisher at Bridge & Tunnel Books, an independent literary press in Pittsburgh. She said one of Littsburgh’s goals is to raise awareness of literary events in Pittsburgh. 

“Littsburgh is an organization dedicated to promoting literary Pittsburgh in terms of author events, book, new authors that are coming to the city, books that are newly released centering around Pittsburgh,” Caldwell said. “It also focuses on the organizations that make up the literary scene, such as the amazing local bookstores and indie presses in the area.” 

Courage also mentioned that Littsburgh helps literary workers with their career development by answering questions about writing and publishing via email through the site. He guides people through finding literary agents and navigating contracts.

“People have so many questions about how to get published, or what to do if they’re having a contract issue with a short story,” Courage said. “I love being able to help when I can.” 

Courage said as Littsburgh grows bigger, the organization attracts not only literary professionals in Pittsburgh, but also subscribers from all other states and even foreign countries. 

“[As] it got bigger and bigger, we have subscribers for our newsletter in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, and also internationally,” Courage said. “A lot of people who are checking in on Littsburgh are people who work in publishing. And we have subscribers who in the UK and Scandinavia [and] have been reading our emails for years.” 

Caldwell said she achieves life-work balance because she is passionate about reading and publishing. 

“I know so many creative folks that are software engineers by day and writers by night, [Pittsburgh is] just a place where people want to be doing more than just a single job. They have something that brings them in income, and then they have their passion projects,” Caldwell said. “I feel like that’s a well-balanced day to be able to do the editing on a manuscript in the morning, and then work on content strategy at night for Littsburgh.”

Because he is teaching a class at Pitt, Courage said he understands that college students are busy, but he thinks reading for fun is rewarding for students. He said he hopes Littsburgh encourages users to read more, and not see reading as a strenuous task. 

“It’s hard as a college student because [they] are reading all the time. And it’s not necessarily for fun, it’s for class,” Courage said. “I think the important thing for college students to remember is that there are books for them to read for fun. Reading can add something to your life, rather than taking away time.” 

Courage is the author of several middle grade fiction books including “Storm Blown” and “Snow Struck.” He said books provide details and richness that other media might not have, and he encourages college students to read fun books. 

“When you have the time, just go find a book that you think will really speak to you. Give it a chance to give you something, rather than take time from you,” Courage said. “Because right now you don’t have time as a college student, [but] the books will still be there for you after your graduation.”

Caldwell shared similar thoughts about how beneficial reading is. She said reading novels helps students enhance imagination and gain various perspectives.

“It’s okay to take [time] off from reading when you’re in the middle of considerable reading. College is very demanding, so don’t feel guilty,” Caldwell said. “But I do feel like novels and narratives help us with our imaginations and our abilities to see the unique perspectives of different characters that you might not see on social media.”