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Rick Sebak gets nebby with local writers in new WQED-TV documentary

Shirley McMarlin
| Friday, April 20, 2018, 10:45 a.m.

The third program in Rick Sebak's NEBBY series for WQED-TV celebrates the work of Pittsburgh-area writers, ranging from Willa Cather to a group of contemporary novelists, a memoirist and a poet.

“People Who've Written Books Around Here” premieres 8 p.m. April 26 and will rebroadcast at 7:30 p.m. April 29.

The half-hour program gives a glimpse into the working habits of some local wordsmiths Stewart O'Nan, Tom Sweterlitsch, Cameron Barnett, Lori Jakiela, Dave Newman and Osama Alomar.

It also looks at Cather, who wrote poetry and short stories during 10 years in Pittsburgh around the turn of the 20th century.

WQED-TV producer Sebak says that putting the program together made him more aware of the noteworthy work being done all over the region, according to a release.

“We don't often include fiction writers in my programs,” he said. “But making a NEBBY program about books seemed like a golden opportunity to force myself to read a lot and highlight some amazing work. I learned too by visiting local bookstores — the White Whale Bookstore in Bloomfield and City of Asylum Bookstore on the North Side were just two — that booksellers know a lot and are happy to suggest new local writers and their work.”

Up close and personal

“Our first footage was shot on the North Side last June during the 16th Willa Cather International Seminar, the first such event to be held here in Pittsburgh where she lived from 1896 to 1906,” Sebak said in the release. “Then we were invited to the launch party for Tom Sweterlitsch's new book.

“We visited Stewart O'Nan at his home in Edgewood, where he writes mostly at a desk in a third-floor dormer; and we spent some time with Lori Jakiela and Dave Newman, a married couple in Trafford who have both produced some brilliant prose in their fiction and memoirs.

“We visited with Osama Alomar, a Syrian short-short-story writer who is living here, thanks to the City of Asylum program; and we met poet Cameron Bennett at the Falk School in Oakland where he teaches and sometimes writes.

“We were somewhat nebby in the course of interviewing them all, but I think that's a good thing.”

Though time is a little short now, Sebak has compiled a list of books to pick up before watching the show:

• “O Pioneers!,” by Willa Cather

• “The Gone World,” by Tom Sweterlitsch

• “Emily, Alone,” by Stewart O'Nan

• “The Drowning Boy's Guide To Water,” by Cameron Barnett

• “The Teeth Of The Comb & Other Stories,” by Osama Alomar

• “Belief Is Its Own Kind Of Truth,” by Lori Jakiela

• “Two Small Birds,” by Dave Newman

“People Who've Written Books Around Here” is made possible by The Buhl Foundation, and also by Huntington Bank, Levin Furniture, Louis Anthony Jewelers and more than 1,400 people who contributed to the Rickstarter campaign for this series.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

WQED cameraman Frank Caloiero captures novelist Tom Sweterlitsch at work in the Carnegie Library in Oakland. Sweterlitsch is one of the writers featured in producer Rick Sebak's new NEBBY series documentary, 'People Who've Written Books Around Here,' premiering April 26 on WQED.
WQED
WQED cameraman Frank Caloiero captures novelist Tom Sweterlitsch at work in the Carnegie Library in Oakland. Sweterlitsch is one of the writers featured in producer Rick Sebak's new NEBBY series documentary, 'People Who've Written Books Around Here,' premiering April 26 on WQED.
Memoirist Lori Jakiela usually writes at her home in Trafford.  She is one of the writers featured in producer Rick Sebak's new NEBBY series documentary, 'People Who've Written Books Around Here,' premiering April 26 on WQED.
WQED
Memoirist Lori Jakiela usually writes at her home in Trafford. She is one of the writers featured in producer Rick Sebak's new NEBBY series documentary, 'People Who've Written Books Around Here,' premiering April 26 on WQED.
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