The roof may leak, the stairs may creak and some of the electrical fixtures may need work. But the creative juices are flowing free at 1200 Boyle St. on the North Side.
This is Cyberpunk Apocalypse, a collection of writers who have hunkered down in one house to create an environment conducive to creativity.
"I've seen a similar thing with music and art houses, but not for writers," said Daniel McCloskey, a young writer who bought the building and threw the doors open to like-minded artists five years ago. "It's basically a simple matchup of a residency program with the idea of a punk house.
"It used to be a six-unit apartment, but it's been broken up to be just one building right now. There are six bedrooms and we have an event space. It's cheap rent where writers can live in a house that isn't quite as nice as the houses that other people live in."
Some of the residents, including Mr. McCloskey, are "long-term" residents, paying rent and utilities. Then there are the "visiting artists," who stay for a while and contribute to the cause.
"We've helped 35 writers who have lived and worked here," Mr. McCloskey said. "Seven books have come out of the project. Most are small, but there have been some pretty serious exceptions."
Tonight, three of the resident writers -- Sarah LaPonte, Tameka Cage Conley and Artnoose -- will be reading from their works in an event called "Sandwichville: Writer's Showcase No. 9" at Biddle's Escape on Biddle Avenue, where Wilkinsburg meets Regent Square.
"We usually do these at the house," Mr. McCloskey said, "but I like doing it at other venues so more people can get to it. And I also think it's just good to mix it up. Ultimately, it can be kind of awkward inviting people into what is our home."
Biddle's Escape, located a few blocks from Frick Park, is a neighborhood cafe that recently marked its one-year anniversary. Manager Amy Conroy said they usually have musicians playing on the weekends.
"And we're having more literary events," she said. "We're open to new things. We try to do it as often as something interesting happens.
"It's always good to have people in the shop. We have a talented harpist who plays on Sunday afternoons. It sets a nice, lazy Sunday afternoon mood."
While the customers tonight will be enjoying the reading -- and perhaps a cup of coffee -- the writers will be testing the waters with their words.
"I like to advance reading as a performance art," Mr. McCloskey said. "It's a simple thing to say, but it's something that a lot of writers don't think about because they consider themselves writers and not entertainers. But once you get up in front of people, you automatically are [an entertainer]."
Mr. McCloskey graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in fiction writing and film studies in 2008. Cyperpunk Apocalypse came shortly thereafter, thanks in part to a Heinz Endowment for smaller initiatives.
"I could [live on my own], but I'd be doing it differently and I'm sure my output would be different," he said. "There are a lot of advantages to living like this, but it's not for everyone.
"There is this level of peer pressure where you see your roommate is up at 4 a.m. working and you think to yourself, 'Wow, what have I been doing all day? I need to get back on it.' Or you see your friend's success and it makes you feel like that's something you could do."
Of course, there are those roommate problems. But creative people find creative solutions.
"Any time you have a lot of people in a house, there's some issues," Mr. McCloskey said. "But we haven't had many. Our residency restrictions are that you write and you actually be a really nice person.
"We're only going to help you if you seem like someone that we want to help. It's close-quarters, so we read their application thinking a) is this someone we can be proud of, and b) is this someone we want to live with. But it's short-term, and we're pretty laid back."
The readings begin at 7 p.m. at Biddle's Escape, 401 Biddle Ave.
This story first appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/trypittsburghpress/