Allegheny County Jail
Each year, Words Without Walls holds 12 classes at the Allegheny County Jail—six for men, three for women, and three for youth. Classes are team-taught by two students earning their MFA in Creative Writing at Chatham University. The teachers are encouraged to design classes that cover a wide range of creative writing genres, including poetry, fiction, memoir and essay. At the end of each semester, all the classes come together to share their work in a semi-public reading at the jail.
State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh
In June 2017, SCI Pittsburgh was closed, and our classes there immediately canceled. However, we continue to correspond with many of our students from SCI Pittsburgh, reading their writings. We have joined the Elsinore Bennu Prison Thinktank, hosted by Duquesne University, in order to keep in touch with our students and collaborate on projects that might benefit them. From 2014-2017, Words Without Walls taught a class for 20 men at SCI Pittsburgh. We read and discussed contemporary literature, hosted the poet and memoirist Jimmy Santiago Baca for a visit, and published three chapbooks of student work.
Each semester, Words Without Walls teaches a class for 20 men serving sentences at State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh (formerly known as Western Penitentiary). We read and discuss contemporary literature, craft poems and prose and work to revise these pieces with an audience in mind. Classes at SCI Pittsburgh are taught by Chatham University faculty, alumni, and MFA students. At the end of each semester, students share their strongest work at a reading for the general population at SCI Pittsburgh.
Sojourner House is a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers and their children. Each semester, the women of Sojourner House participate in a Words Without Walls creative writing class that encourages them to begin a practice of personal journal writing, therapeutic writing and writing for recovery. Chatham faculty, alumni and MFA students teach courses at Sojourner House. At the end of each semester, the women hold a public reading for their friends and family.
The Maenad Fellowship Program offers up to twelve fellowships a year to women who are in recovery from substance abuse. Fellows will participate in a twelve-week creative writing seminar on the Chatham University campus.
The seminar offers mentorship and instruction in the following areas:
• Creative writing. Fellows are taught by practicing, professional creative writers in order to generate new creative writing.
• Publication submission and design. Fellows work with professional designers and artists to design a beautiful publication of your work.
• Publicly presenting your work. Fellows have the chance to present your work at a public reading.
Fellows will receive a $500 gift card at the completion of the program. All supplies will be provided, including copies of your published work. Transportation and child-care for those in the Pittsburgh area will be provided.
The fellowships are competitive, and will be offered to those who demonstrate the most promise as writers as well as the highest level of commitment to attending all twelve weeks.