Chatham News

Chatham’s Creative Writing Program Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

PITTSBURGH: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has a awarded a grant to support the Make Mine Words Reading Series, part of the Words Without Walls program, a creative partnership between the Chatham MFA Creative Writing Program, Allegheny County Jail, State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, and Sojourner House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers and their children.

The NEA grant will allow Chatham to host three nationally recognized authors featured in the anthology Words without Walls:  Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration for public readings and book signings to the Pittsburgh community.   Sheryl St. Germain, director of Chatham’s MFA in Creative Writing program and co-founder of the Words Without Walls program, leads the Make Mine Words series. For a full listing of speakers and other events, please visit

Through its grant-making to thousands of nonprofits each year, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity. The NEA has made 1,023 awards totaling $74.3 million nationwide in this funding round.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from Chatham University represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

About Make Mine Words
“Make Mine Words:  Writing Your Way to Recovery” helps acquaint women in the Sojourner House and in Allegheny County Jail with the spiritual healing that can be extended through writing.  The workshop participants keep journals, which they use to respond to creative writing prompts.  “Creative writing is both a spiritual and healing activity that can offer fresh insights into drug and alcohol use, as well as provide tools to help with recovery,” says Sheryl St. Germain, professor and director of Chatham’s MFA in Creative Writing program.  “Chatham University believes that learning to write poems and stories about one’s life, and developing the habit of keeping a creative journal provides valuable tools to assist with substance abuse problems.”

About Chatham’s MFA in Creative Writing Program
Chatham’s MFA in Creative Writing program consists of both an on-the-ground full-residency program and a low-residency, online program with concentrations in travel writing, teaching, publishing, or nature writing in addition to a primary genre focus (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or children’s writing). The program offers innovative field seminars that include travel to such places as Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, and Germany. The Words Without Walls program, in which MFA students go into the Allegheny County Jail to teach inmates creative writing, is one of several social outreach programs developed and run by Chatham MFA students that offer transformative experiences for both students and an underserved population. In 2007 Poets & Writers named the MFA one of “Nine Distinctive Programs” and The Atlantic Monthly named it one of five innovative/unique programs in the country in its “Best of the Best” graduate program listings. In 2009, The Writer named it one of ten programs that offer a specialty focus. For more information, visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. See more at: