Chatham News

PEN Prison Writing Program Award Goes to Eric Boyd, graduate of Chatham University’s Words Without Walls Jail Program

By: Amanda Leff Ritchie, Senior Public Relations Specialist
April 16, 2012

PITTSBURGH (April 16, 2012) … Eric Boyd, a graduate of the Words Without Walls program offered to prisoners at the Allegheny County Jail through Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing program, was recently named a winner of the PEN Prison Writing contest. His submission, which received second place in the fiction category, is titled EXAMINATION and tells the story of Boyd’s alter ego acquiring eyeglasses from the clinic of a county jail. The award comes on the heels of Eric’s recent release of his newest short stories chapbook WHISKEY SOUR, which has already sold out its first printing. Boyd is the second Words Without Walls graduate to be honored with a PEN Prison Writing Award.

“I’m very proud to have received this prize from PEN; I feel that it has vindicated my time at the jail and validated me as a person,” says Boyd. “I am very grateful.”

No longer incarcerated, Boyd is now the literary editor for Pork & Mead magazine, a quarterly arts, music, and culture magazine based in New York City. He is also an editor for the Newer York literary magazine.

Chatham will host a reading by Boyd at the Words Without Walls Reading and Reception, held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on August 5. In addition, he will return to the Allegheny County Jail to give a reading later this year.

According to the PEN American Center’s website, “the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative and rehabilitative power of writing, by providing hundreds of inmates across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. The program seeks to provide a place for inmates to express themselves freely with paper and pen and to encourage the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power. The program sponsors an annual writing contest, publishes a free handbook for prisoners, provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates whose writing shows merit or promise, conducts workshops for former inmates, and seeks to get inmates’ work to the public through literary publications and readings.”

About Words Without Walls
The Words Without Walls program fosters and supports creative expression and personal growth by exposing men and women at the jail to literature, award-winning visiting authors, and the opportunity to publish their work. Words Without Walls grew from a residency program started by artist Sandra Gould Ford. Because of the program’s reach, Chatham University committed to continuing the program¹s creative writing classes at Allegheny County Jail in June 2010. Because of its innovative approach to learning and teaching, Words Without Walls has received support from the A. W. Mellon Education and Charitable Trust Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation and the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Fund, a partnership of The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation.

About PEN American Center
PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.

Throughout its 85-year history, PEN American Center has remained a writer-centered organization in which members play a leading role. PEN presidents, such as Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag, and Salman Rushdie have, and continue to place themselves at the forefront of the struggle to oppose censorship and defend writers.

About Chatham University
Chatham University prepares students from around the world to help develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Consistently ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, Chatham University is also ranked in the top five percent of graduate-intensive institutions nationally and experienced the fastest-growing enrollment in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade. Founded in 1869, Chatham University includes the Shadyside Campus, with the historic 39-acre Woodland Road arboretum and Chatham Eastside facility; and the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus north of Pittsburgh. For more information, call 800-837-1290 or visit www.chatham.edu.

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