Chatham News

Words Without Walls Book Launch at Chatham University on Friday, March 27th

PITTSBURGH: Chatham University will host a book launch on Friday March 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm in Chatham’s Mellon Board Room to celebrate the release of Words Without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration published by Trinity University Press. Featured readers will be Jennifer Ashburn, Eric Boyd, Toi Derricotte, Heather McNaugher, Sarah Shotland, Sheryl St. Germain, and Christine Stroud. A book signing and reception will follow the reading. The reading is free and open to the public.

About the Anthology and Words Without Walls
Words without Walls is an anthology of more than seventy-five poems, essays, stories, and scripts by contemporary writers that provide models for successful writing, offering voices and styles that will inspire students in alternative spaces on their own creative exploration. Created by the founders of the award-winning Words Without Walls program, the anthology strives to challenge readers to reach beyond their own circumstances and begin to write from the heart. Each selection expresses immediacy—writing that captures the imagination and conveys intimacy on the page—revealing the power of words to cut to the quick and unfold the truth. Many of the pieces are brief, allowing for reading and discussion in the classroom, and provide a wide range of content and genre, touching on themes common to communities in need: addiction and alcoholism, family, love and sex, pain and hope, prison, recovery, and violence. More information at Trinity University Press.

Words Without Walls is a creative partnership and writing outreach program that serves Allegheny County Jail, State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh and Sojourner House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment program for mothers and their children. Creative writing classes are taught by students at Chatham University who are earning their MFA in Creative Writing. Words Without Walls offers creative writing instruction to those who might not otherwise have an opportunity to participate in such classes; and gives MFA students the opportunity to become engaged in the Pittsburgh community in new and meaningful ways, while practicing the skill of teaching. More information about the Words Without Walls program is available at

About the Readers
Jennifer Ashburn served as Student Coordinator and teacher for the Words Without Walls (WWW) program in Pittsburgh, teaching creative writing classes in the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) and facilitating a weekly community workshop called VoiceCATCH. designed for those released from jail who want to keep writing.

Eric Boyd is an alum of the Words Without Walls program and a winner of the 2012 PEN Prison Writing Contest. His first collection of short stories, a chapbook called Whiskey Sour, was released in the spring of 2012. Currently he attends MFA classes at the Writer’s Foundry of St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn.

Toi Derricotte is the author of five collections in poetry, most recently, The Undertaker’s Daughter, and the memoir The Black Notebooks. She is co-founder of Cave Canem: A Home for Black Poetry, and on the Academy of American Poets’ Board of Chancellors.

Heather McNaugher is the author of System of Hideouts and Panic & Joy. She has taught at the ACJ as part of the WWW program. Her work has appeared in The Gay & Lesbian Review and The Bellevue Literary Review, a journal focused on illness, health and healing.

Sheryl St. Germain has facilitated countless readings and community projects in the past twenty-five years including the Dallas Poets Happy Hour Reading series and the Dallas Poets Network; creative writing workshops for troubled teens and victims of domestic violence in Texas; creative writing workshops for the women of the Mitchellville Correctional Institution in Iowa; and the Words Without Walls program in Pittsburgh. She has taught creative writing at The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Knox College and Iowa State University. For the past nine years she has been Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Chatham University. Of her ten published poetry and prose books, the most recent is Navigating Disaster: Sixteen Essays of Love and a Poem of Despair.

Sarah Shotland earned her MFA in Fiction and Screenwriting at Chatham University, and is the author of the novel, Junkette. Her plays have been produced in Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and Austin; and internationally in Madrid, Spain and Chongqing, People’s Republic of China. As a teaching artist, she has worked for over 15 years in and outside of academic classrooms, teaching theater and creative writing in jails, rehabilitation facilities, professional theaters, after-school programs, retirement communities and in Veteran’s centers. She is currently the Program Coordinator of Words Without Walls at Chatham University.

Christine Stroud works as the Associate Editor for Autumn House Press. Her poetry collection, The Buried Return, deals with themes of substance abuse, violence, and gender.

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