Words without Walls

Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration

Edited by Sheryl St. Germain and Sarah Shotland

More than seventy-five poems, essays, stories, and scripts by contemporary writers provide inspiration for students in writing workshops in prisons, rehabilitation centers, and other alternative learning environments

Writing programs in prisons and rehabilitation centers have proven time and again to be transformative and empowering for people in need. Halfway houses, hospitals, and shelters are all fertile ground for healing through the imagination and can often mean the difference for inmates and patients between just simply surviving and ...

  • Paperback
  • 9781595342553
  • Published: February 2015

$19.95

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  • eBook
  • 9781595342560
  • Published: March 2015

$15.99

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Writing programs in prisons and rehabilitation centers have proven time and again to be transformative and empowering for people in need. Halfway houses, hospitals, and shelters are all fertile ground for healing through the imagination and can often mean the difference for inmates and patients between just simply surviving and truly thriving. It is in these settings that teachers and their students need reading that nourishes the soul and challenges the spirit.

Words without Walls is a collection 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 program of the same name based at Chatham University, 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.

These inspirational pieces act as models for beginning writers and offer a vehicle to examine their own painful experiences. Words without Walls demonstrates the power of language to connect people; to reflect on the past and reimagine the future; to confront complicated truths; and to gain solace from pain and regret.

Words without Walls is a creative partnership between graduate students from Chatham University’s MFA program in creative writing and a number of nontraditional classrooms, including the Allegheny County Jail, Sojourner House, a recovery center for women and their children, and other facilities. Students from Chatham teach creative writing courses to male and female inmates at the jail and elsewhere, organize readings of their work, facilitate community workshops after their release, and publish their work in an annual anthology.