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Cover for Words Without Walls

Words Without Walls

Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration

Sheryl St Germain (Editor), Sarah Shotland (Editor)


List Price: 19.95*
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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.

Trinity University Press, 9781595342553, 288pp.

Publication Date: February 10, 2015

About the Author

A native of New Orleans, Sheryl St. Germain is the co-founder and president of the board of Words without Walls. She has taught creative writing at the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Knox College, and Iowa State University. She teaches creative nonfiction and poetry and directs the MFA program in creative writing at Chatham University. Her honors include two NEA fellowships, an NEH fellowship, the Dobie-Paisano fellowship, the Ki Davis Award from the Aspen Writers Foundation, and most recently the William Faulkner Award for the personal essay. Her books include Going Home; The Mask of Medusa; Making Bread at Midnight; How Heavy the Breath of God; The Journals of Scheherazade; Let It Be a Dark Roux: New and Selected Poems; Je Suis Cadien, translations of the Cajun poet Jean Arceneaux; and a collection of lyric essays, Swamp Songs: The Making of an Unruly Woman