Words Without Walls

Words Without Walls

Words Without Walls is a creative partnership between graduate students from Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ).

Students from Chatham teach creative writing courses to male and female inmates at ACJ, organize readings of their work, facilitate community workshops after their release, and publish their work in an annual anthology. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBp4BquVT0M

Operating as usual


Mental Floss

Very cool.

The zen of knitting. [via 60 Second Docs]

wordswithoutwalls.com 02/07/2018

Maenads Application

Our second Maenad Fellowship application is now out! If you are in the Pittsburgh area, and are a woman who has gone through recovery and want to study creative writing, please apply! Or forward this to someone you know who might be interested. We provide child care, transportation, and a $500 gift card at completion.


wordswithoutwalls.com The Maenads Fellowship Program offers up to twelve fellowships a year to women who are in recovery from substance abuse. Because of Words Without Walls’ special relationship with Sojourner House, many of our past fellows received treatment there.


When We Teach Writing, We Teach Empathy: An Interview with | Sandra Gould Ford | TEDxPittsburghWomen

Every year we honor one student with the Sandra Gould Ford award. Here's a compelling interview of the amazing woman we salute, who pioneered the creating writing program at the Allegheny County Jail, courtesy of TEDxPittsburghWomen:



Sandra Gould Ford is an artist and educator in Pittsburgh, PA. One of her many achievements was starting a creative writing program at the Allegheny County J...

wordswithoutwalls.com 01/10/2018

Freedom Is...

Happy Words Without Walls Wednesday!
Every wednesday we will feature a blog post from a teacher in our program, on what its like to teach creative writing in alternative communities. Up first is Mike Bennett reflecting on his first class of 2018.

#WWWWednesday http://ow.ly/1F1l30hHeOI

wordswithoutwalls.com At our Words Without Walls teacher orientation in December we made a list of the things we can or can’t control in our classroom. We discussed how little we could control about our students’ environment outside of the classroom, particularly in the jail. Each pod has its own set of rules, its ow...


We are excited to announce that John Edgar Wideman visited our juvenile class at the Allegheny County Jail this morning.
He took time out of his hometown visit to hear creative work from several of our young writers. He gave them feedback and encouragement, and answered a variety of questions about his writing life, his personal and familial struggles, and his thoughts on crafting Brothers and Keepers, thirty years later.

The class read excerpts from Brothers and Keepers throughout the semester, and wrote emulation pieces in conversation with the book.

Read more about the visit on our blog, linked below:



Girls Write Pittsburgh

Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderful day at Chatham University Eden Hall Farm with Summer Community of Writers-Chatham MFA Program and Words Without Walls! #scw17


We're happy to announce that spots are available for a one-day workshop on Friday, July 21 at Chatham University's Eden Hall campus. Sign up now!

Are you ready to get your creative write on? Spaces are now open for this fabulous one-day workshop on Friday, July 21 at Chatham University's Eden Hall campus.

Thanks to MFA Program in Creative Writing at Chatham University and Chatham University Eden Hall Farm. In partnership with Words Without Walls. Special thanks to our friends at Barrelhouse.

Register here: https://goo.gl/forms/lxn5ArQGABNpOnL43

projects.publicsource.org 05/10/2017

Voices Unlocked: A Pittsburgh man finds his voice while writing a novel and love letters from jail

Brittany Hailer writes another great profile on a Words Without Walls alum.

projects.publicsource.org Voices Unlocked is a project telling the stories of Pittsburgh-area residents whose life experiences have been shaped by the penal system.


Our community is vital to all that we do. Thanks to everyone who came out to support the Maenads Fellowship last night!



Chatham MFA Robert H. Mansell Fellow Cedric Rudolph talks about teaching in the Allegheny County Jail and State Correctional Institute Pittsburgh.

Cedric Rudolph is an accomplished poet. To reach his students, he walks through metal detectors at the Allegheny County Jail.

projects.publicsource.org 03/03/2017

Yeshua David's adaptation

Brittany Hailer, part of the words without walls family, bringing voices from the inside, out.

projects.publicsource.org Voices Unlocked is a project telling the stories of Pittsburgh-area residents whose life experiences have been shaped by the penal system.

projects.publicsource.org 02/16/2017

A song within the storm

Check out the first of many stories to come from our very own Brittany Hailer from her project Voices Unlocked. Listen to the first installment, which features Sarah Womack, a graduate of our program in Sojourner House and current Maenad Fellow.

The Maenad Fellowship is a brand new writing program for women in recovery. Fellows come to Chatham's campus once a week to workshop their writing and share their stories.

projects.publicsource.org Voices Unlocked is a project telling the stories of Pittsburgh-area residents whose life experiences have been shaped by the penal system.


Trinity University Press

Novelist, playwright, and adjunct professor at Chatham University, Sarah Shotland helps others find an answer to what it means to be a writer. In her TUP anthology Words Without Walls as well as the writing program of the same name she co-founded with Sheryl St. Germain, Sarah offers creative writing inspiration and instruction to those who might not otherwise have an opportunity to participate in such classes. via TribLive.com

neh.gov 12/14/2016

NEH Announces $16.3 Million for 290 Humanities Projects

So happy to post that Words Without Walls has received a 50K Challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We'll be posting our own release later today!

neh.gov WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 14, 2016) — Today the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced funding for 290 projects in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. $1


Words Without Walls's cover photo

proximitymagazine.org 10/22/2016

Proximity's 2016 Prize Finalists


proximitymagazine.org Our inaugural prize issue, themed INSIDE | OUT, will be published on Oct 20th. Judges: Bronwen Dickey (Narrative Journalism) Paul Lisicky (Personal Essay)

[10/05/16]   I am so excited to announce we have funding for a new Words Without Walls program we are calling the Maenad Fellowship Program for women who are in recovery from substance abuse who want to continue a creative writing practice. We'll be giving a $500 Giant Eagle gift card to those who complete all 12 weeks of the fellowship.

We have a secret Facebook group called the Maenad Fellowshiphat has all the information and application form. Please pm me if you are interested in joining the group! Here are the details:

The Maenad Fellowship Program offers up to twelve fellowships a year to women who are in recovery from substance abuse. Fellows will participate in a twelve-week creative writing seminar on the Chatham University campus.

The seminar offers mentorship and instruction in the following areas:

• Creative writing. You’ll be taught by practicing, professional creative writers in order to generate new creative writing.
• Publication submission and design. You’ll work with professional designers and artists to design a beautiful publication of your work.
• Publicly presenting your work. You’ll have the chance to present your work at a public reading.

Fellows will receive a $500 gift card at the completion of the program. All supplies will be provided, including copies of your published work. Transportation and child-care for those in the Pittsburgh area will be provided.

The fellowships are competitive, and will be offered to those who demonstrate the most promise as writers as well as the highest level of commitment to attending all twelve weeks.

Details of the Spring 2017 seminar:

• Seminars run from Thursday, January 12-Thursday, April 13.
• We meet each Thursday night from 6:00-8:30 pm on Chatham’s Shadyside campus.
• The final reading and celebration will be on Friday, April 14.
• Fellows will receive their $500 compensation at the final event on April 14, along with copies of their published work.

newsweek.com 04/21/2016

Neuroscience is changing how and when the criminal justice system punishes young adults

newsweek.com For years, the criminal justice system has considered anyone 18 or older an adult, but new research suggests the brain of a 23-year-old is still immature.

pghcitypaper.com 04/06/2016

Reading tomorrow at Wigle Whiskey benefits Pittsburgh literacy program


pghcitypaper.com Libations for Literacy aids Words Without Walls, a program for Allegheny County Jail inmates and others.


Sojourner House Workshop Spring 2016


Words Without Walls's cover photo

huffingtonpost.com 03/09/2016

Inside A Maximum Security Prison's Production Of 'The Wiz'

"The arts open a different pathway in your brain to make you think differently -- and when you think differently you behave differently."

huffingtonpost.com These women are behind bars, but their performance will move you to tears.


Review: Memoirs From Two Eras Testify to Prison’s Corrosive Effect

"Two newly published prison memoirs — one contemporary, the other written in the late 1850s — provide harrowing portraits of life behind bars. They also speak to the personal consequences of what is today an epidemic of mass incarceration: America has the largest prison population in the world, and one in 35 African-American men are in prison."

nytimes.com “The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict” and “Writing My Wrongs” paint harrowing portraits of incarceration in America.

nchep2015.com 10/29/2015

National Conference on Higher Education in Prison

The National Conference on Higher Education in Prison is fast approaching! Pittsburgh, Nov 6-8, 2015.

Special thanks to the Education Justice Project for inviting us to speak at this event!

nchep2015.com November 6-8, 2015, Pittsburgh, PA / Community Kick-Off November 5

wordswithoutwalls.com 10/22/2015

Words Without Walls Reading Series: Nick Flynn

Pittsburgh! Join us for a wonderful reading with Nick Flynn!
Location: Chatham University's Welker Room on Friday (10-20) at 8pm.

wordswithoutwalls.com Welker Room, Chatham University, Pittsburgh PA Nick Flynn has received fellowships and awards from, among other organizations, The Guggenheim...


Nick Flynn - Reading excerpt from "Another Bu****it Night in Suck City"

Nick Flynn will read on Friday October 23, 2015 at 8:00 pm in the Welker Room, Chatham University as part of the Words Without Walls Reading Series. A book signing and reception will follow the reading. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pittsburgh Foundation. The reading is free and open to the public.

Praise for Another Bu****it Night in Suck City:

“In a perverse act of divine intervention, a life worth writing about was bestowed on a man actually able to write―in startling, beautiful, unsentimental prose.... It is crammed with beauty and wisdom, and everyone will love it.” -Devin Friedman, GQ

Writer Nick Flynn visited Austin Community College on April 12, 2012. Here he reads from his memoir which was turned into the motion picture "Being Flynn" st...

wordswithoutwalls.com 10/14/2015


“Real students” don’t write twenty pages a week when you ask them for fifteen. http://ow.ly/TnYCq

wordswithoutwalls.com When I taught at an inner city high school, people used to say this to me all the time: “I don’t know how you put up with all those difficult...

wordswithoutwalls.com 10/05/2015


The blogs are back! Jonny Blevins wonders with Tennessee Williams this week:

wordswithoutwalls.com October 03, 2015 Not about Refinement October 03, 2015/ Words WithoutWalls I’m teaching again, by whatever glitch in the Matrix. Jess too. From...

chatham.edu 08/25/2015


Can't wait to see our next visiting writer, Natalie Diaz, on September 17. Thanks, NEA.

chatham.edu 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 th...

washingtonpost.com 04/19/2015

FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000

"The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000."

washingtonpost.com Forensic hair matches were overstated in many cases heard before 2000, including those of 32 defendants sentenced to death, the FBI and the Justice Department acknowledged after a review.

wesa.fm 03/24/2015

Essential Pittsburgh: Words Without Walls Teaches Creative Writing to Inmates

Catch the Essential Pittsburgh program on Words Without Walls w/ Sheryl St. Germain here:

wesa.fm Words Without Walls is a program at Chatham University teaching creative writing to residents of Pittsburgh-area correctional facilities and drug treatment

wordswithoutwalls.com 03/24/2015

Words Without Walls

Tune in to Essential Pittsburgh on 90.5 WESA today at noon to hear about Words Without Walls with the MFA Program at Chatham University!

wordswithoutwalls.com Words Without Walls is a creative partnership between the Chatham MFA Creative Writing Program, Allegheny County Jail (ACJ), State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh (SCI Pgh), and Sojourner House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers and their children.

wordswithoutwalls.com 03/24/2015

The Bleeding Red Line

"Sabrina stops writing and looks at me. 'Kindness ain't easy.' " - Brittany Hailer http://ow.ly/KIAjh

wordswithoutwalls.com It is our last day of class and Nicki walks in. Her black hair sits high on her head in a thick pony-tail. The first time I met Nicki I told her,...

wordswithoutwalls.com 03/07/2015

Words Without Walls

Check out our new website! Thank you Kinsley Stocum.

wordswithoutwalls.com Words Without Walls - Words Without Walls is a creative partnership between graduate students from Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and Allegheny County Jail. Students from Chatham teach creative writing courses to male and female inmates at ACJ, organize readings of their work,…

nytimes.com 03/01/2015

Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work

"The share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work. Men with criminal records account for about 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll."


nytimes.com Men with even one past conviction on their résumés are having trouble finding jobs, and that is taking a toll on the overall labor market.

Videos (show all)

All The Rage - Words Without Walls Trailer



Annual anthology and quarterly chapbook.



Pittsburgh, PA
Other Schools in Pittsburgh (show all)
La Roche Career Development La Roche Career Development
9000 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, 15237

The Office of Career Development offers resources to assist you on your lifelong journey of academic and career discovery.

Communication and Cognition Lab Communication and Cognition Lab
Pittsburgh, 15213

Official profile of the Communication and Cognition Lab directed by Sarah E. Wallace, PhD, CCC-SLP.

CDS Keeping Tabs CDS Keeping Tabs
Corner Of Beechwood Blvd And Forward Ave
Pittsburgh, 15217

It all began with a single pop-tab – symbolic of a human being discarded, tossed aside without second thought.

Jackson Early Childhood Center Jackson Early Childhood Center
517 N. 15th Street
Pittsburgh, 18102

Jackson ECC is a Kindergarten Center that serves the students of Sheridan, Washington and Ramos Elementary within the Allentown School District.

Swanson School of Engineering Swanson School of Engineering
Pittsburgh, 15213

Ludoteca Ludoteca
7604 Charleston Avenue
Pittsburgh, 15218

LUDOTECA (from Greek “Ludos” play and “Teca” place) is a place where children and adults learn together.

Pitt Law School Pitt Law School

CMU John Wells MFA Directing CMU John Wells MFA Directing
5000 Forbes Avenue, Purnell Center For The Performing Arts
Pittsburgh, 15213

John Wells Graduate Directing Program, Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. Headed by Kim Weild. Directed towards the future.

Holiday Park PTO Holiday Park PTO
313 Holiday Park Dr
Pittsburgh, 15239

Holiday Park Elementary PTO official page for school news, updates/alerts/info on PTA sponsored events and fundraising.

OIS at Pitt OIS at Pitt
708 William Pitt Un
Pittsburgh, 15260

This is the official page for the Office of International Services (OIS) at the University of Pittsburgh. #YouAreWelcomeHere

Educational Achievement Center Educational Achievement Center
Pittsburgh, 15237

We are a local company that has conducted effective and affordable SAT Prep Workshops in the north hills, south hills, and Cranberry Twp. for 28 years.