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New reading series celebrates the beauty and diversity of America’s literary landscape

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg invites the public to join them at its newest reading series, Voices: Celebrating the Beauty and Diversity of America’s Literary Landscape.

Designed to celebrate the richness of human lives and stories, the readings will occur at 8 p.m. on the last Thursday of the month from January through April. These virtual events are free and open to the public. Please register in advance at to receive a confirmation email containing the information needed to join the Zoom meeting.

"What does it mean to be an American? The writers in this series answer that question again and again--with depth, honesty, and a sense of diversity that spans race, gender, class, region, and more,” said Lori Jakiela, MFA, professor of professional and creative writing at Pitt-Greensburg. “It's a celebration of the gorgeous crazy-quilt that is America, at a time when we may need to celebrate that the most. I'm so excited for this series, which highlights the incredible depth and diversity of American voices." 

Building on the campus’s long-running Written/Spoken Series, Voices showcases Pitt-Greensburg's focus on experiential learning by bringing together undergraduate student-writers with award-winning authors. The readings are funded in part through Pitt’s Year of Engagement initiative as well as through the Pitt-Greensburg Office of Student Life, Academic Village, and Student Government Association. The series is being coordinated by Jakiela, Sheila Confer, EdD, director of the Academic Village, and Albert Thiel, director of Campus Center and Student Engagement.

"Our undergraduate writers at Pitt-Greensburg are the most talented, big-hearted, and serious young writers I've ever known,” said Jakiela. “What a joy and honor it is to work with them! Pairing them with award-winning, internationally-acclaimed authors gives these young writers wings. It helps our next generation of writers engage with a brilliant community, and helps them find their rightful place in the literary landscape."

The first reading in the series will be held Jan. 28 and will feature award-winning poets Dilruba Ahmed and Sheila Squillante, memoirist Nancy McCabe, and poet/nonfiction/performance artist Adriana Ramirez. Pitt-Greensburg junior Madison Jarnot, an award-winning writer in her own right, will join these authors in reading from her work at the January event.

Biographies for the authors participating in the January 28 event:

Dilruba Ahmed, author of Bring Now the Angels (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), is the recipient of The Florida Review’s Editors’ Award and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Prize. Her debut book of poetry, Dhaka Dust (Graywolf Press) won the Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellowship in Poetry awarded by the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

Ahmed’s poems have been featured in New York Times Magazine, The Slowdown, and Poetry Unbound with Pádraig Ó Tuama. Her work has also appeared in the Kenyon Review, New England Review, and Ploughshares in addition to being anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2019 (Scribner), Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books), Literature: The Human Experience (Bedford/St. Martin’s) and elsewhere. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers, Ahmed teaches regularly with Chatham University’s MFA Program and Hugo House in Seattle. She will join the faculty at Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers for the January 2021 residency.

Winner of Brickhouse Books’ 2020 Wicked Woman Book Prize, Sheila Squillante’s most recent poetry collection Mostly Human (Itasca Books, 2020) is described by one reviewer as “scary beautiful.” It joins her debut poetry collection, Beautiful Nerve (CCM Tiny Hardcore 2016), and three chapbooks of poetry, In this Dream of My Father, Women Who Pawn Their Jewelry, and A Woman Traces the Shoreline) in creating a haunting experience for the reader.

The Pittsburgh poet directs Chatham University’s MFA program in creative writing, where she is executive editor of The Fourth River, a journal of nature and place-based writing. Squillante and Sandra Faulkner are the co-authors of the writing craft book, Writing the Personal: Getting Your Stories Onto the Page (Sense Publishers 2015).

Nancy McCabe is the author of five creative nonfiction works and a novel. Her most recent release is Can This Marriage be Saved? A Memoir (University of Missouri Press 2020). Her other creative nonfiction includes After the Flashlight Man: A Memoir of Awakening (Purdue 2003), Meeting Sophie, a Memoir of Adoption (Missouri 2003), and Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter’s Birthplace in China (Missouri 2011). She is an essayist and fiction writer whose work has experimented with alternate forms and incorporated memoir, travel writing, research, and commentary on topics related to China adoption and children’s literature.

Her work has won a Pushcart and eight times made notable lists in Best American anthologies. Her essays have appeared in Newsweek, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, Crazyhorse, Michigan Quarterly Review, Literary Mama, Brain Teen, Louisville Review, Massachusetts Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and many others.

McCabe has served as a regular blogger for Ploughshares, taught workshops for Chautauqua and the Creative Nonfiction Foundation, and been quoted in the Barnes and Noble Desk Diary. She directs the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and teaches in the low residency MFA program at the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing.

Adriana E. Ramirez is a Mexican-Colombian writer, critic, and performance poet based in Pittsburgh. In 2015, she won the inaugural PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize for her novella-length work of nonfiction, Dead Boys (Little A, 2016), and in 2016, she was named Critic at Large for the Los Angeles Times Book Section. Her essays and poems have also appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica/PEN America, and Literary Hub. Once a nationally ranked slam poet, she founded the infamous Nasty Slam in Pittsburgh and continues to perform on stages around the country. She and novelist Angie Cruz founded Aster(ix) Journal, a literary journal giving voice to the censored and the marginalized. Her debut full-length work of nonfiction, The Violence, is forthcoming from Scribner.

She is the author of two small-press poetry chapbooks—The Swallows (Blue Sketch Press, reissued 2016) and Trusting in Imaginary Spaces (Tired Hearts Press, 2010). She served as the nonfiction editor of DISMANTLE (Thread Makes Blanket Press, 2014), an anthology celebrating the VONA/Voices workshop.

Born in Mexico City, Ramírez grew up in McAllen, TX, and is a graduate of both Rice University (B.A. English) and the University of Pittsburgh (MFA in Nonfiction Writing). She went on to teach at the University of Pittsburgh as a lecturer and visiting lecturer in the writing program for almost a decade. Ramírez taught in the MFA program at Carlow University and now writes full-time.

Pitt-Greensburg junior Madison Jarnot, from East McKeesport, PA, is a dual major in Creative and Professional Writing and Political Science. Currently, she serves as the editor-in-chief of Pitt-Greensburg's campus newspaper, The Insider. Madison writes anything and everything, but she enjoys covering politics the most. She received the 2019 Ida B. Wells Award as a freshman for her coverage of Pitt's unionization efforts. She is the first freshman in Pitt-Greensburg history to receive this award. In spring 2020, she went on to win the Joan Didion Award for her creative nonfiction. In addition to working with The Insider, Madison is the president and secretary of Pi Sigma Alpha, the campus's political science honor society.

The spring 2021 Voices: Celebrating the Beauty and Diversity of America’s Literary Landscape line-up will continue with the following: 

February 25 -- memoirist/spoken word artist Brian Broome, acclaimed Syrian short-short story author Osama Alomar, poet, playwright, and oral historian Kelli Stevens Kane, and oral historian, and poet Rich Gegick

March 25 -- Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly, international award-winning crime writer Bill Boyle, National Book Award finalist Deesha Philyaw, and poet Nancy Krygowski.

April 22 -- Beyond Hillbilly Elegy -- featuring voices of Appalachia: Novelist Damian Dressick; author, storyteller, and photographer Greg Clary; and poet Byron Hoot. 

Publication Date

Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 16:15