VOICES, Pitt-Greensburg’s series will bring together author, playwright, and human-rights activist Sarah Shotland and Pitt-Greensburg student-poets McKenzie Bonar and Caitlin Cruser for a reading on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in The Fireside Lounge in Chambers Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Sarah Shotland is the author of the novel Junkette, and a playwright whose work has been performed in professional theaters worldwide. In 2009, she co-founded Words Without Walls, which brought creative writing classes to jails, prisons, and drug treatment centers in Pittsburgh until 2022. Her work has been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Heinz Endowments, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Staunton Family Farm Foundation, and the Opportunity Fund.
Ms. Shotland’s most recent work, Abolition is Everything, was published by Antenna Press. She was an artist-in-residence at Antenna’s Paper Machine residency in New Orleans in January 2021. Other residencies include the SFAI Equal Justice Fellowship and the Denver Lighthouse Fort Lyon Writer-in-Residence.
She’s currently working on a collection of essays about teaching creative writing in jails and prisons. Her essays about the subject have appeared in The Iowa Review, Creative Nonfiction, Baltimore Review, Lunch Ticket, and Proximity, where she won the Proximity Personal Essay Prize, judged by Paul Lisicky. She regularly speaks and writes about art as a tool for prison abolition.
With Sheryl St. Germain, she coedited the literary anthology Words without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence & Incarceration, published by Trinity University Press in the spring of 2015.
Her most recent play, Cereus Moonlight, was commissioned by miR Theater. After opening on the Space Coast of Florida, it played at the 25th annual Rhino Fest in Chicago. Other work for the stage has been performed in theaters in Dallas, Austin, New Orleans, and Chicago, and internationally in Spain and China. She’s also written commissioned work for Corningworks Dance and Sonarcheology Pittsburgh.
She is an assistant professor of English at Carlow University, where she directs the Madwomen in the Attic program.
Pitt-Greensburg students McKenzie Bonar and Caitlin Cruser have already begun publishing their poems in national and international literary magazines, including New York Quarterly, Trailer Park Quarterly, and more. Cruser received Pitt-Greensburg’s Joan Didion Award for Excellence in Creative Nonfiction for her work in nonfiction and digital storytelling. She also received the University’s Gerald Stern Prize for Excellence in Poetry. Ms. Bonar has performed her poetry in Pittsburgh at the Bantha Tea Bar and elsewhere.
Dave Newman, assistant professor of Creative & Professional Writing and an organizer of the Voices series, says he’s delighted to bring Ms. Shotland to campus.
“I’ve known and admired Sarah’s work for years,” Newman said. “She tackles tough subjects with beauty and a kind of sharp-edged grace. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths. She writes and lives with great heart and grit, and her work in the area of human rights is inspiring.”
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.
“I’m so excited for McKenzie and Cruser to have a chance to read with Sarah,” Newman said. “All three writers have a shared sensibility. They care about writing the stories of people at risk, people who don’t always show up in literature, real people, people who matter so much.”
The VOICES readings are sponsored by the Academic Village, the Office of Academic Affairs, and The Creative & Professional Writing Program. For more information about the series or the Creative & Professional Writing Program at Pitt-Greensburg, please visit the campus website (https://www.greensburg.pitt.edu) or contact Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org.