Special Programs

Writing Away the Stigma (2013)

Writing Away the Stigma: With True Stories Well Told

A free, five-week creative writing workshop for residents of southwestern Pennsylvania who have been affected by mental illness.

Each year, 1 in 4 American adults will endure the trials of a mental health condition. But while many Americans have experienced a mental illness–either firsthand or through a family member or friend–the stigma of mental illness remains. In an effort to help correct this situation, the Creative Nonfiction and Staunton Farm Foundations have partnered to offer residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania a unique opportunity to tell their stories. 

Writing Away the Stigma: With True Stories Well Told will provide support for 12 individuals to study, free of charge, with the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine, Lee Gutkind, recognized by Vanity Fair as "the Godfather behind creative nonfiction." Selected writing fellows will attend five weekly workshops led by Lee, which will cover the entire writing process from idea to final product.

All 12 participants will conceive their stories, learn the creative nonfiction craft, and write first and follow-up drafts. The final session will focus on how to get published.

Who Should Apply
Any resident of Southwestern Pennsylvania* with a true story to tell about the challenges or the satisfactions of confronting mental health problems—their own, or those of a friend, colleague, or family member. 

How to Apply
Upload (here) a one page, single-spaced letter describing why you want to tell your story and who you want to reach and impact. You do not have to have experience as a writer, but this letter should be concise and to the point and demonstrate your ability to communicate your ideas and purpose clearly.

What is Creative Nonfiction
Creative nonfiction can be an essay, a piece of longform journalism, a feature article in a magazine, or a memoir; it can be personal or not, or it can be all of these. Simply put, creative nonfiction is true stories, well told. >> Learn more about the genre.

Deadline for Submissions
11:59 pm EST, September 15, 2013

Dates of Workshops
Mondays, 6-9:30 pm, October 21 through November 18.
There is no charge to the participants, and dinner will be provided.

The University Club at the University of Pittsburgh
123 University Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15260

>> Participants must attend all five sessions and complete reading and writing assignments on time.
>> All stories will be fact checked, and some pieces may be selected for publication in various media outlets.

Lee Gutkind is the author of many creative nonfiction books about healthcare, including Stuck in Time: The Tragedy of Childhood Mental Illness, for which he appeared on many national radio and TV shows, including Good Morning America. He is currently Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Consortium for Science Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University.

The Staunton Farm Foundation awards grants to improve behavioral health in Southwestern PA. Mental illness has many faces, yet the vast majority perceive it in its extreme–those 5-7% with the most serious illnesses. Your stories will add the faces of the 93-95% who also experience mental illness, but to a lesser degree. The more people tell their stories, the less stigma will exist.

* This opportunity is limited to residents of the following counties only: Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Washington, Beaver, Lawrence, Butler, Armstrong, and Indiana

Questions? Contact the event's coordinator, Chad Vogler: vogler[at]creativenonfiction[dot]org.