Writing Away the Stigma
About the Project
Writing Away the Stigma is a series of workshops and events for people who want to write about how mental illness has affected their lives. Its goal is to help the participants make a statement, showing the world (and, perhaps, themselves, too) that there is no shame in their experiences, and that people who suffer from mental illness can also survive and prosper, emotionally and professionally.
The first iteration of “Writing Away the Stigma,” supported by the Staunton Farm Foundation, took place in 2013. The cornerstone of the program was a free five-week intensive workshop in creative nonfiction led by CNF’s founding editor and director, Lee Gutkind.
In the months following the first workshop, the participating writers continued polishing their stories and gave a group reading to an audience of more than one hundred. Finally, ten of the fellows’ stories were published as Writing Away the Stigma.
This year, thanks to a generous contribution from the Fred C. Schatz Fund and the Sarah and Goldie Wolfe Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, twelve more fellows had the opportunity to participate in Writing Away the Stigma. In addition to completing rigorous writing workshops with Lee and receiving professional coaching from local actor/director Brett Sullivan Santry, nine fellows presented their stories at a graduation reading. In addition, they read their work and participated in Q & As at three other venues around Pittsburgh. Most of their essays were published by with the Washington Post or the Pittsburgh Tribune, and can be read below.
"Mother’s betrayal is fused into me”
Camille Chidsey, Pittsburgh Tribune
“Do you have a plan to kill yourself?”
Heather Kresge, Pittsburgh Tribune
It’s like the words are falling out of my mouth
Lisa Guttentag Lederer, Pittsburgh Tribune
"Pulling your hair out is actually a mental illness. Here’s how I learned to stop doing it."
Cynthia McCloud, Washington Post
"The life of a supermodel sounds glamorous. But I lived it, and it made me severely depressed"
Ainsley McWha, Washington Post
"A day to day courage that comes one step at a time"
Elaine Quinn, Pittsburgh Tribune
"I refuse to accept that I’ve lost my intimate life partner"
Mim Schwartz, Pittsburgh Tribune
"You can be so quirky"
Rachel Kallem Whitman, Pittsburgh Tribune
"I invited twelve people to write about their mental illnesses for the first time. Here’s what happened next"
Lee Gutkind, Washington Post
Thanks to everyone who turned out to support our fellows and the project’s mission, especially The Mattress Factory, the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Lawrenceville, the Winchester Thurston School, and the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, who graciously hosted our events and workshops.