Synapses and Streams: A Feature with Words Without Walls

Words Without Walls serves currently and formerly incarcerated writers in Pittsburgh through a variety of initiatives and programs, including ongoing creative writing classes at the Allegheny County Jail and Sojourner House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment program for mothers and their children. Their newest initiative, the Maenad Fellowship Program, provides master classes and a…

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Janette Schafer, Vivian Lee Croft, Holly Spencer, Melanie P. Solomon

Janette Schafer is a freelance writer, nature photographer, part-time rocker, and full-time banker living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. Her writing and photographs have appeared in numerous publications. She has a forthcoming collection of poems from Main Street Rag Publications titled Something Here Will Grow. Find out more about her collection at

Vivian Lee Croft is a nonfiction writer concerned largely with home, heartbreak, memory, and trauma. In 2018, Vivian adapted the Creative Nonfiction Foundation’s Writing Away the Stigma workshop series to support teen writers. Vivian is the Founder of Write Pittsburgh, a creative writing collaborative and member organization of Dave Eggers's International Alliance of Youth Writing Centers. Vivian is a Margaret L. Whitford Fellow at Chatham University, pursuing a master's degree in Creative Writing. Vivian is a Maenads Fellow at Chatham University, was awarded a 2020 residency at Tongue River Artist Residency, and most recently named City Books’ Writer-in-Residence.

Holly Spencer lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her three dogs and two cats. She attends Chatham University’s MFA program as the Words Without Walls Fellow. She has been published in Jet Fuel Review, Pink Panther Magazine, Feckless C*nt Anthology, F(r)iction, and Barren Magazine. Her creative nonfiction piece, “Who Would I Tell?” is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review. Her creative nonfiction piece, “Stuck,” was nominated by Jet Fuel Review for The Best of the Net, 2016.

Melanie P. Solomon received her BA in Folklore and Folklife and Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has a MA in Public Policy from Duquesne University. Melanie participated as a fellow at Chatham University in their Maenads program. Melanie has lived abroad in the former German Democratic Republic and has a great deal of interest in issues pertaining to culture, race, and the economics of identity. She has devoted most of her working life to helping others achieve equality in education and representation.

Tyler Champion

Tyler Champion is a freelance illustrator and designer. He grew up in Kentucky before moving to New Jersey to develop his passion at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. After graduating in 2010, he headed back south to Nashville, TN, where he currently resides with his girlfriend, Melissa, and his son, Jude. Tyler has produced work for magazines, comics, design companies, and children's books, including work for Sony, F(r)iction magazine, Capstone Publishing, and Tell-A-Graphics.

First Featured In: No. 17, winter 2020

The Memory Issue

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