Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Writing Away the Stigma" with true stories

Pittsburgh's Lee Gutkind is a fine writer. He specializes in health topics and is the author of Stuck in Time: The Tragedy of Childhood Mental Illness and Many Sleepless Nights. 

Lee is the fine editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine and numerous anthologies.

Lee also is an accomplished leader of writing workshops. He's conducted quite a few of them in Wyoming, a state he first explored by motorcycle when researching his first book, Bike Fever. I've attended workshops by Lee at the Casper College Literary Conference, at the Big Red Barn at the Ucross Foundation, and at the Writers' Summit that used to be held at the old church retreat complex on Harriman Road between Cheyenne and Laramie. This guy can inspire you to new heights in your writing.

His latest project is an intriguing one: "Writing Away the Sigma: With True Stories Well Told." Here's the plan:
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.

The catch is that you have to be a resident of one of 10 southwestern Pennsylvania counties. That's not to say we can't one day lure Lee West to lead a similar workshop.

As is the case with thousands of my fellow Wyomingites, I'm a consumer of mental health services. I also have plenty of company when it comes to dealing with mental health issues faced by family members. Due to our status as a rural state, it's tough to find help. When you do find it, it's a long way away. Some of that is being addressed by electronics. My Cheyenne psychiatrist has a gigantic view screen in his office that connects him via a Skype-like system with patients in Lusk and Big Piney and other far-flung locales. It's almost as good as being there. Almost. 

The stigma wanes but never disappears.

Find out more about "Writing Away the Stigma" at

No comments: