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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids increased 200 percent from 2000 to 2014.
I’m moved, too, by both her honesty and sense of story. ” She puts her face down on the table, her bleached hair falling around her head like a frozen waterfall. I don’t have answers to Anna’s question, but I say something about her maybe publishing some of her writing.For the last eight years, Chatham MFA students, alums, and faculty have taught creative writing courses at these facilities, and nationally recognized writers whose work addresses substance abuse or incarceration—Jimmy Santiago Baca, R.Dwayne Betts, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Natalie Diaz, and Mary Karr, among others—have visited and interacted with our populations.His piece won second place, and when he was released from jail, he was invited to do a reading in New York City with Joyce Carol Oates.Soon afterward, he was awarded a scholarship to an MFA program in New York City.Last year, 70 percent of the students who applied to our program said they were interested in social justice and creative writing, specifically teaching in prisons and rehab facilities.Each year, more creative writing graduate students have asked to be intimately involved with communities outside of academia, and they are finding inspiration in working with and teaching those who are incarcerated or confined to a rehab facility.I tell Anna there are people who would be interested in hearing about her life—how she came to be an addict, her experience giving birth in prison, and her journey to recovery. *** Many of the women in So Ho, like Anna, have come here from jail, as part of the terms for their release or parole after completing their sentences.For some, a six-month stay here is required in lieu of jail or prison.I find myself looking forward to her presence, to her questions about narrative and structure, and to the increasing sophistication in the craft of her essays. “Dude, chill,” Holly, a normally quiet woman, offers from across the room. I mean it, too: Anna is a good writer, and her voice deserves to be heard.She’s generous and insightful in her criticism and support of the other women’s work, and the workshop feels a little empty when she’s not there. “All I know how to do is strip and cop drugs,” she sobs. I can’t imagine a time when she, or most of the women we work with at So Ho, might be able to afford an MFA program.