We Tell Ourselves Stories to Live: On Stories, Storytellers, and the Human Experience

Stories and Storytellers will be a day-long celebration of story -- why we tell them, why we love them, why stories help us understand what it means to be human, how stories and storytelling can help us reclaim our humanity in a time of overwhelming technology, how stories help us survive, and how they help us make sense of the world and our place in it.

The event will feature a panel discussion at noon (in the Mary Lou Campana Chapel and Lecture Center) and a reading at 7 p.m. (in Powers Hall 100) focusing on the theme, “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.” The panel will be moderated by Pitt-Greensburg professor and author Lori Jakiela, and will feature authors Thomas Sweterlitsch, Sarah Shotland, Ben Gwin and Eric Boyd.

Thomas Sweterlitsch is the author of the best-selling novel, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” a book The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called “a near-future cyberpunk thriller in the tradition of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling; a funny, gloomy meditation on technology and mental illness in the tradition of Phillip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard; a cynically outrageous mystery less in the tradition of Chandler than that of James Ellroy. . . .a bleak, gorgeous romp through a pornographic and political American id.” Sweterlitsch has worked for 12 years at the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and daughter.

Sarah Shotland is the author of the novel “Junkette.” She is a novelist and playwright whose work has been performed in New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, and Florida; and internationally in Chongqing, PRC, and Madrid, Spain. Her most recent play, “Cereus Moonlight,” was commissioned by miR Theater.  After opening on the Space Coast of Florida, it played at the 25th annual Rhino Fest in Chicago.

Shotland is the co-founder and program coordinator of Words Without Walls, which brings creative writing classes to jails, prisons and rehabilitation centers in Pittsburgh, PA. She is co-editor of the literary anthology “Words without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence & Incarceration” with Sheryl St. Germain, published by Trinity University Press in spring 2015. A member of the Literary Arts faculty at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts, Shotland also teaches in Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

Ben Gwin is the fiction editor at Burrow Press Review. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in “The Normal School,” “Bridge Eight,” “Word Riot,” “Mary: A Journal of New Writing,” and others. His novel, “Clean Time: The True Story of Ronald Reagan Middleton,” will be published this year. Previously, the manuscript was shortlisted for the 2014 Pressgang Prize, and named a semifinalist for the 2015 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize. Gwin lives in Pittsburgh with his daughter.

Eric Boyd’s work has appeared in “Prison Noir,” edited by Joyce Carol Oates, and “Words Without Walls,” an anthology from Trinity University Press, featuring work by folks such as Oates, Nick Flynn, Terrance Hayes, Dorothy Allison, and Tim O’Brien. He is the author of “Whiskey Sour,” a collection of short prose pieces. His work has been widely published in journals, including “Vol. 1 Brooklyn,” the “PEN America Journal,” “The Offing,” “Guernica” and others. Boyd is a graduate of The Foundry MFA program, and lives in Pittsburgh, where he’s at work on a story collection, “Brownfields.” A short book of six-word stories/poems, “Q&A,” is forthcoming in the UK from PoetryPulse press.

The event is also sponsored by the Pitt-Greensburg Office of Academic Affairs. For more information, click here or contact Lori Jakiela at loj@pitt.edu.


Friday, April 1, 2016