For Immediate Release 

March 11, 2024 


Amanda Powers 
2nd Street 
(518) 928-9888 
[email protected] 

Preparatory workshops begin April 3; deadline for submissions is June 15

PITTSFIELD, MA — 2nd Street seeks submissions for Using Our Outside Voices, a literary project created in partnership with Berkshire Community College (BCC) that is designed to promote creativity, acceptance and inclusion for presently or formerly incarcerated men and women in Berkshire County. The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2024.

Winning submissions will be published in a journal. Authors whose work is selected will receive a cash award of $200, and they will be invited to participate in public readings at various venues in the Berkshires. The initial run of 400 printed copies of the free journal will be distributed locally, and digital copies will be available online.

Any presently or formerly incarcerated resident of Berkshire County is invited to submit original poetry, short fiction, personal essays or other literary works. Submissions will be judged by a team led by the editor of Zine, the BCC student literary journal, and will be judged by a team to include at least one formerly incarcerated individual and two BCC students. Julianna Spallholz, chair of the BCC English department, will oversee the editing, production and publication of the literary magazine.

For more details on how to submit a literary work, visit and click Special Projects, or call (413) 443-7220, ext. 1275.

Workshops help prepare authors

To help boost authors’ confidence and writing skills, 2nd Street will hold a series of two creative writing workshops.

For previously incarcerated individuals, workshops will be held on Wednesdays, April 3 though May 29 (no meeting April 10) from 4:30-6 pm at 264 Second Street in Pittsfield. The workshop series will be led by Peggy Kern, author of two books in the acclaimed Bluford High Series, as well as “Little Peach,” a story of sex trafficking based on survivor accounts. She has led many writing workshops, including “Power to the People,” a week-long program for the nonprofit Mighty Writers in Philadelphia that was featured on NPR.

“Writing is, at its best, an act of hope and defiance — a way to say that we are here, and that our stories matter,” Kern said. “You don’t need big words or big degrees to write powerfully. Our tools are our experiences, and our courage to speak them honestly.”

For incarcerated individuals, workshops will be held on Wednesdays, April 10 through May 29 from 4:30-6 pm at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction. The workshop series will be led by Liesl Schwabe, Coordinator of Writing Across the Curriculum at Berkshire Community College. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Creative Nonfiction, Words Without Borders, LitHub, Salon and The American Literary Review, among other publications and anthologies. She was a 2018-19 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in Kolkata, India. 

To register for either or both workshops, call (413) 443-7220, ext. 1275.

Community partners lend support

Financial and in-kind support of Using Our Outside Voices is provided by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Arts Build Community initiative with funding from the Barr Foundation; by Berkshire United Way; by Berkshire Community College; and by Pittsfield Cultural Council, a local agency supported by Mass Cultural Council.

“On behalf of Berkshire United Way, I’m proud to support the Using Our Outside Voices project,” said Tom Bernard, president and CEO of Berkshire United Way. “Our mission to build a stronger community together benefits when everyone has the chance to use their voice, tell their stories and communicate the truths of their varied perspectives, as shaped by their unique experiences.”

Emily Bronson, Senior Community Engagement Officer – Initiatives and Special Projects at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, said, “Berkshire Taconic’s Arts Build Community (ABC) initiative aims to increase community engagement through the arts, especially among communities of color, immigrants, youth and other residents who wish to participate in the arts but face a variety of barriers. Using Our Outside Voices is a powerful example of using creative arts to challenge conventional narratives and build community.”

About 2nd Street

Second Street Second Chances, Inc., better known as 2nd Street, supports formerly incarcerated persons in Berkshire County and connects them with the tools, programs and support they need to successfully reenter their community. 2nd Street is committed to treating formerly incarcerated individuals with respect and encouragement; providing them with job readiness skills and access to employment opportunities; preparing them to become productive and contributing citizens; and educating and advocating for communities to embrace them as such. Services and referrals include medical and mental health resources, substance use disorder services, financial resources and literacy, transportation, family reunification, housing, job training and employment, and legal services. Visit 2nd Street at