Using Our Outside Voices

What’s it about?

Using Our Outside Voices is a partnership between Second Street Second Chances, Inc. (2nd Street) and Berkshire Community College that will result in the publication of a collection of poetry, short fiction, and other literary work by presently or formerly incarcerated individuals in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

Using Our Outside Voices is a companion initiative to Insight Out that will result in a juried exhibition of visual art at Berkshire Museum and Hear Me Out, engaging presently or formerly incarcerated individuals in the creation of a live, full-length show integrating real-life stories, music, and movement.  The book launch for Using Our Outside Voices, the exhibition of Insight Out, and the performances of Hear Me Out will take place in September, 2023.

Who qualifies?

Any presently or formerly incarcerated resident of Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

How Do I Submit My Work?

Presently or formerly incarcerated individuals are invited to submit their poetry, short fiction, personal essays, and other literary forms for publication in the inaugural issue of Using Our Outside Voices.

We ask that submissions be typed and that they do not exceed 12 pages, double spaced (other than poetry).  Multiple submissions are welcome.

Although works can be published anonymously, the submission should include a short bio of the author, not to exceed approximately 150 words, as well as the best phone number to reach you.

Submissions should be sent to  Please include the word “submission” in the title of your email.  Submissions should be sent both as an attachment and pasted into the body of your email.  Please start a new email for each submission sent.

If you have trouble meeting any of those requirements, please contact us.  If you need help submitting your work, stop by 2nd Street at 264 Second Street, Pittsfield, MA, and we will help you.

The deadline for submission is June 9, 2023.  Submitters will be notified by June 21, 2023.  Authors will need to be available for the next few weeks to work with the team on edits to their submissions.

We appreciate the opportunity to read your work!

    Will my work be published?

    Decisions about which works are included will be made by a team led by a Project Manager/Lead Editor from Berkshire Community College who oversees the publication of the student literary journal Zine. The team will also include at least one formerly incarcerated individual and at least two students from Berkshire Community College – the former to bring an essential perspective and the latter to provide exposure to the process as part of their education.

    Authors whose work is included in the journal will receive a cash award of $200 and five copies of the journal.  It is hoped that they will participate in public readings starting in September 2023.

    Once published, Second Street Second Chances, Inc., shall be deemed to have acquired a non-exclusive right to use the work for any purpose in the future.

    What happens to the journal once it’s published?

    The initial run of 400 printed copies will be distributed, at no cost, at events and to facilities and audiences where they are likely to be seen and read.  Digital copies will be available online. There will be readings by authors at various venues to further deepen engagement with the community. In appreciation of financial support of Using Our Outside Voices, 2nd Street will provide Berkshire United Way with 100 printed copies of the publication for distribution. 

    Can I get help with my writing?

    2nd Street is offering a Creative Writing Workshop on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at 264 Second Street in Pittsfield from April 5, 2023, through May 24, 2023.  The workshop 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.

    2nd Street is offering a Poetry Workshop on Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at 264 Second Street in Pittsfield, from April 6, 2023, through May 25, 2023.  The workshops will be led by Benjamin Grimes.  After a career as a project/product manager in the digital space, Ben earned his MFA from Randolph College, where he worked on the literary journal Revolute. He was a finalist for The Sewanee Review’s fourth annual poetry contest, and his work has appeared in New Ohio Review and is forthcoming in Sycamore Review. In 2021, he joined the staff of Muzzle Magazine as a review writer and copy-editor.

    You can register for either or both workshops by calling (413) 443-7220, ext. 1275.

    The Writing Center at Berkshire Community College is available to those submitting work to Using Our Outside Voices. The Center is open for drop-in visits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, through May 5, 2023. Advance appointments and remote appointments are limited to BCC students.

    With Gratitude

    2nd Street acknowledges with gratitude the financial and in-kind support of this project provided by:

    • Berkshire Community College
    • Berkshire United Way
    • Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Arts Build Community initiative with funding from the Barr Foundation