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Pitt-Greensburg Written/Spoken and Veterans Write Partner for the First Time to Welcome Jehanne Dubrow

by Kara Goughnour

Award-winning poet Jehanne Dubrow will be reading her work Monday, Jan 29 at 7:00 p.m. in Village Hall 118 in coordination with the Pitt-Greensburg Written/Spoken Series and The Veterans Write Workshop at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.

The daughter of American diplomats, Jehanne was born in Italy and grew up in Yugoslavia, Zaire, Poland, Belgium, Austria, and the United States.

Question: How do you think that growing up in so many different locations affected your writing?

Answer: You move every three or four years. It definitely changes the way you see the world and understand what it means to be American.

Q: What was your favorite place out of all of them?

A: We lived in Poland twice and for me it was a really influential place to live. We lived in Poland during two very historical moments during Eastern European history. We were there as communism was collapsing. I think that it was a few days before my birthday actually many years later that the Berlin Wall fell. It became very wrapped up in my identity and my sense of what it was like to come of age. I was coming of age in a historical moment where you could really feel that something remarkable was happening right outside your front door. As my family had some of its origins in Poland, it was important to me in that way, too.

Q: Did growing up in all of these different places lead to you being surrounded by a lot of diversity?

A: Oh, one hundred percent, and it was always a shock to come back to the United States as a result. When I was seven or eight we moved from Poland back to the United States, and this was in the era before the internet or even satellite television. I suffered from tremendous culture shock. I talked like a tiny adult, I didn’t know about American pop culture at all. It was really a difficult transition for me.

Q: How did you come to decide that you wanted to become writer?

A: I always loved the arts and I always thought that I was going to be either an actor, a visual artist, or a writer. Initially, I really thought that I was going to be an actor. In my early twenties I realized that, as much as I loved theater in particular, I couldn’t handle the rejection. It felt really too personal, which is funny because as a writer you deal with rejection. But it’s a different kind of rejection; it’s not about how tall you are, what color your hair is, or how much you weigh. I think that it’s easier to handle the rejection of being a writer even though it can be very painful at times.

Q: Do you have any work that is your favorite or what you’re most proud of?

A: I’ll give the answer that I think many writers usually give, which is that hopefully the thing you’ve written most recently is what you’re proudest of, and I say “hopefully” because the idea is that hopefully you continue to grow and push yourself.

Dubrow’s poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews have appeared in Southern Review, Pleiades, The New York Times Magazine, Southwest Review, The New England Review, as well as on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and American Life in Poetry.

She has received the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, the Towson University Prize for Literature, an Individual Artist’s Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship and a Howard Nemerov award from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Sosland Foundation Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.

Dubrow will be joined at the podium by Veterans Write co-directors Gretchen Uhrinek and Jeff Martin.

Martin is a fiction and non-fiction writer whose work has been published in national and international journals, including Pearl Magazine, and Tears in the Fence.

Uhrinek, a Pitt-Greensburg alum, received both the university’s prestigious Joan Didion Award for Creative Nonfiction and the Scott Turow Prize for Fiction. Her work has been widely published in national venues, including The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Longridge Review, Persephone’s Daughter and more. Uhrinek was also a 2016 and 2017 fellow at the Chautauqua Institution’s Summer Writers Festival.

The event is free and open to the public. All veterans in attendance will receive a free copy of Dots and Dashes, winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry competition and Dubrow’s most recent publication. A catered reception, question-and-answer session, and a book signing will follow the readings.

Veterans Write at Pitt-Greensburg provides free writing workshops to veterans and their loved ones.

For more information, visit the Veterans Write website at http://veteranswrite.com.

Written/Spoken is a reading series that brings nationally-known poets and writers to the Pitt-Greensburg campus. Undergraduate student writers and Pitt-Greensburg alumni participate in readings and give performances of their own work.

The series is sponsored by the Pitt-Greensburg Creative and Professional Writing Program and the Office of Academic Affairs

For more information on this or future Written/Spoken events, contact Professor Lori Jakiela at loj@pitt.edu.

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