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“Writing For Their Lives: Lessons Learned on Death Row” a Seminar with Professor Berresheim

By Abigail Vaughn

Vol State Professor Catherine Berresheim hosted a creative writing seminar, “Writing For Their Lives: Lessons Learned on Death Row” on campus this past Friday, Feb. 23.

Berresheim started teaching in prisons in 2008 and then began teaching death row individuals in 2017. “I teach inside because they challenge me as a writer, instructor, and a human being. I feel most relevant as a professor when I am inside those walls,” said Berresheim.

She teaches creative writing techniques as well as providing some textbook readings and uses model essays for examples. 

“Berresheim then began teaching inmates on death row through a program called Reciprocal Education and Community Healing, and a class focused on writing through trauma,” said Keturah Tobias in a previous article written about Catherine Berresheim. 

“In this workshop, she will share what she learned from teaching creative writing on the inside. The session will begin with a quick overview about this unique environment and prison literature as a genre. Then we will explore the writer’s purpose, read, and analyze a few examples of the prison student’s work, and see how writing offers a sense of well-being, even in the darkest of places,” said Creative Writing Seminars Spring 2024. 

“When folks learn that I teach on death row, they are naturally curious about what that is like. I want to dispel the stereotypes, and misconceptions about this marginalized population,” said Berresheim. 

Berresheim would also like students and staff to know that Tennessee is one of 27 states that allow the death penalty sentence.

“Yet the same politicians who hang onto this archaic and inhumane practice call themselves ‘pro-life.’ It is hypocritical,” said Berresheim.

Listed below are the Creative Writing Seminars happening in spring 2024. 

March 14, 2024 “Words That Heal: Writing to Transform Trauma into Art,” presented by Catherine Berresheim

March 27, 2023 “On Reality and Fiction” presented by Jamie Sanchez

April 11, 2024 TBA

April 16, 2024, VSCC Salon: Creative Writing Showcase

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