Spotlight: Meghan Tutolo & The Bridge Series

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The Bridge Series is a new series uniting the Pittsburgh literary and activist communities to raise awareness and funds for local organizations fighting the good fight in these troubling times. The series convenes the last Wednesday of each month at Brillobox and each installment will feature Pittsburgh’s finest writers and a special guest organization, with proceeds from the evening going directly to that organization.

The October 25th installment of The Bridge Series featuring the writers Adam Matcho, Stephanie Brea, Damon Young — and the guest organization for the evening, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania — was curated by the wonderful Meghan Tutolo.

Event

Meghan Tutolo is an artist with some writing degrees and two smooshy-faced cats. She romances olives and Italian food for a living and teaches composition at a local college. When she isn’t writing or grading, Meghan can be found painting, doodling, watching Forensic Files, drinking too much coffee, playing her guitar or stalking cats on Instagram—sometimes all of these in the same night.

 

How does writing relate to activism? How has activism influenced or affected your writing?

All artists can give a voice to worthwhile causes. For the artist or writer, it is combining passions. For the audience, it gives perspective, and hopefully, an awareness. Me? Honestly, the last year and a half has been a challenge, writing-wise. I get so angry and frustrated, and unfortunately, I find those emotions difficult to funnel into art. I spend more time reading and researching and debating people online than creating verse. I wish I could say that I was being loudly political and gutsy in any other medium besides Facebook, but someone has to do it.

What are the goals of The Bridge Series? How does it fit into the local literary scene?

As the name suggests, The Bridge Series works to bridge the gap between the Pittsburgh literary and activist communities. It’s more than strength in numbers, but a way to give a voice to these organizations.

Why did you invite Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania to be the guest organization this month? Tell us a little about their mission.

Early on in this political horror show, I was reading this survival list. You know, on how to survive this mess we’re in. It suggested choosing one cause and sticking with it, as a way to focus and to keep up the momentum. Post-election, I had designed a t-shirt for my friends and I. It has the city skyline on it and says, “Build Bridges, Not Walls.” There were many reasons for it—which I won’t go into—but I knew I didn’t want to make money off from them. That wasn’t the point. It was like armor, you know?

I chose to donate the profits from the t-shirts to Planned Parenthood, knowing they were under attack. And while I’d never needed their services, I feel like what they do is so very important to the functioning of our society. Really, their necessity is a no-brainer. Above all, though, Planned Parenthood helps women (and men) to feel safe and protected. And all of the Planned Parenthood employees I have met through this t-shirt endeavor (an endeavor that has gotten much bigger than I’d ever imagined) have blown me away with their passion and dedication. It has been inspiring and life-changing, to say the least.

Is there a particular writer, book, or poem that has influenced you as a literary activist that you’d like to shine some light on?

I’ve always been a Margaret Atwood fangirl. Long before I realized she was also an activist, I was mesmerized by her writing. Now that I see her in all dimensions, my fangirl status is off the charts. She amazes me with her wit and keen sense of purpose. Seriously, look her up on Twitter. Right now. And read Oryx and Crake.

What advice would you give to local writers who want to have their voices heard?

There is always a stage. You have to be willing to find it and to fumble. That is my advice for almost every goal. How bad do you want it?

What do you hope the audience will walk away with after this event?

I hope the audience will feel inspired and charged up by the writers and the talk. Planned Parenthood, just those words even, is so damn political, but at the end of the day, it’s about women (and men) who need help, need support, need someone that cares. I hope people will gain more than the political talking point, but gain that necessary perspective, feel it even, and turn that feeling into action.
 

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