book ripples

yellow leafOur newly released book Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write continues to generate interest in media spheres (and we are ever grateful).

This past week I drove in darkness to WCAX-TV, the CBS affiliate in So. Burlington, for a crack-of-dawn interview with reporter Molly Smith for her “Books Over Breakfast” segment.

We covered quite as bit of territory about Vermont’s incarcerated women, the writing inside VT program, and the book — all within a three-minute block. Give a look and listen here.

A day later, an Associated Press reporter accompanied me ‘inside’ Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility to interview some of the women authors and to experience the writing circle firsthand.

I grinned as one of the incarcerated writers asked that reporter if she was present to “observe us like fish in a fishbowl” or whether she was willing to write with the group. She agreed to the latter, and the trusting writing circle re-established itself once again.

We wrote about the grace of an ordinary day.

At the circle’s conclusion, one of the imprisoned writers suggested that the reporter pose a couple of questions to the circle of 12 seated together.

We facilitators inquire in this vein weekly through written comment cards that the writers turn in (we call them “soul cards”).  However, I’m not sure I had ever heard the women articulate the value of this program out loud as a collective gathering.

“What do you get out of the group?” the AP reporter inquired.

For the next 15 minutes, women chimed in: “a quiet space to be with my thoughts,” “peace away from the unit,” “a time to find out what I’m thinking,” “therapy,” “friendship and laughter”…

And soon one theme began to dominate the interchange, the same thing said in a myriad of different ways: “there is no judgment here,” “it’s a judgment-free zone,” “there is only acceptance”…

And my mind immediately went to the universal desire each of us carries within to live and work and relate in environments where we can exist freely – without judgment and with unconditional acceptance.


6 thoughts on “book ripples

  1. Louise Mahar says:

    My sister (AW) is currently incarcerated and blessed to be a part of your writing circle. I am so thankful for the time and effort you spend each week offering an opportunity for these women to express themselves. Reading this week’s post and learning that this program allows women an opportunity to find peace within the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility is comforting. It brought a smile to my face to read one woman state that the writing circle allows her, “a time to find out what I’m thinking.” My heart filled with joy when I read that your writing circle, Writing Inside Vermont, allows these women to experience therapy, friendship and laughter! Again, I cannot express enough, my gratitude to you for creating this opportunity weekly for these women. THANK YOU!


  2. louisemahar says:

    My sister (AW) is currently spending time within the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility and I am so Thankful for this program and the opportunity it provides for these women. I wish to express my gratitude to Sarah and Marybeth for taking the time to offer these women, as one woman states, “a time to find out what I’m thinking.” These women are blessed to have a program like this available to them. An opportunity to find; “therapy, friendship and laughter” within their confines. Again, thank you for your time and effort. I look forward to your weekly post.


    • sarahwbartlett says:

      Thank you so much for your appreciation of our work, Louise. It is a two-way street, I can assure you. Working with these women continually brings new learnings and humility to each of us in unique and meaningful ways. Thanks, also, for following these women’s words. Your support means the world to them, individually and collectively.


      • Marybeth says:

        Generous thanks for your kind words, Louise. I am so appreciative of your sister’s presence in the weekly writing circle. She brings a mature, peaceful perspective that buoys up many of the younger inmates. She is also one of the most grateful ‘inside’ women I know, never failing to personally thank us for coming each week. It is a pleasure to know her and to write with her. Many blessings to you and your family.


  3. Linda Catanzaro says:

    I sat in a circle of women from transitional housing, and sober houses in our community this weekend – all on a spiritual retreat. Many were formally incarcerated. A theme that came up was “freedom” and “acceptance” without judgment. That “universal desire” that we all carry and that you speak so beautifully about in this
    message about you circle of women. I pick up your book so often. It is so
    inspiring. Thank you for sharing the gifts of the women in your circle! I plan to donate a copy to the spiritual library at our local women’s prison in Cleveland where I facilitate an emotional healing group. Peace & Blessings, Linda Catanzaro


    • Marybeth says:

      Generous thanks, Linda, for sharing the Vermont women’s words with the women in your circles of connection in Cleveland. We can truly nourish each other through our words, insights and voices. I am grateful for your being a catalyst and support in the lives of so many women beyond our VT borders. Thanks for being in touch. Blessings back! Marybeth


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