it’s happening …

Life Lines frntandbk Cover for PR“LIFE LINES: Re-Writing Lives from Inside Out” is at the printer … Reviewers are reviewing it … We have a page on the publisher’s website … Our writers are geared up to share their words at the launch on April 12 in Burlington VT … Love Local Catering has planned a lovely spread …

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

it’s official…

is in press!

This project has been in the works for nearly two years. Following the success of “Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write” (Orbis Books, 2013), co-edited by myself and Marybeth Redmond, our writers inside have repeatedly requested a second publication. Not only for the validation of seeing their words in print; or the validation of being read outside the walls; or even the prospect of sharing their words in person if they were released by the time of the launch.

Their ongoing motivation has been to voice change to a system that no longer serves the needs or goals of its current population. Clearly, not all the onus lies with the correctional system – there are challenges aplenty with addiction treatment and mental health services more broadly, and clearly better coordination, definition and availability apply to both. Nonetheless, corrections is where these writers of ours currently reside. This is the system they must navigate, survive, recover from. In addition to all the other issues they are facing due to the reason(s) for their incarceration in the first place.

The creation of “Life Lines: Re-Writing Lives from Inside Out” has, like the proverbial successful rearing of a child, been a true community effort. Of course, the writers themselves, with their passion, dedication to attending writinginsideVT circles, and honesty about themselves are the foundation on which it all began.

VT College of Fine Arts provided us an intern for a full year! Bianca Vinas joined us as a fabulously sensitive ‘outside’ reader of works from writers she had never met, assuring that the works chosen would carry the strongest message. Kassie Tibbott, Esq, newly-minted from VT Law School and ongoing assistant to the writing became researcher par excellance to gather facts, keep us organized, and provide a sounding board for our overall planning down to specific details. Meg Reynolds, long-time wiVT co-director, poet and artist, thoughtfully provided ink drawings that defined the five sections of “Life Lines.”

Now we have an April 12 launch date to look forward to and hope to see you there!

writinginsideVT as life line

Print

courtesy of csolifeline.org

For the ten years we have offered writinginsideVT to women incarcerated in Vermont, we have heard it over and over again. How these weekly opportunities to write and share what is on each participant’s heart, with respect and without judgement, have provided a lifeline through incarceration. For some, it is the first time they have been heard, or even discovered they have something to say. For others, it is a chance to unpack the pent-up frustrations, griefs and crushed dreams that inhabit the underbelly of their daily routines inside.

No matter the content, the fact remains: writing offers a way to re-write (and in the process re-right) past decisions and choose a new path going forward.

The respite our writing sessions offer inside (where, unfortunately, many women remain who would otherwise be receiving treatment for their illnesses) is undeniably healing, hope-producing, enlightening, confidence-building. In short, in the context of epidemic drug abuse and dearth of mental health treatment programs, the moments of quiet reflection, sharing and validation amount to … well … a lifeline for many.

As founding co-director, I have been deeply humbled across this past decade to witness acts of transformation through the safe community we have co-created with our writers. To honor those for whom the program has provided a link to re-visioning a future, I have received funding from BCA Community Fund to publish a BCA_logo_Kcollection of writings. Life Lines: Re-Writing Lives from Inside Out will be released in late March by Green Writers Press, Brattleboro, VT. The book and its public presentation will provide for community discussion and advocacy on behalf of the challenges faced daily by these writers.

Stay tuned for updates on the book and its launch. Meanwhile, thank you for your interest in and support of our work over the years.

wiVT team member helps inside voters

election - Luke Eastman

credit – luke eastman

Check out this wonderful write-up by Mark Davis in Seven Days featuring Kassie Tibbot, recent VT Law School graduate and long-time assistant to writinginsideVT. The article, titled “Vermont is one of two U.S. states that let incarcerated citizens vote.” The other is Maine.

Kassie is quoted throughout the piece, including the opening paragraph:

Kassie Tibbott spent several weeks this fall visiting five Vermont state prisons with the goal of getting local inmates to vote. The recent Vermont Law School graduate was happy to help 44 prisoners register for the first time. She was even more elated to meet 39 inmates already on the voter rolls, who simply asked for help getting absentee ballots. Dozens of others didn’t need assistance because they already knew the ropes.

The article goes on to point out the central importance of community to those inside and looking to return home at some point. Voting is one of the few ways they can participate in ‘normal’ life during incarceration. It is also an imperative that is felt as a result of all those who can NOT vote.

“Some of them, because they saw that some of their fellow inmates couldn’t vote, they thought, I had better do it,” said Tibbott. “I heard quite a few times inmates say, ‘See, our voice does matter.'”

It is heartening that our democracy can permit citizens otherwise limited in their civic engagement to vote.

brewing empowerment

cups of coffeeAs promised, here is more from the UVM students who are, this week, starting their four-week pop-up venture on behalf of writinginsideVT.

They very kindly shared their Business Plan with me and gave permission to share it here. Excerpts follow:

Company Description
Brewing Empowerment is comprised of 10 UVM students who are creating a pop-up social enterprise. Our main goal is to make a profit through selling coffee and stickers to donate to “Writing Inside Vermont.” This non-profit works with women who are incarcerated in Vermont and gives them an outlet to express themselves through poetry and stories. We chose this group because we feel their message is powerful and one that needs to be shared. Often when people are incarcerated they become dehumanized and lose a sense of who they are. What brought our group together was that we all had an interest in gender equality and empowering women. This non-profit aligns with our groups goals of empowering these women. The name of our group not only goes with what we are selling but it goes with our main message. We want to empower these women by sharing their stories and their past experiences to make other UVM students and faculty members open their eyes and hearts and not make anybody feel they don’t matter, regardless of their situation.

 

Executive Summary
Brewing Empowerment is our pop-up social enterprise. We will be selling coffee and stickers, to donate our profits to “Writing Inside Vermont.” This non-profit works with women who are incarcerated in Vermont and provides them an outlet for their voices and words to be heard. Our group not only wants to donate to this non-profit but we want them to be known throughout campus for years to come. This is why we chose to sell stickers which will last beyond this pop-up. Our target audience will be students, professors and friends who want to spread awareness of the amazing work this non-profit does.  

Mission Statement
Brewing Empowerment is dedicated to spreading the words of these powerful women whose voices deserve to be heard. Often women behind bars are not given the validation that they matter or that they even exist. We are working to remove this stigma and echo their words throughout UVM’s campus.

Product Description:
Brewing Empowerment will be selling both coffee and stickers. Students on the University of Vermont campus are constantly buying and drinking coffee to fuel them through their long days and hefty amounts of work. With that said, Brewing Empowerment will sell great quality coffee at a reasonably low price outside the Bailey/Howe Library in hopes of attracting the business of hustling, working students. Our coffee cups will have quotes from the women’s poetry on them, to achieve our mission to remove the stigma from incarcerated women.Fortunately our group received kind donations from businesses scattered throughout the Burlington area, so we are able to kickstart our business at almost no cost. Hannaford Supermarket supplied us with a $20 gift card in which we will purchase coffee grinds and cups. Similarly, City Market was generous enough to donate a $20 gift card with which we will obtain cream, milk, and sugar. Lastly, Sodexo has agreed to supply us with holders(creamers) for cream and milk, endless ice, and a tub/bucket to hold the ice. With all that said we will charge $2 per cup of coffee.

In addition to coffee we will be selling stickers. Students around the University of Vermont campus love collecting stickers and displaying them on their reusable water bottles or laptops. We will capitalize on this trend and sell stickers alongside coffee. The stickers will include quotes from and art drawn by women involved in the Writing Inside Vermont program. With the $10 allotted to our group we will purchase sticker paper from Amazon and print out designs with the art and poetry incorporated. These stickers will then be sold for $2.