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. Continue reading

vulnerability and courage

Scared child

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Tonight we tried something different in our writing inside group: we presented five statements from Brené Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability; asked the women to write for just five minutes to each, one at a time; then shared the writing as if it were on singly-written piece. [The five statements are listed under “Prompt of the Week.”]

Usually we offer several prompts from which one is chosen, for a 20-minute writing time. So the exercise challenged the women a number of ways, not the least of which was delving directly into tender and often trying territory. Afterwards, comments about the experience included “I am amazed with how my fellow friends in prison express themselves;” tonight I appreciated “walking through vulnerability and celebrating the journey;” “my courage opened up today;” “what opened in me was to not judge others when meeting them; they have feelings just like me. What closed was a lot of the fear I have to show others.” And “What opened in me? my feelings about being vulnerable . . . with whom? where? why would I be? I enjoyed the exercise!”

Below is the quickly-written writing of one of our new participants:

Clever I may be in the struggle for happiness and change. The vulnerable me, the scared me, the self-judging me – accepting my work as good. Fear keeps me vulnerable, harsh upon myself. Be free to allow myself to try, regardless of the outcome. I am vulnerable.

I feel fear. I want to numb, I want to drink my fill until the numbness comes, the judgments gone, the sadness gone. So sad. So sad, the creativity is gone, the willingness to try is gone, the living of life is gone. I am left dormant. Empty.

I look for what’s wrong with you so I don’t have to look at me: your weakness, your failure, so I don’t look at me. I don’t have to show my weakness, my shame. I look at you. No courage, no shame.

I walk through to fear, to look at me, to accept who I am and love me just the way I am. Your opinion and hurtful words I ignore. I take courage like food to heal me. I will walk in my journey proud and happy just the way I am. It’s OK to be me . . . good or bad, I’m me. The cries of a child unaccepted is the loss of a beautiful being.

The struggle to find hope can be painful and long and vulnerable. If and when it comes to be, the surrender is a beautiful sweet thing.


always wanting

Each week, I create a ‘found poem’ from lines written and shared by women in the writing circle. It is always a surprise to see how the lines will weave together, forming a meaning entirely new/different from that of the original writings. At the same time, women delight in seeing their lines transformed, supporting one another’s meanings and words in fresh and surprising ways. Each week is different in content; but this element of delight is a common experience week after week.


I’ve battled with my own fear
to give you whatever you wish —
your heart or your mother’s dream for you,
need for open space unfilled.

The bucket of my open mouth
is all I’ve ever wanted —
only wanted love and acceptance

How can anyone resist
your smile from ear to ear?
Stories and laughter abounded
until my demon pushed everyone away.

Through miles and miles of cold,
you lit small worlds into being.
I heard that voice years ago,
every minute of me and you.

Then things got really tricky,
unknown, unplanned;
I peel myself off the ground
hungry for myself, hungry for you.