birthday cakeA critical mass of women inmates at the Chittenden Correctional Facility in Vermont are celebrating birthdays this month, thus our selected writing theme!

We opened our circle of 14 writers, checking in by recalling a memorable birthday present received.

Some of their responses – a shiny new bike, three chocolate mayonnaise cakes on a single birthday, and a Daisy BB gun given to one woman by her father – prompted toothy chuckles from us all.

When the question-at-hand reached one young woman in the circle, she paused for what seemed like an eternity of 15 seconds, looked up and said without any bitterness in her tone, “I can’t think of anything.”   Continue reading

birthdays ‘inside’

by Will Slayton

Our ‘inside’ writing circle was brimming last evening with 10 writers–three of them first-time participants!  Amidst laughter and tears, we wrote about experiencing birthdays ‘inside’ and the pain of missing the birthdays of children and loved ones on the ‘outside.’  Here’s a poignant piece by JL:


I will celebrate my birthday inside this year,

inside concrete walls painted pastel, egg-shell colors.

I will open no presents and blow out no candles.

In fact, I will most probably choose to let the day pass

like any other.

But I will celebrate because I know,

I know that past the covered windows,

the fence with razor wire,

past the locked doors and steel cages,

I am not alone.

I will close my eyes and picture the faces

that I know will take a moment on this day

to send their love through a thought,

a spark, a desire

to remember…

And it is then that I will celebrate.

Images held, lips curved upward,

a small laugh followed by a gentle tear.

Another year,

I will be boundless right here

within these walls.

So on this (birth)day, when you see me

walking down the hall,

mop in hand, broom to sweep,

but it looks something different,

like I’m not here…

Don’t you see?

I’m not here at all, I am finally free,

because he, she, and he are on the outside

blowing candles out for me.