a visit to Walden

Since our book of incarcerated women’s writings Hear Me, See Me debuted last fall, we’ve had numerous requests to come and present about the writing inside VT program.

photoshopped version

Marybeth Redmond (front row, far right) met with students of The Walden Project in Monkton, who were eager to learn about writing inside VT.

One of the more interesting speaking engagements occurred deep within the woods in Monkton, Vt. this past week.

I was invited to share our work with The Walden Projectan alternative school serving about 20 students from Vergennes Union High School.

Their curriculum emphasizes writing, philosophy, environmental studies, while supporting student centered-learning. The program is modeled on Henry David Thoreau’s sojourn to Walden Pond where he immersed himself in his ecology to deepen his sense of self, society, and the natural world. (The Willowell Foundation supports and guides the program.)   Continue reading

the governor weighs in

Gov Shumlin 1-14 letterheadMy recent book discussion tour has taken separate paths into our state government’s offices in Montpelier.

At one, a member of the group placed a copy of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write on the desk of Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. At another, I learned that a passage from the book had been offered as a devotional at the opening session of the legislature.

This all happened around the time of the Governor’s State of the State address in which he pledged to focus on our state’s alarming opiate addiction as a public health concern.

His thank you letter to the woman who deposited the book on his desk reads, in part:
“I am writing to thank you for the copy of HEAR ME, SEE ME… It is a very moving collection of essays. This is a public health issue and we must bolster our current approach with more common sense. I’m sure you will agree that publications like HEAR ME, SEE ME help bring a human voice to this discussion.

Thanks again for the recommendation.”
Gov Shumlin 1-14 letter final para

a “book group” book?

Book siting at Phoenix Books, Essex

Book siting at Phoenix Books, Essex

When my dear friend and neighbor suggested that our next book group selection be Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write, my response came at reflex speed.

“It’s not that kinda book,” I told her, thinking back to our recent book selections, The Round House: A Novel and Duct Tape Parenting, a self-help guide for raising resilient, resourceful kids.

But she pressed me, “no, the stories here lend themselves to great conversations about childhood, trauma, addiction, being mothers, the impacts of incarceration, social safety nets or the lack thereof, your work with jailed women, the power of writing, etc., etc.”

OK, I thought, “I’m cool with that” and grateful for my book group’s interest. (We’re an eclectic group of working women, friends of friends, from Underhill to Burlington to Shelburne.)  Continue reading

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

seen and heard

HEAR ME, SEE ME book authors insideLast week, we brought HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write to CRCF, enough for each woman currently inside who has ever written with us and chose to receive one.

About 17 writers streamed to our weekly meeting room clamoring for this long-awaited moment. Another 15 joined the line and left, book clutched to chest, no doubt to peruse the pages after laundry, kitchen or hall cleaning duties were done. A dozen women elected to stay with us for an impromptu reading.

Once again I was struck by the power of our process. Since we started the program four years back, we have sought to bring the voices of silenced women from inside themselves, and the prison, out to the world. We do this with regular blog posts, quarterly anthologies and semi-annual readings. We did this with the book and its launch.

And weekly, we do this in a modest circle in a windowless room through a safe, mirroring community that helps each of us see ourselves, hear ourselves and one another into awareness and speech.

We often refer to the ‘arc of experience’ a woman follows in her time inside, one we see intimately within the writing circle.  During last week’s book celebration inside, I saw that arc manifest in the responses of three different women. Continue reading