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!

hear me see me at 2014 book festival

The reading from HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write at the 2014 Burlington Book Festival was taped by RETN. The 55-minute sequence follows. RETN did their best to capture our voices, since we deviated from the expected use of the podium for speaking!

Thank you again to Rick Kisonak who organized the Festival; and to Mike DeSanto of Phoenix Books who suggested our participation and provided books to sell at the event.

Profuse apologies to current Assistant Director Meaghan Reynolds for my failure to introduce her properly at the time. She did a fabulous debut job of holding the space for the readings and we are most grateful to her. And finally, to co-founder Marybeth Redmond, who is no longer involved in the program, gratitude for a gracious holding of the Q&A and her presence to celebrate the women of the book.

‘I am who I was . . . and more’

Raven signing the book

Raven signing the book

These seven simple words contain worlds of insight, compassion, gratitude and change.

They are the kernel of notes that keep coming to us in the aftermath of our book launch of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write last week.

These seven words capture the experience of the listener who penned them in gratitude and awe after hearing nine previously-incarcerated women read their words from the book.

These same words have been re-stated in endless variation by others who were similarly moved by what they heard.

And they capture the essence of heartfelt thanks from the women writer-readers themselves. Writing changes us. ALL of us. Read on…    Continue reading

book’s in hand

stack of booksCelebration time!

The first copies of Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write greeted me at the door when I arrived home from vacation.

What a gift to hold the words and voices of 60 of Vermont’s women prisoners and ex-offenders in my actual hands!

The front cover is more striking than the JPGs from publisher Orbis Books indicated, and the 12 inside color images of the women’s artwork provide soft and beautiful accents to the writings.

Order your copy now from Orbis Books or Amazon!  And if you’re in Burlington, Vermont on Thursday, Oct. 3rd, join us at 5:30 p.m. at Main Street Landing for the celebratory launch.

Here’s a snippet from the book’s introduction to whet your appetite:  Continue reading

prison break

typing hands

credit – answerknow

For three and a half years, Marybeth and I have held weekly writing circles inside Vermont’s sole women’s prison, without a break.  We have prided ourselves on keeping the program running essentially 50 weeks of the year.

This summer, we realized the downside of such dedication. Both of us have jobs, families, and schedules outside the prison walls. And, as ‘our’ writing women continue to be released into the community, we are spending additional hours working with them to help facilitate successful re-entry. When we announced our intention to take a few weeks off over the summer, the women were overwhelmingly supportive. Apparently dedication works both ways! Continue reading