changes in the air



(left to right) Sarah W. Bartlett and Marybeth Christie Redmond, co-founders, writing inside VT.

On July 1, writing inside VT enters its fifth year of writing toward self-change and healthy community with Vermont’s incarcerated women!

This seems like an appropriate time to announce that I, Marybeth, will be stepping down from the program, and Sarah will continue on as director, creative force, and facilitator extraordinaire! I am deeply grateful for her willingness to keep the program running and energized.

In addition to writing-inside responsibilities, I’ve been working full-time as marketing/communications director for Vermont Works for Women during the past year.

(It’s a Winooski-based nonprofit organization that supports women in their work-lives and helps them move toward economic independence. Many of our former writers pass through VWW doors, working hard on their successful reentries – so I get to see them and reconnect. Lucky me!)

My expanding work responsibilities, coupled with an active 12-year-old son, have led to the bittersweet reality that “something’s gotta give.” And the desire for more balance and space in my life seems to be the siren call.

Alongside Sarah, I will remain co-founder of the writing inside VT program and continue to promote and speak about our book, Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write. But my regular duties facilitating groups and co-directing the program will come to end – at least for now.

Do not surprised to see me at future Read-Around events in the prison facility (I’ve requested a standing invitation) or on the book tour circuit with Sarah. We’ve got one in the works for Montpelier soon.

And to all of the women writers – both inside and outside – who have shared their stories and lives with me over five years:

THANK YOU for blessing my life story with yours. The tender fragments of your hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, clarities and confusions – have enriched my life and helped me to become a deeper listener, a more compassionate presence, and an honest writer. You live in my heart, for always. I mean that.


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

deep peace to you…

writing inside VT is in the midst of a summer hiatus while Sarah and I take a much-needed break, as well as tweak our prison writing program with the women of Chittenden Correctional Facility for the coming year.

Women-Behind-Bars Courtesy of Photobucket

Courtesy of Photobucket

Though we are not conducting writing circles for a few weeks, we continue to receive status updates on the incarcerated women we have written with for months and years.

Those email updates come from the facility weekly, and we read each and every one.

That communication is entitled “Upcoming Inmate Releases,” and it usually reads something like this:

“8/6 to Tapestry (substance abuse facility in Brattleboro), or 8/9 to Northern Lights (transitional housing facility in Burlington), or 8/10 maxed out (free to go home, wherever home is).” Continue reading

layers of loss

For a woman in prison, the layers of loss over a lifetime are thick and plentiful.

layers of loss

Layers of Nature
by imageseekertoo

The stories I hear in the writing circle convince me that nearly all incarcerated women have experienced not just one, but several traumatic losses as children or teens.

These usually include: loss of a beloved family member who held their world together, or the loss of physical safety, or the loss of innocence.

Almost universally, this intensive loss remains unresolved in heart and mind, and rears its ugly head at some later date.

Drug use occurs as a way to mask the erupting feelings.  And criminal activity begins as a way to fund the drug habit, or to survive, or to keep a dysfunctional male relationship intact.

This week, we used former U.S. poet-laureate Stanley Kunitz’s The Layers as our muse.  Continue reading