Project: An anthology of writing by artists who lead/teach (or previously led/taught) arts workshops inside correctional facilities. I seek submissions to construct a book proposal for publication.
Submission Guidelines + Instructions: Writing must be inspired by your prison work. It does not need to be directly connected to a specific event, experience, or person. Please indicate where names/identifying information has been changed.
Writing may be fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry, experimental, non-traditional, un-categorizable.
You may submit as many pieces as you like (though not all are guaranteed inclusion in the anthology)
No length restrictions
Previously published material is acceptable, though un-published is preferred
Submissions accepted now through September 15, 2015
About: My name is Leigh Sugar. I previously edited the Annual Anthology of Michigan Prisoner Creative Writing and facilitated creative writing workshops inside Michigan state prisons (both through the Prison Creative Arts Project). I have seen anthologies of writing by inmates, but never a collection of writing by the artists who facilitate or teach writing behind bars. My motivation to embark on this project stems from reflecting on how heavily my own writing has been influenced by my experience going inside prison, and not feeling like I have an outlet or a means by which to share that writing. I know I have this writing based on my time inside, so I know others must as well. It is critical that we strengthen our connections to each other and find ways to share our experiences and writing so we can expand the reach of the creative work that is generated in connection to the criminal justice system. I feel a real artistic resonance with other writers who bring their craft to prison and am committed to creating an entire collection of our writing. No contract yet exists for this volume; accepted abstracts will be organized into a book proposal, which I will then submit to publishers.
Transforming Grief is rooted in the belief that the most potent stories—the ones most capable of informing critical shifts—are those that emerge from our hearts and lives, our learning and intervulnerability. This anthology will bring together writers from a variety of perspectives striving to unearth the transformative value of grief as an individual and collective experience through creative nonfiction.
The works in this collection will include compelling narratives and strong arguments that embody a deep exploration of ideas and themes, using concrete, lived personal and/or communal engagements with a spectrum of losses to illuminate larger questions about the sociopolitical forces at play in the world and our lives. As a body of writing and thinking, this compendium will also look at the ways in which grief is a natural response to present-day social systems, and can be mobilized to generate prefigurative experimentation in self-organization while reclaiming our imagination and humanity.
Denney Juvenile Justice Center Poetry Workshop founder and facilitator Mindy Hardwick writes,
In 2005, I volunteered to facilitate a poetry workshop with youth at Denney Juvenile Justice Center, located in Everett, Washington. Each week, I meet with a group of young men and a group of young ladies and we write poems which are based on the young people’s experience. As a part of the poetry workshop, we’ve published four books of the youth’s poetry. The poetry books are distributed, free of charge, to the youth themselves, as well as to others in the community. The youth always ask, “When is the next poetry book coming out? Is my poem in it?” The poetry workshop gives the teens an opportunity to express their stories and to be heard in their community. We are thrilled to have our new blog as a means for publishing the youth’s poetry, and hope the blog gives the teen writers another opportunity for their words to be heard.
Each Wednesday, one of the youth’s poems is published on the blog, and Hardwick blogs about the writing process for that particular poem on her personal blog. Here is the most recent excerpt from Hardwick’s blog, which is a fantastic resource for facilitators:
In the Eyes Of…
We have a new post on the Denney Poetry Blog. The poem, “In the Eyes of My Mother,” was first published in our second book of poetry, I Am From.
One of the poetry books I like to use with the teens in the detention center poetry workshop is, You Hear Me: Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys, edited by Betsy Franco. The collection includes poems, stories, and essays from boys across the country. Sometimes there can be a misconception that boys don’t talk about feelings, and what I’ve found working in the poetry workshop, is that boys can and do express their emotions. Very well!
In the collection, You Hear Me, there is a poem which is entitled, What I Am (In the Eyes of My Father). When I work with the teens at Denney, we read this poem, and then I ask them to think of someone important in their life. It could be a parent, teacher, best friend, girlfriend, or sibling. Or, it could be something larger such as a community, society, or world. I ask the question, who are you in the eyes of that person?
The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) presents the presents the Sixteenth Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Running from March 22 – April 6, 2011, the show will be held at the Duderstadt Center Gallery on the University of Michigan North Campus at 2281 Bonisteel Boulevard. Over the past 16 years, this nationally recognized show has grown to be the largest exhibition of prisoner art in the country. This year’s exhibition will include more than 300 works of art by over 200 artists, shedding light on the talents to be found behind prison walls and encouraging the public to take a second look.
Free and open to the public, the exhibition and surrounding educational events raise awareness and inspire dialogue between the incarcerated and the community at large. The public is invited to an opening reception on March 22nd from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in the gallery. Formerly incarcerated artists who have now re-entered into the community will speak about what the show means to those in prison.
Participating artists express gratitude to organizers and gallery visitors alike, stressing the show’s impact on their lives and the community at large. “I believe that your program gives the public a glimpse into the type of things that inspire even the most downtrodden of us all” writes one artist. “When people see our work, for a few moments, they forget that this work was done by a felon, but by another human being. A human being who has the same thoughts, emotions, and inspirations as they do, and for that one moment, a major social and political barrier is shattered.”
Despite limited resources, exhibition artists create work in a rich range of styles, mediums, and themes. Visitors return to the show year after year to glimpse art that is remarkable for its originality, beauty, and sheer expressive power. Last year, over 4,000 people came to the exhibit. Organizers expect even higher attendance this year and an exciting array of new work.
This year’s exhibition, curated by Professors Buzz Alexander, Janie Paul, and Jason Wright, exhibits work from over thirty prisons throughout the state. The curators, PCAP Administrators La Shaun phoenix Moore, and Sari Adelson, along with various volunteers travel to these prisons to hand select the strongest work from the artists. As a result of this annual event, the amount of art created in Michigan prisons has increased dramatically, and Michigan prison artists have become national leaders, inspiring others to create art behind bars.
The exhibition is to be accompanied by the release of the 3rd Annual Literary Review of Creative Writing by Michigan Prisoners. Readings of works from the publication by formerly incarcerated individuals are set to take place both in Ann Arbor and in the Detroit area, and youth from Detroit will join us for a dialog about what’s on their minds, as they speak about their lives and their communities.
Schedule of Events
Tuesday, March 22 Opening Reception
Join the Prison Creative Arts Project as we celebrate the opening of the 16th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Formerly incarcerated artists, and Curators Buzz Alexander, Janie Paul, and Jason Wright, will address visitors to the gallery at 6:15 p.m. Free and open to the public.
5:30-8:00 PM, Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor MI
Thursday, March 24 Keynote Address- Kathy Boudin
Join the Prison Creative Arts Project, join us as Kathy Boudin, Professor at Columbia University, delivers a keynote speech addressing the history of mass incarceration, the current incarceration crisis in the United States, and the directions that need to be taken to make a difference in a talk entitled, “Women and Men; Overcoming Dehumanization, Becoming Agents of Change”.
7:30-9:00 PM, Vandenberg Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University, Ann Arbor, MI
Saturday, March 26 Film Screening: All-Day
All-Day is a 3-D animation/experimental documentary video project, made in collaboration with Justin Gibson, who in 2000 was convicted of the murder of his grandmother and was sentenced to life at a Michigan State Correctional Facility. The project aims to tell his fictional interpretation of the story of his crime and ensuing incarceration.
3:00-5:00 PM, Room 3222 Angell Hall, 435 S. State Street, Ann Arbor MI
Sunday, March 27 Artist Panel
Join us as a panel of formerly incarcerated artists discuss works in this year’s show and the process of creating art behind bars. The event is moderated by U of M’s School of Art and Design Professor, Janie Paul.
3:00-5:00 PM Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor MI
Tuesday, March 29 Michigan Forecast: The New State Regime
Join us for a panel discussion about the challenges facing the Michigan Department of Corrections’ with a new governor and Republican officials in office. Panelists will include a representative from the American Friends Service Committee, a U of M Professor and two U of M graduate students.
7:30-9:00 PM, Michigan Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University, Ann Arbor, MI
Thursday, March 31 Families of the Incarcerated Panel – What Family and Home Really Mean
Join the Prison Creative Arts Project along with a panel returning citizens and family members of incarcerated artists discuss the transition of being home after being inside, the differences between prison families and their families at home and the idea of family reunification in this powerful event.
7:30-9:00 PM, Vandenberg Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University, Ann Arbor, MI
Monday, April 4 Anthology of Creative Writing by Michigan Prisoners Release Celebration
This anthology, titled I’ve Somehow Swallowed the Night, showcases poetry, short stories, and essays from extraordinary prison writers across the state of Michigan. At the celebration, we will have the honor of hearing many of the pieces featured in the book read by either the artists themselves or their families. We will have the opportunity to celebrate the phenomenal writing as well as our community of artists on the inside and out. The event is free and open to all. 7-9 pm, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium, 525 South State Street Ann Arbor, MI
Wednesday, April 6 Closing Reception
5:30 – 8:00 PM, Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor MI
Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, and 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday – Monday.
Meg Sweeney, Associate Professor of English and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, has authored a new book! Reading Is My Window is about incarcerated women’s reading practices. The book is available from the University of North Carolina Press.
Author Meg Sweeney writes to the Prison Arts Coalition about her book:
Drawing on extensive individual interviews and group discussions with ninety-four women imprisoned in Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, Reading Is My Window explores how women prisoners use the limited reading materials available to them to come to terms with their pasts, negotiate their present challenges, and reach toward different futures. The book offers the first analysis of incarcerated women’s reading practices, and it foregrounds the voices and experiences of African American women, one of the fastest growing yet least acknowledged populations in U.S. prisons.
Reading Is My Window situates contemporary prisoners’ reading practices in relation to the history of reading and education in U.S. penal contexts, explores the material dimensions of women’s reading practices, and analyzes the modes of reading that women adopt when engaging with three highly popular genres (narratives of victimization, African American urban fiction, and self-help and inspirational books). The book also discusses the many kinds of encounters fostered by book discussions in prisons, and it offers detailed portraits of two imprisoned readers, each of which weaves together the woman’s life narrative and her own description of her reading practices.