Updates (as of 2/15/2017)

February 2017 Update

When I launched this project I set an unrealistic timeline for myself. I do not know when it will be finished. I can tell you the next stages in the process:

  • Some contributors have already received suggested edits. For those who have not, you can expect to hear from me in the next few months.
  • Once I have heard back from everyone about edits, I will organize the manuscript.
  • At this point I will send the collection to the Forward and Afterword writers. I will give them a fair amount of time to craft their pieces.

I just returned from AWP in Washington D.C. While there, in addition to attending some amazing readings (especially one by Aracelis Girmay, Danez Smith, and Tim Seibles – I can’t recommend these writers enough), I connected with a couple presses that expressed interest in the project. I will pursue them once the manuscript is ready.

And a personal update: In the fall I moved from Seattle to New York to pursue an MFA in poetry at NYU. I finally feel like I’m setting in, so if you live in the area/are ever in the city, please reach out! I’m suffering an embarrassment of riches at this school, studying with some of my favorite writers. I’ve also received some guidance for this project, and for all this, I am grateful.

Thank you for your patience. Thank you for participating in this project. Thank you for your work.

Wishing you all health, energy, and sanity,

Leigh

 

January 2016 Update

Hello!

January 15th marked the end of the submissions period for the anthology project. I am not a skilled enough communicator to tell you all what an honor it has been to receive such an enthusiastic response to this call for submissions. The writing I’ve received for consideration far exceeds my expectations in quantity, quality, and rigor. So a thank you will have to suffice: Thank You.
 
No really, Thank You.
This project stemmed from a loneliness; a need to connect with others doing this work; a feeling that we might – we must – be stronger as a community rather than as disparate points in a loosely rendered constellation. I am so excited to embark on the next stage of this process and ultimately to be able to share with you a collection that can represent these connections. I hope that this anthology is just the start of our commitment to a community of collegiality, support, and friendship.
Ok Leigh, but what’s next?
 
Selections will be made within the next couple months. I will notify all submitters of final decisions. I am also in the process of completing a book proposal, and will keep you all informed on any developments. I have ideas about the cover art, forward writer, and other supplementary material for the book that I can’t wait to share with you all.
 
This is a learning curve for me, and I appreciate your patience as I navigate this phase.
______
A personal interlude:
I completed my MFA applications last week. When chatting with a friend who had been through the grad school application process, I exclaimed: Isn’t it such a relief once everything is submitted?! and she responded, Well, no, Leigh. It was a relief when I got in.
Ah, well.
______
To close, a sentiment from Justin Monson, an incarcerated writer I correspond with. We met in a creative writing workshop I facilitated at a prison in Jackson, Michigan, and continued to write letters and exchange creative work after the workshop ended:


It’s hard to crawl out of this fucking knowledge hole while simultaneously digging. 

So, to fellow diggers, fellow writers and artists who refuse to submit to the knowledge-hole: thank you again, with everything that I am.
Always,
Leigh

August 2015 Update

Hi again to fellow artists/teachers/humans:

This is the second update on the 2015 Corrections Writing Anthology. (Not sure what I’m talking about? More information here! Scroll down for the first update). You are on this list because we’ve been in touch about this project and I want to share with you new developments since we last connected. Please let me know if you prefer not to receive updates in the future.

  • The submissions deadline is now January 15, 2016. I have found myself in the best of dilemmas: the volume of interest and scope of the project have expanded beyond my initial estimations, and an extended submission deadline will support a higher quality book. As before, submissions forms may be found here.
  • For those of you who already submitted, I plan to evaluate all submissions after the deadline, so expect to hear back from me sometime in February 2016. Feel free to send additional or updated pieces until the submission deadline.
  • In June I attended the Arts in Corrections (AIC) Conference in San Francisco (hosted by Cal Lawyers for the Arts and the William James Association), where I met anthology contributors, colleagues, and some of my heroes of this field. For more information on the conference, go here.
  • An incredible innovation in creating opportunities for incarcerated artists: I learned about the Oregon State Penitentiary Hobby Shop at the AIC Conference from a former Corrections Officer and current Hobby Shop over-seer. The Hobby Shop provides eligible incarcerated crafters the space and time to work, and the artists sell their goods (leather-work, jewelry, visual art, and other items) in the shop as well as online. From the OSP Hobby Shop Website:

“The Oregon State Penitentiary Hobby Shop website is unlike other Hobby Shop websites because it focuses on the self-employment of its Crafters rather than making it an industry. The Oregon State Penitentiary Hobby Shop does not pay its Crafters a prevailing wage or charge a percentage of sales. The program solely targets the difficult task of providing valuable employment and work experience unique from all other prison work programs, and encourages growth and progression. Along with providing an incentive for positive behavior, the Hobby Shop program helps prepare prisoners for release and pave a path to making their goals and dreams possible.”

Learn more here.

  • Not a project-related update, but a more personal one: I am in the process of applying to graduate school in creative writing (poetry). I am interested in programs that will support my interest in arts in corrections – especially institutions that encourage student participation in existing prison education programs, as well as in programs that emphasize teaching. If you are familiar with any professors/teachers/programs that fit these criteria, please be in touch!
  • Feel free to send me information about other events/news/ideas developing in the arts in corrections world, and I will include links in future updates. Also, apologies for the repetition, but I still request your help in spreading the word about this call for submissions!
  • Finally, a quote and an image from Guillermo Willie, an artist/panelist at the Arts in Corrections Conference. Guillermo was incarcerated for many years, and shared this perspective on “arts programming” in prisons:

Guillermo Willie Art

“I started to question myself when I started to create. I wanted to be an artist. We think of art as separate… we need “art programs” because people don’t understand (art) is already a part of us.”    – Guillermo Willie

Thank you, and, peace.

Leigh


May 2015 Update

Hi fellow artist/teacher/human:

This is an update on the 2015 Corrections Writing Anthology. (Not sure what I’m talking about? More information here!) You are on this list because we’ve been in touch about this project and I want to share with you new developments since we last connected. Please let me know if you prefer not to receive updates in the future.

  • I slightly changed the language on the website and in the project announcement material. Instead of “inmate,” I now use the term “incarcerated people” or “people who are incarcerated.” Thank you to Vikki Law for bringing my attention to discussions and efforts encouraging more conscious use of this terminology. Links to some helpful articles are attached below, but here’s a cliffsnotes version:

The term “inmate” is dehumanizing, and supports the popular narrative that people in prison are no longer individual beings but are instead less than; this objectification makes it easier for those of us not burdened by direct involvement with the criminal justice system to think of “inmates” as deserving of the oppressive and inhumane treatment to which many in prison are often subject. While “inmate” is within the canon of official language used by mainstream media, the law, and the prison industrial complex, these are the very institutions that work to perpetuate the negative stereotypes projected onto people involved in the criminal justice system. Furthermore, continued use of the term undermines efforts by people affected by these institutions and systems and their allies to exercise agency over their image and sense of self.

I believe the words we use –and the way we use them – is powerful (otherwise I would not be interested in this anthology project!). It is my intention to be conscientious about my use of language throughout this project. Don’t hesitate to let me know if any other language/material I use is problematic – I’m here to learn.

More information on terminology:

  • I have so far received 30 unique submissions from 15 artists/writers from across the country and even Europe! I am honored to have opportunity to read these sometimes beautiful, sometimes intense, sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes humorous, and always complicated accounts of your experiences and stories. I already mentioned above my belief in the power of language, words, and stories to transform both individuals and communities; that is why I intend to continue to reach out to individuals and organizations who might be interested in submitting. I hope many more people feel compelled to participate. With that in mind, I am asking for your help! If anyone (or any group) comes to mind, please send me their contact information, or feel free to share with them the project website.
  • I have received many inquiries asking me if/how I will include writing by people currently in prison. I believe this perspective is hugely important, however I am still grappling with how best to include such writing while still keeping the collection focused. At this point, my answer is: if you know people inside who are currently teaching (or previously taught) arts workshops or classes to others who are also incarcerated and who you think might be interested in submitting, please send me their contact information.
    • Another idea is to include writing by individuals who participated (or currently participate) in arts programming during their incarceration. However, I am leaning away from this option because I worry this might create potential for an unintentional dichotomy between “non-incarcerated teacher who teaches their wisdom” and “incarcerated student who is changed by creativity,” when my belief is really that this division is illusory and artificial. If anyone has any ideas or thoughts, please chime in!
  • I was contacted by a publisher several weeks ago and am (slowly) working through a book proposal. I share this with excitement and trepidation: nothing is confirmed or guaranteed, but the opportunity affirms my intuitions that there is a real hunger and desire for this project. The timeline may be long, but please know how deeply I respect your initial interest in being a part of this process. I am committed to seeing it through to the end, while knowing this “end” does not – at this point – refer to a specific idea as to what the final product might look like.
  • I am registered for the first 3 days of the Arts in Corrections Conference in San Francisco! I would so love to connect with you if you plan to attend. Do contact me if you will be there. For more information: http://www.calawyersforthearts.org/event-1881906
  • I am looking for funding for this project. If you have any leads or advice, I’m all ears…
  • Some really awesome projects some of you have shared with me:
    • Tenacious: a zine with articles, essays, poetry, art, and more by formerly and currently incarcerated women
    • Episkeptirio – NGO Arsis: craft workshops and exhibitions by women incarcerated in Thiva, Greece
    • Freehold Theatre – Engaged Theatre Residencies: Five-month theatre residencies at three Washington Correctional facilities that allows participants to create and perform their own show
  • Feel free to send me information about other events/news/ideas developing in the arts in corrections world, and I will include links in future updates. Also, apologies for the repetition, but I request your help in spreading the word about this call for submissions.
  • Finally, thank you. Thank you for your art and for your work. My deepest gratitude to those of you who’ve shared your writing and to those who’ve offered support.

Peace,

Leigh

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