AS OF JULY 1, 2012, we have been fortunate to obtain private grant support to continue our work inside, which has expanded to two weekly circles, two semi-annual readings, four quarterly anthologies and a request for book proposal by a small independent publishing house. Regular posts appear at writinginsideVT.com.
This year in addition to publishing HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write (Orbis Books, Maryknoll NY; release 9/13), we will be running two monthly groups to continue the community-building through writing which is the hallmark of our work both inside and out. We will be writing with mentor/mentee pairs that have been assigned while women are still inside; and to help them transition back to their communities within Chittenden County once they are released.
For the two previous years, we were honored by grant support from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Our program was featured in VAC’s 2012 Annual Report as an example of an important arts program for an underserved population. For the first grant year our focus was on integrating visual art with the writing; for the second, more on getting the women’s words out into the wider world.
The challenges of this work are many, as are the rewards. Perhaps the most difficult is ongoing population shift: individual situations can change within moments due to transitions between units; or, least predictable of all, the mood of the day can alter a woman’s interest in attending, even when she feels strongly that this opportunity is the best thing going on for her inside. However, as the writings we post clearly show, women are hungry for the opportunity to share their stories, listen, be heard, and dig deep within for the resources to bring true change to their lives.