Once again in July 2014, we have been fortunate to obtain private grant support to continue our work inside. As of this summer, we have expanded our facilitation team, as well as our offerings: weekly writing circles for the general population inside; a monthly opportunity for mentors to write with their still-incarcerated mentees; and a monthly outside writing group for previously-incarcerated writing women who wish to focus on creating a finished piece of work. Each writer is invited to contribute her work to four quarterly anthologies; and those still inside read twice a year at a CRCF-hosted reading. Regular posts appear at writinginsideVT.com.
The September 2013 publication of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write, continues to garner interest in local readings and book group discussions.
For 2010 through 2012, 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.