Indiana Prison Writers Workshop extends the state’s vibrant literary community to correctional facilities and prisons.
The workshop gives offenders a foundation in creative writing through the use of weekly writing prompts based on literature read and discussed in class. We write about race, poverty, social integration, the frailty of mind and body, vulnerability through trauma, victimization, mental illness, and drug and alcohol addiction. We write cover letters and offer frequent grammar tests to measure program progress and build success.
We discuss and analyze published works from various genres as well as the stories that are written by workshop students. As part of students’ homework, working drafts of new stories will be brought to class to share and submit for instructor feedback. Instructors will consider grammar and spelling during their review in order to improve students’ basic writing skills as well.
Students’ drafts are read in class, and classmates will offer instructor-led critiques and reactions to each piece. As writers, they get a chance to hear their stories the way others hear it; this feedback is invaluable for revision. As listeners and readers, students learn how to articulate what is working or not working in another student’s draft, which will also enhance their ability to review their own work. Upon successful completion of the workshop, students will have a portfolio of revised stories.
Other components of the workshop may include visiting writers, published anthologies of students’ writing, or submitting student work for publishing as appropriate. Guest writers will offer expertise in specific genres, such as fiction, screenplay writing, etc.
Enhanced writing skills lead to better employment options and opportunities to thrive. So, in a sense we’re working to improve the financial stability of families in our community and give them a foundation and a path for a better and brighter future. Expression and critical thinking allows for new possibilities, new ways of thinking.