The Sentences That Create Us: Crafting a Writer's Life in Prison

The Sentences That Create Us: Crafting a Writer's Life in Prison

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"This is one of the best books on writing that I've ever read. I couldn't put it down."

--Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow


The Sentences That Create Us provides a road map for incarcerated people and their allies to have a thriving writing life behind bars--and shared beyond the walls--that draws on the unique insights of more than fifty contributors, most themselves justice-involved, to offer advice, inspiration and resources.


The Sentences That Create Us draws from the unique insights of over fifty justice-involved contributors and their allies to offer inspiration and resources for creating a literary life in prison. Centering in the philosophy that writers in prison can be as vibrant and capable as writers on the outside, and have much to offer readers everywhere, The Sentences That Create Us aims to propel writers in prison to launch their work into the world beyond the walls, while also embracing and supporting the creative community within the walls.


The Sentences That Create Us is a comprehensive resource writers can grow with, beginning with the foundations of creative writing. A roster of impressive contributors including Reginald Dwayne Betts (Felon: Poems), Mitchell S. Jackson (Survival Math), Wilbert Rideau (In the Place of Justice) and Piper Kerman (Orange is the New Black), among many others, address working within and around the severe institutional, emotional, psychological and physical limitations of writing prison through compelling first-person narratives. The book's authors offer pragmatic advice on editing techniques, pathways to publication, writing routines, launching incarcerated-run prison publications and writing groups, lesson plans from prison educators and next-step resources.


Threaded throughout the book is the running theme of addressing lived trauma in writing, and writing's capacity to support an authentic healing journey centered in accountability and restoration. While written towards people in the justice system, this book can serve anyone seeking hard won lessons and inspiration for their own creative--and human--journey.


The Sentences That Create Us includes contributions from Alexa Alemanni; Raquel Almazan; Ellen Bass; Reginald Dwayne Betts; Keri Blakinger; Jennifer Bowen; Zeke Caligiuri; Sterling Cunio; Chris Daley; Curtis Dawkins; Emile DeWeaver; Casey Donahue; Ryan Gattis; Eli Hager; Ashley Hamilton, PhD; Kenneth Hartman; Elizabeth Hawes; Randall Horton; Spoon Jackson; Mitchell S. Jackson; Nicole Shawan Junior; Yukari Iwatani Kane, Shaheen Pasha, and Kate McQueen of The Prison Journalism Project; Piper Kerman; Lauren Kessler; Johnny Kovatch; Doran Larson; Victoria Law; Jaeah Lee; John J. Lennon; Arthur Longworth; T Kira Mahealani Madden; J. D. Mathes; Justin Rovillos Monson; Lateef Mtima, JD; Vivian D. Nixon; Patrick O'Neil; Liza Jessie Peterson; Wilbert Rideau; Alejo Rodriguez; Luis J. Rodriguez; Susan Rosenberg; Geraldine Sealey; Sarah Shourd; Sarah Shourd; Anderson Smith, PhD; Derek R. Trumbo Sr.; Louise K. WaaKaa'igan; Andy Warner; Thomas Bartlett Whitaker; John R. Whitman, PhD; Saint James Harris Wood; Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor of Ear Hustle; and Jeffery L. Young.


Author: Caits Meissner, Pen America
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Published: 01/11/2022
Pages: 339
Binding Type: Paperback
Weight: 1.00lbs
Size: 8.40h x 5.40w x 1.00d
ISBN: 9781642595802

Review Citation(s):
Publishers Weekly 02/14/2022

About the Author

Caits Meissner is the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016). Her latest projects include the DIY comix poetry zine Pep Talks for Broke(n) People and a comix vignette series, New York Strange, publishing monthly in Hobart journal throughout 2020. She currently is the inaugural Palette Poetry Second Book Fellow and spends her days as Director of Prison and Justice Writing at PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Founded in 1922, PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network. PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. Our strength is our Membership--a nationwide community of more than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America's mission.