Your minor contribution is a thank you to prison educators.
I exchanged letters with each of the instructors and prison educators I encountered during my incarceration. As I was transferred from facility to facility, their words of encouragement were invaluable. They made me feel like I mattered, which is funny coming from a spoiled young adult.
The fact that they didn’t let go of the rope or forget what they saw in me has a lot to do with why I never re-offended; instead, I applied myself. Each teacher encouraged me differently, but they all said, “Never say no to a writing class.”
Investing in myself wasn’t something I grasped too well back then, so I took a variety of courses for no reason other than I thought I owed it to those instructors. They’d helped me discover a voice, which I used to make others laugh. But since my audience was mostly an inmate one (i.e. both captive and desperate for humor), I was steered toward disciplining my gift instead, which was freeing. Before then, I’d only ever viewed the concept of discipline in terms of religious and scholastic compliance. Suddenly it was no longer something you got subjected to, but a sharpening tool you could wield.
Some inmates laugh pretty easily. Most don’t ’til you get to know ’em. I certainly didn’t know how to communicate with these assholes, I thought, until one day I realized a few were letting me say things others wouldn’t dare to. So I wanted to get better at it. I wanted to win ’em all over, not just the droolers. It was pretty egotistical, but that was the least of my arrogance back then.
I disguised the scribbled pages of my prison journal as legal correspondence, which by some miracle no one ever touched. Not one person ever picked up a page and read what I really thought of them, or how afraid I was and how hateful of their rules.
When I showed some of these pages to my teachers, though, it wasn’t the humor that they were interested in. Naturally, I found this insulting. Yet as any somewhat patient writer will tell you, snark is great, but it’s mere instant gratification. My instructors knew there was more to the story, even if I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. These “first responders of rehabilitation,” as I like to call ’em, explained that discipline was the way up and out. Listening to them was the smartest thing I ever did.
Where Excuses Go to Die is an expression of gratitude for their guidance. I’d never followed through on anything before I met those men and women, so although it’s taken me many years to do it, I’m damn well going to follow though on bringing this story to the public.
With your help, Where Excuses Go to Die can earn its way into the national dialogue on prison reform. And we can find out how people will react to depictions of life behind bars that are unlike the cliches they know. The environment may be familiar, after all, though the story is anything but.
Now, sitting in front of a camera and speaking to the public is no easy thing. But I promise you, my Kickstarter video does a much better job of explaining my mission than this blog entry. So please take a look and consider joining us. Just sharing the Kickstarter link is also extremely helpful.
Whether you decide to help me stand up to the media’s definition of prison and prisoners or you simply forward the link, many thanks.