So I signed up for a class the other week that our friend Chris, another inmate contributor took, and it’s called: Creative Writing.
It’s something I would have never previously signed up for and after the first day was finished, I am thankful I did.
The class is taught by a published author, Dr. Jim Reese, who is a professor at a nearby college that also devotes his time and offers courses here in prison, and he recently had a book come out called Bone Chalk. He did a few readings out of the book that gave me both a look into his life as well as an idea of his writing style.
He has been going to various prisons for over 12 years now. I believe Yankton is the only prison where he has actually taught the creative writing class. I have heard about it since 2015 when I first arrived, but it never even crossed my mind for a second to sign up. I guess I was always “too busy.” Between working, working out, and watching TV there was always something more important going on. I certainly never thought about being a writer or the additional benefits that come from it. Until I started writing on c2s, and thanks to all of your encouragement of taking it further.
On day one, I learned about the benefits of having an agent, and why some people choose to hire one or to do it on their own. Also, why it’s important to have the right agent for the right genre. He also discussed publications and printing, from both Bone Chalk and 4 p.m. Count, a publication they do for each class. I hope to have multiple stories picked for the book, Chris had five, one of those being, The Gifted Table. I intend to take a stab at fiction and possibly even poetry to go along with my non-fiction stories that I have already been working on.
At the end of day one, he sent us home with a book called, Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to find the courage to tell your stories by Maria Mazziotti Gillan (which I will have a review for you as soon as I finish it).
Mr. Reese talked about people taking the class for different reasons…obtaining computer access, trying to learn about writing, or trying to tell their story.
Whatever the reason is he asked us to give the class a chance to be something more.
With the way he said it I guessed he has had many students take his class for reasons other then what it’s intended for, to become something better.
I didn’t really know what he meant but before the class was even over a fellow inmate told me that I have to unplug from the class if I wanted to learn anything because he wasn’t going to teach me anything.
It’s safe to assume this was one of those individuals. I told this fellow inmate after day one I had already learned a ton and couldn’t wait for next week’s class. I learned years ago that advice is not the most sought after knowledge in here.
We did writing exercises, three of them to be exact, and they came sporadically throughout the three and a half hour class. In the first exercise, he simply said, “How to…” and asked us to describe how to do a task, simple or complex.
“Just write,” he said.
I panicked for a second because I couldn’t think of anything I was good at or worth talking about.
I thought about painting for a second and realized how boring that would be, and then I realized something I am good at and I called it “How to…spit out the silver spoon.”
I talked about being raised with a silver spoon in my mouth, so to speak, and how I pissed away every opportunity passed my way.
Nobody ever asked me…?
The second exercise started about thirty minutes later after some discussions occurred, and this exercise was, “nobody ever asked me…”
How I felt.
Is what came to my thoughts within seconds.
And after a few minutes, I had over 500 words about dealing with emotions on my own throughout my life.
It hurt to read the things on the page that I had just written after he called for us to stop, but I felt better for it.
Growing up in your hometown…?
The last exercise was, growing up in my town, down my road, and what it meant…
And I went on about Roseau, MN (my hometown) and the differences between the two perspectives about my hometown that I had: when I left for college and when I came back after being federally indicted.
I talked about my new respect for my hometown, the people and the community. I talked in depth about how I was embraced, accepted and those that got behind me, one of their own disgraced alumni. Maybe these will turn into something I will eventually share on the blog because these individuals are the ones that made reform out of me… only time will tell.
I can’t wait for next week, next class and to see what Mr. Reese will teach us next!
Thanks for listening!