Hear an interview with ACW on NCPR: “Surprised they have stories to tell, some older inmates not only started writing, they wrote a book”
Hear an interview with ACW on WAMC: #1676: Writings from incarcerated individuals | The Best Of Our Knowledge
In the spring/summer of 2022, with a grant from NYSCA and the support of the creative aging experts at Lifetime Arts Inc, we created a writing workshop program at Adirondack Correctional Facility, a state prison located in Raybrook, NY. After sixteen workshops, we asked the men in our classes to submit their favorite original poems, essays, and stories for a class anthology. I’m Telling You Now, Wherever You Are, is a testament to the fact that a person’s story does not end when they become incarcerated, nor does that person’s past cease to speak.
The anthology’s publication was celebrated on Tuesday, October 11th with a private reading at the prison.
“Hands-on arts engagement leads to positive health benefits for everyone—including older adults and the incarcerated. We applaud the essential work done with these communities by the Adirondack Center for Writing,” says Mara Manus, Executive Director of the New York State Council on the Arts. “Congratulations to everyone who contributed to this anthology. Thank you for sharing your hard work and creativity with us all.”
The anthology includes work by everyone who participated in the workshops. It was edited, laid-out, and designed by Tyler Barton, who also led the weekly workshops at Adirondack Correctional Facility. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group to be my first cohort of incarcerated students,” Barton says, “not only for their eagerness to share, to read, and to discuss, but also in their willingness to try off-beat and angular approaches to writing. We drafted pieces written entirely in questions, made erasure poems from issues of Adirondack Life, penned haikus, told stories both true and fictional (some of which even rhyme). Many of them had not written before, and the ones who had were just as open to trying things completely new to them. Even in my thirties, I find it hard to try new things, convinced I already know what I like in the world and what I don’t. My experience in this class has convinced me to never lose the ability to take a risk and try something new.”
ACW has been leading writing workshop at North Country prisons for over two decades. Our program at FCI Ray Brook is one of the country’s longest-running prison writing programs, and this new collaboration with Adirondack CF further shows our commitment to bringing writing, reading, and storytelling to places you might not expect to find them.
“Creative aging programming enables older adults to express their creativity and engage with joy,” says Nathan Majoros, director of programs at Lifetime Arts. “We commend Tyler Barton and the Adirondack Center for Writing for creating this experience for older adults who are incarcerated. This anthology is poignant, capturing the students’ diverse voices and writing styles and demonstrating the power of arts learning in any setting at any age. Lifetime Arts is honored to partner with the Adirondack Center for Writing, NYSCA, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies on this innovative project.”