This Program Gives Incarcerated People 30 Days To Write A Novel

Hand writing in notebook
Zain Murdock
April 19, 2021

Last November, a “misfit” group of incarcerated writers committed to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Armed with their imaginations, they each promised to finish a novel in only 30 days! But why?

Peer facilitator Derek Trumbo described his experience like this: “Purpose doesn’t come easy in the prison industrial complex … NaNoWriMo’s challenge offered a way through the haze of prison life … and daily strife. It offered an outlet.”

Writing during a global pandemic with a hard deadline, and in prison, is a lot. But, they stepped up to the challenge. They discovered that there’s a sense of radical joy that comes with finding a creative purpose. It’s a way to reclaim their humanity.

Yes, writing a novel won’t release incarcerated people from prison, or dismantle the prison industrial complex. That's something we have to tackle with them. But, it's worth it to support programs that allow incarcerated people to express themselves through restorative outlets. This system is trying to break them – so, don't they deserve that much?

Despite these restrictions, many described writing as an escape – from a world that wants them imprisoned forever or dead. So, they committed to tell their stories. And if we’re going to work to challenge this “justice” system, we need to listen to the stories of the people affected by it most!

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