“SpeakOut!” Have You Heard of It?

How would you like to go here every week?


I spend every Wednesday evening in jail, and it is awesome!

So I have this internship with the SpeakOut! Writing Workshops/Journal/CLC (Community Learning Center) as a part of Americorps, and it rocks. Honestly, I never thought I could enjoy something in my life this much!  The CLC goes into the Larimer County Detention Center and facilitates poetry workshops for the incarcerated women and men, as well as Turning Point girls and boys. I work with the incarcerated women at LCDC (and they are amazing). So basically every week I create a lesson plan (great practice for teaching) and lead the workshop as a fellow writer – not as a teacher. This workshop is specifically not conducted as a class, and that creates a whole different and more relaxed vibe. The women are very receptive to the prompts and activities they are presented with. We scribble our pens and share our work out loud and have a great time. One thing that surprised me is how much the women love to read out loud. We’ll bring in a lesson plan with author bios and we are never short of volunteers to read. This text is new to them so they are eager to soak it up.

But wait! There’s more!

At the end of our workshop’s semester we publish the writer’s work in a SpeakOut! Journal. It is some of the most powerful, emotionally stimulating work I have ever written. And being exposed to this journal is what got me involved. During our last session we will have a poetry reading at the jail – with pizza and candy and new pens and paper – all things that inmates don’t get to enjoy in jail.

The work that these writers bring to the sessions is often really intense. This general public isn’t normally exposed to “prison narrative” or the like. The writing is raw and emotionally charged, to say the least, and deal with topics such as death (murder, suicide), betrayal, rejection, loss (of children) and unfair treatment as inmates. Pretty hefty stuff. The closest thing I’ve ever read that would only slightly compare to this poetry is Emily Dickinson.

This week marks our 3th week of writing workshops, and come Tuesdays, I am bouncing out of my seat ready to go into the jail with lesson plan in hand!

I sincerely hope that my infoblog about writing workshops in jail has entertained you. Keep an eye out for a free publication! In January we will be dropping journals off at the Fort Collins libraries and local coffee shops.

It’ll look something like this:


About Emma Steward

Coloradoan, yogi, future educator, vegetarian, nature lover, fine wine connoisseur of fine wines (Five truths and lie, or is it two...)

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