These Walls Can Talk, APBP’s publishing wing, is committed to providing a forum for currently incarcerated people to share their creative work as a means of expression and an avenue for sparking dialogue about issues that are often overlooked by the larger society. By sharing voices from the inside with the outside, we aim to expand our community’s understanding of how education inside prisons can benefit not just the individual, but society as a whole. Ultimately, we hope this dialogue will help people on both sides can come together to effect change.
In the past two years, we have produced two anthologies of creative works from book club members and two issues of a creative writing magazine featuring the work of currently incarcerated people.
In February 2019, These Walls Can Talk received was awarded the Barrelhouse Amplifier Award, which will enable us to distribute print copies of these works to a wider audience. Barrelhouse says, “We chose the Appalachian Prison Book Project because we admired their timely and important mission and their commitment to sustainable growth and financial stewardship.”
Holding onto Sand
Holding onto Sand contains writing by men in one of APBP’s prison book clubs. For two years, beginning in June of 2016, Yvonne Hammond, Alex Kessler, Elissa Momen, and Valerie Surrett facilitated this reading and writing group that met inside a men’s medium security prison.
The men in our group are dedicated readers and powerful thinkers, and together we moved through an impressive list of literature. We also dedicated time to writing workshops and worked one on one with writers in our group. From day one, one of our group’s goals was to create a collection that would showcase the talent of our individual members while also documenting our time together as a group.
We are immensely proud of this collection, and we are honored to have experienced the always wise, often poignant, and refreshingly funny words of our dear friends.
Women of Wisdom
Women of Wisdom showcases the extraordinary vision, intelligence, and determination of the women’s prison book club. Initiated by WVU English professors Katy Ryan, Cari Carpenter, and Elizabeth Juckett, the book club began in October 2014 and continues to meet every other week. In December 2017, the women created their first collection of original writing and artwork. Many thanks to WVU graduate students Katie Vogelpohl and Beth Staley for editing the collection.
Conversations Through the Fence
The creative writing magazine Conversations Through the Fence strives to create and foster worldly conversation and artistic expression through writing and visual art, and features prompt-oriented written work and visual art by inside men, including poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and artwork. To uphold the “conversation” part of the publication’s name, each inside writing/art piece receives a response from an outside reader. Thus, conversations “through the fence” take place.
Conversations Through the Fence grew out of an Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program literature class, led by Katy Ryan in fall 2017, with 15 incarcerated students and 15 West Virginia University undergraduates.