The “Worst” Teacher Ever | Anna Plemons

At the prison where I am a guest TA, writing classes exist (for the moment) through two different administrative/funding streams – federally mandated mental health services and inmate self-help programs. Six months ago, Jim Carlson, the recreational therapist at CSP-Sac who is also my escort, suggested that we try to add a writing group for […]

Working in Impossible Places | Anna Plemons

This past March, I met with Spoon Jackson at the far end of the cellblock dining hall.  Jim Carlson, the artist facilitator turned recreational therapist (who established the Arts in Corrections program at CSP-Sac) had called-and-knocked his way up the chain of command to authorize the meeting.  I had been in the cellblock during a […]

The Brave Six | Spoon Jackson

Lockdown continues, going on six months now, so I don’t have my writing classes to teach. Fortunately, Professor Tom Kerr, who teaches writing at Ithaca College in New York, contacted me to do the Brave Six project with a new batch of young students at his school. Tom and I first orchestrated this essay/letter correspondence […]

Try and Try to Try Again: What Good Writing Teachers Do | Emma Bolden

When I studied at a fine arts high school, our creative writing teacher, Mrs. Trimm, burst into the classroom one Monday, triumphant: she had knocked down the barrier which kept her from finishing her novel.  That Saturday, she woke to the usual stream of what ifs and false starts, of doubts and disagreements, of urges […]

Five Ws and an H: An Exercise to Help Students Explore Their Identities as Writers | Emma Bolden

WHAT: The journalist’s six cornerstone questions.  An idea I had one day: what if those questions were flipped inward and then outward?  What if I had my students ask themselves how those six questions relate to their lives as writers?  An exercise.  An inquiry.  A way for students to explore who they are as artists.  […]

Moving Past Hostile Classes | Spoon Jackson

In 1988, after I performed Pozzo in Waiting for Godot before international audiences at San Quentin State Prison, my confidence and belief in myself as a poet, artist and human being rose and flowed with inspiration like a thawing creek in spring.  I wanted to share openly and freely whatever gifts I have as an […]

Burning the Box: A Teacher Does Her Homework I Emma Bolden

Where are you going, where have you been: though they’re widely known as the title of a harrowing short story by Joyce Carol Oates, those eight words describe exactly what I want my students to think about in their last assignment for my class, the self-reflection: where they have been as writers and where they […]