Publishing the work of currently and formerly incarcerated writers

Writers who are prison inmates seem particularly isolated from potential mentors and writing peer groups. Very few publishers specialize in their stories. Writing workshops for inmates offer education and inspiration, but the participants are bound to have a difficult time finding additional outlets for their creative work.

These are a few of the organizations that provide publication resources to, or publish the work of, currently and formerly incarcerated writers. Maybe prison workshop instructors will share this list or consider founding a new publication.

I’ll add to this list when I notice more in this niche. Please feel free to leave a comment about any publication I’ve overlooked.

Successful writers learn to conduct their own research and manage their careers, while novice writers often miss the practical lessons and remain stymied. Joining a good writers’ group is one of the best ways to get answers and advice about how to be published.

2 thoughts on “Publishing the work of currently and formerly incarcerated writers

  1. Robin Mizell Post author

    How to sum that up in a comment…

    A good group is one that serves the particular needs of the person who joins, so the characteristics of an effective one will differ depending on what the writer requires.

    I tried joining a couple of groups that met in person during the years when I was freelancing as a writer and copyeditor. One group, which brought in expert speakers, was helpful initially, until I felt I’d “graduated.” The other group was established to sustain friendships, although I wasn’t aware of its nature when I was invited to join. Its members vocally discouraged any discussion of publishing or writing, although all of them were writers and awfully lovely people.

    Ultimately, I learned the most from my friend and mentor David Sanders. I believe he’d agree that a lot of my learning took the form of me arguing (in favor of) the transformations that were taking place in book publishing. When I met David, he didn’t have a computer at home, so I like to think I influenced him as well. (Maybe I fancy that in order to avoid feeling indebted. What can I say?)

    Citing my experience won’t help you or anyone else, though. I can offer a few principles, but applying them IRL isn’t easy.

    1. If your goal is to become a better writer, then learn from writers who are more talented, or at least more successful, than you.
    2. Separate business from friendship somehow. Don’t expect or insist that a learning experience be nothing but fun, and don’t believe that a group existing purely for social interaction and affirmation will help you learn anything. They’re two different animals.
    3. Don’t assume the perfect writers’ group or critique partners must live near you. You can try to locate other writers whose skill level is similar to yours by searching a social network like Meetup, Goodreads, or Facebook, and you can check into the online critique groups I listed here.

    One kind of writers’ group coalesces because its members are like-minded and similarly motivated and skilled. Another succeeds because one person acts as an instructor or coach for the others—or, lacking the ability to teach them, brings effective speakers to them. I’m not sure which type of group you’ve envisioned. They’re different but complementary.

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