Leo Cardez was awarded 2nd Place in Nonfiction Memoir in the 2022 Prison Writing Contest.

Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population.


They are only made for special occasions. They are expensive (by inmate standards), time consuming, labor intensive, and require extensive planning and clean-up. They are very much worth it. The resulting symphony of flavors is both crispy and tender, sweet and savory, and subtle and bold. It is, in short, a dazzling masterpiece. May I introduce: Leo Meat Pie.

On Sunday morning, like clockwork, I wake up at seven—fifteen. While I use the bathroom and drink my morning coffee I am thinking about my meat pie. The temperature is supposed to push into the nineties by this afternoon and, therefore, not a day I would typically choose to cook in my tiny cell. See, prison cells are built like old pizza ovens of concrete and iron. They are capable of containing so much heat that even the walls will sweat. Unfortunately, I made my celly a promise for his birthday and I keep my word. I know I need to start cooking soon, otherwise, risk sweating onto my food.

My celly, Hoover (a nickname he got because of how quickly he eats, like a vacuum), is rustling in his top bunk.

To finish reading this, as well as the works of all other contributors, purchase Variations on an Undisclosed Location: 2022 Prison Writing Awards Anthology here.