The writings in this collection were done as part of a series of pilot writer’s workshops seeded by PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing Program. For more than five decades, the program has worked to amplify and cultivate incarcerated writers through the written word. By providing resources and mentorship opportunities, we have helped incarcerated authors integrate into the broader literary community. These workshops are the most recent effort at cultivating literary communities behind the walls.

These workshops were based around the text, The Sentences that Create Us: Crafting a Writer’s Life in Prison, an anthology written by currently and formerly incarcerated authors as well as writers who teach behind the walls. The book contains chapters on different genres, such as theater, poetry, essays, suggestions for how to get through writer’s block, and directions for how to get published and submit to contests and much more. Almost 45,000 copies have been distributed for free to incarcerated people and writing teachers in prisons and jails throughout the United States.

Curriculum based on Sentences was used to pilot workshops in select prisons, like those found in Masters of Fine Arts programs in Creative Writing. These roundtable workshops offered incarcerated writers a peer group which helped them revise and refine their writing skills. Participants received guidance on how to give peer review, methods for editing, and information on which literary and journalistic outlets accept paper mail submissions—necessary for people in prison who have nearly no access to the internet.

The writing featured in this zine was selected from final submissions provided by workshop participants from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Each of these states were selected deliberately as places where there are high numbers of incarcerated people and a lack of opportunities to learn about writing.

Click here to read the full zine.



Tsunami Caryl-Averlyn
Jax Franks
Arron Flaherty
Natasha Demeny
Courtney Quillen
Geneva Phillips
Lewaun Porter
Jeri Crow
Meco Mohamed
Ezra Ortega
Crystal Avilla
David R. Fleenor