Consisting of more than 250 mentors working with close to 250 imprisoned writers, the Mentor Program continues to be the most interactive and engaging projects in the Prison Writing Program. Through individual mail correspondence, mentors who are committee members, working writers or MFA students provide careful criticism, tips on craft, and guidance in the fundamentals of grammar to incarcerated people around the country.

The program is organized so that each mentor corresponds with the prisoner a minimum of three times. In this way, each prisoner’s writing receives unique professional attention and criticism, while at the same time enabling a prisoner to respond to the mentor’s suggestions and participate in the shaping of his or her work.

If interested in becoming a mentor, please review the general guidelines below and contact the Prison Writing Program at [email protected].

General Guidelines:

  1. There will be a total of three exchanges between prisoner and mentor.

  2. The prisoner initiates the correspondence by submitting a piece of writing to the PEN office. We will forward the submission to the appropriate mentor. All further correspondence can be either be routed through PEN or delivered directly to you, according to your preference.

  3. The mentor will read and edit the submission, and provide written feedback. If possible, we encourage mentors to suggest or forward reading materials or exercises pertaining to their students work. When sending material back, the mentor will either request new work from the prisoner or ask for a revision. The level of anonymity you maintain is entirely up to you: you may use your own name, a pen name, or initials.

  4. Both the prisoner and the mentor should expect a response no later than five weeks. Please be sensitive to delays in prison mail delivery.

  5. Repeat this process two more times.

  6. At the conclusion of the final correspondence, mentors have the option to continue working with same student or requesting someone new.

The PEN Mentor Program succeeds on the strength of its members, who generously give of their time to writers struggling against isolation and discouragement. If you would like to become a mentor or have any questions, please contact us by e-mail at [email protected].