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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Writer's Life (05/13/10)

TITLE: Life, So Write
By Virgil Youngblood


Life, So Write

You do the crime you pay the time. Or, expressed to temp writers: free room and board with ample time to write.

Robert Stroud, while confined to permanent isolation, wrote two acclaimed books: Diseases of Canaries and Stroudís Digest on the Diseases of Birds. His fifty-two years in various prisons was the subject of the movie Birdman of Alcatraz with Burt Lancaster in the starring role.

Inmate 18330-424, the former owner of The Chicago Sun Times, currently writes from the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Florida. Conrad Black, or, if you will, Baron Black, he renounced his Canadian citizenship to take a peerage from Queen Elizabeth II, is a distinguished intellect and writer. Writing now with a pencil, he has no computer privileges, his articles are regularly published.

Many prominent writers throughout the years perfected their craft while incarcerated. Cervantes, Bunyan, Voltaire, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Oscar Wilde are just a few writerís whose names could be included in this list.

Then there are those stalwarts to whom our Christian faith is indebted. Paul often wrote while in prison. Johnís writing of Revelation was penned while he was under arrest and banished to the Island of Patmos. Dietrich Bonhoeffer laid his life on the line, literally; his writings continue to impact Christianity. Christians will forever be indebted to these men, and others, for their uncompromising faith.

In some countries prison doors clang quickly shut upon the author of comments unfavorable to the government. English PEN and International PEN are organizations that campaign for the release of these individuals. Pen claims the incarcerations are a violation of the authorís right to freedom of expression. Today they seek the release of writers being held in Jaballa Malar, Iran, Cuba, Burma and China, with the most being held in China.

In the UK, Changing Lives Through Literature is an organization that teaches prisoners to write and provides curriculum and instructors to develop the inmateís writing skills.

What is it about being incarcerated that stimulates writers to write? For some, the experience itself provides the motivation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote Letters from Birmingham Jail. Chuck Colson authored several books and established a prison ministry with Bible study instructional material. For others, it is having the time to write with minimal interruption.

The remuneration for prisoners who have their work published is a bummer. Most prison wardens prohibit a writer building his bank account while residing in their care. The argument that financial success would help a prisoner stay out of prison after being released usually falls on deaf ears. Perhaps for a writer on death row or with a life sentence, getting paid for being published is not a major concern.

Although the body can be restrained, the mind is forever free. It cannot be locked up. Physical detention, it seems, has a way of clarifying oneís thinking.

Whatís the alternative to free room and board, you ask? A childís game suggests the answer. Hide and seek Godís will, and write.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Shipman 05/22/10
What an interesting take on the topic, the writer in prison. You gave us a lot to think about, AND to be thankful for - so many authors, whose works were written behind bars, is astounding. I didn't get the last paragraph, at first, but after reading it a 2nd time, I understood. Thanks for shedding light on this particular population of writers. Very enlightening.
Beth LaBuff 05/24/10
Wow, you've done extensive research for this informative entry. Some of these men I'd heard of, and some I hadn't. We can be grateful for the writings of Paul, John, and Bunyan. This is a very unique take on the topic. Thanks!
Rachel Phelps05/24/10
Very informative and interesting. Creative take on the topic.
Joan Campbell05/24/10
Absolutely fascinating! I so enjoyed this...'different' is definitely good, Virgil.
Susan Montaperto05/24/10
Yes, it is a different take on the writer's life. But it is informative and wellwritten. One doesn't normally think of prisoners as being worthwhile writers. Thank you for reminding us of the Apostles, Paul & John, John Bunyan, Dietrich Bonhoffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. God can inspire people behind prison walls or or at home or across the world.

Thank you very much for all your hard work. God bless you.