Couldn't Keep it to Myself ~ Wally Lamb and the Women of the York Correctional Institution ~ 12/03 ~ Book Club Online

We are absolutely thrilled and incredibly honored to announce that Wally Lamb will be entering the discussion, along with Nancy Birkla, Dale Griffith and Nancy Whiteley, to talk to our readers and has agreed to answer your questions!!!!!

Reponses from Wally Lamb
Responses from Nancy Birkla
Responses from Nancy Whiteley
Responses from Dale Griffith

Discussion Schedule:
  • December 22, A look at Nancy Birkla's responses:
  • December 23, 24: A look at Wally Lamb's responses:
  • December 25 and 26: Holiday
  • December 27, 28: "Faith, Power and Pants,"
  • December 29, 30: "Puzzle Pieces"
  • December 31 and January 1: "Motherlove"
  • January 2, 3: Snapshots of My Early Life
  • January 4 and 5: "Bad Girls."

  • For Your Consideration:

    Week IV: Part I
    "Christmas in Prison:" click here for short excerpt

    "The brave writers whose work is represented in this volume have acted in good faith, faced their demons, stayed the course, and revised relentlessly. And in taking on the subject of themselves-making themselves vulnerable to the unseen reader-they have exchanged powerlessness for the power that comes with self-awareness."--Wally Lamb

    These powerful stories, testaments, hit us on all levels: we can't escape the power of their story, Let's reflect on anything and everything that comes to us as a result of reading them, INCLUDING the art of writing them.

  • 1. Wally Lamb begins his introduction explaining what goes on in editing, quoting different authors on the art of writing, and lists several techniques the authors in this book may have used. Are you familiar with any of these Writing Techniques? Let's keep an eye out for particularly good examples of the writer's craft.

  • 2. "Grace and Favor:"
    This story begins with and ends with religious grace, or the opportunity for the same. It begins with Pope John Paul's Proclamation of the Jubilee and a prison mass, and ends with the promises of the jubilee and the day of atonement from the scriptures.

    In between, the author continually contrasts the hope with the reality. It's a very subtle story of contrast.
  • What are some of the contrasts you see in this piece, and what effect does each one have on the reader's understanding of what actually happens in prison?
  • How effective is this technique?

  • 3. How would you characterize the tone of the piece?

  • 4. Whose voice is this piece written in?

  • 5. Describe some of the uses of irony in the essay and their effect on the whole.

  • 6. What does "or if the receiver is being set up, there's probably a Buteterfinger or Baby Ruth in there too---" (page 179) mean?
  • How does the juxtaposition of church and state: the statement of reconciliation and those "in a state of grace" differ from the activities of some of the prisoners and why do you think the author chose to present this in this way, warts and all, and begin her story with this particular instance?

  • 7. What does .... "the seasonal returnees" those emaciated women coming "home" to Niatic for the holidays (page 181) .... mean?

  • 8. "The trees have disappeared, the roast beef dinner's endangered, and the 'presents' have been held up..." (page 182). What does the comparison between the "old days" and each subsequent Christmas in Prison indicate? What did you think Christmas in Prison would be like? Is this what you envisioned?

  • 9. Was there any one thing that stood out for you the most in this essay? If so what was it and why?


    © SeniorLearn. All rights reserved.

    December 1, 2003 - 03:36 am
    Well a bright good morning to you here on our first day of this exciting venture, I'm scared but honored, and tremendously excited to have all of YOU to share it with!

    I've been up since 4 am trying to think of some way to address these powerful stories, so many images, where to begin?

    I think it would be best if we looked at each story or segment for a couple of days, starting with Notes to the Reader and Couldn't Keep it to Ourselves and the searing "The True Face of Earth" today and tomorrow, (I KNEW we would not have TIME, we need TIME) so you all just chime in often and well and say what's on your mind!

    The title of the book says it all: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters.

    Webster's defines testimony as:

    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): plural -nies
    Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin testimonium Decalogue, from Latin, evidence, witness, from testis witness --
    Date: 14th century
    1 a (1) : the tablets inscribed with the Mosaic law
    (2) : the ark containing the tablets b : a divine decree attested in the Scriptures
    2 a : firsthand authentication of a fact : EVIDENCE
    b : an outward sign
    c : a solemn declaration usually made orally by a witness under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official
    3 a : an open acknowledgment
    b : a public profession of religious experience

    Of all of those definitions I like an outward sign the best.

    An outward and visible sign, a witness.

    But notice the role of the editor!!! This will really be a learning experience and will help us here in the Books forever: Wally Lamb is quite clear that these outward visible signs are carefully crafted and presented: a lot of honest work has gone into their presentation. Let's, then, not be afraid to learn how to look at non fiction, from the point of view of how it enhances the force of it to understand how it was deliberately presented: we'll all learn something.

    I freely admit I have a very difficult time analyzing non fiction. To me (until now) fiction was the way to go: I love literary criticism and analysis, but again, NON Fiction was a puzzle. It seemed to me that it either happened or it didn’t, so? But Wally Lamb's little vignettes about the index card and the hotel room quickly disabused me of that notion, and I'm very grateful for this opportunity to learn more about the craft of writing.

    "The workshop sessions have been a journey rich with laughter, tears, heart-stopping leaps of faith, and miraculous personal victories."--- Wally Lamb

    "The brave writers whose work is represented in this volume have acted in good faith, faced their demons, stayed the course, and revised relentlessly. And in taking on the subject of themselves—making themselves vulnerable to the unseen reader—they have exchanged powerlessness for the power that comes with self-awareness."--Wally Lamb.

  • 1. Wally Lamb quotes from several noted writers on the subject OF writing, Ann Lamott, Donald Murray, Sandra Cisneros, Dr. Doris Jahnsen, and others. Are you familiar with the various precepts they teach in writing? Since Wally Lamb has told us of the struggle each author had to present her own unique voice, let's watch each piece for these points,

  • The use of past versus present tense in writing memoir
  • how to recast memories as dramatic scenes with the help of fictional techniques
  • how to balance narrative with exposition
  • how to write successful seques (page xii)

  • And let's also look for: (from Thinking Like Your Editor by Susan Rabiner and Aldred Fortunato):
  • What is the author trying to do?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the author reliable or honest?
  • What is the point of view of the author? Is there bias, is it fair, does it present the other side's position at its best?
  • [Let's add: what are the issues each author explores?]
  • What is the thesis: the position the author takes on the issue.
  • What is the question it asks and what answer does it seem to provide?
  • What literary devices are used? (analogy, foreshadowing, narrative tension, etc.)
  • How is the argument presented, [Let's add: how does the story begin, what devices does the author use to get us into the story?]

  • So keeping that in mind, let's begin!

  • Page 3:
    On: "Couldn't Keep it to Ourselves:"

    But authors on tour are quieter, more solitary souls. Between appointments, we sit by ourselves in our rooms, nibbling like prairie dogs on room service sandwiches, or ironing our clothes for the next reading, or watching Judge Judy,….And sitting on the edge of the bed in room 417 of the Westin Hotel, I uttered in a sheepish voice [while watching Jeopardy!] "Who is Wally Lamb?"

  • 2. What a dear man. Does this revelation of what it's really like to be a famous sought after author on tour surprise you?
  • What was your own conception of what being a celebrated author must be like?

  • 3. What does the title "The True Face of Earth" mean
  • 4.
    "Well, Peanut, always look people right in the eye," Dad advised. "that's what you do in the business world. And if they happen to have a glass eye or some other defect, then look at the bridge of their nose instead. They'll never know the difference." (Page 22).

    I( found The True Face of Earth to be a very powerful piece of writing, and am anxious to hear your own reactions.

    In "The True Face of Earth" the author has very cleverly continued the themes of looking people in the eye throughout the story.
  • How many instances can you find where people did or did not look each other in the eye and what did each reveal about the situation?

  • 5. What other themes do YOU see in this first piece??
  • How does the beginning of the story engage the reader immediately?
  • What is the point of view of the author of the piece?
  • How would you describe the tone?

  • 6. Saint-Exupery's fable The Little Prince is referred to several times in the piece. Have you read it and does it apply somehow to the story as a whole? What is it about?

  • 7. "When I was twelve, Janet went off to college in Massachusetts…" (page 42). This follows the searing tale of the birth of a baby. How old was the author when this birth occurred?

  • 7. Wally Lamb refers to these stories as memoir (page xii.)
  • Memoir is the hottest new genre in literature but what precisely IS a memoir? How does it differ from autobiography, if it does?
  • 8. What questions would you like to ask of the group or each author if you could ask some? We will get up separate pages for each author.

    Let's start there, with these, let's admire the tremendous honesty and strength it has taken to get these stories not only down on paper but to keep on refining and struggling with them till they got them to what you see today. Let's ask our own selves, IF we could have written something like this and maybe let's even see, at the beginning of January, IF we had to do this ourselves, IF we could. I am not sure I could.

    Let's hear your wonderful comments on the first story, the Reader's Notes and the Couldn't Keep it to Ourselves introduction and please post any questions you might have for each author!


  • Ginny
    December 1, 2003 - 08:41 am
    All right, now, where IS everybody (not that half of you have been able TO get in?) Have I scared you to death?

    What are YOUR thoughts if you don't like those particular questions, on the first story "The True Face of Earth" and the two Wally Lamb introductions today?

    Penny for your thoughts?


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 1, 2003 - 08:41 am
    I have read and re-read, and will read again, the first 93 pages of these searing stories which are even more painful because they are true. Throughout these pages I kept thinking, "There but for the grace of God go I."

    The years 1975 to 1978 tore me apart and threw what little balance I had completely off. My marriage ended after my husband had an affair with my sister. I went out in the world with a small alimony and my 14 year old daughter to a 2 room and kitchenette apartment in a large summer cottage not far from the 10 room house on several acres of land where I had lived in relative luxury. I didn't know the apartment was not heated. I had never known life without a man in the forefront to protect me, first the uncle who raised me, then my husband. I didn't know a lot of things, and I drank to cover the terrible pain I felt because I thought my life was ending.

    I couldn't get a job; no one would hire me because I am handicapped. I felt as if I couldn't face any more crises than I'd already had, yet they piled up, one on top of the other, a huge stack of problems that seemed impossible to solve.

    My first arrest for drunken driving came when I didn't have enough money to pay ordinary living expenses and buy food, too. I was so worried I was sick. I went through the course that was required at that time, part of which was to attend two AA meetings. I didn't believe those sober drunks. I most certainly couldn't be one of them.

    The second arrest came a year or so later when my life had collapsed even more. My husband arranged for a house for all three of my kids to live in; my daughter voluntarily left my care. I was alone for the first time in my life in a place I couldn't afford, shunned by friends I'd had when I was married.

    I moved back to my hometown. I hadn't lived there for over 25 years. Nobody except old ladies in my church recognized me. My experiences during the time I was away from that town had changed me. My Massachusetts accent had almost gone. That really set me apart. I was a stranger in the place I'd always thought of as home, and I was treated like one.

    Every time I drank and drove I told myself I was pushing my luck. That didn't stop me. I was arrested for the second time. This time I was put in jail. The jail was in the basement of the City Hall. That same building had been the high school where I graduated with high honors in 1946, smart, talented, full of promise. This woman, who was the graduate of one of the finest women's colleges in the United States and the former wife of a successful, brilliant scientist-businessman was locked in a cell, no better than the hardened male criminal I heard vomiting in the cell down the hall.

    If I hadn't left that state, my bottle of vodka safely in my car, with the promise that I'd return in six months to report to a probation officer; if I hadn't one night, half drunk but still sober, opened the phone book at the home of a friend in New York who took me in, and if I hadn't seen the phone number for Alcoholics Anonymous; if I hadn't called that number and gone to a meeting the next day . . . if I hadn't done these things, I very well could have ended up in the York Correctional Institution or the Bedford Hills, New York women's prison not far from where I once lived, which I'd driven by so many times, along with the women who wrote this book.

    These writers are women just like me. The two women whose memoirs I've read had rotten childhoods; so did I. They had been on a road from which they could see no escape. So had I. How can I think of them as anything but sisters? How can I not feel their pain and the terribly hard things they went through? How could anyone turn their backs on them?


    December 1, 2003 - 09:02 am
    Mal, the more I learn about you, the more my admiration increases.

    I saw the survey on 'Women in Prison', and though ordinarily I like to respond to surveys--- I mean, how often does anyone solicit my opinion?---- I had the good sense to pass on this one. This is definitely an area where my bland ignorance is not needed. I shall read, and listen, and learn. ...Babi

    kiwi lady
    December 1, 2003 - 09:25 am
    I am in here reading and don't really know where to start except for two comments. Writing about oneself does bring about self awareness. I mentioned the journal I wrote during a time of intense pain in my life; I think I learnt more about myself from reading those journals one year on, than I had all of the 47 years I had spent on this earth. I can see how these women who have had the courage to write their stories have summoned the courage to go on and the courage to make life changes.

    Secondly I wept when the read the authors notes. I thought Wally Lamb was very humble as he explained how he came to take the creative writing classes and how they had affected him.

    Mal I am sorry you experienced what I consider as the ultimate betrayal. What a painful experience.

    I will be back later. I just don't know where to start- this discussion raises so many important issues!

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 1, 2003 - 09:35 am
    I've done a good deal of editing in my life. In order to take a piece that is written by an inexperienced writer, it's necessary first, I think, to slim the piece down, cut out adjectives, exclamation marks ( new writers seem to love adjectives and exclamation marks ), make sure the tenses in the work match, aim for clarity so a reader won't put the piece down.

    Sometimes when a writer has a knack for writing, all that's necessary is to move a phrase or two so the piece reads better. Often an editor has to take the piece from scratch, correcting spelling. grammar and punctuation, correcting simple, basic things. This can often involve editing every word. This is a big job, especially when you want to maintain the voice of the writer.

    Rewriting must be done the same way. The editor must consider whether or not this writer would use a word that the editor seems more fitting or to let the writer's choice stand. The voice of the author must prevail in a rewrite. As editor I've sometimes had to pretend I am that writer and make his or her voice my own. I've told many writers who are writing memoirs that fictionalizing or dramatizing some events is perfectly all right, just for the sake of maintaining a good literary sense and reader's interest throughout the work.

    I think Wally Lamb did an excellent job in Couldn't Keep it to Myself. There were a couple of times when I questioned some vocabulary, but for the sake of the rhythm of the piece the choice was right.


    kiwi lady
    December 1, 2003 - 10:07 am
    I have never been able to dissect literature and look at it objectively its far too much an emotional experience for me. I will have to skip those questions!


    December 1, 2003 - 10:31 am
    Yesterday when Bill and I attended church out of town, they announced that again this year they would be collecting presents donated for the children of inmates. This congregation, as does my sons, works in correlation with one of the prison facilities nearby and they do this each year.

    It made me think what a wonderful idea that is for not only the children but for the prisoners who are unable to provide for these kids. I also thought what a wonderful way to teach children that Christmas is about a gift,a gift given to us by God.

    I am not at home yet, until tomorrow so I can not comment on the introduction or the stories. What I can comment on is what an incredible journey these women have encountered and how strong and brave they are to share their thoughts with us.

    December 1, 2003 - 10:58 am
    Andrea, I am so glad to see you here, we appreciate your dedicated coming in in the midst of your own tragedy, thank you for touching base, and we hope you have a safe trip home. That is a wonderful coincidence and project the church is doing, thank you for telling us about it. I wish we had a project for the adults, too, now, after reading these stories. We look forward to your return home and back with us again.

    Thank you Malryn, for those thoughts and experiences, so well expressed! I hope to be able to discuss some of the issues raised in these stories, thank you for that beginning! Thank you also for those reflections on editing, I knkow you edit an e-zine for writers online and I think people don't realize (I didn't) how much craft there really IS in writing.

    I agree, Babi, I'm definitely ignorant of what appears to be a LOT and I look forward to learning a great deal here, I appreciate the opportunity and am glad you're here to ahare it!

    I agree, Carolyn, all three of the stories plus the introduction are very moving, I also cried over the introduction but was stunned when I got to the stories (and this is my SECOND reading!@) They are almost devastating. They are also extermely well written, and carefully so.

    Do you have any questions you would like to ask either the readers or Wally Lamb or Nancy Whiteley, the author of the first story, "The True Face of Earth?" All questions are welcome, you don't need to use the ones in the heading, strike out on your own and we'll put your own up!

    I really was blown away by all three stories in our first week, for different reasons. No person on earth could fail to be moved by these stories and the issues they raise, and they all three raise different issues, in three different ways, or so I think.

    I really liked the way all three of the first three stories begin, although today we're only looking at the first one, "The True Face of Earth," and the two author prologues.

    All three of the stories propel you smack into the action, in "The True Face of Earth," (what does that mean?) you are with the little girl and her Daddy in what appears at the outset to be a perfect family setting.

    Boy do I have questions I'd like to ask here, we're lucky we CAN ask them!

    Seen from the child's perspective, it's wonderfully written. I absolutely LOVED that theme of look them in the eye, and the many issues raised in the whole story. Can we talk about some of them?

    Yes it's terribly painful to read, but hasn't she done a powerful job of presenting it?

    "Orbiting Izzy," which I absolutely love (for some reason it reminds me of Mr. Tutweiler) hahaha, by the same author, begins with Nancy fussing with her hair while going out to apply for a job post prison, I LOVE the way she refers to herself in that one, very very good writing, and we once again have the feeling of being right there with her. Boy do I have a million questions about what that experience, or, for that matter, what the entire experience was like. I love that story, but we're not talking about IT today but on Wednesday, but then just to be sure we mention all three of this week's stories, Carolyn Adams begins her story with us seated with her on a bench outside the courtroom, again immediately bringing us into her world and story, and yet another equally strong set of impressions.

    Those are three very effective and powerful beginnings, and I hope that we can concentrate today on the issues, as Carolyn said earlier, that the first one raises, and talk about any of them or any subject that you'd like, actually.

    What do you think the title The True Face of Earth, means? I don't know, that's why I'm asking, but I do know good writing when I see it and this is wonderful.

    Let's look at these stories in all possible ways, if we can, AS writing, AS testimonies, AS social commentary and personal lives, and AS triumphs, as they certainly are.

    Do any of you have any questions of the author of this story, Nancy Whiteley?

    We've just added two more members to our group here and I want to welcome them, and say just jump RIGHT in, if you don't like any of the questions in the heading, ask your own and/ or talk about what you'd like to, there's soo much to discuss here. Welcome!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 1, 2003 - 11:49 am
    Seems to me that Nancy Whiteley answered the question before it was asked. Saint-Exupery says:
    "The aeroplane has unveiled for us the true face of earth."
    Ms Whiteley says:
    " 'No way,' I decided. I hadn't learned the truth about the face of the earth or anything else during those plane rides. Everything I'd believed back then had turned out to be a big, fat, stinking rotten egg of a lie."
    Nancy Whiteley created her father, who, when she was a little girl, seemed to fly her above her mother's incomprehensible rages and everything else that was negative on earth. She continued to look for the same aeroplane escape of "the true face of the earth" while lying flat on her back looking up at the sky in some boy's car at the airport. The true reality of the world was that uncomfortable, cramped position, not the unreal view of the earth from the window of a plane piloted by her dream of a perfect father.


    December 1, 2003 - 12:01 pm
    I saw this in another discussion in S/N books and feel it fits in here also as it is true. "People who think dying is the worst thing, don't know a thing about life."

    Thanks Babi for mentioning it there, I hope you do not mind me bringing it here as it was in the other book.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    December 1, 2003 - 12:22 pm
    As I understand a memoir isn't exacly as journal, and a journal isn't exactly a memoir. But...some journalers attempt to reach self-knowledge through an exploration of their past. They examine how the attitudes, actions, and emotions they experience in their present lives connect and stem from past experiences. Their entries go beyond anecdotes of daily life and into the how and why.

    Childhood can be bliss. Childhood can be hell. Some people are running from the past. Some people are living in the past. What Memoir journalers understand is that the exploration of the past can be a valuable tool in really understanding the present and moving into the future.

    While memoir journalers aren't only writing about their past or childhood, they do, from time to time, reference the past to gain clearer insight to their present experiences.

    No book - forgot to order it and with the Christmas mail it is too late now - I will join you when you discuss the on-line Christmas story and after the PBS Program Show in aired on TV.

    December 1, 2003 - 12:24 pm
    Barbara, we were posting together, thank you for that definition of memoir and for joining us in the PBS Program Clubs, you are missing something in this one and YOU would really get into it! Thank you for those thoughts on Memoir tho, very helpful!

    What, Malryn, what? You don't think the father was real? The perfect father, created? You are saying he was never real? Never the pilot? Never the CEO? Wow!

    Well this is fun, I thought the opposite!

    I was getting something different out of those trips to the airport, always to the airport, even at the end of the story, what did you all make out of those trips? What...I need to get this in the heading (don't hold back on the questions now) I'll ask Pat to put that one up, too. What do the references to the airport mean?

    Ginger, thank you for that one!

    Very apropos!

    The True Face of Earth.....St. Exupery, (which I have never read, I guess I need to go to the library this afternoon).

    I need to think about that for a while, here, delicious to contemplate, super writing.

    December 1, 2003 - 12:34 pm
    I was touched at the news that two people (a mother and son)are both involved in seeing that children of prisoners have gifts at Christmas. I volunteer a couple of days/month at the Washington Correctional Center for Women and was amazed to learn that 80% of the women there are mothers. The implications for the children and society (many mothers lose custody because they're incarcerated for the minimum of one year) are mind blowing. Anything we can do to make life more bearable for them and their children is sorely needed.

    I'm not picking up my copy of Lamb's book until tonight, but I know it's dynamite because we've used excerpts from it in class and gotten from the women some of the most powerful -- and heart-wrenching writing to date.

    Georgia Monsen

    December 1, 2003 - 12:38 pm
    Georgia! Welcome welcome! How wonderful!! You volunteer in the Washington Correctional Center for Women, what do you do there?

    Oh, what, you use THIS book in class, and you, too, teach writing?!? We want to hear all, this is very exciting! I hope you will share some of the reactions to the book you have seen with us, how wonderful to see some of the good it's doing.


    Wow, I love this, all the different elements coming together here, wow.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 1, 2003 - 12:49 pm
    I also feel that the father in the memoir was mostly made up. The change was just too abrupt. Do we all reinvent our childhood. I got the impression that she was trying to. Was it too painful the other way. I never think of my journal as a memoir, but I do try to learn from the way my life and emotions go up and down. I loved Wallys observations about the class and their inability at the beginning to tell it like it is. I have always wondered about memoirs written by the actual person and how much reality was mixed in with real life.

    December 1, 2003 - 01:17 pm
    Welcome Georgia to Senior Net Books and Literature, I am sure many others will welcome you also.

    You will be recieving a Welcome Letter from one of us shortly, Please watch for it but if you miss it just post here and you will be sent another. Thanks for volenteering to a Women's prison as it is so needed I know as I was one who had a child born from a rape and running away so I spent time in prison in the 50ies and we had Very little help from anyone including parents as in the 50ies you could not win a case of rape as men were still the Masters and Women were supose to accept it even in courts. My daughter hates me for her being born in prison but there is nothing I can do about that as the last I knew she is on hard drugs. I am doing quite well as I spent 30 years at a good job and retired in 1985. Then became a Chaplin for the American Legion, The VFW and the Eagles and was ask to be the Chaplin of the Moose (all the Aux.) and Now on the Internation Senior net but Not as a Chaplin and would not want the title as with it there would be more than I could handle. I am 70 years old.


    kiwi lady
    December 1, 2003 - 01:33 pm
    My recollections of my childhood are quite different from my sisters. I used books as an escape from life with an alcoholic and improvident father and a mother who was clinically depressed as long as I could remember. She has many more unhappy memories than I have although I do know my life was affected by my childhood I don't have unhappy incidents to relate. I guess they got blocked out. YAY for Books I think they saved me. I do remember giving up on my father at the tender age of three. I never believed a word he said after so many times getting dressed up for a special outing and he would go up the road to get a paper and that would be the last we saw of him for the entire weekend. Mum said at about the age of three I refused to get dressed up when he promised to take me on an outing. I knew the outing would never transpire.

    December 1, 2003 - 01:37 pm
    That's an interesting question. I thought that the scenes with her father really happened, but her feelings about them, the warmth and closeness, the feeling of a prince taking care of her, were her feelings, not his. Notice, the advice he gives her is appropriate to his world, not hers. And he spends much of his time at the airport talking to his friends.

    Her relationship with her mother is really interesting. In the beginning, her father is her protector against her mother. But then he leaves, and she is dependent on this same mother, who is the one who stays by her. She comes across then as very conflicted. I would like to ask her about her relationship now with her mother.

    Of course, we want to ask all the authors what they are doing now, and how (if) writing this book has changed their lives.

    December 1, 2003 - 01:52 pm
    The official Senior Net Welcome has been sent, But my special welcome is here. Smile.

    December 1, 2003 - 02:12 pm
    What struck me about all of these stories was the underlying theme of loneliness, the fear of being alone and the lack of communication between parents and their children. Of course then the question begs to be answered, why, when this happens to lots of women, do only a small percentage of them wind up in prison?

    When my husband and I got married there were people who told us that our marriage didn't have a chance. My husband came from a broken home and his mother was an alcoholic. My mother gave my sister and me away to the welfare department in Wisconsin when I was two years old. I spent most of my childhood in a succession of foster homes, some of them good and some of them not so good. I have built my life on the good memories. Our marriage has lasted 42 years and is stronger then ever, but it had its rough times.

    My sister did not do so well. She never saw things quite the same way I did. I have always thought of her as the negative side of me.

    On the first page: Paula had pretty eyes and graceful penmanship, but she was encased in a fortress of fat. Sad and isolated, she sat at a special table in back because she didn't fit the desks. She never spoke; no one ever spoke to her.

    That to me sets the tone for the rest of the book. It got my attention immediately. I shared in her loneliness, not because I was ever fat, in fact I was the skinny little girl who always looked as though she never ate enough. But the experience of sadness and loneliness was the same.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 1, 2003 - 03:53 pm
    Please don't misunderstand what I said in my earlier post. Nancy Whiteley's father was real all right, but he was not the hero and protector her child-mind told her he was. When he left her in the care of her mentally unstable mother with no one to defend her, no one to tell her platitudes about how to get along in life, the blow was very, very severe. Whom did she have then? Whom could she trust from that point on besides herself?

    I have re-read the long message I posted this morning. What struck me was what I omitted, the negatives about me I don't want you to know. Never once did I say I became so drunk unintentionally sometimes that I was as close to being a fall-down drunk as nobody in her right mind would ever want to be. Never once did I mention the fact that I used alcohol as permission to express my anger at what I now call from a far distance the "benign neglect" of his family my husband exhibited, or the fact that I ran away the minute my husband allowed me at the age of 47 to get a driver's license and buy a $600.00 car.

    This, of course, makes me wonder what the writers of Couldn't Keep it to Myself omitted from their stories. Then I think about whether I would like these women as much if I knew what was left out. The answer to that is: Yes, I would because I can identify with so many of the things that happened to them.

    JERILYN (Denjer), I was given away as a child, too, but to only one set of foster parents. It surprises me that so many women in SeniorNet share that experience and makes me glad I was not alone in it. It also surprises me when I learn how unhappy many people in SeniorNet were during their childhood.

    I begin to wonder if I expected too much. Did I expect to have the happy family I read about in storybooks? Was the abuse I sustained at the hands of the aunt who raised me as traumatic as I thought it was? My mind says yes, but I can't really remember many good, unstressful times in my childhood, and there had to be some.

    Is my memory accurate? I don't know. Am I a reliable narrator? I'd have to say no, and I'd have to say the writers of these memoirs are not reliable narrators either. I wonder if any writer of autobiographical material really is?

    Thank you, GINGER, for having the courage to come in and tell your hard story. I want to put my arms around you and hug you and tell you what a good job you've done with your life. I am proud of you.


    kiwi lady
    December 1, 2003 - 04:11 pm
    Mal I think our recollections are different sometimes because some people are able to block off pain with a wall in the mind and others have to live with incidents imprinted indelibly on their minds. The trauma ends up the same however and sometimes it is many years later when problems arise - some situation or stress triggers it and its like the last straw that broke the camels back. I was told I had a brick wall in my mind and we discussed whether we should attempt to break it down. I decided it might be opening a can of worms so opted to begin where I was and take cognitive behaviour therapy. Its worked for me.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 1, 2003 - 06:15 pm
    The warmth and depth of our discussion is so liberating to me. I feel as if I know each and everyone of you much better than I know my neighbors. The openness and sharing is incredible. I really would like to hear from Wally Lamb, how he convinced the women to open up and what percentage never did. Seems to me to have been painful, but perhaps they also felt it as liberating.

    kiwi lady
    December 1, 2003 - 06:39 pm
    Stephanie - the women opened up because one woman stood up and read her draft to the assembled group. It was full of terrible experiences, incest, rape and other things. This woman's need to tell her story and her courage to stand up and read it out was the catalyst to enable all the other women to open up.

    It has been the same in here. One person has the courage to open up and it opens a floodgate. It is a great compliment to SN that so many people have shared their stories in so many discussions. It tells us that people feel safe in this special cyber community. I know I am not an American and it is an American site but I am so proud to be a participant. I have told all my family and friends how much I enjoy being part of the community. I can't understand why so few foreigners have chosen to come in and join us. They don't know what they are missing!

    Wally Lamb - you are a special person. The introduction to the book moved me to tears. I cried so hard when Wally told of the lead up to and ultimately the death of Diane. Then as I was sitting here pondering, I thought how much richer her life had been because of the writing group. Diane had something to focus on other than the fact that probably she was going to die. Then I began to wonder - would she have died if she had not been incarcerated and had been able to get immediate cancer treatment from a good oncology clinic. The fact that Diane had empty chairs at her funeral for all those who would not be able to attend from her writing group due to being incarcerated speaks volumes.

    This book has such a tug on my emotions!


    December 1, 2003 - 07:23 pm
    I can tell this is going to be, and already is, a wonderful discussion where we learn so much about these women, and about ourselves.

    Jerilyn, You said, "Of course then the question begs to be answered, why, when this happens to lots of women, do only a small percentage of them wind up in prison?" I wondered the same thing. Our previous President, William Jefferson Clinton, grew up with an alcoholic father whom his mother eventually divorced; he ended up in the White House, not in prison (although it was a close call at one point, I admit). Many famous people had terrible childhoods, and still made great contributions, so we need to be careful about attributing all our choices to what we may have had to cope with in the past. This does not mean I don't feel great empathy for Nancy Whiteley (this is the only piece other than Wally Lamb's that I've read so far).

    Joan, You said that you thought "the warmth and closeness, the feeling of a prince taking care of her, were her feelings, not his." I think they might have been his feelings at that time. It's not unusual for men, after a divorce and remarriage and starting a new family, to gradually drift away from their previous family and reminders of their ex-wives. This rejection is often hard for children to accept.

    Mal and Ginny, I want to echo the admiration expressed here for the way you have both overcome the terrible events of the past.

    Nancy Whiteley so accurately describes the special sensitivity that abused children develop toward the moods of their abusers. "Like junior meteorologists, Janet and I became experts at detecting the slightest barometric fluctuations of Storm Mom. We could tell what kind of a night it was going to be by listening to the way our mother slammed the car door after work, by the sound of her footsteps on the front stairs."

    The poetic writing of this piece, juxtaposed with the events being described, fits the title. After all the beautifully expressed revelations, she ends up in the back seat of another car: "His name was Kevin, but that didn't matter. There was an airport nearby. He knew the way." From an airplane, the earth looks peaceful and orderly. There is evidence of the presence of humans, but we don't see them. Only up close, on the ground, do we see human relationships and interactions. Which is the true face of earth?

    Ella Gibbons
    December 1, 2003 - 07:30 pm
    My book, Ginny, will be here shortly and I can join in the discussion more effectively, but I have a couple of questions from your post. When you were asking us to look for points I understood three of them, but not this one: "how to balance narrative with exposition."

    Can you explain that better? What do you mean by exposition?

    Barbara stated that "memoir is the hottest new genre in literature but what precisely IS a memoir? How does it differ from autobiography, if it does?" I don't know about it being "new" or "hot."

    In the general Nonfiction discussion we have discussed the differences between memoirs and autobiographies. We have come to no conclusions so I would like to have that explained by Wally Lamb. We have discussed both and they are listed in the archives; one that comes to mind is Neil Simon's Memoirs (two of them) which was fascinating material to read in that he gives us the knowledge of how his ideas for plays originated.

    For the most part his ideas for plays came from his own experiences in life, exaggerated at times, of course. Wonderful books!

    I'm also thinking of Art Buchwald, who wrote 2 books (Leaving Home and I'll AlWays Have Paris). They were experiences of his own life - were they memoirs or were they autobiographies?

    Perhaps Wally Lamb can explain it to us in a way we can remember - hahahaaa

    I can't wait until my book arrives at the Library so I can pick it up.

    kiwi lady
    December 1, 2003 - 07:36 pm
    If these men who opt out of being a father to the children from a previous marriage realised how much damage they do to the kids would they act differently.

    I have seen so many young women who have got into drugs,bad relationships etc because once they had a father they adored and who abandoned them. In one of my therapy groups I met a young woman of 29 who said she had never got over being abandoned by her father. This had caused her to become so possessive over her husband their marriage was in danger of collapsing. Recognising the reason for her behaviour she had come into our group to resolve the issue once and for all in order to have a healthy marital relationship.


    December 1, 2003 - 07:48 pm
    I enjoyed reading about how Mr. Lamb taught the gals about "voice" in their works. And I especially loved it when he told the one gal to "conversate" as that was a word from her vocabulary.

    I've read the first couple of stories and find them quite well done.

    So - ladies - let's conversate! Looking forward to hearing more from you all and reading more stories by the gals in the book.

    Very eye-opening and there must be something about writing that brought them much closer to one another. And Wally Lamb has such a tender nature that helped them learn well and bond into a loving cohesive group. So there is a story outside of the stories.

    This is a happening!

    Linda (Our dog's name is "Hairy".)

    December 1, 2003 - 07:53 pm

    December 1, 2003 - 08:09 pm
    I'm hoping to pick up the book tomorrow and then I'll catch up with the reading. Meanwhile, I'll keep up via your postings, which are already memorable.

    kiwi lady
    December 1, 2003 - 08:25 pm
    Linda always wondered why you used the name hairy, my mind used to boggle!


    December 1, 2003 - 11:12 pm
    Thanks for your comment. My true friends in the neiborhood know about it and love me any way. To tell all of you is like a weight lifted off off of me and I am finaly Free to be myself with the guilt lifted.

    I have read the book once and in process of rereading it as I got it from the library again today.


    December 2, 2003 - 06:44 am

    First some important program notes here:
  • We are assembling three HTML pages, one for Questions for Mr. Lamb, one for Questions for Nancy Whiteley, (so far those are the two people we have questions of) and one for Questions for the Whole Group which can be answered by anybody?

    Please keep in mind that our Guests will only be answering those questions they choose to? They will only answer what they feel comfortable answering, this is our pattern with all our authors who visit with us, just because they give us their time does not mean they are butterflies on a pin to be stuck and I know you feel the same, this is a very sensitive intelligent group. So ASK away and they will choose what to answer and we'll be proud of anything they say.

  • These powerful stories, testaments, hit us on all levels: we can't escape the power of their story, I'd like for us to reflect on anything and everything that comes to us as a result of reading them, INCLUDING the art of writing them.

    Can you imagine having to write this story over and over? Can you imagine the pain in revisiting these incidents over and over?

  • One of the tenets in the Writing Techniques section Ella mentions in the heading is Is the author honest? And Wally Lamb has said, " "The brave writers whose work is represented in this volume have acted in good faith, faced their demons, stayed the course, and revised relentlessly. And in taking on the subject of themselves—making themselves vulnerable to the unseen reader—they have exchanged powerlessness for the power that comes with self-awareness."--

    When we discuss a book I like to reread the section the night before and then read what you all have said, and then go away and think about it, and return the next morning.

    Here are some of the things which strike me this morning:

  • I could not have written this story.

    I…don't know why?

    I think perhaps I am not honest enough?

    This is an unexpected thing to happen to me in a book discussion and I want to examine it more closely.

  • Barbara said, "What Memoir journalists understand is that the exploration of the past can be a valuable tool in really understanding the present and moving into the future."

  • Let's ask YOU some hard questions! Are you game?

  • If this or any part of it had been your own story, could you have written it?
  • Have you ever taken a class in writing and if so how did you come out?
  • What sort of writing did you do? Fiction? Humor? Memoir?

  • If we had, as an exercise at the end of this reading, a short writing effort from everybody on their own lives, could you do it?
  • Wally Lamb mentions the technique of "how to recast memories as dramatic scenes with the help of fictional techniques." Are there any examples of what might be considered "fictional techniques" in this story? If so where? We can ask the author herself, if she feels comfortable in telling us, where they are? A real opportunity to learn!

    Let me remind everybody that at the upper right hand very top of the page you will see the words PRINT PAGE.

    If you click on PRINT PAGE you will not be printing but you will be seeing every post made for the last 100 or so for easy reading?

    Let's look even more closely this morning at The True Face of Earth?

  • Malryn wrote:
    Saint-Exupery says:

    "The aeroplane has unveiled for us the true face of earth."

    Ms Whiteley says:

    " 'No way,' I decided. I hadn't learned the truth about the face of the earth or anything else during those plane rides. Everything I'd believed back then had turned out to be a big, fat, stinking rotten egg of a lie."

    Have you noticed that Nancy Whiteley has chosen to bookend her searing memoir with TWO Saint-Exupery quotes? And the two quotes mirror the age and understanding of the narrator?

    The first references to Saint-Exupery come as a child, a favorite book that her Daddy read to her. Note the child like appellation of "Daddy."

    In the beginning we see things thru the eyes of a child, the way a child does. Children see things differently than adults do, I thought presenting this from the eyes of a child was devastating, it's so true.

    I think she carefully added the bit (and I will ask her) about Dad's girlfriend and the fight to try to explain, because most children, however, may be caught in the violence and NEVER understand why, how could they? Stephanie mentioned an abrupt change, yes, and that happens in real life, too, we may all have some personal memory of that, the CHILD does not know why, this particular section and the heartbreaking photo of Nancy as a child, help make for a very powerful statement. And why, you might ask, does this violence occur at all?

    The book The Little Prince apparently (I'm on my way to the library to get it) is about a Prince? Something about escaping in the clouds? I have not read the book so must go get it and see what the inference is, but at any rate it is pleasant? The little Prince, she imagines on page 23, her Daddy like the Little Prince, coming out of the sky to protect her.

    At the end of the book she again, as a college student, older and infinitely wiser, quotes a more mature Saint-Exupery in a more mature book saying that "The aeroplane has unveiled for us the true face of earth, " to which she replies no way,
    " 'No way,' I decided. I hadn't learned the truth about the face of the earth or anything else during those plane rides. Everything I'd believed back then had turned out to be a big, fat, stinking rotten egg of a lie."

    I am fascinated by this set of quotes. What did Saint-Exupery MEAN? The TRUE face of earth?

    Who has not sat in an airplane (do you think her father really flew or is that part of the imagery here?) and looked down at the thousands of people in their homes and wondered if that's what God sees? What did Saint-Exupery MEAN? What's true about the face of earth? Nancy Whiteley here has made a powerful statement, everything she thought was true turned out to be false, a lie, not only a lie a stinking rotten EGG of a lie.

    There's the image of an EGG again, do you see the EGG mentioned here? You can see why she would think so.<br.
    But I am thinking some things are true and not false in her life.

    One thing I think is true here (this much I know is true) is that this person can really write, can really recreate an entire life for us, artfully, skillfully, carefully, and suck us right in, so that when it's over we have to put the book down for a while. And it's true too that I would buy anything she wrote in future. I want to honor what she has done here by looking closely at it, and I'm really enjoying all of YOUR submissions so let's get on to the best part: your ideas!!


    PS I apologize for the length of the heading, it's going to get longer as we add all the questions on, please check it daily for new questions for your consideration, and scroll!
  • Malryn (Mal)
    December 2, 2003 - 06:51 am
    GINNY, I edit and publish two electronic literary magazines, Sonata and the WREX Magazine. I do not edit the poetry in the m. e. stubbs poetry journal, which I also publish. I've edited several books, including an illustrated history of the Eastern shores of Virginia and Maryland by artist-author Sharon Himes, a collection of short stories and essays, Late Harvest IV by the writers of the Writers Exchange WREX, a writing group in SeniorNet, and most recently, a novel by Virginia Bickel which will be published and in bookstores in late Spring or early Summer. Though I have some good background and training in the English language, I edit by what feels like instinct and the seat of my pants!

    Why the airport, the airport, the airport? It's my guess that Nancy Whiteley went to the airport for her sexual encounters because she wanted to experience the out-of-this-world feeling she had when she was flying in the airplane with her idealized father. I personally think she was looking for that father-of-her-mind a good part of her youthful life. Let's ask her:
    Ms Whiteley, why do you think you went to the airport with your boyfriends? Why was being at the airport so important to you?

    Ann Alden
    December 2, 2003 - 07:05 am
    Fear of Flying

    This is the title of a book by Erica Jong. The word 'flying' pertains to her many disappointment of 'sexual' contacts. I don't have the Wally Lamb book but since the author always goes to the airport for her sex, maybe her disappointment in those trysts, is what she is referring to here.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 2, 2003 - 07:13 am
    If this or any part of it had been your own story, could you have written it?
    Yes. I have written stories since I first learned to write. I never really kept a journal, though I wrote thousands of letters to the poor victims who received them, which, I suppose, were in the nature of a journal. I am not afraid to write about myself and my own experiences, as is obvious in some of my posts in SeniorNet.

    Have you ever taken a class in writing and if so how did you come out?
    No, I never took a class in writing. I learned how to write by reading what other people write. I also had the advantage of studying and reading works in three languages besides English. The only writers group I ever belonged to is the Writers Exchange WREX, which I gratefully lead.
    What sort of writing did you do? Fiction? Humor? Memoir?
    I've written both fiction and non-fiction. Yes, I've written humor as well as serious work. The first book I wrote is an autobiographical novel. I figured that if I could get myself taken care of and out of the way, I'd be able to write about other things. This has proven to be true. Since then I've written more short stories than I remember, some of which have been published, and I am currently working on my fifteenth novel, a mystery which is also an unusual sequel to a book I wrote in 1999.
    I write because I love to write. I have to do it. I've learned more about myself from writing than I ever learned in sessions with a shrink. I've also had great pleasure helping other writers write. I see talent in what I've read thus far in Couldn't Keep it to Myself and hope these writers continue to write.


    December 2, 2003 - 07:14 am
    And I have a completely different view of why she's at that airport, doing what she's doing, this is going to be very interesting, I won't say the phrase which accomplanies my own thought, let's wait and see what she says, but I need to get ON with your own splendid points here yesterday, what a feast!!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 2, 2003 - 08:22 am

    "Saint Exupery's classic tale can be read on many levels and enjoyed by readers of any age. He tells the story of being stranded in the desert and meeting a tiny blond boy. This Little Prince proceeds to tell of his travels from planet to planet until he arrived on Earth and of what he has learned along the way. The most important thing he reveals is a secret that was taught him by a fox that he tamed:"
    And he went back to meet the fox.
    "Goodbye" he said.

    "Goodbye," said the fox.
    "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
    It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
    what is essential is invisible to the eye."

    "What is essential is invisible to the eye,"
    the little prince repeated,
    so that he would be sure to remember.

    "It is the time you have wasted for your rose
    that makes your rose so important.

    "It is the time I have wasted for my rose--"
    said the little prince
    so he would be sure to remember.

    "Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox.
    "But you must not forget it.
    You become responsible, forever,
    for what you have tamed.
    You are responsible for your rose. . ."

    "I am responsible for my rose,"
    the little prince repeated,
    so that he would be sure to remember.

    "This is the central lesson of the story--love and responsibility for one another. And just as this is essentially the message of Christ, from here on in the rest of the story is a fairly straightforward Christian allegory. As Saint-Exupery is dying of thirst, the Little Prince leads him to a well, the water of which is uniquely refreshing. Then the Little Prince announces that the time has come for him to go away, that a snake will bite him and it will look like he is suffering greatly, but that he will live on in Saint-Exupery's heart and mind and can never die."


    The Little Prince At the age of 27 Antoine de Saint-Exupery became a pilot. at age 42 he volunteered to be a pilot in the American army. On July 31, 1944 he left for a mission and never returned.

    December 2, 2003 - 08:24 am
    Oh thank you for that Malryn we were posting together, the submissions yesterday were fabulous, I'm enjoying them immensely, but thank you for that insight into the book, I MUST have it now, I hope it's in the Library today.

    Stephanie, what an astute point, we all reinvent our own childhoods, what do you think we tend to remember most? Could you have written this, do you think? How would you have approached these topics? I am obsessed with the knowledge this morning that I could not have written it. It gives a whole new slant on it.

    Ginger, thank you for sharing your own searing story, why on earth would your child blame you for her being born in prison? I don't understand. And I know I should not say this, but I don't understand , If you don't mind saying, what on earth difference would it make WHERE a person was born? I have never in my entire adult life ever had anybody ask me where I was born, for one thing it's none of their business, for another thing it was not too long ago you were lucky IF you knew were you were born! I am sorry your daughter found that upsetting, she needs to read Gandhi on the subject of prisons and he should know, he was in enough of them.

    I am sorry to hear that. Thank you for your always sunny outlook and contributions!

    Carolyn, thank you for sharing your own story and I agree with you on the refuge books provide and here we are seeing another instance of the power of the written word!

    Your story of your dad disappearing and not honoring a promised outing makes me realize how hard it must have been for you to read this, as well. I'm sorry.

    Joan K, how delighted I am to see you here and I agree I felt all the scenes were real, I AM now wondering about the flying, it does fit so well into the story, and thank you for that insight on the advice he gives her as being appropriate to HIS world, not hers, did you happen to notice how many times people do NOT look each other in the eye in this thing and WHEN?

    I would also like to ask her about her mother whom she seems to want to protect as she says for every bad thing or beating she did 10 good things, that's hard, guys, that's hard, that's an optimist there or a loyal child. A child needs to love his parents, it's quite hard, isn't it?

    Thank you for your questions, we'll be getting them up asap on their own pages, I really have to thank Pat Westerdale who is working self to death behind the scenes over this?

    Denjer, thank you for identifying that theme of loneliness and pointing to Wally Lamb's introduction of his student Paula. I do want to ask if he has had any contact with her, don't you, since writing the book?

    I guess this is a good time to tell you all we're here thanks to Wally Lamb's extremely good graces, we had the honor to meet him personally at the National Book Festival, to hear his wonderful (standing room only) speech there and to get in line (long, LONG line) to have this book signed.

    People were turning away from his table in tears.

    He came up out of nowhere with his wife and son, just taking in the sights of the Pavilion. He happened by our table and into conversation with a babbling fool who was talking about how nice he looked (he did) and how the day before I had been dressed a little better, apparently I was taken breathlessly as an AUTHOR ("Are YOU an author,?" and I thought maybe I need to be one if that's the kind of thing that goes on, and he laughed and said well I'm an author and so I had to ask, really. Who are you? Jeex louise. Afterwards everybody at the table said, ginny for Pete's sake he looks exactly like his photos in his books (no he does not, he's taller) . Anyway, the screaming commenced, the table jumped up, hysteria reigned and Andrea, seen here, said, "Don’t mind her, she's come undone!" hahahah bon mot of the year, and of course THAT did it, we all came undone!


    And the rest is history!

    Thanks to his own kindness I hope to learn so much from this discussion.

    What he does NOT know is what happened when he left!

    Everybody who came up was told, did you SEE Wally Lamb!!??!!

    The reaction was always the same WHERE WHERE?? Spinning like tops, grown men and women running in his wake. Hahahaah and the representative of the National Council on Reading I thought would kill me, WHERE is he she screamed, having taken over the table at 1 pm, WHERE , I LOVE him!! Hahahaha I said well he's gone now but he was HERE! She really got miffed, it's not MY fault he came and went before she saw him! Hahahahaha Wally Sightings, my goodness, it really was exciting and people who turned away from him at the book signing, many were moved to tears, as I said, WOW on the Power of the Written Word! I wish I could write like he does!

    But back to what Denjer is saying, I thought also I noticed a theme of emptiness in The True Face of Earth? And people wanting to fill themselves, first her mom with food (which I can relate to , I do the same thing) and herself with sex, which again, don't psychologists say is often a substitute Bobbie, where are you here?

    "Fortress of Fat," how well Wally Lamb explains that and now they say that's exactly what it is.

    Thank you Jerilyn for those thoughts, do you see any more possible themes in The True Face of Earth?

    what about the EGG , Everybody, and the symbolism there?


    December 2, 2003 - 08:26 am
    Do you believe she really knew why she was at the airport? I doubt it, as most of us often do things without analysing them. Even in hindsight, it might be hard for Nancy W. to know why.

    I used to be a very open and outgoing child until the age of eleven. As a teenager I became quiet and withdrawn. I figured the only way to get through life was to hide my feelings under layers of solitude which I did for many years. No matter what happened I pretended everything was fine.

    I belonged to a writer's club in Minneapolis after I was first married and actually got a poem published in the New York Smith Poetry magazine. That was back in the sixties. There were about ten people in our group and we met once a month to critique each other's work. I found writing poetry as a way to let some of those feelings out I'd kept bottled up all those years. I also got a job as an advertising copywriter for Power's Department store, but it was dry writing and certainly didn't require much imagination. I currently contribute once in a while to WREX magazine on Senior Net which Mal edits.

    I don't think I could write my memoirs however. I don't like reliving pain and I admire these women because they have opened wounds that I don't think I would have the courage to do.

    I didn't realize when I was reading the book, that the references to The Little Prince were to a story. I thought it had something to do with the fact that women seem to always be looking for the Prince to come to their rescue (knight in shining armour) and they'll live happily ever after. There is no happily ever after and there is no prince. There is life and no easy way out.

    I have a question for Nancy W. Now that you are out of prison, do you let people know about it? If so what is their reaction?


    December 2, 2003 - 08:40 am
    Oh lovely post Denjer, I'm still catching up, thank you for the question, and here you're also a writer, welcome from the WREX group, and you don't think you could have written it either! If this were YOUR story how would you have attempted, do you think, to approach it? I am really enjoying this entire experience here.
    <br. Also, a word about the POSTS here!

  • The way our software works here, our Boards, is that if two or more people post at the same time, you're going to miss a lot of their posts.

    and you don't want to do that.

    so what I be sure I do, is I click on the Print Page when I come in (you CAN'T miss one that way) and I read up to where I came in, you'll never miss one, but if you ever post and nobody responds to you by name, your post was somehow overlooked, please do not be hurt, simply say again your thoughts?

    back in a mo......
  • Malryn (Mal)
    December 2, 2003 - 08:40 am
    Just to clarify something:

    JERILYN ( Denjer ) said she has writing published "in the WREX Magazine on Senior Net which Mal edits."

    The WREX Writers Exchange writing group is part of SeniorNet. The WREX Magazine is not part of SeniorNet. It is my own copyrighted property which I publish at my own expense, just as the other two electronic magazines I publish are.


    December 2, 2003 - 08:46 am
    Thank you Malryn, did I get the names mixed up, Jerilyn is Danjer?

    Listen, Guys, I am seeing something completely different (isn't this super, all these perspectives and isn't it cool we can ASK the author.....if she wants to answer! hahahaha) in these airport scenes as a venue for sex!


    December 2, 2003 - 09:25 am
    Malryn and Carolyn had an interesting point back there about the accuracy of our childhood memories, what do YOU think they are most based on? Trying to recall things from my own past that people tell me never happened, but I know they did!

    Stephanie what a nice thing to say, I agree, we are real people here and a real community, even though some of you are in New Zealand and Australia as well as all over the US, we're still family. I agree.

    Carolyn, what a beautiful post, I also found Diane's story very moving, not to mention what Mr. Lamb did as well, we'll get to that later but thank you for mentioning it now, because I think it sets the tone for the entire book, you notice it's dedicated to Diane.

    Horselover, I like your quote so much I want to put it in the heading, thank you.

    It's Ginger who has overcome so much in her past. Well Horselover asks why do some people end up in prison and some not? "Mistakes" is the title of Eve Ensler's piece in the PBS POV Production discussion coming up this month, let's go over there PBS POV Program, "What I want my words to do to you," and talk about it, all of those of you with any experience of prisons at all, Georgia, a volunteer in prisons, Bobbicee, a psychologist in prisons, let's go over there and talk about why some of us have managed…the luck of the draw? Choices? Let's go talk? Will you?

    Great point Horselover on the special understandings children have of their parents, wasn't that splendidly written? Was there another part of the story that particularly grabbed you? Love this "The poetic writing of this piece, juxtaposed with the events being described, fits the title." Yes I think it's poetic too.

    Oh I love this Horselover, "From an airplane, the earth looks peaceful and orderly. There is evidence of the presence of humans, but we don't see them."…. ooo, so what IS she saying here?

    Love it!

    Ella, so good to see you here, I do not know what this means,how to balance narrative with exposition." and I hope we will all learn how this affects Non fiction, both from our authors and Mr. Lamb, as this will do us as discussions leaders a great service!

    I also would like to hear from Mr. Lamb on the difference in autobiography and Memoir, thank you.

    Hairy (Linda) I was kidding you! Hahahaa

    Thank you for pointing us back to VOICE, and "conversate," I do so agree, this IS a "Happening!" I hope to get a lot out of it, will you be our VOICE watcher and tell us what VOICE you see in all of these?

    Zinnia!!! Welcome welcome!! What a joy to have you join the group, we're still looking closely at the first story till tomorrow anyway, so you have plenty of time to catch up!

    Welcome!! With your wonderful attitude I know we are in for some super comments!

    hahaha Carolyn, "Hairy" scares them all! Hahahaha

    That's OK, and so is she!

    Ann Alden!! Welcome welcome!! I think that is very astute of you, I am actually leaning in that direction, myself!

    Let's hear from all of you today while we scramble to put up all of your questions on the respective pages, if we miss one, do holler, now let's all do the due diligence here (who have I missed I think I missed somebody??!!

  • What might the airport scenes symbolize?

  • What does the recurring EGG imagery mean? Could it symbolize something?

  • Note new questions in heading: Could you have written this?

  • What does "The True Face of Earth" mean?

  • What does it mean that she's started and ended the story with Saint-Exupery? (wish I could spell it)

  • What other themes do you see in this first story?

  • Wally Lamb mentions the technique of "how to recast memories as dramatic scenes with the help of fictional techniques." Are there any examples of what might be considered "fictional techniques" in this story?

  • I wondered if somehow, somewhere, just maybe, Dad remembered about foxes and little princes—about how a person was responsible for whichever rose he tamed.
    (page 49)

  • what does taming a rose mean?

    Nancy, I would like to know if you have been in contact with your father since you wrote this book? How does your mother feel about the book and how she is portrayed, if you would like to answer those, if not that's fine too.

  • How many instances of looking people in the eye can you find and what does it mean that THIS recurring motif continues through the story?

  • "I'm always your protector," she promised me during one of our parents' battles. "Always and forever." (page 23).

  • Nancy, do you see your sisters now and how is your relationship with them? If you'd want to answer, do they have different memories of these events or are they the same?

    Who do you YOU ALL think Nancy had to rely on?

  • I love the phrasing of this next pasage, just love it:

    What is ironic about these two sentences?

    "Look 'em right in the eye, " my father had advised. I developed a slouch from staring at my classmates' shoes instead.

    What or who have I missed? What are your thoughts on this before we move on to the next stories?
  • kiwi lady
    December 2, 2003 - 10:15 am
    I had the feeling that Linda went to the airport to make out as a statement to her father. "Here I am doing something you would hate in your territory!" Even though obviously her father would not have seen her there, in her own mind she was hurting him.

    Someone said they wondered if Linda had contact with her father as an adult. One of the things we did in therapy was to compose a letter to our fathers to tell them how much we had been hurt as children by their abandonment or how much we had been hurt by their substance abuse. We could post it off if we knew where our fathers were or just burn it. The idea of the letter was basically to allow us to vocalise the hurt and then let it go. Most of us had never put into words the pain we had felt as children and young adults. I think we all covered the paper with tears as we wrote but I know when it was done it was a release. I wondered if Linda's father had been given a copy of the book. I would love to think that Linda had re-established a relationship with her father as an adult. Her Dad did seem to love her from the account she writes of her early childhood.

    I had the same feeling about the word Prince. I thought the reference meant that in life there is no Handsome Prince to whisk each of us away to live happily ever after.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 2, 2003 - 10:22 am
    A question for Nancy Whiteley:
    I can't ask you outright if you are a recovering alcoholic or have been addicted to other drugs because it would break anonymity, and anonymity is an important and precious part of recovery. I will ask you, though, if you think impaired judgment caused by the abuse of alcohol and/or other drugs plays a significant part in the committing of crimes that make people end up convicted and serving a prison sentence?

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 2, 2003 - 11:04 am
    Ginny, No, I could not have written this memoir. I have never taken a writing class, but I did take a dream interpretation class from a psychology professor last year. It was interesting in that we swore ourselves to privacy and then a group of 12 women opened up and told their dreams.. Intensely private dreams and the professor helped us look at the dreams and realize how and where they had come from. We all cried at almost every single session, but felt better. The power of being able to tell is remarkable. I am glad that someone told you the story of the little prince. It is one of those books that is bought over and over by adults. The story is an allegory and very powerful images are there. The best edition also has some wonderful drawings of the little prince, etc. I can see why Nancy picked out these images. I do feel that there is a mystery in that a lot of people have gone through this sort of life and popped out the other end as ordinary every day people. No crime, no prison.. sometimes just everyday.. sometimes quite extraordinary.. What makes the difference?

    kiwi lady
    December 2, 2003 - 11:35 am
    In my case I had a powerful father substitute - my beloved grandfather and as the first grandchild - born in the house next door-I had bonded with from birth. One of my sisters seemed to have been born angry and was dishonest as a child, very cruel to her younger siblings and even abusive to our mother. She chose money and possessions I think as a comfort. She tries to buy friends and family. Two of my siblings are alcohol dependant and my brother has had convictions for drink driving and escaped jail by the skin of his teeth. I believe the bond I had with my grandfather and my grandmother provided a safe haven for me and a sense of security. The sister I am closest to although much younger than me also attached herself to our grandfather and she grew up although feeling rejected by her parents into a responsible adult. I think maybe having a mentor and feeling loved by an adult even outside the nuclear family may make the difference.

    December 2, 2003 - 12:06 pm
    If this or any part of it had been your own story, could you have written it?
    I kept a journal during difficult years with the intent of writing it as a story later. Well, when later came and I started the story, it was so difficult to write that I took the journal entries and ripped them in small pieces and then burned them so no one would ever know. I can't believe how brave these women are too tell their stories.

    December 2, 2003 - 12:33 pm
    Ginny, you are so supportive and enthusiastic, it's contagious. Thank you for doing all this thinking and questioning and reacting to what we all are saying. As a first timer, I'm a bit blown away by the experience of reading so many thoughtful and heartfelt remarks (48 so far)by such an extraordinary and diverse group of women.

    Diane Middlebrook who taught literature and women's studies at Stanford for years suggested that the difference between autobiography and memoir is that a memoir takes place in and pays attention to some sort of historical/cultural context and so speaks to more than an individual experience. She was introducing Tobias Wolff's memoir In Pharoah's Army, a story of Wolff's time in Vietnam. And the definition seemed to fit well there. I wonder, however, if/how it might apply to Nancy Whiteley's stories. The culture of abuse, maybe? Or disfunctional families? I'd be interested in what you all think of this definition of memoir.

    As far as volunteering at the prison, I teach a course called Creative Expressions with another gal, a former high school teacher, who has been doing it for 6 years. I've only been doing it for three. It's 2 hours twice a month, attended on a strictly voluntary basis by anywhere from 2 to 36 women. Of the people signed up and approved to attend, half or maybe 2/3 actually come. Some don't come because they've been required to attend some other class, i.e. AA, or because they've been asked to work late, or because they've gotten into some kind of trouble and have been sent to the "hole." Or because they've forgotten or changed their minds. Or been released. Or become ill. Two Christmases ago, one gal leaped off the second story balcony and broke her heels, and ended up in a psychiatric ward for several weeks after she got out of the hospital.

    We know why someone doesn't come only if they show up later and tell us, or send a message via a classmate.

    With an ever-changing and uncertain enrollment, we pretty much start anew each time, with a short reading, followed by writing, followed by sharing what's been written, always on a voluntary basis. What women can produce in 20 minutes is amazing. Unpolished, of course. But the writing often gives expression to despair, heartache, and now and then, hope, faith and joy. One gal, a mother of four by four different fathers still in her early twenties, wrote one day of how grateful she was to be in prison. "I'd be dead if I weren't here." And how grateful she was that people who knew how to parent were taking care of her children. "I didn't have a clue at 16 what to do."

    I envy Wally Lamb's opportunity to work with the same group of women week after week so that they can rewrite and rewrite until the pieces turn out as polished and professional as these in I Couldn't Keep It to Myself. And also his chance to see Diane after she leaves prison. That is something we are forbidden to do, have contact with any prisoners after their release. Although, maybe if one of ours were dying...

    Question for Wally. How is your workshop structured? Is it a like a college course with a beginning and ending date and structured assignments? Or what?

    Gotta quit now (finally) and go off to the prison.

    kiwi lady
    December 2, 2003 - 12:55 pm
    Could I write this story. Yes. Writing has always been a means of expressing my feelings. I even wrote about the dying process in a piece for one of our WREX deadlines. I wrote about the time I spent at the bedside of my dying husband. It was easier to write in the third person. I cried as I wrote it, I cried as I re read it and edited it. It was for me a good thing to do, a healing thing.

    December 2, 2003 - 01:25 pm
    OH great thoughts, wow, keep 'em coming, I'm back and have my copy of The Little Prince here as I speak, now to read it.

    First off, Pat has completed these super HTML pages which we will now be collecting your questions on, take a peek:

    Our Questions for Wally Lamb

    Our Questions for Nancy Whitely

    Our Questions for the Authors

    They're blank because they need to be filled in--by you, am now collecting your questions.

    I know a lot of you are scrambling to catch up, let our questions here sort of inform your reading if you like and tell us ALL you think!


    kiwi lady
    December 2, 2003 - 01:27 pm
    Question for Wally Lamb.

    Do you think your experiences in teaching these women have had a profound effect on your life and if so how?

    kiwi lady
    December 2, 2003 - 01:30 pm
    Question for Nancy.

    Did you come to know Nancy Whitley by the time your story was ready for publication?

    December 2, 2003 - 02:47 pm
    really sorry I will be away for a bit and that my book wont be here till about the 12th.

    Actually writing about oneself would seem to me to be the easy part, but having it read and discussed, that is a whole other thing. So is self awareness, really making others aware?

    Living here in Quilpie, we have hot artesian bore water, and the whole town is permeated with a rotten egg smell, it is especially noticeable when one showers and this morning I kept thinking how every time one breaks an egg, there is that concern it will somehow be rotten. That is such a powerful analogy.

    We decorated our trees yesterday, and I got to thinking about Miss Cullen and her christmas in prison, and just how important outward signs like decorations are in recalling the true spirit of christmas.Even as we complain about the commercialism of Christmas, as one moves around now, there are so many signs that the season is almost with us that to ignore it is almost impossible, just close your eyes for a second and wonder how it would be without that.I find that almost painful.

    As for a question, I should like to ask each and all of these women, how do we help change things, how do we let them know that ours is not simply voyeuristic interest, but rather a compelling need to see our society do better.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 2, 2003 - 03:48 pm
    To me, the repeated mention of "egg" in Nancy Whiteley's story, "The True Face of the Earth" is as a metaphor for the narrator and human life itself. Here we have a perfect little oval package with potential life and growth inside it. The narrator tells of a ninth grade health class where a raw egg is carried around and cared for as if it were a baby. Her forgetfulness leads to her breaking that fragile shell and turning her "baby" into scrambled eggs.

    Is this what happens when parents are not careful with their yet "unjelled" children? Does their neglect or their impatience and occasional fury break the fragile shell the child has begun to grow as protection against a world that is not always kind?

    Is this what Nancy Whiteley was trying to say? Is Nancy's early view of life that perfect egg? Does her frustration and disillusionment come later when she realizes it isn't? Is this typical of all children when they come to a time of realization, or is it limited to children who have been somehow abused?

    "Life's not all it's cracked up to be."


    kiwi lady
    December 2, 2003 - 04:12 pm
    I think a child who is living in a nuturing stable home does not come to the realisation that life is not all its cracked up to be until they go out on their own or sometimes in their teens when they themselves make a big mistake. However children in an abusive situation learn very early in life - even as pre schoolers that life is not all its cracked up to be.

    December 2, 2003 - 04:50 pm
    I agree with Kiwi Lady. I came from a stable, nourishing home, and I would not change that for anything. But I grew up as a compulsive reader, on a diet of stories with happy endings, where the good people are always loved. I even remember my mother saying to me "A lady never worries about money. Be good, and good things will come. HAH!!! I think it took me years to grow up -- if I ever have. Still, as I said, I would not change my loving parents for anything. They are like a foundation I can build my life on. I marvel at how much some of you have done without that foundation.

    I would like to ask the authors who are parents how they try to provide that foundation for their children.

    A technical question. Since I haven't participated in a live discussion in Seniornet before, how do I refresh the screen to keep up with new posts?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 2, 2003 - 04:55 pm
    JOAN K, I don't know what you mean by "refresh the screen to keep up with new posts." Could you be a little more specific? In the Problems and Comments about Discussions folder reached from the SeniorNet Round Tables index there are people who can lead you to a discussion that might tell you what to do.


    December 2, 2003 - 05:16 pm
    Joan, hitting Refresh on your browser screen will not show the new posts?

    There are only two ways to do it:
  • 1. Go up and look at the top right hand of your screen for the words PRINT PAGE. Click on that, you will NOT be printing, but you WILL see the last 100 or so posts up till the point you clicked on it.

  • 2. OR you have to go somewhere else on the site, and return here. You can click the underlined words Books & Literature on the bottom of the last post here, below the buttons and the cartoons and it will take you to the main menu? And you can choose something and then click on this discussion and return, a time consuming process or...

  • 3. You can click on PREVIOUS which you see directly above the posts here and then read the posts. You need to go back all the way to your last post, that is you need to find where YOU last posted and read forward.

  • Some people use Subscriptions in order to see the new posts, you don't log out do you? Never log out, and the next time you come in it will take you directly to your old post and you can then read along. I will now go find your last post and put a clickable to it for you, hold on...

    THANK you for asking what everybody wants to know.
  • Ginny
    December 2, 2003 - 05:20 pm
    Well I just went into OUTLINE which you can also see right above the first post here and there is ANNEH posting whom I completely missed, so sorry Anneh! I KNEW I had missed somebody!

    THIS is going to be a real problem here because of the volume of traffic here, it's very hard hit, and all I can say is if you do not use subscriptions, (and if you want to learn how write me and I'll send you to the right person, I don't use them but some people swear by them) or hit OUTLINE and find YOUR last post or hit PRINT PAGE on top of the page and read them all or hit PREVIOUS and find your original post.

    BECAUSE the posts come here so fast, you don't want to miss a one. Here is your post yesterday, Joan, Post 19

    Hope this helps,


    kiwi lady
    December 2, 2003 - 05:24 pm
    I don't use subscriptions to all the folders but I never log out.


    December 2, 2003 - 07:35 pm
    When a child is abused, it changes who that child is forever. Even if it's a one-time thing, even if it's relatively mild, it destroys trust. Even if someone counsels the child and helps about it, it still destroys some measure of trust that will never be regained and thus skews that child's view of people and of the world in general. And if it's severe and/or long-term, then the effects are more far-reaching and damaging. The saddest part is that the child usually takes responsibility and assumes that he or she is bad and that's the reason he or she was hurt. And life then becomes a never-ending stream of betrayals for that child, even as an adult, by people who were supposed to love and protect him or her.

    December 3, 2003 - 05:41 am
    I really appreciate all the fine remarks here today! Wonderful submissions! I know many of you are scrambling to catch up, the book is sold out of the bookstores and hogged in the library, many of you ordered it from B&N a month ago, it has not come, but you're gamely trying anyway, and we do appreciate it.

    Today is our last look at "The True Face of Earth" for a while, tho at any time in the month you can certainly come back it.

    Tomorrow and Friday we'll look at "Orbiting Izzy," so if you're stressed for time, read IT now.

    The heading here today has changed, there are new questions added, including several thoughts on theme and recurring imagery (do they call that motif or not?) I'm never sure on motif.

    Lucky 13 up there? Do you see the ending of the piece as hopeful or not?

    DA PLANE!! DA PLANE!! The airport is keeping me up at night, woke up a 3:45 worrying about Nancy at the airport. Why is she there?

    At first I thought, having read it again, since she makes a point that she does not care for the sex particularly, and the name of the person does not matter, I am not sure of her position on having had so many partners, but it's clear that the site does matter. The first time (out of 3) I read it I saw that as, pardon my language, getting back at her father, "Screw you, Dad."

    Now I'm not so sure!! She cuts out his photo from the newspaper, she has happy memories of the airport, I'm not sure now.

    I simply do not know why she's there or if it's a hopeful or not sign, what do YOU think?

    This is a perfect story for a book discussion, it reminds me of Waiting for Godot, we could debate the ending for ever, the images, Dad telling a little girl "Look 'em in the eye," and he does almost exactly NONE of that to his own children and wife? How droll how ironic her own looking 'em in the eye, throughout the story. I LOVE this thing, just love it and on top of all of it it's so POWERFUL. As a 12 year old she felt power when she stood up to her mother, she felt powerful. THIS is real power, tho, the power of the written word, boy is it powerful.

    And then there's the references to The Little Prince which apparently up until yesterday I am the only person on earth who has not read!

    But I have now, and IT'S complicated, too?

    In essence, Malryn has done a good job of bringing here the explanation, but in essence what matters is your "taming" (strange word) things, your caring intimately for things, your taking responsibility for things, and never leting anything down or betraying anything or anybody whom you have cared for. Here we see the Little Prince (who came to save the aviator who crashed, and Saint Exupery did a lot of that, and as Malryn notes, did die in the end of another plane crash) in the midst of thousands of roses but they don't count: what matters is the one rose which depended on him: which he talked to, and more importantly, even tho difficult, which talked to him. How doubly horrible then, to read a child such a cautionary tale full of the different peoples in the world, (loved the vain guy who can only hear praise), but stressing responsibility and then just walk out???

    Don't you want to just SHAKE DAD till his ears pop?

    I do!!

    "I wondered if somehow, somewhere, just maybe, Dad remembered about foxes and little princes--about how a person was responsible for whichever rose he tamed." (page 49)

    Betrayal, disillusionment have been added to the list of themes above.

    "Often, I caught myself still looking up when I heard a plane over head. I told myself I'd been an idiot to believe all that crap about princes an saviors. Little by little I taught myself not to look up." (page 48).

    BUT she's still at the airport! WAS she an idiot to believe princes and saviors?

    What a story, what a book, what a discussion!

    Last call today for any or all of your own thoughts on "The True Face of Earth," Pat will soon have the questions in the heading.

    Hit PRINT PAGE to read everybody's thoughts and then honor us with yours?


    December 3, 2003 - 06:14 am
    Carolyn, I had that same impression about the airport that you did, have you also read The Little Prince, and if so would that change your mind? It's hopeful, a lot about being saved by a being from the sky, sort of a deus ex machina type of thing. The composing of a letter to a parent they say is wonderful and I've heard stories of 80 year olds at cemeteries yelling at long deceased parents, and just glad to get it out. Picturing another child in that same position often helps also, they say. My own lack of parenting skills used to keep me up at night, I don't think any of us were perfect. I think parents tend to do what was done to them UNLESS they make a constant, conscious effort to do differently. I wonder what her Dad thinks of this piece.

    You make a great point about the handsome prince, we all know the jokes about you have to kiss a lot of frogs. I say forget the Prince and sail on, yourself, you can (and obviously have) do a better job than waiting to be rescued.

    Malryn, great thoughts on the egg, loved the cracked up to be, your post made me also think that the earth itself is shaped like an egg, no?

    Wonder what that means!

    Stephanie thank you for that account of your dream interpretation classes, I very much like your seeing symbolism and allegory in the story, I think it has a lot of symbolic meaning, myself. Do you find it hopeful at the end?

    Annie 3, what an image, you tore it into tiny bits, you got farther than I would, and I agree about their bravery!!!

    Georgia, THANK you for those nice words, but hark hark!! Listen, Georgia, do you think your group there at the prison might be interested in collaborating on something with US? What if we read their writings? Can we get something going between us with you as go between? Have they read this book, you said they have read excerpts? Do you have book clubs there in the prison? Want to start one? Can they have books?

    Let's get something going, let's MAKE something happen, as Hairy says, "A Happening!" Let's get something concrete out of this book discussion, I am READY!

    I loved your description of MEMOIR
    Diane Middlebrook who taught literature and women's studies at Stanford for years suggested that the difference between autobiography and memoir is that a memoir takes place in and pays attention to some sort of historical/cultural context and so speaks to more than an individual experience. She was introducing Tobias Wolff's memoir In Pharoah's Army, a story of Wolff's time in Vietnam. And the definition seemed to fit well there. I wonder, however, if/how it might apply to Nancy Whiteley's stories. The culture of abuse, maybe? Or dysfunctional families? I'd be interested in what you all think of this definition of memoir.
    and I am wondering IF the cultural context might well be the betrayal of parents in our society? What do the rest of you think?

    And there's Anneo, SOO good to see you here, doggone those Australians, first Bobbie, now you, forever going "on holiday!!" hahahaha here she is going on Walkabout, we will miss you and will be peeling our eyes for you on the 12th and for our Pedln, also returning on the 12th, a RED letter day on the 12th and thank you for your gentle questions and perspectives! Rotten eggs do smell the worst, we used to raise chickens and I can guarantee it, in fact they often explode in your face, good point on the egg symbolism!

    Oh well done Malryn on the possibilities of the egg symbolism, love it.

    Joan K, marvelous focus on the "happy ending, and good people always loved." We find out that Bad Things Happen to Good People, too, I think it's a shame and I'm so sorry that some of us find it out as children, but IS the world full of people who betray you and IS it ALWAYS a place of disillusionment? I think Wally Lamb in his own quiet way is proving otherwise.

    In a BIG way.

    That's why his book is so important, now I want US to do something with it, I know we can.

    Zinnia, trust is another very important theme in this book, thank you, will add that to the heading: who is trusted and what they do with that important gift. It would seem that everybody Nancy comes in contact with except her mother has proven shallow, I am so sorry. You said, "people who were supposed to love and protect him or her. "

    What would be the conclusions of a child raised who was thus betrayed?

    What can we do?

    OK new questions up, our last day here for this short story, I'm wondering about Dr. Cusamano's name? I may watch too many Sopranos shows, but is THAT a sly dig in itself?

    What are YOUR last thoughts today on "The True Face of Earth?" Do you think you might know what the title means?

    Is the piece hopeful?


    Ann Alden
    December 3, 2003 - 06:54 am
    You are audacious! We are all scrambling to keep up with you and you go and propose something else to be added!

    Georgia, THANK you for those nice words, but hark hark!! Listen, Georgia, do you think your group there at the prison might be interested in collaborating on something with US? What if we read their writings? Can we get something going between us with you as go between? Have they read this book, you said they have read excerpts? Do you have book clubs there in the prison? Want to start one? Can they have books?

    I love your enthusiasm!! Its infectious!!

    Tonight we have our library discussion group and we have a teacher from the juvenile prisons. I will ask her if the children get to write much. Seems as if this could help them get off their bad behavior track and onto a better life, maybe they are old enough to recognize a need to change and young enough to try before they are swamped by their unhappy lives.

    December 3, 2003 - 07:49 am
    The questions pages have been up-dated... What a great lot of questions... and they say children ask lots of questions... Curiosity never hurt anyone.

    December 3, 2003 - 10:41 am
    Hi all, I've been pretty quiet so far because I am taking advantage of learning from all of you. I feel like I'm in college with all the ideas and thoughts being presented by everyone; so many things I missed or never would have thought about.

    I have two questions I would like to ask Mr. Lamb to answer. My questions concern Nancy Birkla and her essay. In the intro, Mr. Lamb tells that Ms. Birkla is his first cousin and then after reding her story it became evident that she probably was not a part of the writing group at the York prison but wrote her story for the book many years after being released from prison. I'm so glad her essay was included because it inabled me to see how hard some former inmates continue struggling after being released. It broke my heart to think about how hard her life continued to be even after she took responsibility for her mistakes from her past. I also think her story added credibility to the fact that inmates really can become rehabilitated even though it can be incredibly hard to do so.

    Here are my questions for Mr. Lamb:

    In the book you were pretty vague about Nancy Birkla's relationship to you and you didn't tell about how the decision came about to include her story in the book. 1). Did the fact that somebody from your own family had been incarcerated influence you in your decision to work with inmates on a regular basis? 2). You said Ms. Birkla was a private student of yours. Have you helped her with writing for a long time?

    I have a couple of more questions that I will save for her.

    However her story ended up in the book, I'm so glad it did. I don't think the book would have been the same without it. It's my favorite and I can't wait for her to be available for questions too.

    Oh, by the way, if Mr. Lamb would not mind a personal question I would like to know if writing talent runs in his family or if he and Nancy Birkla are the only 2 writers. If the last question seems too personal or inappropriate, please forgive me and never mind.

    Now I will go get the story of The Little Prince so I can start understanding all the wonderful comments others are writing. Thanks you all for this opportunity to discuss a really good book.

    Your new friend Mary

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 3, 2003 - 10:56 am
    Hi, MARY! Nice to see you here.

    We haven't discussed Nancy Birkla's story yet. The assignment for this week is: "December 1-7: Notes and Pages 1-93". The Discussion Schedule is in the header opposite Wally Lamb's picture at the top of this page. I'm sure GINNY will come in and tell you when we're going to discuss Nancy Birkla's story.


    December 3, 2003 - 11:19 am
    I realize we are not discussing Nancy Birkla's story this week, and I'm really not trying to discuss it now, but since Mr. Lamb will not be here all the time, I thought we could submit questions for him at any time. I guess I remain confused about how to do this. Sorry! I can try again next week. Mary

    December 3, 2003 - 11:38 am
    betternthen - Mary ... You're doing great... I'll get your questions up as soon as I finish my soup. I'll put your Wally questions about Nancy B at the bottom.

    Everyone has so many good questions... I guess I can just sit and hope Nancy W, Wally and the rest have time to answer them.

    December 3, 2003 - 11:45 am
    Ginny: I'm so glad you respond to each message. Reading your response today mad eme realize I had missed about 20 postings, including the one about always hitting "print page" so you won't miss any postings hahaha. From now on, I'll always do that.

    December 3, 2003 - 11:49 am
    Could I write about myself? I think I could write, but not tell the truth. By that I mean it would come out a pretty and neat story, not really get down to where it hurts.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 3, 2003 - 01:11 pm
    Orbiting Izzy.. I have to confess that this is my least favorite of all of the stories. I would guess this has to do with the theme of abandoning Izzy and taking off again with what she thinks of as "The good life". I know.. Stop being judgemental, but I would guess that I am about this sort of stuff. I have known way too many people in life that has this attitude. I want this, so I will have it now.. My brother had this attitude and it ended very badly indeed for him. He always believed that he should be able to do and spend what he wanted to. It made for such a hard life in the end. His wives and his son all suffered from this. I wonder how Nancy feels now about it.

    kiwi lady
    December 3, 2003 - 01:59 pm
    I think I felt a bit the same way Steph about Orbiting Izzy. I would be dishonest if I did not mention this.


    December 3, 2003 - 02:09 pm
    It terrifies me! I have tried to write memoirs for years when my eldest daughter asked me to put down some memories for her. It's extremely difficult for me to open up and let others in on my "innermost thoughts." When I was very young I wrote all of the time in my diary and even had 2 poems published in a young teen magazine. All hell broke loose with my mother when she found the diary and the warm accolades from the publication. Talk about coming undone! She was completely unaware of any of my innermost feelings and that she could not and would not tolerate. Since then I've never saved what I put down on paper. It frightens me and yet this process is so cathartic. I started reading Dorothy Parker when I was at this age and always wonder if it was her writing that moved me so much or if a kid of 14 could have possible been that bloody upset about life and the agonies it presents. Fom those teen years I learned a great deal and try very hard to be in tune to young adults and their many heartaches.

    December 3, 2003 - 02:27 pm
    I like "Orbiting Izzy". It shows Nancy bringing some fun into someones life and trying to understand and be friends with someone very different from herself. True, it's easy for us to say she should have handled his attraction for her differently, but part of the point is that she is not an expert in friendship. This is, I think, the only time she mentions having a friend. In high school, the girls hated her and the boys used her, as she used them. Ozzie may have been her first friend. She obviously misses that. I would like to ask her if she has friends now.

    Ozzie is obviously nothing like her father, and she doesn't see him as a prince who will save her. But there is something of the wish she had for a close relationship with her father there. It's interesting how afraid she is that Ozzie will have sexual feelings for her and "spoil" it. Of course, that's just what happened, but in spite of all her experience, she doesn't seem to have any idea what to do.

    I found her remark that getting the oil changed was why girls got married interesting. She was obviously still looking for a prince to take care of her.

    December 3, 2003 - 02:40 pm
    I think it is very hard for most of us women to like a woman like Nancy. I would have been one of the girls in high school who hated her. She is the one we resented, dispised, feared, maybe envied. That is why it is valuable to have a chance to "put ourselves in her shoes" as those in the Gandhi discussion called it. That doesn't mean we have to like what she does, or make her our best friend. But maybe we can reach the level of our common humanity.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 3, 2003 - 03:15 pm
    At the top of her post #66, GINNY said we'll begin to discuss "Orbiting Izzy" tomorrow. All I'll say about it is that it's a terrific story, beautifully written, and I wish I'd written it. It, on top of "The True Face of Earth", is what makes me know Nancy Whiteley is a real writer. I applaud her for her talent and her skill.

    Nancy Whiteley reminds me of Harriet in Donna Tartt's Little Friend. Harriet was obsessed by the idea of her brother's death and was searching for his killer, a killer she had made up in her head, since it was never proven that the boy had truly been killed, or if his death was an accident. Harriet was abandoned by her father and abused by her mother just as Nancy Whiteley was. Harriet's life is followed only until she is about 12 or 13, but I see great similarities between her and Nancy. Both took enormous risks to search for what they were looking for. Both put themselves in danger when they did without realizing the terrible cost to them.

    I say, "How can you not like Nancy Whiteley?" We are not looking at someone we knew in school or anyone we have ever known. We are looking at a woman who lived her life from childhood under great odds, two strikes against her from the time she was a tiny, little girl.

    I have great sympathy for this woman who at the age of 12 or 13 became pregnant and had an abortion. She said she didn't try to prevent the pregnancy because she wanted a companion, a "Little Friend". Can you imagine going through that experience at that age, never mind what sort of behavior caused the pregnancy?
    "The next day I snuck the baby sweater back in the attic. The day after that it was as if the pregnancy had never happened."
    Or was it? Didn't this experience leave scars on her like other experiences she'd had? Like her mother alternating love with beatings in a way poor Nancy never knew where she stood -- except alone? I can feel only sympathy for her and her impossible dream of being rescued from a much too hard world by a fictitious Little Prince or a fictitious father dropping out of an impossibly blue sky.


    December 3, 2003 - 04:58 pm
    "The earth teaches us more about ourselves than all the books. Because it resists us. Man discovers himself when he measures himself against the obstacle." -- opening lines to the original French version of Saint-Exupery's Wind, Sand and Stars.

    Whether the author of the essay saw this particular paragraph or not isn't critical because this theme is repeated many times, in various forms, throughout the pages, of Saint-Exupery's book.


    In Chapter 8 'Prisoner of the Sand' of Saint-Exupery writes of his plane crash in the Libyan desert where he wandered 4 days without water before being rescued by a Bedouin. He wrote this as a journal to his wife before his rescue:

    "Apart from your suffering, I have no regrets. All in all, it has been a good life. If I got free of this I should start right in again. A man cannot live a decent life in cities, and I need to feel myself live. I am not thinking of aviation. The airplane is a means, not an end. One doesn't risk one's life for a plane any more than a farm ploughs for the sake of the plough. But the airplane is a means of getting away from towns and their book-keeping and coming to grips with reality."


    In Chapter 5 'The Plane and the Planet':

    "The airplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth. For centuries, highways had been deceiving us. We were like that queen who determined to move among her subjects so that she might learn for herself whether or not they rejoiced in her reign. Her courtiers took advantage of her innocence to garland the road she traveled and set dancers in her path. Led forward on their halter, she saw nothing of her kingdom and could not know that over the countryside the famished were cursing her."

    "Even so have we been making our way along the winding roads. Roads avoid the barren lands, the rocks, the sands. They shape themselves to man's needs . . . ."

    "And even when a road hazards its way over the desert, you will see it make a thousand detours to take its pleasure at the oases. Thus, led astray by the divagations of roads, as by other indulgent fictions, having in the course of our travels skirted so many well-watered lands, so many orchards, so many meadows, we have from the beginning of time embellished the picture of our prison. We have elected to believe that our planet was merciful and fruitful."

    "But a cruel light has blazed [the obstacle in this case is war, specifically WWII], and our sight has been sharpened. The plane has taught us to travel as the crow flies. Scarcely have we taken off when we abandon these winding highways that slope down to watering troughs and stables or run away to towns dreaming in the shade of their trees. Freed henceforth from this happy servitude, delivered from the need of fountains, we set our course for distant destinations. And then, only, from the height of our rectilinear trajectories, do we discover the essential foundation, the fundament of rock and sand and salt in which here and there and from time to time life like a little moss in the crevices of ruins has risked its precarious existence."

    "We to whom humble journeyings were once permitted have been been transformed into physcists, biologists, students of the civilizations that beautify the depths of valleys and now and again, by some miracle, bloom like gardens where the climate allows. We are able to judge man in cosmic terms, scrutinize him through our portholes as through instruments of the laboratory."

    Perhaps the essay is the author's airplane? Earlier in her life she wasn't able to discover herself, she sought refuge in the material pleasures of the world, but the essay-airplane is a means to achieving self-knowledge.


    December 3, 2003 - 07:57 pm
    "I note how much less I now read, how much slower, how much better. by Doris Grumbach on reaching her seventieth birthday.

    Actually, I don't think our group reads less, but I do think we definitely read better. It took me quite a while to catch up with all the wonderful, interesting posts since the last time I signed on.

    Someone asked if "The True Face of Earth" ended hopefully. I don't think so. The very last line indicates that the narrator is back at the airport with a boy whose name does not matter to her. She is back to a way of life that can only lead to disaster.

    I loved "Orbiting Izzy," although that one does not end hopefully either. Fortunately, a postscript is included that tells us that Nancy Whiteley regained her freedom and "has maintained full-time employment and rigorous commitment to a twelve-step program that addresses her addiction to alcohol and drugs." Good for her!

    It is sad that so many relationships between men and women that begin with friendship become awkward when one party wants to turn it into something else and the other doesn't. This may not have been the real reason Nancy quits her job; she already had a strong desire to return to Aldo and the luxurious life he offered. But Izzy's inappropriate letters, which constitute sexual harrassment under the law, certainly helped her make that fateful decision.

    The story leaves me wondering what happened to Izzy and his wife -- a testiment to the author's power to make this character come alive in the space of less than ten pages. Was Izzy's life changed by his time with Nancy, or did he, too, go right back to his old anal way of life? Probably neither of these two characters had a healthy way of living; one craved too much risk and the other too much security. As Aristotle said, "Moderation is all." From the postscript, it would seem that Nancy, at least, finally learned this important lesson.

    I think one difference between autobiography and memoir is that while an autobiography tries to take an overview of an entire life up to the point of writing, a memoir can focus on just one, or several, strong memories and their place in the author's life. For example, Lillian Hellman wrote some popular memoirs that would probably not rise to the level of autobiography. I'd be interested in Wally Lamb's response to that question and hope he will answer it.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 3, 2003 - 08:00 pm
    I just watched "The Little Prince" on the HBO Family Channel. It's a wonderful, fanciful movie. Stanley Donen was the director. Steven Warner played the prince, a beautiful performance by a talented child. Richard Kiley was the pilot. Gene Wilder was the fox. A highlight for me was seeing Bob Fosse as the snake, an amazing performance by a man I consider to be one of the best dancers and the most imaginative choreographer of the twentieth century. Music by Lerner and Loewe. It's worth watching if you have a chance to see it.


    December 3, 2003 - 08:31 pm
    MAL, Do you know if it's on video tape or DVD?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 3, 2003 - 09:01 pm
    HORSELOVER, it must be. I imagine a search at a video store or bookstore site would tell you.


    December 3, 2003 - 11:44 pm
    I was not able to get on the discussion until tonight--and I find 85 messages already! It is past midnight and I have only read about half of them. I am so impressed with all the comments and the discussion so far. It is such a great book for discussion. I loaned mine to a neighbor for a couple of days and she didn't want to give it back--she is in the process of getting it at the library and may lurk in this discussion.

    Several of you have put into words something that was in the back of my mind as I read the book. Kiwi Lady said "my recollections of my childhood are quite different from my sister's." Mal wonders what was left out and reminds us that few of us are reliable narrators. I have experienced this "selective memory" that I have. And that I think others have when I have the opportunity to reminisce with family and friends from those childhold years. We do not seem to remember things the same way at all.

    But these authors have told their stories in a way that we cannot easily forget--they succeeded in showing us that they are human beings first, inmates second as one of the authors is quoted on the jacket.

    I was asked to edit some children's stories by the aide who works with my grandson at school. She is very creative and writes delightful stories -- but she knows that her grammar and punctuation are not good and her stories need reworking and rewriting. I suspect some of these authors might have started out writing the way she does. Editing is very difficult! And time-consuming. Just from that one experience I've had, I can just imagine how much work went into this book on the part of the authors and of the editors. What a wonderful sense of accomplishment though to now be published.

    I may not be able to keep up with all of you--but I am going to hang in here. I do not have any questions to add for the first story. Marge

    December 4, 2003 - 05:54 am
    Today we're going to look at "Orbiting Izzy," which apparently is so powerful we can't wait to get it out of the box! Hahahaa, that's OK.

    We will look at Orbiting Izzy today and tomorrow and then take up Theft for Saturday and Sunday, in that way I hope we will all have time enough to talk about each one, let's give each one its due?

    I agree with Marge, so glad to see you here Marge,
    "And that I think others have when I have the opportunity to reminisce with family and friends from those childhood years. We do not seem to remember things the same way at all.

    But these authors have told their stories in a way that we cannot easily forget--they succeeded in showing us that they are human beings first, inmates second as one of the authors is quoted on the jacket. "

    Horselover said,
    "The story leaves me wondering what happened to Izzy and his wife -- a testament to the author's power to make this character come alive in the space of less than ten pages."

    I agree.

    This morning we take a look at "another Nancy." This Nancy is different from the "Nancy" we met in the first story, you almost would not know they are the same author, would you?

    How are they different, that's one of the things we want to look at today in this often hilarious with a punch short story.

    What are some of the differences you can see in the attitude and tone and delivery of this second short story "Orbiting Izzy" and the first "The True Face of Earth?"

    In the heading under the underlined Writing Techniques we can see Susan Rabiner and Aldred Fortunato talking about:
  • [Let's add: what are the issues each author explores?]
  • What is the thesis: the position the author takes on the issue.
  • What is the question it asks and what answer does it seem to provide?
  • I don't think these two stories are put side by side by accident, let's take a good look at "Orbiting Izzy" today, the story itself, Thursday and Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday move on.

    We are not here to say whether or not we "like" any of the authors, although it's a testimony itself as to how they have moved you, personally. We don't KNOW the authors, at all, as people, personally? We may disagree with the POV of the author about a certain issue, or the thesis or theme presented, but let's not make the jump to "liking" or "disliking" the author, as a person, because we simply cannot know the author from the two vignettes presented, any one of us could write an isolated set of vignettes about our own past, (which may or may not coincide with the memories of others at the same time), our own mistakes here (maybe we need to do just that). But most of us have said we could not, we've trashed and torn up the painful things of OUR past rather than keep revisiting them, we're older now, and, having seen and/or lived thru similar experiences, we long to reach out, as the kind compassionate people I know you to be, and say no no don't go there, we hope, in our concern, that the author will not go there again.

    But one thing we can know, this person CAN write, and can push all our buttons and CAN present to us issues like the bank tellers in their narrow minded, close minded hatefulness, we've all stood there, we've all experienced something like that in our own lives, and WHOOSH all our old bells start ringing, powerful powerful, we make personal connections with ourselves, friends, or family and project those memories, our own demons, onto the hapless author, without even realizing it. WHOOSH. Out of our own good natured concern. BECAUSE we have already walked or know somebody who has walked that path. We long to say no no, don’t, don't, NOOOO!~

    We wouldn't react that way if the writing was not superlative, and it is.

    IN this way then, the readers of a book group are called upon to do their own work? This discussion will act as a watershed for all of us? It's not AS hard as writing, but it IS hard, if you do it right and the result is worth it, because you learn something about yourself as well as what you're reading. The "due diligence," we must ALL, me included, get beyond the knee jerk, " oh I do remember my high school days" reaction, we are no longer in high school, thank God, and DO the due diligence.

    The only thing I "know," (and this thing I do know is true), about Nancy Whiteley, our guest, our invited guest at our own table here, (if she still wants to come), is that I feel quite protective of her and I think that in her young life she has had QUITE enough discouragement and negativity and disillusionment and disappointment dumped on her, even by the age of 12, and she will not receive more from me or from our table here, and I know you all, in your concern, and I know that is what it IS from the very compassionate emails you have written, agree.

    Let's look at "Orbiting Izzy."

    AND your insightful comments from yesterday!

    Feel free to revisit "the True Face of Earth" anytime if something new strikes you as we go on as well it might.

    Let's talk about what you have said!

    December 4, 2003 - 06:38 am
    Nancy had me on the first paragraph of "Orbiting Izzy". Gotta love that gal. Here she is fresh out of jail in her "stolen Liz Claiborne suit" eyeing herself up in the mirror, and honestly appraising her "slutty" look. I could almost see the twinkle in her eye as she remembers her first intro to Aldo. I've done that! I know exactly what she means. Aldo in all of his glory tells her that the universe is still a baby. After doing time this gal could tell Aldo a few things about the universe I'll bet. This IS well written.

    What did she mean by "I realized that Aldo deserved every bit of his reputation as a criminal and a ladies' man. So I married him. Did she marry him fearing that with his fondness for the ladies she would lose him?

    Coming from the "Jewish Alps" of NY State I have met many Izzy look-alikes making me understand her need to check out the escape routes at their first meeting. I took care of many, many Izzys at the hopital where I worked and their major complaint WAS exactly as Nancy has described him. Gastric and bowel complaints; "Kosher this, Kosher that, dahlink!"

    "His marriage had been one long,comfortable yawn." I love that. No wonder he got the hots for Nancy, poor boring Izzy needed a boost in life.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 4, 2003 - 07:04 am
    I find myself interested in the editing process more and more. I have never edited anything other than some genealogy stuff and that is pretty self evident on what you must put in or take out. I cannot imagine not liking an author because I dont like their book or story.. I can disagree mightily with stories, but still applaud the author for writing it. This story makes me wonder what Izzy would have written.

    December 4, 2003 - 07:16 am

    Ann, our own Audacious ADOAnnie, I am excited about your meeting yesterday, can we get something going with the youthful offenders?

    Pat, thank you for updating the splendid Questions for Wally Lamb, Our Questions for the Authors (check out those pages in the heading as links under Wally Lamb's photo above, isn't that a fabulous group photo?) thank you all for the super questions, keep them coming, and Pat for your wonderful presentation. Pat is our Ghost Co Host here, it her art work in the headings and on the HTML pages, working continually in the background and we all appreciate it, very much, it makes such a difference.

    betternthen, thank you for those lovely comments, but if YOU keep silent we will not learn.

    We need everybody to try, thank you for your marvelous questions for Nancy Birkla, we should get to her on Wednesday of next week and I am excited to read your insightful remarks. It will be interesting to do a post discussion survey at the end of this discussion (and we will) ON the discussion itself and what you all thought, and we can add a question about which story you personally liked the best, and why!

    Did you get the story of The Little Prince? I read the first half wondering why my mother never read it to ME and the second half knowing why. It would seem you and I are the only two people who have not read it, so in that way we have really learned something from this first story!

    Joan K I agree, it would be very hard to write where it hurts, and I think maybe the writing where it hurts is the honest part.

    High school.

    I started out teaching high school, during the Vietnam War.

    I was 21 and my students were 19 year olds in the 9th grade, because at that time if you failed them they were drafted. Nobody wanted to fail them. I failed nobody. To me high school girls (and I taught one class of girl's gym, too like all teachers you get to do strange duties) boy did those poor girls run laps. Every nasty remark, every nasty comment about another girl, run a mile. Run a mile. Good for your health good for your attitude. To me, high school, which should be so elevating, is chock full of nastiness ….high school girls remind me of chickens. Here on the farm we have had plenty of opportunity to observe the chicken.

    Their behavior is like unto a teen age girl. Run, flock, run after every new thing, any new bright object, run, run. Ever seen a teen age girl at a concert? Same thing: run run. But at the same time, the most docile chicken, the very first time something new or strange, a new chicken is introduced? Pounce! ATTACK! Pecking order, have to maintain the status quo, pecking order.

    Maybe that's why we call them "bird brains?" How many high school girls in tears did I see, how many horrendous home lives, how did any of us survive that artificial cruel world. How could anybody survive it with a home life that was not supportive?

    Kudos to those who try to reach these poor troubled children.

    "Orbiting Izzy" presents a fabulous story of contrasts, almost a My Fair Lady in reverse, sort of a Petty Woman in reverse. I think that's why I like it. I think I like seeing Nancy take control. In this story NANCY is in the driver's seat, she's making the choices, SHE is not being used, she's deliberately in charge. I like that. I think that's positive. That does not mean she does not make bad choices, in a moment of weakness, but there is a significant change, to me in the second story, do any of the rest of you see it?

  • Note the humor, how many instances of humor can you find in this story, it's hilarious, and when is humor used and for what purpose?

  • "The curse of the trashy broad is that she's an easy target for "decent" women." (page 58).

    The author is saying a lot here. Is it true? Is it the so called "trashy" part or could it be something else? What causes people to react like the women in the bank did? What do you think is really going on?

    I'll share a bit of knowledge I personally picked up recently, about negative and unexpected hurtful behavior of others, it only took me 60 years to learn it so I'll pass it on for what it's worth (you may disagree) and that is that people act the way they do out of their own interest? Only? And so when somebody does something or reacts strangely? That's why. It often has nothing whatsoever to do with the person they have met.

    Are there some kinds of dress which seem "trashy?" ARE some people doomed to look "trashy?" Do you know what she's talking about there?

    Have you ever seen the program What to Wear? I swear they take perfectly normal looking people and try to TURN them in to trash, have you seen it, on BBC?

    Andrea, I agree, it's very difficult to write about painful things. I did not know you had had poems published!! But I am not surprised! Is your mother still alive now and if not do you think you could write again? You do write beautifully?

    Stephanie and Carolyn, what do you see as the point of view of "Orbiting Izzy?" Do you see a difference in the perspective of the author in this piece from the first one?

    Joan, you say in spite of all her experience when Izzy wanted to carry the relationship beyond friendship and "spoil" it, "she doesn't seem to have any idea what to do? Why do you think that is? Does she seem to have a great deal of experience with male friends who don't want to have sex with her? Just a platonic relationship?

    Good point on her wanting a prince, that's a similarity. Did you notice a similar approach in Aldo also?

    I am fascinated by how she presents Aldo to us? She could have done any number of things, LOOK at how she chose to present him? What about him would appeal to a young woman who had been deprived of "the good things" all of her life?

    Malryn I agree, it IS a terrific story, and a very good point you made that "Nancy" never knew where she stood,--"except alone."

    Did you find this story funny?

    What are some of the instances of humor in this story, and what sort of humor IS it?

    Marvelle!! Welcome welcome!
    We are delighted to see you here, thank you VERY much for those quotes from Saint-Exupery, oh and I love this, "Perhaps the essay is the author's airplane? Earlier in her life she wasn't able to discover herself, she sought refuge in the material pleasures of the world, but the essay-airplane is a means to achieving self-knowledge.". Thank you for that and welcome!

    Horeslover, a beautiful post, I agree, we DO read "better," and as the result of more than 400 books discussed, we may be finally learning HOW to read, I have great hopes for this discussion, almost maybe "out of the sky" hopes as that's what it's like, to me, and we'll see what happens, we're in the right, caring, company.

    So you don't see optimism at the end of "The True Face of Earth, " do you see it in "Orbiting Izzy?" I do. Wonder which of them was written first? Let's ask the author!

    After I read Orbiting Izzy I stopped waking up at 3am worrying about Nancy at the Airport, but I assume there that Izzy was written after Earth.

    Here's a poignant line:

  • "Nancy? Do you think that people can just come into our lives for a moment and love us, and we love them back, and then change our whole lives, and then they just disappear?

    I groped for the joke, some sarcastic qup to lighten the moment, but nothing came to mind. "That's all that ever happens, " I said.

  • What does this reveal about the author's perspective in "Orbiting Izzy?" Is it different from "The True Face of Earth?

    I love Izzy too, I deliberately read IT first as I saw it was the story that caused the book to be published, and was blown away. You don't see it ending hopefully?

    Oh interesting point on the sexual harassment issue, I had not thought of that.

    What is your opinion of Nancy's leaving Izzy once he got amorous?

    She offered him friendship, was that inappropriate?

    He was married.

    Does this vignette say that men and women cannot be platonic friends?

    Horselover said,
  • "The story leaves me wondering what happened to Izzy and his wife -- a testament to the author's power to make this character come alive in the space of less than ten pages. Was Izzy's life changed by his time with Nancy, or did he, too, go right back to his old anal way of life?"

    Well put that up, too, do you really think there WAS an Izzy?

  • What do you make of the author's names for herself? "Suzy Punch Clock," and "Janie Punch Clock," and "Suzy Lunch Pail?" What do they reveal about her POV?
  • What does the comment "Izzy Weintraub's School of Responsibility" mean and how does it provide contrast for the author's underlying focus?

  • The author has repeated several images in this short story pertaining to "orbits: "I guess you could liken me to a meteor that had crashed head-on into Planet Isadore." (page 56). What effect do these recurring metaphors have on the story?

  • How do you feel about the effect that Nancy had on Isadore? Do you think his life was better as a result of her friendshiop or worse? Do you tend to blame her for leaving, do you think she left him like others had left her, or do you see her behavior with the married Isadore a positive step?

  • Nancy did not mention she was out of prison, do you think it's hard for people just released from prison to find a job? Should they mention it?

    Malryn, thank you for telling us about The Little Prince on TV I had no idea.

    Marge, thank you, I agree, it's a great book discussion and I am also impressed, and I think we can get even more out of "Orbiting Izzy" an am excited to hear what you all think or what questions YOU would like to ask!

    You said, "I can just imagine how much work went into this book on the part of the authors and of the editors. What a wonderful sense of accomplishment though to now be published." I agree, let's ask, want to, Wally Lamb AND each author personally on each story and see how long it took to refine it and what those refinements consisted of, I think that would be fascinating!!

    Well now, a blizzard of questions for the new "Orbiting Izzy," what are YOURS? Pick one and jump right in, we'll concentrate today and tomorrow on "Orbiting Izzy," and look forward to your comments!

  • Malryn (Mal)
    December 4, 2003 - 08:20 am
    I would feel terrible if Nancy Whiteley thought we were unkind in any way or judging her. As a writer and editor I think this woman has a brilliant, natural talent for writing. My deepest instinct tells me she should never stop. My strongest impulse is to give her everything I've learned about writing by doing it for nearly 75 years.
    Nancy, if you are reading this, I want to tell you to take all the hard and good experiences you've had and turn them into fiction. Make them books. You have the ability to make people laugh and cry, feel pain and hope, and you have time on your side. You must use the gift you have. This old woman wants to tell you that everything that's happened to you in your life is fodder for you as a writer. With the skill and talent you have, you can harvest this into writing this old, dumb world needs to read. You already have Wally Lamb on your side. If you ever need or want to talk about writing with a woman who has spent most of her life doing it, get in touch with me and we'll talk.
    In "Orbiting Izzy" we have the voice of the grown woman with such a collection of experiences under her belt that she stands apart from most other people. She can't tell Mr. Weintraub she's just out of prison any more than a recovering alcoholic or drug addict can reveal that fact to a potential employer if he or she wants to be hired. Because of the world's attitude about ex-convicts and addicts and other such "inferiors", it's essential that anonymity be maintained. Nancy Whiteley is amazingly honest about herself and her experiences in what she writes, but in order to avoid unnecessary cruel and senseless judgment from an unsympathetic world, she could not reveal her imprisonment or her past to people like Isadore Weintraub, not if she wanted to get a job and make a living that would support her, or live among insensitive people who'd point their finger at her as a bad example.

    Oh, my goodness, listen to this:

    "Although the desk was all set up and ready to go, I sniffed the dank, musty aroma of abandonment."
    What incredible writing this is! Already we know what kind of man Isadore Weintraub is: he keeps an immaculate shrine in his office to his father who has been dead for five years. He says, "Men are from Mars, women are from Filene's." Filene's basement, Izzy? What a comment from a man who's been unable to take the reins and has been bored all of his life! What luck that Nancy Whiteley entered it!

    Here's a woman in her stolen Liz Claiborne suit ready to do filing with her alphabet skills. Jeepers! What a contrast between her and the "heavy, middle-aged, divorced women ( at the bank ) who took turns winking at Izzy and giggling behind their Ring Dings and powdered doughnuts." What a breath of fresh, full-of-life air blew into Izzy's life in the form of an ex-prisoner! He tiptoes around the perimeter; she crashes into the center of life. I love her honest humor and ability to laugh at herself.

    Aldo represents the risk-taking I mentioned before that so attracted this woman. I think from a little girl Nancy liked to get high -- high in the sky in her father's plane, high on life with the help and hindrance of a few stimulants and a lot of men. The dull, rote existence other people live was not enough for her. I know exactly how she felt.

    Get high on writing, Nancy. The strongest stimulant and highest high you'll ever find is in yourself.


    December 4, 2003 - 10:27 am
    Hi Ginny,

    I just ordered my book from Amazon.Expedited shipping should make the book arrive quickly. That is my hope and prayer.

    I can't wait to join the discussion. Along with the other posters, I will gladly and humbly learn from Wally Lamb and each of the authors in the book.

    Ella Gibbons
    December 4, 2003 - 10:50 am
    Some of us are just starting the book, so please may we back up just a little and comment on the NOTES AND NANCY WHITELEY? I just picked up the book at the Library - THANKS, WALLY LAMB! You are doing a great service to these women who are participating!

    In the Notes, it is obvious to me that Mr. Lamb felt very close to Diane Bartholomew, who, when dying, was allowed out of prison. Her story comes later, but this is one we all will have much to comment on. I just want to take a moment to quote this (in the Notes). Diane stated: "My eyes are wide open," speaking of her daily life in prison. "And I don't like much of what I see around me."

    I took the survey above and one question concerned prisons and their purpose. I answered by saying they are to rehabilitate! That's what we are told!!! What do they actually do? I have my eyes wide open also and hope to learn through these stories a grain of truth! I know the women are given classes as word processing is mentioned, but are they taught how to get a job with a prison record??

    Wally Lamb makes this statement at the end of the Notes:

    "We are a paradoxical nation, enormously charitable and stubbornly unforgiving. We have called into existence the prisons we wanted. I am less and less convinced they are the prisons we need."

    A question for Mr. Lamb if it has not been asked: How would you change the prison for women that you were involved with?

    I have many more comments - but poor Ginny, who attempts to answer every poster, needs no more work!!!

    Just put the question in, Ginny, and forget me. I'll post now and then, but these stories are remarkable and I could write an analysis of several pages of each one of them. I won't! hahaha

    December 4, 2003 - 11:26 am
    WOW: great questions. I have to reread the story and come back. A couple of quick comments:

    I was wrong about Nancy not having any friends. I forgot Paula. But she didn't have any experience with platonic friendship with men. As a young woman working in a man's field (although not nearly as attractive as Nancy) this was a part of my life, and I had to learn some skills. Not that they always work. Her experience with Ozzie was approaching sexual harassment. If she had been able to talk with him frankly about it (BOY is that easy to write and impossible to do. I don't know if I would have done it either) and the behavior continued, it would definitely have been.

    I agree with those who say siblings remember things differently. My twin sister and I have been sharing stories from our childhood, and even though we were together almost constantly during that period, we remember completely different things. That is on a superficial level, however. We both have similar views on our parents, and what our childhood experience was like. Perhaps because there is no age difference.

    It would be interesting to know how Nancy's sisters live, and there views on their parents.

    December 4, 2003 - 11:43 am
    My brief comments aren't so brief. One more.

    I hope no one thinks from my earlier post that I don't like Nancy. I do, very much. But that reaction of not liking her is not superficial -- it is very much part of her story, and needs to be discussed.

    "The curse of the trashy broad is that she's an easy target for "decent" women."

    I, and many of us, were brought up in the fifties. We were taught that there were "two kinds of women -- those men marry and those they don't." I was constantly judged on my actions (especially dress and manners) by this criteria. "Always sit with your legs crossed. Sitting like that, you look like one of THEM." Naturely, I grew up hating and fearing THEM. One thing that the women's movement did for me was to make me realize how much these ideas divided women, making us enemies, instead of sisters, and stunting our full development. That is why I said it was especially valuable to walk in Nancy's shoes.

    December 4, 2003 - 01:30 pm
    Trashy women continued: I had a curvy figure like Nancy, only I curved in back as well as in front. My mother made me wear a stiff bra on top and an even stiffer girdle on the bottom. It was like living in an iron cage. I had assumed, with increased sexual freedom, this "Two Kinds of Women" stuff had gone the way of the dinosaurs. I guess the girdles are gone, but not much else has changed.

    Suzy lunch pail: I guess Nancy is afraid of turning into her mother. The frustrated divorced women in the bank with their doughnuts must have looked like her mother to her (notice she assumes they are divorced). Perhaps she is as scared of them as they are scared of her.

    Why are they scared of her? First, as above, they have always been told they have to watch their step, or they could turn into her and be DOOMED. Second, attractive women like Nancy have the power to take their men away, and this time DOOM them to the life that Nancy's mother lived. I hope Nancy is discovering that there are many more possibilities in this multifaceted life we all lead.

    Stellar images. Yes, Nancy sees hersef as a meteor. She quotes her husband as seeing her as the center of an expanding baby universe. It looks like this is coming true for her in her new life (I hope so). Her joining club responsibility moves the center of power from her to Izzie, but this is also a theme: the interchange of influences between her and him. After all, to continue her metaphor, a meteor crashes into the earth and makes a hole, but ultimately the earth absorbs and transforms the meteor.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 4, 2003 - 03:46 pm
    I see Nancy differently from the way JOAN K does, probably because my job background was different. As soon as I graduated from college in 1950 I went to Providence, Rhode Island where my fiancé was a student at Brown University and got a job singing and playing the piano in a cocktail lounge in a hotel. I'd had a lot of experience in the entertainment field since I was a teenager, and through sheer bravado and a lot of talent I had wangled my way into having two radio shows of my own before I graduated, one at the age of 17. I was pretty; I was smart and I was a flirt, all qualities that are a plus in the entertainment field where you have to sell yourself to an audience as well as what you do.

    The hotel was primarily a place for travelling businessmen, and my job was to keep them coming back to the bar and spending their loot. I looked classy, not trashy, in my low-neck cocktail dress uniforms, dangly rhinestone earrings and pumps. My classy look was one of the reasons I was hired. The hotel was in the process of upgrading its reputation, and I was part of the scheme. My pay was relatively low, but it was augmented by a hotel room where I lived, dinners for free in a very fine dining room and the tips I received.

    I did attract the travelling salesmen who began flocking to the lounge instead of going to the classier place at the Sheraton down the street. Among my following were a few dear old ladies, with whom I'd sit and drink lemonade in a whiskey sour glass, they paid regular drink price for, on my breaks when they came in for their glass of sherry or ultra-sweet Manhattans during my afternoon gig. I did the same with some middle-aged couples in my 9 to 1 nighttime gig, the wives of which thought I was a sweet young thing while their husbands ogled me, and also with many, many businessmen who had conquest ideas in mind which were never fulfilled.

    I didn't have competition from "trashy women", probably because my role at the time made me one according to some, including the people who raised me, who objected so strenuously to my choice of jobs that they would not even watch the TV shows in which I performed.

    Nancy's calling herself Suzy Punch Clock, Janie Punch Clock and Suzy Lunch Pail are similar to what I called myself much later after I refused a touring job offered to me by the Sheraton chain and got married instead. I had a job working as a 9 to 5 typist in a factory, well out of the entertainment world spotlight. Those names were a joke, a laugh at the me who was out of what looked to an outsider like a much more glamorous world and was now in an ordinary mundane one.

    Nancy wasn't afraid of turning into her mother, and she wasn't scared of the women in the bank, who may have been as scared of her as the women who stood behind the desk registering guests or behind the cigarette counter or the waitresses I knew in the hotel were of me. They weren't scared as much as they were jealous, frankly, and I think that's what Nancy ran into, too.

    Isadore Weintraub gave Nancy lessons in responsibility, something she'd never thought about much in her previous glamorous life living with Aldo like a rock star on somebody else's credit. Some of the fun-loving person Nancy was rubbed off on Izzy, and some of his Save for a Rainy Day philosophy rubbed off on her when she was a captive student in Izzy Weintraub's School of Responsibility. People like Izzy always try to convert seemingly irreponsible butterflies like Nancy and me into their ideas of what a responsible citizen should be.


    December 4, 2003 - 04:17 pm
    The following quote is from "The Secret Life of Bees", which I posted in that discussion. Ginger thought it would be an appropriate one for this forum as well. I agree. ...Babi

    "The world will give you that once in a while, a brief time out; the boxing bell rings and you go to your corner, where somebody dabs mercy on your beat-up life."

    December 4, 2003 - 04:25 pm
    Thanks Babi, The Authors will understand and so will some posters.

    December 4, 2003 - 04:47 pm
    Some questions: Will Wally Lamb be here at 4 Eastern Standard Time or Pacific Standard Time?

    Will all three be here tomorrow?

    kiwi lady
    December 4, 2003 - 05:32 pm
    I have been working this morning and have just come on line. I was brought up to behave in a lady like manner and although I don't get around dressed in a two piece suit I am still conservative in my thoughts and actions. My two girls- although no prudes- you would call ladies. I find it hard to understand certain behaviours. I don't think I can be too objective with Orbiting Izzy so I will just read the posts and maybe learn from them. I am not judging anyone in my post but just being honest.

    December 4, 2003 - 06:40 pm
    Was just passing thru and wanted to say Joan, all times are Eastern and when we have a confirmed time for Mr. Lamb I'll write you all and let you know.

    The other three Authors Nancy Birkla, Nancy Whiteley, and Robin Cullen will be coming in at different times, (it will be like surprise Christmas presents for us!) so nobody will want to miss a day here in case they miss an author they particularly wanted to speak to.

    I'll be back tomorrow, I like to think on the comments you all have made and reflect but I do like Stephanie's question in the heading and I'm trying to figure out what you'd CALL the sort of droll point of view of this piece. I love it, I know that.

    Ella, nothing would give me more pleasure than to see 100 new posts the length of books written on the subject of Orbiting Izzy tonight, do write more, I am anxious to see what you all think!

    THAT'S why we're here!!

    Just pick ANY thing from the heading or write your own questions like Stephanie and Andrea did, and grab one and give your thoughts!!

    I kinda ike this one, "What is the question it asks and what answer does it seem to provide?"

    What would you say to that one?

    How about the narrator's relationship with Izzy? Would you say she gave him more than he did her? I saw a real kindness in this Nancy, even when she had the upper hand she did not exploit it or him, I saw her leaving as honest to them both.

    How did you all see it?

    Why do you suppose Izzy never contacted her? Would YOU have expected him to? What does it say for her that she thought he WOULD? How does that fit into the theme of the story?


    December 4, 2003 - 07:59 pm
    I don't think I could write. I've had a journal a couple of times in my life and I got so drawn inward, I had to stop. It seemed to go nowhere. Perhaps it was a catharsis I needed at those times in my life. Once was in adolescence and the other at the mid-life crisis time. C'est la vie. I don't want to do that again although I would love to be a writer.

    How wonderful and giving this Wally Lamb must be. The gals became quite a group. All of that in itself is quite a story.

    I am proud to be a part of this group and look forward to being free enough sometime during the day or night to sit down and read what's been posted each day.

    Life has been hard for these gals and it seems so far they have just been born into it. A hard upbringing reaps a hard life, it seems.

    Alcohol seems to be a factor that has gnawed at many of us...probably has done more than gnawed --- eaten us up may be more to the point.

    I hope Mr. Lamb and the gals can work the boards here all right so we can have friendly, lively and deep conversations. Looking forward to hearing from them.


    December 4, 2003 - 08:39 pm
    Actually, I don't have any questions to ask Mr Wally Lamb, but I would like to commend him for what he has done in giving up so much of his time to be with the women in prison and encourage them. Unfortunately, I was not able to keep the book, as it was from the library and there were others that wanted to read it too.

    I noticed that most of the problems these women shared came from some type of ABUSE.!! Be it sexual, physical, or emotional, it caused them to lose many years of their lives behind bars, and of course some of them are still incarcerated. Knowing people that are incarcerated, I can state how much it means to have contact with the outside world and we should not be too quick to judge a person just because they are behind bars. Even the best of us can make a split-second decision and cause us to be in the same position as those women whose stories are in Wally's book.

    Thank you Mr. Lamb for the opportunity to know these ladies and what they were willing to share. It took a lot of courage on their part to share some of the most intimate details that they gave us.

    December 4, 2003 - 10:16 pm
    To answer a few of your questions about "Orbiting Izzy." I felt there was a lot of humor throughout. I loved the scene where she is speeding down the highway in the Porsche with Izzy riding shotgun.

    I even interpreted the sentence as humor about Aldo being a criminal and a ladies man so she promptly married him. I considered it poking fun at herself and her bad choices.

    This one is a great short story! From the way she began the story worrying about how she looked in her stolen suit for her first day at work--to the ending in the cell with a very sad cellmate.

    If Izzy had written this story, I think it be the biggest adventure in his otherwise boring life. And it would end in his coming back down to earth hard--and with much embarrassment from which it was difficult to ever recover.

    I am glad that Nancy Whiteley is one of the authors participating. I hope it is an indication that more wonderful things than awful things are happening in her life right now. I hope she realizes now that she has so much more potential in her life than a Suzy Punch Clock.

    If nobody has asked yet, I am wondering if she has been published yet anywhere besides in this book. And has she been able to enter college, as she had hoped, in 2003?

    About the difference between the other story of her childhood until she left for college--and this one when she was in her 20s. There is such a different tone to them! But it doesn't seem like it would be the subject matter. It seems to me that the difference may result from her progress in the writing workshops. I cannot imagine "Orbiting Izzy" being one of her earliest efforts at writing. Marge

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 4, 2003 - 11:10 pm
    Nancy, what are you writing now?


    December 5, 2003 - 06:13 am
    Super points and questions today, thank you SO much!

    Our last DAY for Izzy!!!!!!!!! and we need to hear from more of you on one of the now 18 questions on Izzy in the heading?

    As you know we will be doing our own Reader's Guide (see our other Reader's Guides) for this book in hopes that the next group that reads it might find something of value, we get requests from book clubs all the time, so we DO need all of your insights. And WHEE our Reader's Guide for this book will have the authors themselves commenting! WOW!

    I am hearing in email that people are so moved by the stories in the book personally that they are almost unable to speak here, they are amazed how like they are to the women in the book, and I think that also might be a good thing to let us know, too, as you feel more comfortable.

    So the blizzard of questions in the heading over this one story is there to enctice you, don't let them overwhelm you, this is not a class, you're supposed to (hopefully) grab ONE or more you like just like Marge just did, that you want to talk on. Or you can talk to Marge about what she said.

    If you don't like any of the questions tell us what you DO want to talk about, today is the last day for Izzy and I hate to see him go.

    Here are some changes I hope you'll just jump on today to the questions in the heading, let's see what you think on THESE items:
  • 2. Orbiting Izzy" presents a fun story of contrast: the contrast of Responsibility, represented by the employer Isadore ("Izzy Weintraub's School of Responsibility") and Risk, represented by Nancy, who "practically had a degree in risk."

  • Which character influenced the other the most?
  • Which character, at the end, showed the most responsibility?

  • 9. "The curse of the trashy broad is that she's an easy target for "decent" women." (page 58). The author is saying a lot here.
  • Why is the word "decent" in quotes?

  • 14. The author has repeated several images in this short story pertaining to "orbits: "I guess you could liken me to a meteor that had crashed head-on into Planet Isadore." (page 56). What effect do these recurring metaphors have on the story? Do you see a parallel to "The Last Face of Earth?"

  • 18. This little very short story has a beginning, a middle, and and end. What would you say was the turning point or climax in the story and what seems to be the conclusion of the narrator?

  • I got up this morning (I like to think about what you've said overnight) with a EUREKA! moment!

    I THINK (what do YOU think?) a big thing in this short story is the contrast, the dramatic tension between RISK and RESPONSIBILITY, the clash of the two worlds which those two concepts personify, and you know what? It's almost a perfect little story by itself?

    It has a PLOT, a beginning, a middle and an end, a conclusion. What does the conclusion mean? I don't know!

    Very neat thing. Do you want characterization? Wow, in only a few words, we think we have known Anal Retentive Izzys, and maybe even have BEEN Risk Taker Nancy, but this time Nancy with a twist, and even the wife "Barney" the wife who gives bags of nacho pasta things to the secretary (hello?) sticks in our mind. I am suddenly amazed to be actually seeing the dueling banjos of Risk and Responsibility, the humor the irony, the, deft way with words! Wow.

    THEN it suddenly hit me, "Orbiting?" ORBITING? PLANETS? SPACE?

    Airplanes again? Space imagery? What can that MEAN!! WHEE?

    Let's look at these issues here today if you will, for instance, which one of the characters caused the biggest change in the other?

    Penny for your thoughts?

    Now I have printed out all your comments from yesterday to enjoy over breakfast!

    December 5, 2003 - 09:54 am
    Many of us Texans are appalled at the number of prisons we have been building, at our death row, etc.

    Your final two sentences "We have called into existence the prisons we wanted. I am less and less convinced they are the prisons we need." I know this is a subject for a book of its own. But what do we need to be doing about this situation? Marge

    December 5, 2003 - 10:50 am
    There was such a drastic difference between the first and second story by Nancy Whitley that I thought I was reading a totally different author at first. I double-checked the title page and went back and checked it again.

    Question for everyone. Do you think there is a difference between crimes women are more likely to committ and crimes men are more likely to committ?

    The word "decent" in quotes struck me too. Is it because underneath there really isn't much difference between all women. Who says they are "decent"? Themselves?

    December 5, 2003 - 11:01 am
    I think it implies that somone who dresses/acts "trashy" is not decent and someone else is. And yes, I think the "decent" women define themselves and one another (but in private, they aren't even that sure of each other.)

    By my definition of "decent," some of the "decent" people in this world are the ugliest people of all. They are the people standing in judgment of things they don't know, they are the people beating the "indecency" out of small children, they are the people practically shoving others into wrong choices, choices often made out of pain.

    I have gotten over classifying all Christians in that category, but a lot of really nasty people spend their time beating up on others under the umbrella of "being good Christians," while, in fact, they are the furthest thing from it.

    And sometimes I think one of the biggest difference between the "good" people and the "bad" people is that the former just happened not to get caught.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    December 5, 2003 - 11:13 am
    YEA YEA!!

    December 5, 2003 - 12:08 pm
    Zinnia, it sounds to me like you've heard the words 'decent' and 'decency' being applied by the wrong people to their own views.

    It is supposed to mean conformity to standards of good taste, morality, etc., but those standards have changed so drastically in the past two generations, it is hard to identify a 'standard' anymore. I see things on TV all the time that, to me, fall way outside my ideas of good taste or morality. ...Babi

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 5, 2003 - 12:21 pm
    Decent in quotation marks.. HMMM. I think that the narrator of the story has very mistaken ideas of decent. There is an underlying theme in Izzy that bothers me. Decent is not wrong.. Izzy is a responsible human. His wife was too. My sympathy tends to be with Izzy, his wife and the outside world.. But the art of drawing me into this story is remarkable. I am with a number of you.. Nancy should write.. and expand her ideas from short stories to a novel. She has the gift of drawing in people and that is rare indeed on this earth. Go Nancy and be sure and tell us if you publish. I think most of us would buy it..

    December 5, 2003 - 01:21 pm
    I don't thing IZZY was necessarily a respondsible person. The notes he wrote to Nancy does not show respondsibility to his marriage. Why is it, when a man has an affair women tend to blame the other woman instead of the man when in this case it was IZZY who tried to take the friendship to a different level? I think Nancy was very vulnerable to developing a friendship with almost anyone at this point in her life. IZZY tried to take advantage of it (whether or not he was aware of the situation) and it shows some character on Nancy's part not to let that happen.

    December 5, 2003 - 01:54 pm
    I really think this goes back to what I tried to say in my posts 95 and 96 about the harm our cultural tradition does to women in teaching that "There are two kinds of women -- those men marry and those they don't" and the correlary that you have to watch your step all the time. If you have anything to do with the "wrong kind" you will become one of them and be DOOMED. (presumably to the life of a prostitute, if not to HELL). Of course that leads women to act in the least decent of ways toward one another. It is part of a system that leads women to always blame each other, and not see that we are all victems at one level or another. There is a lot of hate tied up in these ideas: of course Nancy despises the "decent" women who are so undecent to her, as they dispise her. Perhaps in this safe place, we can get below this false division which hurts all of us.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 5, 2003 - 02:04 pm
    To me "decent" women with decent in quotes has always meant those women who go to church every Sunday, and expect the world to do and think exactly the same way they do, except nobody else is good enough to know how. They'll be sweet as pie to your face and knife you in the back to somebody else the minute you're not around. Hypocrisy is what I'm talking about, and those "decent" women are the most guilty offenders of that crime-which-doesn't-send-you-to-jail than anyone else I know.


    December 5, 2003 - 02:29 pm
    Is anybody out there? It's 4: 30. Where is everybody?

    December 5, 2003 - 02:39 pm
    Since we're all hanging, does anyone know some good songs to sing?

    December 5, 2003 - 02:51 pm
    Two poems by the Japanese poet Issa on waiting:


    1805 kakurega mo hoshi machi-gao no yo nari keri

    at the hermit's hut, too--

    an upturned face awaits

    the stars.



    hoshi matsu ya kame mo suzushii ushirotsuki

    awaiting the stars--

    even a turtle cools

    his behind.

    kiwi lady
    December 5, 2003 - 02:52 pm
    Helloooooooooooooooooh! Here I am sitting on the other side of the world -waiting!

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 5, 2003 - 03:01 pm
    Down south in Florida, awaiting the call.. Ginny...Where are you???

    kiwi lady
    December 5, 2003 - 03:06 pm
    Why are we waiting? Whyyyyyy are we waiting! Remember that song? While we are waiting I will tell you its a beautiful day here in Auckland New Zealand. There is a Disney Blue sky and very white clouds like big balls of cotton wool floating in the sky. We have a slight breeze. The sea looks pretty calm from here and I bet my son is as we speak leaving the Marina to head out into the Gulf! I don't see any yachts from my deck so maybe the weather forecast is not as good as I thought! Maybe son will not be heading out after all.


    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 5, 2003 - 07:28 pm
    While waiting.. I have been forgetting to ask about the last paragraph of the story. It seems to me that someone thought of this as unbearably sad.. I guess I truly believe that Some people do just come into our lives for a second in time.. Love us, we love them and then bang.. they are gone. I am not sure that they change their lives, but you sure change yours. I have known some people for such a short time for one reason or another and have been rewarded by a joyous if short friendship or love.. I think of this as a great boon to me.. I have learned a lot in my life from many floaters. The great happiness of meeting someone totally different from you and making a great difference to you is something very special to me. I guess that Nancy in the Izzy does not think of that. Thats sad..

    December 5, 2003 - 03:13 pm
    OH WELL DONE, Stephanie!! That's the ticket, let's talk about the book!

    I'm here, you better believe it, just like everybody else, watching the sky in eager anticipation, I LOVE this. It's the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us, not only in the Books, but on SeniorNet, bar none. It's a "Happening," and reminds me of going to fireworks and waiting for the first flare.

    (And you know what else it reminds me of? It reminds me of Nancy staring at the sky), I love having that feeling, putting you, so to speak, in the same boat.

    Hang in there, something may have happened.

    Anticipation is the better part of valor. OR something.


    December 5, 2003 - 03:15 pm
    I had misplaced my book after reading the beginning and finally finished to the end of this part of the discussion. I assumed by now I would be reading all the posts concerning this and I dont see any ...will return later but my dinner is just about ready...annaa

    December 5, 2003 - 03:19 pm
    Anna, look under the heading here, right under the green buttons and click on <<first and you will be able to read all 125 posts concerning the first two stories and the introduction, we are looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    I apologize to you that your name had been left off our email list inadvertently, it's on now. Are any of the rest of you not getting emails from me?


    December 5, 2003 - 03:19 pm
    Let us be calm as we wait in anticipation of our invited guests. The stories have already been written and read. The best is yet to come.

    kiwi lady
    December 5, 2003 - 03:22 pm
    I like the eye in the sky Ginny! Although its nice to meet floaters I myself prefer to have long lasting friendships. I am choosy about who I allow to be a close friend and would rather have two "bosom pals" than 10 floaters.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 5, 2003 - 03:29 pm
    Oh Kiwi,, these are not friends in that sense. At least the ones that I talked about. These are those sudden lightning bolts that happen occasionally. I had a retail store for a long time.. Occasionally I would get a customer who would decide to share something with me. I think because I was a stranger . Who knows. Sometimes the lessons I learned were so profound. I had a regular customer who truly dressed like a person who had never owned a mirror. She swore like a sailer,was never terribly clean and all in all was different than I was. BUT when I talked to her over a couple of years, I discovered a fascinating woman who simply got bored with life.. so she changed herself every few years. Worked for her. Would scare me to death.. That is the sort of thing I am talking about.. Not friends.

    December 5, 2003 - 03:41 pm
    Does anyone else have trouble in "print page" getting the dingy at the side to the bottom of the page. It keeps escaping, and going back up. I can put my curser on it and hold it down, but as soon as I take it off, the page jumps up again, and I'm 20 posts back.

    I envy you, Kiwi lady. We're having our first snowstorm here. I reeeeeeeally don't like winter.

    Wally Lamb
    December 5, 2003 - 04:00 pm
    Hi, everyone. I've enjoyed your rolling discussion of CKITM and the questions you've posted for me are great--far more interesting that the usual "What's Oprah like?" and "Do you write with a pen or on a computer?" So let me dig in and see how many of these I can get to before the predicted nor'easter begins here in Connecticut and I have to hightail it from office to home.

    1. Yes, as editor I chose the order of the essays--writing each selection on an index card and playing with various combinations on the floor of my office until I thought I had a pretty good variety and flow for the reader. The lead-off story presented me with a particular dilemma. Originally, I planned to make "Izzy" the first story, and the only one by Nancy Whiteley. But fairly late into the editing process, Nancy's second effort, "True Earth.." began to evolve through a number of drafts. It, too, was strong work and I couldn't resist sharing that one with readers, too. I chose it as the first essay because it depicted Nancy's childhood. Chronologically speaking, I thought it might offer readers a kind of cause-and-effect look at two excerpts from the writer's life. Originally, I wanted to flip-flop mine and Dale Griffith's essays, putting hers as the first and mine as the last. (Dale is my co-teacher in the workshop; she's a paid full-time educator at the school and I'm a volunteer.) But my publisher, Judith Regan, felt strongly that readers should hear first from me, so I complied. Later, I came to agree that that was the better order. So you see--editors, too, can benefit from editing!

    2. The workshop is structured more loosely than a college course that's shaped by a syllabus and semester deadlines. York School is in session year-round. Sometimes I'll begin one of our two-hour sessions with a ten or fifteen minute lesson on some aspect of writing: point of view, "ingredients" of a dramatric scene, even mechanical stuff like when to put the apostrophe before the s and when to put it after. (When I was a kid in school and din't know where to put it, I'd place the apostrophe right over the s, hoping the teacher would give me the benefit of the doubt!) Often, I'll "prime the pump" by engaging the students in a ten- or fifteen-minute writing exercise, which they're free to turn into a full-blown piece if they've hit upon something that interests them. From these opening activities, the class usually segues to the work at hand: a.) drafts in progress that writers have submitted to me the session before and which might benefit from a whole-group reaction and which I'll read aloud or have photocopied for them. (Trust me--you wouldn't want to have to pay my Kinko's copying bills.) and b.) writing that's new that day--a piece in progress for which the writer hungrily seeks feedback. "Who wants to share new work?" I'll ask. Usually one or two women want the rest of us to have a listen and offer our responses.

    3. In fiction, a dramatic scene usually has characters, dialogue, description, action, and reaction. Interior monologue (what the narrator may be thinking in the midst of all this) is often a part of the mix, also. Exposition occurs when the narrator takes a step back from the scene to offer explanation, background info, "back story," etc. Exposition is sort of like the glue that holds the scenes together and allows the story to progress. In Nancy Whiteley's "Orbitting Izzy," take a look at pages 54-55. The two paragraphs beginning with "Everyone who knew Aldo warned me.." are exposition. Beginning with the sentence, "When I arrived at Isadore Weintraub's accounting office ..." the writer moves from exposition into scene. In recreating their memories as scenes, the writers were encouraged to evoke the five senses so that readers could vicariously live the scene (feel, smell, see, tatse, and hear it) as opposed to just hearing about it second-hand. For many of the writers, that made them relive the memories, good or bad. Reliving the hard stuff was difficult for many but also therapeutic in that it got the pain, hurt, and guilt out of them and onto the page, where it became easier to handle.

    4. I write my novels for myself, working hard (and often suffering along with the characters) until I figure out who these fictional concoctions are on a deeper level and what they're trying to tell me. It's only by finishing the novel that I come to know what it means--and that's only what it means TO ME. My feeling is: once I finish the story to the best of my ability and the publisher sends it out into the world, it's no longer mine any more. It belongs to which ever readers are good enough to read it. So I encourage readers to filter the story through their own experiences and needs and find whatever they want/need to find in the story. If reading group members disagree with one another, so much the better. There should be no one right answer or one correct interpretation. The reader isn't cracking walnuts, after all, but applying stories to his or her life, the better to widen understanding. As for the anthology CKITM, I only ask that readers listen to the writers' voices with an open mind and a generous heart. If they do, I think the reward is that they'll come out of the experience with a deeper understanding of some very complex issues.

    5. No, I've never run into Paula (not her real name) ever again. And please don't misunderstand: I only borrowed a visual image; the character of Dolores Price in She's Come Undone is very much cut from fictional cloth. The funny thing is, though, over the years, from time to time, people I know have claimed they've "found" themselves in my fiction. They're off the mark when they make these claims, but if they feel flattered, I usually let then have their illusions.

    6. I think reading this book and listening to the women's voices is already doing something very important with regard to helping incarcerated people. So many people in our society want to put "bad" people behind bars and not think about them beyond that. Every person who reads this book--and others by/about prisoners, such as PEN's anthology "Doing Time" (editor Belle Gale Chevigny) and Mark Salzman's True Notebooks--allows those who are silenced to speak. Beyond that, anyone with the impulse can investigate volunteer services in the prisons of their areas. There's plenty of need, lots of unexpected and unpredictable rewards, and, from the prisoners, gratitude and a renewal of hope.

    7. Guess Bonnie Foreshaw says it best when she writes: "What I hope is that people reading this book will bear in mind that we are human beings first, prisoners second." Bonnie's a renmarkable woman, by the way. Can't wait until you read her story.

    8. The difference between autobiography and memoir: hmmm, good question. The writers' group I'm in met earlier today and I posed that one to several of the professional writers. To me, its like a film's long shot as opposed to a close-up. Or the difference between a sleek racing bike and a Buick. Autobiography usually takes on an entire life; memoir offers vivid slice(s) of life. One of the members of the group said she thought of autobiography as facts, people, places and memoir as an exploration of emotional terrain. The more objective external as opposed to the more subjective internal. I guess it's probably all of those. I think of the essays in CKITM as more memoir than autobiography.

    9. See answer to question #3.

    10. For sure, the effect on me--and on my fictional work--has been significant. Having for the last 4 and a half years seen the tip of the iceberg of incarcerated life, I can't now unsee it. For instance, why are we imprisoning the sons and daughters of slaves in such disporportionate numbers? Why are we using prisons as dumping grounds for the mentally ill? Why have we more or less gone backwards from the past, abandoning so much of the rehabilitative piece of prison in favor of the more cost-efficient and society-defeating punishment

    December 5, 2003 - 04:04 pm
    WHOOOP!! Welcome! Welcome Mr. Lamb!! We are so excited to see you! This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us, on SeniorNet OR the Books and to think that a BOOK has caused this, and authors, makes us especially proud. THANK YOU.

    In addition to having a great book discussion we're hoping to do some good too in some way and are open to suggestions. Did they tell you you have to hit <<previous or >>next in order to see the responses here?

    Good luck with the storm (What WAS Oprah like? hahahaha)



    Malryn (Mal)
    December 5, 2003 - 04:16 pm
    Thanks, WALLY LAMB! I wish I were in one of your writing classes. You told me a lot about writing and editing in your post. Some I already knew, but it's nice to know somebody else does the same thing.

    You've done a terrific job in Couldn't Keep it to Myself. It's a profoundly moving book by writers who should be read.

    Thank you so much for what you've done and for coming by to talk to us.


    December 5, 2003 - 04:26 pm
    And thanks to Nancy Birkla too. It's very exciting to know you are reading our posts. We all admire you, and what you have done with your life.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 5, 2003 - 04:39 pm
    Welcome Wally Lamb, It is so helpful to read your responses to our questions. Editing seems to be an art and skill combined. Could you give us some idea how long it took the various authors. I was delighted to see you mentioned Bonnie Foreshaw. She is by far head and shoulders my favorite of the stories. I would like to meet her, but am sure I never will. I live in Florida and that is quite a ways away. She impressed me ( or her story impressed me) with a straight forward ability to make you feel you are sitting next to her while she is speaking to you.

    December 5, 2003 - 05:03 pm
    Like Malryn post #133 I too would love to be in one of your writing classes. It was interesting to read how you wrote and assembled your book. I am anxious now to read the second section. And many thanks for sharing your insight. AND thank you for encouraging these ladies to move forward. anna

    Ella Gibbons
    December 5, 2003 - 05:24 pm
    Wasn't that grand to hear from Wally Lamb! You almost, not quite, feel you are in his presence as we all get to know each other on our SENIORNET BOOKS site.

    I've read ahead a bit and the stories are written so well! All of them, I would congratulate all the authors and Mr. Lamb also for the countless hours he has put in to help them, it shows! There are many metaphors which are difficult to sound true to the story; the one on page 48 - "two frozen statues in a garden of cheap brown velour and beige shag carpet." - Just wonderful!

    That takes time to do and Nancy Whitely has done it well.

    If we may start new questions for Mr. Lamb's next appearance, I would like to ask this one:

    How would you change the prison for women that you were involved with?

    December 5, 2003 - 05:39 pm
    I have saved your post in case I may write my story.

    I apprieciate each and every one who has had a part in this book and sharing your time on line with us in this Discussion is the icing on a cake.

    All of you have changed my life as I may Not have opened this part of my life on S/N and it has been very good therapy for me. Thank All of you.


    Ella Gibbons
    December 5, 2003 - 05:40 pm
    A question also for Nancy Whitely:

    Did your parents' problems and divorce impact on your life in any way? If you had had a more loving home, would your life have been different? Were you searching for love from all the boys you had relations with?

    We've all known children from dysfuntional families, I'm sure; also many with divorced parents.

    The two children I knew with divorced parents turned out to be good citizens, but their parents gave them undivided love and support. Nancy Whitely was not so fortunate. Her father deserted her and her mother had never been a comfort. Even Janet, her older sister, who had been close, left for college.

    Where could she have found support in her time of need as a teenager? Did she think she would find in relationships with boys?

    December 5, 2003 - 05:58 pm
    I want to join everyone in thanking Wally Lamb for visiting us and writing such thoughtful answers to the questions. The weather in the Northeast is absolutely horrendous today, and his visit certainly brightened up my day.

    A few years ago, a male prisoner in NY state who had been convicted of a violent crime, wrote a book while in prison that was praised by a number of writers such as Norman Mailer. Mr. Mailer worked very hard to get this prisoner a parole so that he might be able to restart his life. The writers offered to help him after he was released. He did get released, but within two weeks, while at a bar, he got into an argument with a waiter there and stabbed him to death. He is, of course, now back in prison. At the time, there was a great deal of discussion about whether he should have been released at all, and whether Norman Mailer and the others bore any responsibility for the death of an innocent bystander. There is an ongoing debate about the possibility of rehabilitation for violent offenders, and I wonder what the rest of you think of this story. Does talent entitle a prisoner to special treatment? And what was the responsibility of those writers who secured his release to maintain contact with him, and to protect the public?

    Wally Lamb asks why we have abandoned rehabilitation in favor of punishment. What actually constitutes rehabilitation? How do we know if someone is rehabilitated? Of the stories I have read in "Couldn't Keep It To Myself," Nancy Whitley and Carolyn Adams seem to have taken large steps toward changing their lives for the better. Is this always true for those convicted of violent crimes? Many times, I hear of someone being murdered by someone out on parole? How much should the public be protected from the possibility of violent offenders repeating their crimes if allowed parole?

    December 5, 2003 - 06:24 pm
    I think the title of "Orbiting Izzy" is just perfect. These two people became involved with one another by chance, and for a while circled each other in a kind of mutual attraction, but never truly touched the other's life. When the balance of the relationship was disturbed by Izzy moving too close to the orbiting Nancy, she flew off into space eventually colliding with Aldo and landing in prison.

    The story of Carolyn Adams is heartbreaking. The way she describes the process of pregnancy and giving birth from the point of view of a thirteen year old who previously had no knowledge of these physical happenings is masterful. The wrenching process of giving up her baby, especially after she has seen him, makes me cry as it did the social worker who might be hardened by frequent experiences with teen mothers. And how many wives, who feel unable to leave their husbands look the other way while their young children are abused?

    Not that long ago, in NY, we were all horrified by the case of Hedda Nusbaum, who was unable to leave her abusive husband or to prevent the death of their child at his hands. I hope Carolyn Adams will be able to overcome her past and continue her work toward a better life.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 5, 2003 - 07:09 pm
    More about "decent" women and "trashy" women:
    I've taken my fun where I've found it,
    An' now I must pay for my fun,
    For the more you 'ave known o' the others
    The less will you settle to one;
    An' the end of it's sittin' and thinkin',
    An' dreamin' Hell-fires to see;
    So be warned by my lot (which I know you will not),
    An' learn about women from me!

    What did the Colonel's Lady think?
    Nobody never knew.
    Somebody asked the Sergeant's wife,
    An' she told 'em true!
    When you get to a man in the case,
    They're like as a row of pins --
    For the Colonel's Lady an' Judy O'Grady
    Are sisters under their skins!


    The Ladies
    Barrack-Room Ballads
    by Rudyard Kipling



    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 08:10 pm
    Hi Folks,

    Wow, I have to start by telling all of you how touching it feels to read your wonderful posts concerning our book. Next I'd like to thank everyone for inviting us to participate in your discussion (which I'm finding reminiscent of some great upper level English classes I took in college).

    During the past day I've been in touch with both Nancy W. and Wally, and I hope to contact Robin via phone this weekend. We've been a little slow in getting started here, due to some technical difficulties (mostly, technically speaking, we've had a hard time figuring out how to navigate around on your site); I e-mailed Ginny earlier this evening apologizing and adding, "for crying out loud, you'd think a group of people who can manage to write a book would be able to figure out how to discuss it."

    I think we've got it now, though, or at least I'm ready to give it a try! Tonight I'll attempt answering a few of the questions asked of us all. I'll do so through "in and out" posting, so I can give myself a little practice session before my turn comes to actually discuss anything "live."

    Thanks again for inviting me.

    Peace and best, Nancy B. :0)

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 5, 2003 - 08:21 pm
    Hi, NANCY B!

    It's great to see you! Thanks so much for stopping by. We appreciate your, Wally Lamb's and the other authors of Couldn't Keep it to Myself taking the time to visit us here in SeniorNet's Books and Lit more than you'll ever know.

    Best regards,


    kiwi lady
    December 5, 2003 - 08:22 pm
    Hi Nancy - glad you stopped by. I think after you have been in here a while you will find the Round Table easy to navigate. I have put a short cut straight to the Round Table on my desktop. From there I just have to find Books and Lit and then this discussion. You could even probably do a short cut straight to this folder.

    This group of women are just the best!


    December 5, 2003 - 08:45 pm
    Welcome Nancy Birkla We the posters are so Glad to see You here.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 08:46 pm
    Concerning how individuals can help create change, well one thing I've learned is that the biggest changes can occur when I think "small" rather than "big."

    I may not be able to change the whole world, but I sure have the ability to get out there and help one person change his or her life. My personal mission is to help change my world just one person at a time.

    Then the "domino effect" from that one revived soul, who then reaches out to help another dying spirit, who does the same for the next, well, eventually the initial act of kindness trickles outward 100-fold.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 08:49 pm
    Thanks for welcoming me; I didn't know anybody was in here right now!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 08:59 pm
    If you mean what kind of work do I do, well I am the Disability Resource Coordinator for two campuses of a five campus district of KY's Community and Technical college system. Basically I am a counselor/advisor for students with disabilities.

    I also have a second job working 5-10 hours a week (one-on-one with clients) as a habilitation counselor/instructor for adults with developmental disabilities (mostly mental retardation).

    These are my "paying" jobs. I also try do a lot of volunteer work.

    December 5, 2003 - 09:03 pm
    I just got here. This looks to be a very informative discussion.

    kiwi lady
    December 5, 2003 - 09:04 pm
    Nancy thats a great job you are doing. I have a daughter with disablities and she is currently doing her diploma in Library Studies- she gets a lot of help from the disablities co-ordinater at her Polytechnic College. She does her work via correspondence. Its the Govt college for tertiary students who for one reason and another cannot go to the campus. She did her end of year exams with a supervisor at her house. (I babysat!)

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 5, 2003 - 09:05 pm
    GINNY ANN, it's a terrific discussion. Nancy Birkla just came in. She's one of the authors of the book! Isn't it nice of her to do this for us?


    December 5, 2003 - 09:09 pm
    Yes it is great that Nancy Birkla is here. The internet has made us all so much closer to each other.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 5, 2003 - 09:10 pm
    NANCY, there was no such thing as a Disability Counselor when I went to college 1946 to 1950. I had polio when I was 7 years old, have worn a full leg brace for 68 years. When I was in college I walked the length of the campus to class; got yelled at if I was late after walking to class and climbing three flights of stairs, was expected to take phys. ed., go on field trips, etc. Things have changed for the better for handicapped and disabled people, thankfully. I'm very pleased to know you're doing what you are.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 09:17 pm
    I could probably write an entire book concerning how writing for this book changed my life.

    I had been in recovery (and various forms of therapy too) for years prior to writing my essay, and I'd written and journaled all along. But I'd never had an editor before, sending drafts of my writing back to me with notes concerning rewriting it all in a way that that would provoke a reader to be pulled into my experience.

    What I didn't expect was that finally I'd become able to pull myself back into my own experiences, as well, and it was at a time when I was emotionally healthy enough to handle it. This was so hard to do, especially when it involved writing about panic attacks that had long ago subsided, and the fear I experienced in my first marriage. It was intense and emotionally draining but ultimately extremely healing.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 09:26 pm
    I love my work. It took me a long time to settle into work that felt fulfilling to me as well as being purposeful, and as with most every other good thing in my life, I ended up where I am by accident -- the result of what I believed were failed attemps at other things. Today I know that a much Higher Power (the one I sometimes let run the show) knew who I was going to be in the longrun far before I did. Everything I'd been working toward was designed for the person I was at the time, not the person I would some day be. I am one of the blessed and fortunate few who managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when things made no sense to me at all!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 09:27 pm
    Hey, I think I'm getting the hang of this now!

    December 5, 2003 - 09:38 pm
    Nancy: I loved what you said about creating change one person at a time. Mother Theresa is supposed to have said "You can't do great things in this life, but you can do small things with great love." Looks like you're doing that. Thank you for coming.

    kiwi lady
    December 5, 2003 - 09:46 pm
    Nancy - do you still suffer from the panic attacks or are you completely free of them now? I am interested as I have GAD and panic disorder is part of the illness.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 09:54 pm
    Thanks Joan, but really the credit for what I say needs to go to those who reached out to me, nost of them being my former college professors. Today many of them are not only my colleagues, but they are also my good friends too.

    The Intro to Film professor I wrote about in my essay (which I realize you may not be up to yet)is now my next-door office neighbor, as my office is in the English faculty suite on the same campus where I was once a struggling middle-aged returning student.

    Every single day at work I have tangible reminders of exactly where I came from. The office I now work in is the exact same office I once sat in (blowing snot and shaking uncontrollably) as I explained to a campus counselor that not only had I just become homeless, but that my ex-husband had confiscated my car out of the school's parking lot.

    Talk about understanding the concept of having come full circle!

    December 5, 2003 - 09:56 pm
    Is on a Roll, Good for you. We the posters are enjoying your posts.

    You are doing a Very comendable thing helping the handicap people. My sister could not hear or speak from birth till death so I apprieciate any one who works with the handicap.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 10:02 pm
    No more full blown panic, although I still do experience panicky "moments" from time to time, gratefully they pass rather quickly.

    Interestingly, during the months I worked on my essay for the book, stuff that I thought had been arrested for quite awhile got stirred up again. My eating became a little unmanageable, and I gained around 30 lbs. in less than two years, and my hyperactivity and anxiety intensified as well.

    I'm happy to report that now, post-publication, I'm really so much better than ever.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 5, 2003 - 10:14 pm
    Well everyone, I sure have enjoyed conversing with all of you, but my husband and all our pooches keep looking over this way with "what about me" looks on all their cute little faces, so I think it's time for me to turn my attention away from the 'puter and onto my loved ones.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 5, 2003 - 10:24 pm
    Goodnight, NANCY.

    Thank you.


    December 5, 2003 - 10:34 pm
    Nite, Nite, NANCY and all.

    Nancy Whiteley
    December 6, 2003 - 05:44 am
    First off, thank you for allowing me this great opportunity. I haven't read all the posts yet, but the ones I have read have been very moving. Don't fret about saying anything wrong or to hurt my feelings. I appreciate honest feedback, and have come a long way as far as accepting negative and constructive feedback. And, quite honestly, I am not so sure even I liked the old Nancy! I don't think you are supposed to.

    I will try to answer all the questions on the list. Of course, since I have something important to do, my computer crashed. I am poking away at a borrowed laptop. So my responses may be a bit slow, or misspelled since I can barely type on this contraption.

    As for question 1: The title true face of earth came from a feeling that everything I was taught to believe from my father turned out to be wrong. The fact that he dumped me totally negated my belief that fathers are supposed to care for their children. This, unfortunately, has followed me through life and severely damaged my relationships with all men.

    Question #2:I did deliberately add that scene. I do not recall a scene exactly like that actually happening. However, it was true to the spirit of the time in my house. The fights were real, as was the affair, but I needed to make a muddy, confusing time for me more accessible to the reader. And thank you. I am writing a new story right now.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 6, 2003 - 05:53 am
    What a thrill this morning to come in here and see a post by NANCY WHITELEY, the woman I've thought about so much this week!
    Good morning, NANCY! I hope you have a wonderful day!

    Easy does it,


    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 6, 2003 - 06:26 am
    I am so sorry that I missed both of the Nancy's. I thought Mr. Lamb might have been having problems with our set up on Senior net. I know when I try to explain it to others, they tend to look puzzled. It works fine for me, but you have to get used to it. We are so lucky. Hearing from the authors is thrill. Having them explain their thoughts when writing is an even bigger one. I confess that Carolyn Adams story of the baby'sbirth and adoption made me cry. Oh to be that young and that helpless. We do such terrible things to our children.

    December 6, 2003 - 06:29 am
    Shriek!! Welcome Nancy Whiteley! And look look Nancy Birkla came last night! WHEE?
    WhOOP!! I was just sitting here in awe rereading last night, feeling like Scrooge the morning after the visits from the Three Ghosts, we had two last night and... and SHRIEK ...I hahahaah Here Nancy Whiteley is!!

    On a laptop, bless your heart, I know how that is, I can't type on them either!! SO frustrating. Welcome welcome!! I will sit back and revel in your thoughts, I did not want to leave Izzy today!!!

    Thank you for coming in!


    December 6, 2003 - 06:32 am
    Stephanie, Nancy Whiteley is HERE NOW!


    On a laptop, bless her heart.

    December 6, 2003 - 06:37 am
    Nancy, if you see this post, (it's easy to miss posts here) was Izzy a real person?

    If so have you heard from him since you wrote the story?

    I was surprised he did not keep you informed with his life or call. I will put this in the questions page also.


    December 6, 2003 - 06:50 am
    Thanks to everyone for the posts. Congratulations to the authors who with honesty and sharing have moved forward. It is so special to have you here.anna

    December 6, 2003 - 07:44 am
    How wonderful to actually have the authors here. I am mostly a lurker here but I am reading all the posts and enjoying these conversations so much.

    December 6, 2003 - 07:47 am
    I felt a little disappointed that my questions I asked Mr. Lamb were all included in the ones that got lost in posting. Then I went to bed early and missed Ms. Birkla while she was discussing. I did read what she wrote first thing this morning though, dnd while I was reading then the other Nancy arrived. What a great treat to see answers to questions and know at that very moment an author is right here, right now. Bless you Nancy W. for taking the time out of what I'm sure is a busy weekend to visit us this morning.

    December 6, 2003 - 08:01 am
    Nancy I would like you to know that even though many of my circumstanes in life have been much different from yours, when I read your first story I think I felt in my heart some of the same feelings you described. My husband of 35 years came home one day out of the clear blue sky and announced he didn't want to me married any more. As I read your story and how things changed with your father after he left, I believe I understood exactly what you were telling us. In that one moment that my husband told me our marriage was over, my prince charming turned into a man I never even knew before. It was so unbelievable and I honestly thought we had a rock solid marriage with no fighting, both family people, treated each other with respect and kindness, or so I believed anyhow. Then poof he and it was gone in a flash. I still have trouble convincing myself that it was different than I though it was all along. I think abandonment and disalusionment (may not be spelling it right) feel the same no matter what the persons age or circumstances are. Thank you for being so brave to tell your story. I really FELT it when I read it. Mary

    December 6, 2003 - 08:03 am
    {{{{Mary! (betternthen) !}}}} We were posting together, bless your heart, I am so sorry, thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share that story with us. We are so glad you are here.


    I came IN not to fail to say while we have Nancy Whiteley here, live, struggling to type, how much we appreciate it, thank you, Nancy, for your generous wonderful spirit and kind words. We appreciate them.

    I am loving this, it's a HAPPENING and just LOOK LOOK at what Nancy Birkla wrote last night, I love it! We will have enough to discuss for a year, Wally Lamb's answers alone, we'll set out several days to look at, this is fun, it's just fabulous.

    An early Christmas gift!


    December 6, 2003 - 08:09 am
    What a treat to find go online this morning and find both authors have dropped by. I have company in the form of a grandson this weekend, so it has been hard for me to find the time to drop in myself.

    As I got toward the end of the book, a description in one of the stories stirred a memory I had all but forgottem. When I was fifteen I lived in a foster home on a dairy farm. My foster mother decided they needed some extra money and got a job down the road from us about three miles at the Wisconsin State School for Girls near Oregon, Wisconsin. One of her jobs was running the projector on movie nights, usually Sunday evening.

    One Sunday night she took us (her adopted daughter and I) with her. I don't remember the movie. I do remember sitting in the darkened room and being extrememly frightened because I'd heard that these were "bad" girls. I also remember some girls who sat in the back row "necking" as we called it back then. No one did anything to stop them. Some of the girls asked my foster mother if we were new girls and she told them no, and introduced us as her daughters. Both my foster sister and I were relieved to get out of there. I haven't thought much about it since, but after reading the book I wish I could go back there and talk to some of those girls.

    After reading Wally Lamb's book I feel as the dividing line we put up between "us and them" no longer exists.


    December 6, 2003 - 08:10 am
    How exciting to see such interesting posts!

    I just finished Carolyn Ann Adams' piece and found it well-written -- extremely so.

    These first three stories make one wonder - are we suffering for our sins or are our sins the result of our suffering?

    Our troubles in early years seem to weaken us to breaking the law, drinking.

    How can we stop this pattern in people's lives? Do we need a better economic system? Capitalism seems to make things worse for all but the rich. There must be other ways to run a country. Obviously economics do not "trickle down".

    On another note: Reading about grape popsicles, Archie and Superman comic books lit a warm spot in my memory bank. Those were some of my favorite things, too.

    Seems the sexual urges of men may be a strong factor in messing up young girl's live, too.

    Our choices are critical in life.

    But sometimes is there really a choice?


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 6, 2003 - 08:59 am
    What about the sexual urges of women, LINDA? They don't have any influence on a young girl's life?

    I have no memory of being told not to associate with so-called "trashy" girls when I was a kid. The New England city where I grew up was filled with pockets of different ethnic groups. "The Hill" was where the French and Italians lived. It was frowned on if I associated with any of those kids in school, or their parents or relatives, because these people were not White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

    I also was not supposed to associate with Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Germans, Polish people, Blacks, Irish or anyone who was not of English extraction. Most of the people in these ethnic groups had nothing to do with anyone outside their own group, either, except when forced to because of work or school. This had nothing to do with anyone's being "trash", it had to do with ethnicity and religion.

    I think we suffer because of rigid attitudes and prejudice more than anything else. People are unforgiving of many things in the United States. Too many see the world as black or white and not for the Shades of Gray it actually is. Rather than trying to find solutions to problems or discussing differences in a way that would show similarities and lead to understanding, they point a finger at them as a weakness of a class or group and refuse to have anything to do with them.


    December 6, 2003 - 09:02 am
    Linda, yes of course there are choices. There are always choices, but not necessarily (maybe even rarely) the ones we would like.


    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 6, 2003 - 09:17 am
    Perhaps Carolyn's story has deep resonance on several levels for me. My younger son if a Daniel.. I wanted him to know how deeply loved he was even before his birth. I can empathize with her in her grief. Growing up is hard and to have your father use you has to be a horror. I had a loving funny Dad who encouraged me to believe that women could do anything they wanted to. He always supported me and I was truly a Daddys girl until the day he died. He was a good father for girls, but not one for boys.. My brother and he could not agree on anything. Anyway, I think it took such courage for Carolyn to write of this. I have a friend who had a baby that she gave up for adoption. She has spent many years looking hard at babies and then older children the age of hers.. She says that some day she expects to see her face looking back at her.

    kiwi lady
    December 6, 2003 - 09:58 am
    Goodness me - As I live Downunder I was in the land of Nod when Nancy Whiteley came in. However I would like to thank Nancy for taking the time to join us.


    Nancy Whiteley
    December 6, 2003 - 11:50 am
    I am off to do some errands. Will log in later today or tonight. To answer two questions, Izzy was (and is) real. I had to change his name to protect him and his family. I never hear from him. sad.

    I have no idea why I went to the airport with those guys. I guess it was some freudian thing. Subconsciousness. But, before I began writing this story, it suddenly dawned on me that I spent a lot of time in airports. This story was my search to find possible connecctions between the airport of my youth and my teens.

    I love everyone's ideas on why did this. I think everyone was right. It was a combination of things. I love you guys. You all are such a great group. Mal, I too am a friend of Bill's. God bless and will post again soon. Nancy

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 6, 2003 - 12:14 pm
    Thank you, NANCY.


    December 6, 2003 - 12:34 pm
    Question for Carolyn Adams: Do you ever think about searching for the son you gave up for adoption and finding out if he would like to meet you?

    Your piece was very moving; I cried along with you and the social worker at the end. I think your description of what it was like to enter prison for the first time was so realistic and frightening that it should keep anyone from contemplating a life of crime. I do believe that some of what happened to you was beyond your power to control on your own. The terrible trauma of childhood abuse and giving up a child you had actually seen, combined with what seems to be a gambling addiction in later years, probably led to the disintegration of what appeared to be a responsible life on the surface.

    "The Right To Speak" is such a wonderful subtitle for the last section of the piece. So many children who are abused are frightened into silence by their abusers, or by societal sanctions imposed on those who are brave enough to speak out. Prosecuting the abusers can often be made into a second traumatic experience for the victim, since our criminal justice system is organized as adversarial, not as an objective search for truth. I wonder if you hold your mother in any way responsible for not preventing what happened to you, or if you accept that her choices were probably limited as well.

    December 6, 2003 - 01:24 pm
    Our choices are critical in life. But sometimes is there really a choice? sorry i joined you all so late- I think, Linda, there is always choice- and perhaps unfortunately- the available options might be limiting but to me our entire lives are a series of choices. What I found so wonderful about this book, especially the early pieces, is women taking responsibility for their choices. The stories to me suggest an awareness of choice- perhaps not about what other people do, but what we do and how we alter and grow (or not). I applaud there was no whining- no overt plea for the label victim. I wonder if the amazing courage to keep on making choices came from the writing or is simply a superb characteristic of each woman?

    December 6, 2003 - 02:45 pm
    I was wondering if Any of you have trouble making lasting friendship as I do? I believe for me it is the moving so much as a child and the abuse is why I don't trust people in general that try to get to close to me as I seem to feel that they want something of me or will abandon me and I feel that I have had Enough of all of that type of stuff to last me a lifetime.

    December 6, 2003 - 03:01 pm
    I sure do! From a childhood of fiendish physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, being kicked around from pillar to post and even having my NAME taken away every time I went somewhere new, I am just now discovering that I do find it nearly impossible to trust anyone really. I do throw myself into friendships and relationships and take risks and become very vulnerable but I think I get betrayal because I expect betrayal.

    I took foster children for a long time and I remember the foster child symjdrome, nothing ever works out, none can be trusted, this isn't going to work out, so let's just (subconsciously or consciously) sabotage it and get it over with.

    I also have a history of picking men who are "beneath me" and being Lady Bountiful, I think because I think they have to know they aren't worthy, so then they have to be grateful to Lady Bountiful and treat me well. And guess what... it doesn't work that way. But when someone who is "beneath me" hurts or rejects me, it DOESN'T COUNT! Right?

    I have maybe five long-time close friends and yet we only connect now and again. I'm not even sure I know how to have a close, long-lasting relationship with a friend and I think some of it is that I think when they find out who I really am, they won't like me, that I'm a fraud in some way and not worthy of real friendship. After all, if your own mother hates you, and no one protects you, how much value could you possibly have?

    I started reading/doing Dr.Phil's book, Self Matters and it was so traumatic that I had to stop. I know now that I need to start at the beginning and at least write down the bones and I have done "decorated book" pages, books full of them, on individual incidents, so maybe that will help me get started.

    I know that we have choices, but when we are confused and wandering, sometimes it's more a matter of just going with the flow, not even thinking of the consequences. I guess a non-choice is also a choice.

    I so appreciate what these women are doing here and it also means so much to see how far they have come. It also puts my life in perspective. And I continue to stand in awe of Wally Lamb.

    God bless you all, authors and SeniorNet friends alike, for your openness.



    December 6, 2003 - 03:12 pm
    Thank you so much as now I know someone who feels the way that I do due to the same things.

    December 6, 2003 - 03:16 pm
    I also don't have very good skills at managing conflict in any relationship, whether friendship or romantic. And I am far too likely to pass judgment and run away when someone turns out to be slightly imperfect. I circle my wagons to protect myself from further hurt, I guess.

    kiwi lady
    December 6, 2003 - 03:25 pm
    Karen and Ginger a broad based 12 steps program would be so healing for you guys. I went through one about 6 yrs ago and I can truly say it changed my life. I then went on to therapy and I think now after 5 yrs of practicing what my clinical Psychologist taught me I really know who I am and I am more trusting and a much nicer person than I once was. No matter how old you are its never too late to resolve old issues. During 12 steps it was so very painful and so I decided when I went to therapy I would not open any more cans of worms, I had done my crying, grieving and forgiving and I would start from where I was on the day I went to therapy. I was very scathing of therapy before I decided to try it. I know the reason for that is that I was so scared of facing up to myself. 12 steps was such a safe program it enabled me to really open up in a way I had never done before in my life. I did my 12 steps in a group with our pastors wife who is also a state qualified counsellor.

    Ella Gibbons
    December 6, 2003 - 03:30 pm
    How wonderful that through time and space you can speak to us and we can have the pleasure of two women who are authors, one of a cousin of Wally Lamb. We are so thrilled to have all of you here.

    Nancy Birkla, you were addicted, I believe the book says, and consequently ended in an institution in Kentucky. What were you addicted to and how did this lead to incarceration and for how long? How did you recuperate from both the addiction and the prison?

    I realize that your story is in the book, but we are attempting to stay on a schedule of discussion listed in the heading; however, I just wanted to ask a few simple questions while you are here. Please stay with us until we get to your story!

    Nancy Whitely! WOW! What a writer you have turned out to be - was that a surprise? How long did it take you to accomplish just one story that passed Mr. Lamb's approval for publishing? And you are special as you got two of them included in the book. All of us here think you are headed for a book of your own and you must let us know when it arrives in bookstores!

    Then you can orbit around bookstores for awhile! hahahaaa

    Our schedule calls for us to go on to other stories, but I hope that BOTH NANCYS WILL KEEP POSTING, STAY FRIENDS WITH US and, hey, read along with us on other book discussions. We are here 24/7 a week, and often when some of us have trouble sleeping, you'll find us here at very early in the morning.

    Of course, you realize by now that we are on Pacific time as the headquarters of Seniornet is on the west coast.

    So happy to have you both here! And, of course, Mr. Lamb appearing was such a treat to us!

    kiwi lady
    December 6, 2003 - 03:33 pm
    I too hope the two Nancys will read along with us. There is no age barrier in books. We have such great leaders in here too and a really lovely group of participants.

    December 6, 2003 - 03:56 pm
    I fight it all and run away also so it is mostly my fault.

    Do you Nancy Whitely and Nancy Birkla do the same thing?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 6, 2003 - 04:29 pm
    Like GINGER I have moved a great deal in my life, and it does affect making and keeping friends. The longest time I ever lived in the same house was 11 years. That was after my parents gave me to my aunt and uncle when I had polio at the age of 7 until I was 18.

    The longest I was in the same house and area when I was married was 6 years. I have been in North Carolina 13 years now, but have moved 9 times since I've been here. It's hard to keep friends that way. Long distance relationships are difficult. Not through this medium, though!

    I don't really have trouble with relationships and friendships any more, but I've had the advantage of a 12 Step program and the assistance of a very good psychologist I met through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation when I lived in Florida. He helped me understand my son's tendency toward his accident-caused psychotic episodes and "indeterminate schizophrenia" during the five years I gave him a home and supported him financially and personally. And he opened my eyes to ways I'd been hindering myself and holding myself back.

    I also had the help of an old Yankee full of common sense and practicality who took me in hand at the end of my marriage and gave me the kind of really "tough love" I needed, while at the same time booting me out the door so I'd "turn all that talent into money on Main Street in the real world where things are tough."

    He helped me gain confidence, and I got over feeling sorry for myself and feeling as if I'd been victimized by several different incidents in my life. I followed the 12 Steps vigorously and began to grow a thicker skin than I'd had before.

    This was nearly 30 years ago. I can't say my life has been easier since then, but I can say that the way I deal with problems is much, much better and easier because I don't let them upset me the way I did before. Nor do I run and try to hide from them.

    What we don't realize is that we own our emotions. It is up to us to decide whether they're going to control us or we're going to control them.

    ELLA, Nancy Birkla answers all of your questions in her story.

    More later about my impressions of Carolyn Adams' story. It's suppertime here in my part of North Carolina.


    December 6, 2003 - 04:33 pm
    Got you beat here, Mal. Up until the age of 30, I never lived more than two years in one place. And yes, it does play havoc with ones social skills. About the time I got to know people well we would move and I never saw them again. I am humbly grateful to those friends who made the effort to be my friend, as I hadn't a clue! I did have a close-knit family, tho', and that can make a big difference in one's life. ..Babi

    December 6, 2003 - 04:50 pm
    I don't know about a close knit family as we were away from my relation most of the time, traveling.

    December 6, 2003 - 05:39 pm
    This site's "heading" is so long there's hardly any room for posting!

    I ordered the book from my library about a month ago, and it arrived yesterday. I'm only halfway through the first week's "assignment", so it will take some time for me to catch up, if indeed I ever do.

    I was okay all the way to page 2, when a student told Mr. Lamb to Go F... himself, and Lamb had no response or doesn't care to share it.

    Now I, like many of us, grew up in the '50s when employment opportunities (if you were a highschool grad) were fairly abundant. (And when most students treated teachers with outward, if phony, respect.)

    I imagine that the incident Mr. Lamb describes took place around the '80s. when employment choices may not have been quite so good.

    But, if I had been in his situation, I would like to think I would have gone to the principal and said, "Either this 'student' goes, or I go. I am not a counselor. I am not a psychological therapist. I am not trained to deal with the mentally disturbed. I am a teacher, and I need the opportunity to teach kids who want to learn, and I owe them that opportunity. I need the chance to do the job I was trained to do".

    December 6, 2003 - 05:58 pm
    Rambler, having been in a school for several years and retired only a short while, let me tell you what we were told....

    Parents are sending you the children they have. They're not keeping the good ones at home. This is it. Deal with them.

    Not evaluating here... not disagreeing with you... but this is the reality of schools today.


    Nancy Whiteley
    December 6, 2003 - 06:30 pm
    Hi again. I'd like to try to answer more questions. As for #3: The images just sort of appeared. Especially the egg one. As we read through in our group, the egg theme just sort of popped up. Someone pointed it out and I ran with it. The eye contact thing was a total accident, however I do think eye contact is very important. The Little Prince I had recently reread, and it seemed suitable in the story.

    #4: Unfortunately, my Dad still won't speak to me. I am willing and open, though, when he's ready. My mother passed away while I was in prison from liver cancer. It was shortly after this happened I joined the writing group. It was, by far, the hardest experience of my life. I was not allowed to see her or speak with her, nor go to the funeral. Wally and my fellow writers really came along at a time when I needed some support.

    #5: I let people know I've been in prison if I need to. Like potential employers, AA sponsors, AA groups, people I want to let know me. I'm not ashamed of it, but there is a huge stigma attached to being an ex prisoner. Its hell getting jobs.

    #6: I can't say enough what I think about drugs/alcohol playing a huge role in people's becoming incarcerated. I think its like 80% of prisoners nationwide are there for drugs or drug related crimes (I count alcohol as a drug). This is heartbreaking. Most of these people are sick, addicted people.

    #7: I already answered this one.

    #8: I still don't really know Nancy Whiteley. But I am getting better. I work on it alot. I tell you one thing, I like Nancy Whiteley a whole lot better.

    #9: Orbiting Izzy came first.

    #10: I wrote both stories between October and April--so six months total. Maybe about three each.

    #11: Sadly, I have not yet been published elsewhere.

    #12: i will begin school at the University of Memphis (part-time for now) this spring HOORAY!! #13: my current story is about a trip me and my four siblings took together this spring to scatter my mother's ashes. SOrt of my personal way of saying goodbye, since I wasn't there for her funeral.

    Thats all for now, btu I will check back as time allows. Thanks again for all the great feedback.

    Nancy Whiteley

    December 6, 2003 - 06:34 pm
    Lou2: Thank you. We seem to be in agreement.

    Teachers deserve the opportunity to teach, but our society puts a low priority on public education. Education costs money and, hey, we got better(?) things to do with our tax money.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 6, 2003 - 06:46 pm
    Thank you, NANCY, for answering my question about the part alcohol and other drugs play in crimes that lead to imprisonment. What you said jibes with what I've heard from former prisoners I've met and worked with reciprocally through a 12 Step program. One of them I hired to work as my assistant when I ran a used book bookshop in Florida.

    I'm so sorry to learn of your mother's death and the fact that you weren't allowed to see her before she died, or to go to her funeral. You've created a beautiful memorial for her with your writing.

    It's wonderful that you're going to the University of Memphis. I hope that you will continue writing while you're there. As I said before, you must use this precious talent you have.

    Any friend of Bill's is a friend of mine!


    December 6, 2003 - 06:50 pm
    Nancy Whiteley, Thank you for sharing All this with us. Yes I agree that is hard when blood relation won't speak to us.

    I agee the there is a huge stigma attached to being an ex prisoner in Every way.

    It is hard to know ones self after serving time.

    Hang on Nancy you Will be published some where, We the posters are rooting for you.

    December 6, 2003 - 07:02 pm
    Welcome to this discussion Lou2

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 6, 2003 - 07:04 pm
    What a brave woman Carolyn Adams is to write about her painful experiences in this short piece which packs a powerful punch. She says:
    "Having lost my prescription benefits, I"d been off my psychiatric medicines for months, medicating myself instead with a dialy pint of Seagram's Seven."
    Carolyn isn't the only one who has used alcohol as medicine, as a painkiller. Since I've had pain throughout my life, at one time I, too, used beer and wine for this purpose. Now never a day passes without pain for me, but I've found other ways to live with it. Other methods are not easy to find when the pain is caused by psychiatric problems, however.

    Carolyn is the woman who had her father's baby at the age of 12 or 13, the one, who after that birth, put on the pink and white A line dress her mother brought her and her white patent leather flats. She packs her things in a bag that reminds her of the ones models in Seventeen magazine carry. This is a little girl, and it is no surprise to me that as an adult she suffers from numerous psychological and emotional problems, or that she was addicted to gambling. There are all kinds of addictions besides addictions to alcohol and other drugs.

    Carolyn has the right to remain silent, but her mother tells. How humiliating and painful it must have been for Carolyn to hear her sister say, "Mother isn't getting any younger and what you've put her through has been too much of a strain. Don't you realize what it's been like for her?" Carolyn is being accused of doing something that was never her fault. A drunken father who took advantage of his own flesh and blood. How awful this must have been.

    Carolyn is a writer, too. Her descriptions of women she met in the holding room while waiting to be taken to York are extraordinary. The whole story is. I hope someday Carolyn can put all of this behind her and use her experiences as a foundation for her writing.

    What a wealth of talent in Wally Lamb's writing workshop at York!


    December 6, 2003 - 07:18 pm
    Thank you, Nancy, for your wonderful kindness in being here and answering our questions, we are just blown away by your generosity!!

    I am so sorry to hear of your mother's passing, please accept our sympathy in your great loss. I am not understanding why you could not see her or speak to her, I guess I really do not understand what goes on in a prison. But I hope to.

    We are SOO excited to hear about your spring semester at the University of Memphis!@!!! We will be thinking of you this entire spring, now, and wondering how you are getting on, what you're taking, we have been very moved by your story and your courage in telling it and your generosity in answering our questions.

    We have more? hahahahaa That is, on general things, if you get time, do come back in? If it's not too painful. Carolyn's story alone raises so many flags for me that I really would like to find out, if it's not too painful a memory, what conditions are like in that prison, I could hardly believe my eyes at her story and the way she was treated.

    So I'm trying to say , if you have time later on, this month (and thank you for taking your entire Saturday to struggle with a laptop for our sake) do come back in, if you like, we have more questions about life in general in the prison, and how it seemed when you heard Wally Lamb was coming, what attracted you to the workshop, what it was like, OH we have a million questions, so no matter what story we are discussing, please feel free to join us again! We have so appreciated hearing from you, I LOVE those answers on the egg and the eye contact, thank you!!


    Nancy Whiteley
    December 6, 2003 - 07:33 pm
    I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have especially concerning prison. I can come online and check in from time to time. I'd like to. I really feel you are all friends already.

    I've been slowly reading back through the posts. The ones where people didn't like the Izzy story, I think they didn't like the way it turned out, which is fine. I didn't like it either. But, hey, at least they felt something. I feel that, although I was wooed back to my ex at the time, it was also partly a sacrifice, leaving that job. It was both selfish and unselfish. I hope they can see that part too. I didn't want to destroy Izzy's life.

    I'm not trying to excuse myself, I just wanted to point that out. And I will be the first to admit that many things I have done in the past were far less than admirable. I work very hard to behave admirably today, and, mostly, succeed.


    December 6, 2003 - 07:37 pm
    golly moses coming in here today has been like an early Christmas, hasn't it? I was thinking while outside earlier that when you get to our age, it's often not the presents themselves at the holidays but the thought behind them and/or the people who you get to spend time with and coming in here the last two days has been like opening THE BEST presents, one after another, I have never seen anything like it, first Wally Lamb then Nancy Birkla and now Nancy Whiteley, it's almost more than you can take in, and it sure has been incredible.

    I am still in shock.

    sigh, I guess we have to come down sometime, let's turn our attention to the schedule:

    Now several of you have already posted on Carolyn Adams's story, Thefts which is found on pages 66-93, thank you very much, and we will want to address that tomorrow, but as we read, if questions occur to you that some of our authors will not be here to answer, let's just add them to our HTML page above for the Group and then maybe if Nancy and Nancy and Robin do come in, they can address those too.

    We will naturally stop when an author comes in and give that person our full attention, I mean REALLY! hahahahaha I have a billion questions, I want to study what Mr. Lamb said carefully as well as Nancy Birkla said, (I thought of her all day as the extiement got to me, she said she thought she had gained 30 pounds there once and I think I gained 50 today eating out of excitement, Little Debbie's Christmas Trees are in much shorter supply. hahaah and NOW we have some wonderful comments from Nancy Whiteley, I'm still struggling with the different times they were written!

    In Edit: Listen we're going to have to take a day or two and discuss what Wally Lamb and Nancy Birkla and Nancy Whiteley have responded to us, that's some very good stuff there. I've asked Pat W to get it on pages of its own so we can look at each and those will form separate "interviews" about the stories, that's good stuff, we need to look at IT a day or two, too.

    What fun. What a joy these last two days have been.

    Tomorrow we will continue looking at Carolyn Adams's (I need one of Waly Lamb's s's with the apostrophe over it! hahahaah) story tomorrow, I need to reread what you all have said to be sure you have not already covered what I wanted to say, first, have been too excited to concentrate!

    I'm about 100 posts behind but welcome Hats and Rambler, Rambler I thought, personally, having taught many years myself, that I liked his not mentioning what he did in response to the student cursing him? I liked that a lot. He follows it immediately by saying "and in the uneasy silence, and the days, and months, and decades that followed, teaching became for me not just a job but a calling. I have found special meaning in working with hard nuts, tough cookies, and hurtin' buckaroos--those children among us who are the walking wounded." God bless the man. I respect him putting the focus where it belongs: the child, and not his own reactions.

    My grandmother taught the "incorrigables," somehow by default..she died in 1967 at 86, so I'm not sure of the dates of her teaching, but she ended up with all the "bad boys," whom nobody wanted or could do anything with. But she did. She was tough and she had faith in them. And they wrote her for years sending photos of their wives and children, news of their lives, and their grandchildren. And THAT enriched her life, especially as she aged, she was proud of each of them as if they were her own.

    As my friend who taught LD children for 32 years who just retired this year used to tell me, sternly, you taught the subject, ginny, I taught the child. (like I appreciated THAT!) I did TOO teach the student (by then I wasn't teaching children). ...boy we used to argue over that. haahahaha I respect what he said there.


    December 6, 2003 - 07:46 pm
    Nancy, that would be wonderful I have a million questions, please do come back in! That would be fantastic!

    Oh yes, absolutely right, in the Izzy story, I have not been able to post my own waiting post on "ruin," because of the exciting events here: not to mention I have been thrown by the new knowledge you wrote it FIRST because the Nancy there, I was particularly glad to see, was strong and proactive and made decisions and made a positive difference in his life and hers, I think? Aldo? I thought about Aldo all day and an incident last year in DC but won't go into it now, but don't get me started on handsome Italians hahahaha, but in the Izzy story, you said clearly that THAT Nancy did not want what that relationship was turning into, AND she did not want to ruin him, so she left, she called first, she did the honorable thing in leaving, and did not "ruin" him as you said, I am thinking tho it does not say so, that she did not take his files and credit cards. She did not ruin him, in fact, withdrew before she might. I'm not so sure his own intentions were so honorable.

    I think that was all very positive, and I think that Nancy is very strong. And I'm not sure he deserved better than that Nancy? I think maybe he did not deserve her at all. That was why I asked the question even tho it appears to be a contrast in risk and responsibility, who is ultimately the most responsible?

    We will be looking expectantly for your return!

    I still want to talk about the last paragraph, what it MEANS!


    December 6, 2003 - 08:14 pm
    Yes, also, on the heading? Yes as I have pointed out, earlier, it IS quite long, sorry, it's about to get longer, but it does not in any way hamper anyone's ability to post: the posting box is always the same size and the software works in such a way that you can only see two new posts when you come in, anyway, regardless of the size of the heading, just FYI.

    See you all tomorrow!


    December 6, 2003 - 08:21 pm
    The slowness of the header is worth the wait.

    December 6, 2003 - 11:38 pm
    First of all, apologies to Ginny for not being here for the author and two Nancy’s. I was busy all day with political party meetings….Federal Policy Executive Committee. It was essential that I be there and give my input. So again, Sorry! I tried to stay up but, as an example, 5pm in NY is 3am here, so with half-mast eyes, I gave up and went to bed.

    Nancy Whiteley….I really enjoyed your post. You are one of the miracles that I’ve worked with as Psychologist in charge of the Substance Abuse Recovery stream in Queensland Corrections, and am still working with part time at Release to Work Centres (facilitating substance abuse relapse prevention groups) and as senior consultant for substance abuse programs. Here in Queensland, we used to say that 80% of offenders were substance abusers, either under the influence when they committed their offence or committed it in order to get money for their substances. As I say, used to say. Statistics just released show that 96% of inmates have substance abuse problems. This is why Queensland Correction’s main focus is on recovery from substance abuse. This includes, of course, cognitive skills, anger management and managing violence. And very important, AA, NA and GA meetings in all Correctional Centres and Release to Work Centres, and attendance at those meetings as conditions of Parole.

    I’m very pleased that you have recovered through the AA program, a wonderful program of living, which could benefit everybody, but is especially important to maintain recovery. Many miracles in that program. Your story mirrors the stories of most of the women in the Brisbane Womens. Close to 100% of the women were subjected to physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse and medicated their emotions and altered their reality through abuse of substances. Like you, those who embrace AA and NA after release become fully functioning, and non-offending members o the community. I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s death. With the help and loving care AA provides, I hope they have now become your ‘family.’


    Nancy Birkla
    December 6, 2003 - 11:58 pm
    Hi Folks,

    This is going to be a one or two post night for me, but I'll try to stay awake long enough to answer a couple of more questions.

    Concerning whether we ever get together (now) as a group, well, since I am the only contributor w/out any York Prison affiliation, I never actually met any of the other women until after the book became published. I did read some works in progress along the way, but my entire participation was handled electronically between me and Wally.

    I first met Robin last February, when we both traveled to Atlanta GA for a bookstore date. Since then we've visited with each other a few more times, both for book promos and also for some really great times just hanging out together. We continue communicating by e-mail and by phone fairly regularly.

    I also went to my hometown, Norwich CT, last March (and then again in April after getting snowed out of the bookdate I'd traveled for in March). Anyhow, for the April date it was Wally, Nancy W., Robin, Dale and me, all in the same place at the same time; it was one of the best nights of my life -- especially the gigglefest we gals had out in the parking lot after it was all over. Gosh it was a great time!

    I've also written back and forth with Barbara and Bonnie, who are still incarcerated (even managed once to stall an online book club's Q & A session long enough to snail mail Q's and A's to and from the prison so they could be included in it). I really love and admire all these women, and I feel so fortunate and blessed that all our paths have crossed in such an amazing way.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 7, 2003 - 01:18 am
    Concerning what I was addicted to, well in my story I explore the very roots of my addiction(s). I will say now, though, that my drug use is what ended up becoming a freight train to incarceration for me. Ironically, I ended up being arrested for the first and only time two weeks AFTER I used my last drug (the result of a "sealed indictment" from several months earlier).

    How long did I recuperate from addiction? I am currently in my 15th year of ongoing 12-step recovery. I still go to several meetings a week; I have a sponsor, and I continue folloeing the recommended 12 step process over and over again (trust me, as I change, so does my perception; so no two rounds through the 12 steps ever look remotely alike -- that's why I will never consider myself fully recovered. As long as material exists to address in my step work, then I'm still recoverING, not recoverED.

    I do believe that my drug abuse was only one symptom of the disease of addiction for me. The way my disease begins waking up and "talking to me," sometimes it seems out of nowhere, provoking new feelings of compulsion and obsession -- that's what addiction is. In addition to drugs (and like Nancy W., I too consider alcohol to be just another drug), there's also been food, sex, people, places, and plenty of other things; pretty much anything that has the potential to alter the way I feel has become a compulsive and obsessive focal point for me at one time or another.

    If I were to create a visual image of what the disease of addiction is to me, it would be an ugly little insideous (sp?) jerk who sits on my shoulder and jabbers at me all the time. And the little bastard's job is to serve as my interpreter (I know, "bastard" is a pretty strong and nasty word, but I'm talking about a really disgusting creature).

    This little beast takes in everything I take in, sees what I see, hears what I hear, and then he spits it all back at me in the language of fluent diseased perception.

    When I stay on top of my recovery, I can usually manage to say, "yeah, yeah, yeah, now shut up and leave me alone, you little creep." But when I ease up, even for a short time, I find myself stopping what I'm doing so I can listen more carefully; then before I know it I'm saying things like "you don't say?," and then I begin turning to the twisted little demon for advice; next thing I know we're eating donuts together and saying let's screw everything else . . . and just eat donuts all day long. I swear, it can happen fast, even after many years in recovery, and even without the slightest desire to turn to drugs anymore.

    Yep, I treat the disease of addiction as seriouly as if it were cancer or AIDS, or any other potentially fatal disease. The good news is that recovery works, and as long as I embrace my need for recovery, rather than resist it, I know I'll remain OK.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 7, 2003 - 01:20 am
    Going to bed now. I'll be back in a day or two.

    December 7, 2003 - 01:31 am
    Nancy....I kept nodding my head when I read your above post. 15 years sober and clean. Good on you! You mention recovering rather than recovered. That's what I keep stressing to the residents of the RTW centres....The disease is not only cunning, baffling and powerful. It's also sneaky, devious and patient. Also the difference between being 'sober'(right thinking) and 'dry' (stinking thinking), which is why continued commitment to the program and the steps is so important.

    The disease of addiction, yes, other addictive processes and emotions that arise if one is not vigilant. I was so moved by your post that I have tears in my eyes...another miracle! I always end up in tears when past inmates who are now sober and clean invite me to go to their birthday meetings as well.<g>


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 7, 2003 - 04:26 am
    For those who do not know what the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are, please click the link below.

    The 12 Steps

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 7, 2003 - 04:46 am
    I was so surprised when I came in here this morning to find five posts. Thank you, BOBBIE and NANCY BIRKLA for what you've said.

    I was up late because it was a deadline for the exchange and critique of work by the writers of the Writing Exchange WREX, the writing group I lead here in SeniorNet. I had sent out all the submittals to people who submitted for the deadline; then wrote my comments about each of the pieces in the WREX discussion. After that I read through the latest few chapters of the book I'm currently writing in order to plan in my head what I'll write today. Before I went to bed at 1:30 this morning I came in here to see if anyone had posted. This discussion has become very important in my life because I recognize so much in the book and what these wonderful women are saying.

    I recognize it because I am a recovering alcoholic and have been since 1978. First of all, I'll say that of course alcohol is a drug. As far as I know, except for drugs prescribed by medical doctors it is the only legalized drug we have.

    Let me also say that I have nothing against alcohol per se. There are millions of people in this world who can enjoy it in the way it should be enjoyed. They can "take it or leave it", which is something an alcoholic cannot do.

    Addiction to alcohol or any other drug is a disease. It is not a moral issue; it is not something that going to church or listening to well-meant advice from family and friends or a doctor, except for a therapist whose focus is on addiction, can help cure. This is something that people who do not suffer from this disease can realize easily. Those of us who are victims of the disease of addiction will tell you that whatever it is we are addicted to can take over until our lives are unmanageable. We are powerless over ------- just as the first step of the 12 Steps says. I leave that blank because there are so many things which can create this condition.

    I'm going to another post now because I think long posts are hard to read and have less impact than shorter ones, and what I'm saying is very important.


    December 7, 2003 - 05:11 am
    Wonderful post, Mal. As I said in a previous post, everybody could use the 12 Steps to improve their life, their thinking, their behaviour and their emotional stability. For alcoholics and addicts, they create a miracle...and you are one of them.

    You are right, alcohol is a drug. The other drug in the same category, sedative-hypnotics, are the benzodiazapam group of drugs, which are also very are the narcotic drugs.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 7, 2003 - 05:21 am
    I was a binge drinker. I'd use alcohol for a couple of months and then stay sober perhaps for three or four. The insidious nature of this disease can make a person addicted to alcohol, who has started feeling well as a sober person, think he or she can drink just like a non-addicted person can. That's what happened to me. I'd start feeling well, decide I could handle it, and have a glass of wine at dinner, or something like that. Before too much time went by I'd be drinking off and on all day long and into the night.

    It's very difficult to admit you're an alcoholic or addicted to drugs, even when you know in your mind that these substances have messed up your life. The first step in AA is the admission that you're an alcoholic. It takes most of us quite a while before we'll make that admission. We just can't be like a Skid Row drunk. Until we understand that yes we could, we cannot admit our addiction.

    It was also difficult for me to accept the "God" part of AA. It has been my choice not to be affiliated with any religion, though I've done my best through the years to learn as much as I can about world religions and to respect them. I did not want to be part of a religious program because of my philosophy and my beliefs. AA and other 12 Step programs are not religious programs; they are spiritual ones. Rather than using the word "God" I say "Higher Power". This is what many people do, in fact.

    The steps beyond that which were hard for me were Steps 4 and 5. Step 4 is taking a moral inventory of oneself. Being that honest is not easy, and in 12 Step programs people must be absolutely honest with themselves and others. Step 5 is admitting to the God of our understanding or a Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another person the exact nature of our wrongs. Alcoholic or not, this is very hard to do.

    When I got past these Steps the other Steps were easy. I think Step 12 is perhaps the most important of all. "Having had a spiritual awakening, we carry this message to other alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs." I have helped many, many alcoholics and people addicted to other drugs in my life, and by doing so have been helped myself. Among those people were two relatives of mine.

    There are certain simple helps for people in 12 Step programs like slogans: Easy does it, One day at a time are two. What helps me most to stay on this good road is the Serenity Prayer:
    God grant me the Serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change
    Courage to change the things I can
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    There have been times in my life when I've wished everyone in the world could have the benefits provided by being in a 12 Step program.

    Alcoholics Anonymous was started in 1935 by a man named Bill Wilson and a medical doctor called Dr. Bob. They were both alcoholics who had found their lives unmanageable because of their addiction. Since the first night they got together and came up with the basis for the 12 Steps millions of people have been helped. What I've said here is what I share with Nancy Birkla and Nancy Whiteley and the other women who, with the assistance of Wally Lamb, wrote Couldn't Keep it to Myself.


    December 7, 2003 - 06:31 am
    Oh my gosh here is Nancy B again (may I call you that?) wow wow, and Bobbicee and YiLiLin, welcome, Ladies! Will those of you who would like to talk on general prison reform, etc., please go over here? PBS Program Clubs: Women in Prison and talk on general aspects of prisons today? Will you all please take the Survey before it's too late (the 16th will be the deadline for the Survey) as we're thinking of the PBS program area (our discussion boards, you may not realize ARE the PBS discussion site for that documentary of life in prison! ) Those of us who have NOT been in prison need to see the doors clanging, it will be a visual adjunct to what we're doing here, do take the time to go over there and talk on your thoughts on prison in general, you are needed there. We want to show the world we CAN discuss such a difficult topic well.

    WHOOP thank you Nancy B for telling us we can contact those still in York prison, I know many of you have expressed that same idea: how can I let XXX know how much her story meant? Well now we can, if Nancy will be our go between, we'll get up some pages of thoughts and reactions for those still IN prison, thank you Nancy B, thank you Nancy W, we will continue to add to YOUR pages our questions and when you appear we can ask things that come up to us in reading the stories of the others as you've all touched on different things.

    Back with YOUR posts in a minute but I was stunned, offended and angry over the way Carolyn was treated and I really felt I was standing there with her, she did that beautifully. And I was repelled. Here in SC the news said last night one sector begging for workers in this horrible economy is prison guards? They can't keep them or attract them. There are tons of jobs in that field, the salary is $20,000 per year. What on earth possesses people to act like that guard did? Is it to intimidate the incomer and to make them shape up? Sort of a you're in the army now?

    Or is it the horror which results when somebody gets some power and misuses it?

    Andrea mentioned her friend a prison guard saying you have to adopt this aura of toughness or they walk all over you, if I understood Andrea correctly but surely this is a bit much? What message would anybody get from being treated like that? How does this scene "help" rehabilitate anybody?

    Nancy W is it really like this or is this exaggerated?

    What are YOUR thoughts today on this searing story?

    Back with YOUR comments!


    December 7, 2003 - 07:30 am
    Ok have gone back 100 posts, let's look again at some of the great points raised.

    Ella your point on prisons are to rehabilitate could not be more germane than today. How did YOU feel when you read Carlyn Adams's story?

    JoanK, speaking of "Nancy's " friends, I loved her post yesterday, didn't you?
    I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have especially concerning prison. I can come online and check in from time to time. I'd like to. I really feel you are all friends already.

    Yes we are! She's got 50 new friends now eager to follow her career. My youngest son just began going back to college, he's in graduate school in engineering, but it does not matter what level you are or what you're taking, it's still the same: hard. He works and goes to school Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon for two classes, and then stays till 11 at night at his job to make it up, and it's going to take him forever: more power to anybody who tries. We'll want , if we're not being too nosy, to follow Nancy W's career, I'm proud of her.

    This is an interesting question, Joan, I wonder if Nancy W wants to tackle it, (remembering of course that our author will answer what they are comfortable answering):
    It would be interesting to know how Nancy's sisters live, and their views on their parents.
    Nancy W, do your sisters agree with your assessment of your parents? Does your father speak to them? Want to jerk a knot in Dad here, I bet this book is killing him.

    Joan K, I liked your story on being curvy and the problems it causes, one of the most delightful things about old age for me has been being ignored! Hahahaha I love it, the freedom from harassment. I love Italy and go there all the time, and heard oh you will be harassed …forget it. I remind them of their old white haired mothers and it's wonderful. Old age can sometimes be liberating, free of the harassment that you used to have to deal with!

    Malryn thank you for the Suzy Punch Clock explanations, I loved the wry self deprecating humor in this thing, "we straight and narrow types don't like to be late for work." I love that.

    Babi thank you for that quote from the Secret Life of Bees, and Ginger, your words stayed with me all day, thank you.

    Hairy (Linda) do you have any thoughts on the educational system of today? You are more close to it than I am now?

    Thank you for being proud to be part of this group, I am too!

    Jim's Garbo, WELCOME!! Thank you for pointing out the abuse so many of these writers shared, it looks to me as if it continued in prison, do you think that's helpful?

    Marge, I did too, I saw a lot of humor, that same ironic wry self deprecating humor in her statement about marrying Aldo. I do so agree Izzy is ONE GREAT STORY!

    Danjer, me too, I also saw a huge difference, now that you know the timeline on the two stories, Izzy and Earth, what does that say to YOU a writing student?

    Thank you for this question, we'll get it up asap!
    <br.Question for everyone. Do you think there is a difference between crimes women are more likely to committ and crimes men are more likely to commit? Good point on the "decent" women. Hahaahah

    Zinnia, another good point on the "decent" folks, and I agree 100 percent with everything you said! )(which is rare for me) haahaha.

    Babi, another good perspective on what's presented on TV AS moral, we could really talk a week on that one!

    Stephanie, you said the underlying theme in Izzy bothers you, and your sympathy was with Izzy and his wife. Mine was with her till she shared the nacho pasta chips and with him, we all favor the underdog till he mistook friendship for romance, he WAS married, after all?

    Why did he not include his wife on these fun outings?

    Stephanie thank you for looking at the last paragraph of Izzy, I'm still struggling with it and probably WILL be for a while!

    Do you all not personally believe that every person changes every thing and person he meets?

    Joan K, the PRINT PAGE problem you speak of is new, it may be tied to the post box scroll bar thing, I am sorry , it seems related to your own browser speed, I will report it, thank you.

    This is lovely, thank you, Ginger:
    All of you have changed my life as I may Not have opened this part of my life on S/N and it has been very good therapy for me. Thank All of you.

    I agree Ella, the child had a million strikes against her, but look, she's entering Memphis in the spring!

    Horselover could you refine the question in post 140? Are you asking Mr. Lamb to comment on Norman Mailer's work or responsibility or his own? Are you asking if the prisoners get special treatment because of the workshop or if it makes life harder for them now that they are famous?

    or how their lives IN prison have changed?

    I loved your take on the title of Orbiting Izzy! And thank you for the thoughts on Carolyn's story. You mention Hedda Nusbaum, to me, and here is where my own prejudice and ignorance shows? To me Joel Steinberg is a monster, not a human, and does not deserve anything, at all. I guess that's shocking. I know when, in Women in Literature we discussed the extremes, was there a prisoner whom we could NOT feel compassion for, I nearly got drummed out by my nomination of Andrea Yates, who drowned her 5 children in the bathtub, but I was soundly trounced by explanations of mental illness and post partum depression and I accept that and I think I could extend compassion, but SOME things are just beyond my limited spirit and Joel Steinberg is one of them). I hear he is trying to get his own radio show. Sorry sorry, I'm breaking our own rules about leaving judgment at the door, it would be hard to justify Joel Steinberg to me.

    When Anneo comes back she will take me to task: all or nothing compassion wise, if Gandhi could do it, we all can. Sorry! I'll think about Joel Steinberg tomorrow.

    Malryn I wish we were in Wally Lamb's writing classes too, we're going to learn a great deal in this one, notice his answer # 3:
    In fiction, a dramatic scene usually has characters, dialogue, description, action, and reaction. Interior monologue (what the narrator may be thinking in the midst of all this) is often a part of the mix, also. Exposition occurs when the narrator takes a step back from the scene to offer explanation, background info, "back story," etc. Exposition is sort of like the glue that holds the scenes together and allows the story to progress. In Nancy Whiteley's "Orbitting Izzy," take a look at pages 54-55. The two paragraphs beginning with "Everyone who knew Aldo warned me.." are exposition. Beginning with the sentence, "When I arrived at Isadore Weintraub's accounting office ..." the writer moves from exposition into scene. In recreating their memories as scenes, the writers were encouraged to evoke the five senses so that readers could vicariously live the scene (feel, smell, see, tatse, and hear it) as opposed to just hearing about it second-hand. For many of the writers, that made them relive the memories, good or bad. Reliving the hard stuff was difficult for many but also therapeutic in that it got the pain, hurt, and guilt out of them and onto the page, where it became easier to handle.
    WOW!!! I hope you all made note of that and went back and studied Izzy to see this occurring. Can we find more examples? I want to LOOK carefully at everything said so we can all profit by it, can we find what we think might be examples in THEFTS?

    December 7, 2003 - 08:12 am
    Nancy B thank you for your kind words on our discussion here, enhanced beyond any understanding by your own presence and that of Wally Lamb and Nancy Whiteley, many thanks!

    I am sorry for the difficulties our boards present, and I appreciate your fast comprehension (Nancy has taught ME something about our boards I did not know, amazing!)

    I thought this was beautiful:
    Then the "domino effect" from that one revived soul, who then reaches out to help another dying spirit, who does the same for the next, well, eventually the initial act of kindness trickles outward 100-fold.
    Let's get in line so we can be dominoes too!

    Welcome, Ginny Ann!! You'll love this discussion today we're looking at the story THEFTS, tomorrow and Tuesday "Hair Chronicles," and then on Wednesday and Thursday we have a surprise for all of you, stay tuned!

    THIS is magic:
    The Intro to Film professor I wrote about in my essay (which I realize you may not be up to yet)is now my next-door office neighbor, as my office is in the English faculty suite on the same campus where I was once a struggling middle-aged returning student.

    Every single day at work I have tangible reminders of exactly where I came from. The office I now work in is the exact same office I once sat in (blowing snot and shaking uncontrollably) as I explained to a campus counselor that not only had I just become homeless, but that my ex-husband had confiscated my car out of the school's parking lot.

    THANK you for that, how satisfying it is for us to read that.

    Nancy W, thank you for telling us you added the scene about the "other woman," and your Dad, I thought you did an incredible job of putting us in the mind of a child, and I guess a child would not understand (and neither would we, unless you had told us what was going on). If it's not too painful to ask, how long has it been since your mother died? I am so sorry, because you are still very young.

    Annafair and Annie3, so glad to see you here, isn't this fabulous?

    betternthen (Mary) what a traumatic thing to happen, if it's not too painful to answer, how long ago was that?

    I will write you a similar story, thank you for sharing that.

    Danjer (Jerilyn) Beautiful point about the dividing line between "us" and "them," I'm finding (so far) those we might have thought of as "them" are far superior to "moi." Hahahaah no joke.
    ,br> A learning experience, in spades.

    Hairy (Linda) with your permission I want to copy over your question
    How can we stop this pattern in people's lives? Do we need a better economic system? Capitalism seems to make things worse for all but the rich. There must be other ways to run a country. Obviously economics do not "trickle down".
    to the PBS discussion as well as look at it here, how CAN we stop this pattern? Wonderful question on the limited choices we sometimes have, "sometimes is there really a choice?" I'll put that in the heading.

    Marvelle, thank you for that perspective, I love that question, so you see us always as having A choice?

    Horselover, thank you for calling our attention to the subtitles in the piece, "A Right to Speak," what do the subtitles mean?

  • Why is some of the text italicized?

    YiLiLin, thank you for that perspective on "responsibility," and welcome!

    Ginger, Karen (Zinnia), Carolyn (Kiwi Lady), and Malryn , thank you for those testimonies from your own lives and information on addiction.

    Ella you are a hoot, Nancy W can orbit the bookstores selling her books? Hahahaha She can "orbit" us, too! Hhaahah AND Nancy B! and we can all orbit around THE MAN who started all this, Wally Lamb!

    Babi do you feel that moving a lot causes a child to adjust better because of experience or not?

    Lou, what grades did you teach, would you like to address the current state of education, you and Linda are closer to it than I am?

    Nancy W, I may want to quote you in the PBS discussion if you are willing?

    Malryn, I was confused over the introduction of mental illness in Carolyn's story and need to go back and read it again.

    Do we know what kind of mental illness she had?

    Bobbicee, so glad to see you here!

    Nancy B, tell us more about your life on the road as a traveling author, what are the questions like? I am so glad you all get together. Thank you so much for that illustration of "the little beast," or addiction it's wonderfully understandable.

    OK !! I'm caught up, now where are the rest of you?? Let's hear ALL of your perceptions on "THEFTS?"

    Why are some of the sections in italics, what does that mean?

    "In the mirror I study my face. It's an ordinary face, not just different from most twelve-and thirteen-year-old gifls. Why do I feel so old?" (Page 88).

    How would you answer that question? What does the inclusion of this searing episode in Carolyn's life do to your understanding of her situation?
  • Were you moved by The Wish Book: "So many pretty things dazzle me . I cut out a perfect Mommy and Daddy and find their children, a blond boy with a crew cut and a pretty, dark-haired girl with a Tonette permanent…" (page 82).

    How do these two moving scenes from the book contrast with the opening of the story?

    Can you tell where the "seques" that Wally Lamb spoke of, occur?

    If this were YOUR story where would you have started it?

  • Why do you think Carolyn began the story in her office?

    Grab one or all of those questions and let's hear from YOU today!

  • kiwi lady
    December 7, 2003 - 09:50 am
    Last night I was looking for some recipes I had on floppy disk. When I was sorting through all the floppies (these were copied willy nilly as my computer was crashing and I was desperately trying to salvage my work) I came across my 12 Steps Homework on Suppressed Anger. WOW it was powerful stuff I had written all those years ago. Then I got to thinking what happens to kids who have been terribly abused and they cannot show their anger because they live in fear of the perpetrator. They must grow up so angry inside. Is this anger what drives them to drug abuse and violent crime?

    December 7, 2003 - 11:14 am
    I think one thing that is a buzz word with many teachers today is the "testing" that needs to be done. I only teach First Graders, so I am not directly involved with any of that, but I know people all over the country are disturbed by putting all children through the testing process with a chance of failing. Many teach to the test which is fine - but some probably just teach everything that is on the test verbatim which doesn't sound so fine to me - but, then again, I wouldn't want a child's life to be ruined because of a stupid test.

    Children at my age are the perpetual motion bunch. Some days I feel like I'm not a teacher at all, but just a ringleader at a circus or a person in charge of a Chucke Cheese Birthday Bash. I love the age and the innocence though. There is so much future out there for them all and I try dang hard to get them reading, writing, spelling, learning to think mathematically so they can be the best possible person they can be.

    When the behavior gets out of control I remind them that our purpose in life is not for ourselves; it is for others - to help them and care for them and even make them laugh and have fun. It's to make friends and to make a difference in people's lives - as Mr. Lamb has done and these lovely ladies who have worked so hard on these memoirs.

    One of the most joyful things about teaching First Grade is reading their writing once they get the hang of what a sentence is and they can spell well enough for people to understand what they are saying. These are pure thoughts put on paper by 6 and 7 year old people. They have wonderful ideas and express them so well. The power of that Higher Power just shines through them at times.

    Last year I had a great class and I often would tell them about our dog, Hairy. The dog is a gift from heaven. He sings with us at home. We start up singing and he joins right in and - he isn't barking - he really is singing and takes his role seriously while enjoying it fully. If we are singing from the heart that's what he likes the best and he sings from the heart, too, and on and on we go.

    He was at the vets the other day getting his hair cut. On the way home I started in with a song I'd never done with him - Bill Bailey. I laid it on him like I never had sung it before while driving home in the car. He picked up on it pretty quickly and chimed in and when I got real "down and dirty" he would reach over and paw my arm two or three times as if to say - "Right on, Lady! I love it!" This dog is such a joy.

    Anyway, the last day of school last year, one of my students wrote a piece about Hairy and our family. She said something about we all like to sing - even the dog - and we sing all the time. Then she drew a picture and labeled it "Our teacher's house---->" and drew a picture of a house and all the windows showed musical notes coming out of them. What a treasure!

    The students are a gift from God, that's for sure. They are capable of learning so very, very much at this age. And the parents are generally thrilled with the growth, too.

    We do the Book-It Program so they read lots of extra books each year. If we all make our goals each month, we have a party. We dance like crazy, watch a movie and have pop and popcorn. If we make Book-It goals for 4 months in a row, we have lots of pizza brought it and bring streamers and have ourselves another party with tons of dancing and throwing streamers - a celebration of reading! I love it! And so do they!

    A mother of a child I had a number of years ago stopped me in the hall and thanked me the other day for encouraging the writing and looking for that "Ping" in her pieces. Her mom says her daughter is in her last year of college now,has majored in Journalism and has had two pieces published (for money) and will be a Journalist after Graduation. I am delighted.

    I'll bet about now, Ginny is very sorry she asked about education.

    "Well, I know my face is red,
    Well, ain't that a kick in the head,
    Bill Bailey, won't you please --- git on home!

    Oh, yeah!"

    Hairy---Wow - Wowww - oo -- oo--oo-00

    Linda - Thanks for the time -- I love the cameraderie that has been developing here.

    December 7, 2003 - 11:16 am
    This story was one of my favorites of these tragic tales. Carolyn’s picture caught my attention right away. Her large, personable smile does not match her sorrowful, searching eyes. Note the picture on the right—her eyes are closed! We see a convicted felon on one side of the coin (page) and a mere child with her eyes shutting out life on the other side. Before I even began this story I kept staring at these two pictures wondering why this kid’s eyes were closed to the world. As the story opened even schizophrenic Ned’s eyes were averted. They say the eyes are the windows of our souls. Would you agree with that?

    I used to live in a community that closed their State Hospital and released their patients into the community, like Norwich did. I always wondered WHO evaluated these charges and agreed to release some of them. It didn’t seem as if there were enough agencies to handle this.

    Will Carolyn be joining us, Ginny? I have a couple of questions I would like to ask her?

    December 7, 2003 - 11:27 am
    Police brutality never shocks me. I think many people are ill suited for this occupation. One has to have balance and surely this guard was on tilt!

    I love this writing here as Carolyn was cuffed to a metal chair, denoting the rock hard heart of her guard and the unyielding attitudes surrounding her, including the damned fool defense attorney she got stuck with. Note also the cold impersonal processing; "The view was bleak: a concrete building, a patch of grass." Great sentence, Carolyn as you stood there envying that SOB goose as it passed by on its way to greener pastures. God, that's wonderful how you can bring a ray of sunshine into such a horrible story. It made me grin and choose your corner to stand with you in.

    kiwi lady
    December 7, 2003 - 11:30 am
    Linda - You are so right about kids of that age being so receptive to learning. However if they get the wrong teacher in these very important years their enthusiasm may be squashed forever. I get so much joy out of the constant questions from my grands. At the moment two of them are obsessed with death and dying. One is much more mature than the other he is three and the other child is 5. These questions have to be answered with care. I know I am so much better at being a grandmother than I was at being a mother. I have more time to be observant and more time to talk. One thing I learned with my own kids is that even a three year old has worthwhile things to say about the world. It is a joy to see the world through the eyes of a three year old. My kids are doing a grand job of parenting especially my eldest DIL and my eldest daughter. The cycle is broken!

    kiwi lady
    December 7, 2003 - 11:34 am
    It may be interesting to note that in NZ there is a drama program being taken into the prisons. The inmates get to have acting classes with local actors volunteering as tutors. Like Wally's writing classes the drama classes are changing lives. The tutors say as the weeks go on the students visibly change. They become more outgoing, their whole body language changes. They begin to obtain some self esteem. Drama is another way of expressing emotions.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 7, 2003 - 11:36 am
    I loved your posts, ANDREA. You're quite a writer yourself!


    December 7, 2003 - 12:55 pm
    Well Mal, bless your heart, thank you!

    December 7, 2003 - 02:33 pm
    I think many are having the same trouble I am. While I could learn a lot about writing technique, the stories are so overwhelming it is hard to look past that to technique. After I read for awhile, or read your wonderfulposts, I have to put it away for awhile and do something stupid and mindless. I don't know how GINNY does it. Thank you all for sharing so much of yourselves with me. I feel priveledged to know not only our author but all of you.

    December 7, 2003 - 02:48 pm
    First, I would like to thank Wally Lamb for including those postscripts at the end of each story. It answers many questions we would otherwise have, and provides a window into the current life of the author whose story we become so emotionally involved in.

    Ginny, I totally agree with you that Joel Steinberg is a monster with no redeeming qualities. As far as I know, he has never admitted his guilt or expressed any remorse for his actions. But I also believe that Hedda Nussbaum, the abused wife, bears some responsibility. She was an educated woman, and there were avenues of help open to her which might have saved the life of that poor tortured child.

    You asked what I meant in post #140 about the question for Wally Lamb. I did not want him to comment on the work of Norman Mailer; I myself outgrew my fascination with Mailer's attitude toward women by the time I was thirty. I was asking what he thought was the professional writer's responsibility toward an inmate whose talent he helps nurture, and whose release he helps bring about. How closely should he monitor the prisoner's re-entry into society? How much assurance does the public deserve that a violent offender will not harm another innocent person, despite his talent, after he is released. This was an infamous case in NY which is still being debated today. What actually consitutes rehabilitation? Obviously, having published a well-reviewed book was not enough evidence that its author was ready to live in society with little supervision.

    You also expressed disgust at the behavior of some of the prison guards in "Theft." I have a cousin who is a senior official in a state prison system. In his state, prison guards are not permitted to carry guns because this would pose a greater danger of hostage-taking. Prisoners outnumber guards by a large majority. Therefore, guards have to use other means of maintaining order among a potentially violent population. Guards often use the threat of punishment and harsh treatment, the withdrawal of privileges, random searches, etc., as a way of keeping the prisoners in line. This does not excuse those guards who cross the line into gratuitous cruelty, but if we want prisons, we do need to support those whom we hire to administer them.

    You asked why Carolyn Adams begins her story in her office. Actually, she begins outside the courtroom prior to her arraignment. Then she goes back somewhat to the day of her arrest in her office; this is the last day of her superficially 'normal' life. When she is arrested at her office, the entire false structure upon which she has been building her life comes crashing down. After this, she goes back further into the past to show us how and why her life took such a wrong turn.

    kiwi lady
    December 7, 2003 - 02:50 pm
    Dehumanisation within the prison system.

    My father worked for some years at a maximum security prison and I see two sides to this issue.

    There were some prisoners who would kill their jailers if they got half a chance. There were also some prisoners who served their time and were model inmates. More attention paid to the profile of the prisoner could result in not every prisoner being tarred with the same brush.

    I think drug searches are necessary but perhaps these could be done by medical staff in privacy with maybe a guard just standing by.

    The problem with both private and State Prisons is that they are often understaffed. The private prison industry wants to make profits and the State system has a limited budget.

    Sorry- again I cannot look objectively at literature. I cannot think about technique etc. Its just not possible for me. I can't judge a book in this way! Some books which critics hail as being masterpieces of technique I think suck. It is all about content to me.

    December 7, 2003 - 03:05 pm
    Lou2, I agree that in an ideal world teachers deserve the respect of their students. I was a teacher myself for a time. I learned that you have to take the students you get (along with the background and environment they come from), and help them move forward as best you can. If they start out cursing because this is what they learned at home and in their neighborhood, it's up to you to motivate them to want what you have to offer enough to give up this behavior in class.

    Nancy Birkla, Thanks so much for your comment that many addictions arise from obsessions and compulsions. I think it's now understood that gambling addictions, cleaning and washing addictions, and even drug and alcohol addictions often affect the same parts of the brain. Very often one of these replaces or accompanies another.

    kiwi lady
    December 7, 2003 - 03:30 pm
    Just adding to Horselovers post.

    I identify most with Nancy Birkla as I have GAD and part of that is OCD. I have also had delusions much as she had with the monkey thing. Those who do not have anxiety disorder do not understand what a struggle we have every day fighting obsessive behaviour and thoughts. Man its so tiring! I have tried drug therapy and now have opted for behavioural modification and natural therapies. However I believe that we are never really cured and like an alcoholic and boose those obsessive thoughts and phobias are always lurking waiting to pounce! My first clear memory of a panic attack was when I was three. I used to have terrible screaming fits and my mother had no idea what was wrong with me. These fits continued until puberty when I got wise and suppressed them and never told anyone about my disordered thoughts as I would have probably been put into a hospital and already I knew in those days that was not a good thing. My mothers recollection of me is of a difficult child - who never slept, had tantrums- threw up at the drop of a hat and probably she did not like me very much! She never told me about much of my strange behaviour as a pre schooler until recently because she said she did not want to hurt my feelings. She also did not want to accept I had a mental illness. If she had opened up to me about my behaviour problems as a tot it may have given my Psychologist a lot of help with my diagnosis.

    Carolyn's story.

    I know and have known a number of people with bi polar affective disorder. They spend their own money and get into big financial difficulties when they are on a high and they go on a spree but they don't steal to pay their bills. Several have gone bankrupt after a particulary bad manic episode. I think the embezzlement is a different issue and is more related to addiction than the bi polar disorder. Just like the rest of the population not all mental patients commit crimes .There is no reason why someone should not have two issues bi polar disorder and addiction. The fact that Carolyn went to great lengths to conceal her theft tells us she knew right from wrong so I don't say it was her Bi Polar disorder which is the culprit here. There are many lawyers and doctors even who go to prison after they have become involved with gambling. Does anyone think that people who committ crimes because they have an addiction should not be sent to prison? Or perhaps instead of prison, compulsory rehab. The statistics tell us that compulsory rehab has a low success rate. The affected person has to WANT to rid themselves of the addiction. Would going to prison be enough incentive to bring about a change of thought. Any ex addicts like to tell us if they think compulsory rehab instead of prison would work for an addict.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 7, 2003 - 03:48 pm
    The most important theft in this story is the theft of Carolyn's self by her father. Rape is the worst theft of all, in my opinion, and what Carolyn stole later in terrible reaction to the damage done to her is nothing in my book.

    The exposition of this story is the first few paragraphs about Ned, the psychiatric patient who has been released to roam the streets. It also is the transition, or what Wally Lamb calls the segué into Carolyn's story, and relates to it because she suffers from mental illness, too.

    I have said this before about the way I write and the way I analyze writing. I have had much more training as a musician than as a writer and often relate what I read and write to classical musical forms.

    Carolyn's story is like a fugue where themes intermingle and form a kind of contrapuntal embroidery. The present and the past with all their facets are woven in and out with each other. It is not the easiest kind of writing where, like the Sonata form, there are two themes stated followed by a development or embellishment of those themes in various keys and a recapitulation into the original two themes in the original keys.

    We are given the story of Carolyn's arrest. This is woven in with stories of her childhood and the delivery of her baby. The beginning shows her alone among unsympathetic people. She was shipped off alone, more or less in disgrace, to wait out her pregnancy. She delivers a baby alone among not altogther sympathetic people. She runs away in her pink and white A line dress and white patent leather flats after she is taken back to the "home for wayward children".

    The climax, I believe, is the rape. The ending of the story shows her having to do a truly adult act -- sign the papers which make legal her giving up of her baby. Though her mother and a social worker are there, she is very much alone among what appear to be unsympathetic people, who forget and don't seem to care that she is just a little girl.

    Her mother's face is stoic. There are tears on the social worker's face. This is the only sort of real compassion I see in this piece. Carolyn is unloved, unwanted and abused everywhere she goes. This fugue of Carolyn Adams, of course, is written in a minor key. I hear it in F minor.


    December 7, 2003 - 04:00 pm
    The monumental theft was that of her son. The law was the thief.


    kiwi lady
    December 7, 2003 - 04:01 pm
    A PS to my last post. I am not unsympathetic to Carolyn. To be sexually abused by those meant to be protecting us is the worst of crimes. To have a baby at 13 must have been traumatic. The person closest to me who did have bi polar affective disorder was also sexually abused by a parent. This trauma may be a catalyst for the disease in my opinion. There is often a genetic predisposition and an abusive childhood is a catalyst. There is much more I could say but its too painful to keep looking back. Also the ultimate betrayal - her mother did not report her husband for the rape. I would find that very hard to cope with if I were Carolyn.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 7, 2003 - 04:04 pm
    CAROLYN, wasn't Carolyn Adams' embezzlement done to pay for her addiction to gambling? This can be a very, very serious form of addiction.


    December 7, 2003 - 04:05 pm
    MAL, You have made such a wonderful point, "The most important theft in this story is the theft of Carolyn's self by her father. Rape is the worst theft of all." So much was stolen from Carolyn -- her childhood, her innocence, her feelings of trust for those whose job was to take care of her, her sense of safety in her own body, and let's not forget her baby.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 7, 2003 - 04:49 pm
    Horselover, Not to change the subject, but I am overjoyed to find someone else who has reservations about Hedda Nussbaum.. I truly cannot imagine letting a child be killed in front of you. Dooesnt matter how abused. She worked,, kept her job for years. etc. I dont feel that way much, but I do about them. The death of a child is the death of hope..The woman in Texas bothers me because she did seek help and got it in several different ways. Did not seem to help much. Carolyn,, I have such emotions about Carolyn. The rape is so powerful and the loss of her son equally. I am not sure that anyone could be expected to be able to cope. The real problem is society and the inability to prevent the types of sins committed against Carolyn. She needed help or better yet prevention. So very sad. The writing again is quite good. I can see her extending this story quite easily .

    December 7, 2003 - 04:49 pm I'm trying to catch up. I think Nancy is a most talented writer, with lots of wit, humor, good pacing, occasional pathos (appropriate to her oftimes grim situations).

    I'm tempted to make a flippant remark regarding highschool sexuality, but that would be unfair (and 50 years late!).

    Oh, on second thought, here goes: I remember when the hot rumor was that a certain girl had sat in the middle of the back seat and masturbated guys on either side. Wow! Fifty-three years ago, at Minneapolis Central High (which no longer exists. It's now called Central Park). My best to the relatively innocent and very dear Nancy. I wish her the best. rambler.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 7, 2003 - 04:53 pm
    Ah Rambler.. High school stories. When I was a junior in high school in 1954.. On New Years Eve, two girls, one from my class, one was a senior and two men from the airforce base were going over a high bridge in Delaware ( where I come from). The car went right through the guard rail over and down. Three people died, the girl from our class simply broke her jaw and was back in school within weeks. She said the reason they went over was that her friend was (HMMM, how do you put it gently) laying down on the front seat and assisting the driver in some gratification ( Delicate enough??). We always regarded this in school as a reason to listen to our ministers very carefully. Seemed like an instant reaction to sin.

    kiwi lady
    December 7, 2003 - 04:57 pm
    Crikey I never heard any of those stories in high school! Mind you I was in the nerds group!

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 7, 2003 - 04:58 pm
    Kiwi.. I went to a teeny high school There were only 70 in our class, so everyone knew everything about all..

    December 7, 2003 - 05:01 pm
    Steph: Not a bad way to go (at least, for the guy). Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder!

    December 7, 2003 - 05:38 pm
    Sorry, I have been absent all day from this discussion. I just sent my grandson home and got my computer back.

    Stephanie, I believe the high school I went to in the fifties was smaller then yours. There were 36 in my graduating class and I pretty much know where all of them are and what they are doing today.

    Society has certainly changed since then, hasn't it? Regarding Carolyn's story "THEFTS" I would be surprised if a father could get away today with what her father got away with. I found hers a hard story to read as I have always been somewhat bitter about men who can get away with what they can get away with and the woman has to shoulder all the blame. I have seen too many times when a man gets a divorce, leaves his wife to support the kids and remarries and totally drops out the lives of his children. That happened right next door to us.

    I got so angry when I read this piece about the way Carolyn was treated by everyone including her own mother that I had to put the book down several times. I found myself disliking both her mother and father intensely. At the same time I wonder what happened to them to cause them to be that way?


    December 8, 2003 - 01:12 am
    I was angry but not surprised by Carolyn's treatment by the prison guards, since I have heard other similiar reports. I was more surprised at her treatment when she was pregnant and gave birth. This was not a case of having to control potentially dangerous people. I keep thinking, why would I work in that place if I didn't want to help the people there. Couldn't anyone see how young and scared she was?

    After she gave birth, she was treated better. I wonder why?

    I just noticed the similiarity in the way the workers there treated Carolyn, and the way her grandmother treated her mother. One bad decision, and you deserve endless punishment. (Carolyn hadn't even made a bad decision, but they assumed she had). In both cases, the woman is blamed, not the man. I wonder if, at some level, her mother blamed Carolyn? That would be awful.

    Her mother may have been too afraid of her husband to report him. We don't really know what happened to him after this.

    About punishment: this is a hard question for me. I live in the area where many of the "sniper"'s victems were killed. If you remember, a man and teenaged boy modified their car so that they could shoot a rifle out the back without being seen and went around, killing people at random (eleven, if I remember correctly over a period of some weeks). One person was killed at a gas station where we buy gas, another at a shopping center where we shop. I will always remember the terror othose days. When they were caught, there was a lot of discussion about where to try them. It was felt that they should be tried in a location where they would be sure to be sentanced to death. The county where I live was judged to be too lenient on executing teenagers, and they were not tried there. I was disgusted by this argument, and yet part of me agreed with it and wanted them DEAD.

    I think of people who live with this kind of terror every day (as in the Middle East). How can they ever find their way to peace?

    I'm rambling. Capital punishment is another issue. The question is: are there some people who can never be rehabilitated, and should be incarcerated forever? And is fear of this leading us to fail in rehabilitating and helping the others?

    kiwi lady
    December 8, 2003 - 01:41 am
    I do not believe in the death sentence. We did away with capital punishment many years ago. The USA is one of the few developed nations which still has the death penalty. I do believe however there are some offenders who need to be detained for the term of their natural life. We have a special unit for these people and they are detained under a special law - sorry the name escapes me.

    December 8, 2003 - 04:38 am
    I think you've done just a super job with Carolyn's story, loved all the insightful, thoughtful comments and posts, especially on what all the THEFTS may be.

    We need to carpe diem here, seize the opportunity, while we have Nancy Whiteley among us to ASK her what it's really like: life inside a prison.

    Every story I read slips out another little snippet of information which sounds ominous? I am not sure how I can compare what I'm reading: Nancy can't talk to her dying mother, Carolyn's dehumanizing experience, Tabatha's talking about "the hole," er….(
  • What IS "the hole," did you understand that? I'm not sure that what we're seeing jibes with what some of us think (like me) prison life might actually be like.

    Let's continue to think up questions for Nancy Whiteley about life in that particular prison, which she has very generously said she'd answer, and Pat will put them on her page.

    Today we have a challenge as we move into Hair Chronicles.

    I found this story hard to read, and when I read something that seems to …not proceed in a set form…I tend to fall back on lit crit as a helpful crutch.

  • What, for instance would you say is the theme of Hair Chronicles?
  • What do you see as the conclusion?
  • Can you see an author premise in the story?

    I liked very much the recurring hair images, a different hair style for every mood and persona, I do know people like that, do you? HAIR seems to be, for women, an expression of who we are. (Maybe that's why men look better as they age?) haahahah At any rate I can identify with hair styles but it never occurred to me it might signal who I was at the time.

    I like that, Hair is a recurring image.

    Then we have the business about her not wanting anybody to HAVE the hair cut off as it was a superstition and again, an episode of The Sopranos, which took place in Sicily, the woman had cut her toenails and gathered up each one so that no person could get them and thus have power over her, again superstition:
  • What other superstitions do you know of that people might use every day?
  • Do YOU have one you use? "Bread and butter?" Do you say that? Do black cats bother you if they cross in front of you?

    I don't think there's any doubt Tabatha has talent, her art work is stunning, did that blow you away? That young woman should do commercial art, she has a gift. Her art work is good enough for the NY Times, she should do a cartoon strip.

    Apparently also she has a gift for singing, but THERE you have to stop and say singing and performing is a heartbreaking business, don't you hate to see her embark on it, tho it appears she's made one record!!!!

    It sounds like her home life was divided, sounds like her mother tried although apparently booze got in the way and she was abusive. The brothers, now sadly both dead at an early age, didn't provide the best example, either, was there mention of a father at all?

    And then the abuse from Uncle Whoever, a very hard beginning for any young person. Let's look at some of her thoughts today and hear your own:

  • "And anyway, no one deserves to be talked down to and assumed valueless—no matter what their poisons. " (page 101). That's so true, It would seem there's a lot of that going on in this prison, is it true in prisons everywhere and if so what is it supposed to cure or produce?

  • This statement was made in regard to a nurse's statements, what did YOU think of the nurse and her attitude? Arenlt nurses supposed to be healers? Is this "tough love?"

    This story, while beginning like the others, with a bang, is not cohesive to me. Again we are put in the place of a child and THAT was well done, we're a small child wondering why Uncle Welsey (do you suppose he's a real uncle or one of her mother's "friends?" Is it said?) is cooking in the bathroom, that's very well done and then we're in the attic, then we are in the prison then we're in the school yard, I am wondering if this was one of the "as told to" stories. In this story I see a lot of inner monologue and exposition that Wally Lamb spoke of, it's a good story to look at analytically.

  • "Girl, dreadlocks send a message that there is no higher power than Jah Rastafari, " Bonnie told me. "The hair on your head affects people and is a testament to the world about who you are." (page 102).
  • Do you know what "dreadlocks" are?
  • Why are they called "dread" locks?

  • Who is Jah Rastafari and What is a Rastafarian?

  • Did you understand the problem the guards had with Tabitha cutting her own hair?

    Did you notice she had to do it with nail clippers?

  • Exactly WHAT do you envision prisoners having at their disposal?

  • Are there two sets of prisons? I just read an account of OJ Simpson in jail, it sounds nothing like this? Are women treated differently than men?

  • Were you surprised that some of her guards were male?

    Do you think that's a healthy mix, male guards in a female prison?

  • "But the crowd's roar was overtaken by those other, more familiar voices: You're not good. You can't sing. Yo so black and ugly, ain't no one gonna love you." (Page 109).

  • Tabatha Rowley is a beautiful woman. If she heard those voices we all do. How do others limit our own accomplishment? Why do they do it?
  • Do YOU hear a voice when you want to do something telling you you can't?
  • Were you surprised that being a darker shade of black was seen as not desirable?

  • In the Afterword, Wally Lamb quotes Tabatha on the "degradation, dehumanization, and isolation of prison."

  • What purpose does further degradation, and dehumanization serve when people enter already in that state from society?

    Let's talk today about this story, your perceptions of prison life, and all the questions above!

    Add your own if you like!

    Now on to your super observations on "Thefts."

  • Hairy
    December 8, 2003 - 04:51 am
    It sounds like most of the people who work in prisons may be burnt out, discouraged, spent.

    Maybe they need more time off - more vacations - and a few seminars about how to be nuturing and helpful rather than strict and punishing and degrading.


    Nancy Whiteley
    December 8, 2003 - 05:30 am
    First off, you can certainly quote me. I am off to work, but wanted to check in. One thing I didn't mention, my sisters are the closest people in the world to me. They have been and continue to be my greatest support. They agree with my story, but it hurt them to read it. Janet still cries very hard at every reading. Dad has remained silent, but he did say to Janet that I was "awesome" on the today show.

    I want to answer the question about the hole but I have to go to work.

    December 8, 2003 - 05:33 am
    After reading Tabatha's essay, "Hair Chronicles," I am struck with the fact that there is something wrong with the way girls are taught. It seems that girls are still taught that their appearance is more important than finding out about their other talents. Are girls still being taught that if they look pretty, then, all their life dreams will come true?

    That is so sad. Then, when our hair or bodies don't get us what we want, we are left with really nothing. We have to quickly draw inward and find out "who" we are. I think Tabatha begins that journey with her beautiful art journal.

    I remember spending hours in the mirror styling my hair before going to school. A bad hair day could just ruin everything.

    Thank you Wally Lamb and both Nancys for your visit here.

    December 8, 2003 - 06:01 am
    I agree, Hairy (Linda), apparently it's a combination of things, also, one of which is low pay, maybe it attracts the wrong people, and then there's something that takes over when people get power over others, I just viewed the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and it's truly a horrific testament to the Beast Within. The most…well I can't say the MOST but one of the many stunning horrific things (it gave me nightmares and I will never forget one particular photo), the museum, if you have not been there, progresses like the history did, you move thru slowly watching the change, watching the tide change, archival film footage and photos, and sound, clutching in your hand somebody's passport, you find out at the end if "you" survived, but near the end just when you think it cannot get any worse you enter thru a box car Auschwitz and there are two sort of wells, they have about 4 foot cement walls around them (so children can't see in ) and one is full of photographs of the "medical experiments" they did and I will never ever forget those photographs or the expressions on the faces of the people, never. That was shocking.

    But so was the sheer numbers of the different prisons, and guards involved, it was not JUST at Auschwitz, it was truly horrifying the numbers of different prisons and guards involved, there's something about giving power to people over prisoners that goes to their heads. I don't know if York is like that, I would like to know.

    Who was it who said the true measure of a man is how he treats people who can't do him personally any good?

    Thank you Linda (Hairy) for that update in Education from one on the front lines, we appreciate it. LOVED the Bill Bailey Hairy story! I found your entire story joyful and I agree dogs are full of joy. Linda, what a wonderful story on your college student majoring in Journalism, looking for the PING, (tell us about this PING?_ I am so proud of the love and joy you bring your students! Thank you for sharing that marvelous story and for looking on the children as a gift. I think this experience here is a gift and I am anxious not to waste even a piece of the ribbon it's wrapped in, many thanks!

    Andrea, I know you are preparing to leave, did you have any thoughts, AS a nurse, on the nurse in Tabatha's piece?

    THANK you for pointing out the closed eyes in Carolyn's childhood photo!

    I believe I do think the eyes are windows to the soul, you can get a lot out of looking somebody (as Nancy's father used to preach but not practice) in the eye. I go a lot on eye contact, that's why he said it, but it's what's THERE that matters, to me, it's hard to fake what's shown in eyes, I think. What do the rest of you think?

    No as far as I know Carolyn, who is out apparently will not be joining us, I'm not sure what we can do with questions for her, please post them Andrea and we'll see if we can get them to her?

    Loved your take on the goose and "choose your corner to stand with you in." Love it!~

    Carolyn I wish you would mention your NZ drama project in the PBS discussion, would you?

    I agree Joan K, the stories ARE overwhelming, but some of them lend themselves more to studying technique than others. Thank you for your kind words, I like to go away, too, and reflect before returning, it's amazing what your mind comes up with, we feel privileged to know you, too, so glad you're in the Books!!!

    Horselover, thank you for clarifying that question.

    Would you be willing to talk go your cousin who is a senior official in a state prison system about some of the things we're discussing here? And in the PBS discussion coming up? Good point on the numbers in prison and the lack of guns for control, and good correction on where the story starts, you are right!

    Carolyn, thank you for reminding us of the two sides to every story with your own father's having worked at prisons there in New Zealand, how do your prisons seem to differ from ours, or do they?

    I agree with you about the content being important, I think perhaps we have not expressed clearly enough what looking at literature analytically means or how it can help the reader, I will take you as my project for 2003 so I can learn to express myself more clearly, this will be FUN! Hahahaha Are you game? Willing to try?

    Carolyn, what is GAD and OCD?

    Malryn thank you for that excellent post on the different kinds of Theft in "Thefts!" THANK you for identifying exposition, and transition or seques, what do you think of Tabatha's piece, I may have been distracted while reading it (I know I was). I liked Carolyn's story as a fugue. So far to me the best story line was Nancy's "Izzy."

    Hairy, thank YOU for the other "theft" in THEFTS.

    Stephanie, I agree on Steinberg, and definitely agree with this, "The real problem is society and the inability to prevent the types of sins committed against Carolyn. She needed help or better yet prevention. So very sad. The writing again is quite good."

    Thank you Rambler, for catching up, you seem to be doing a good job and for that super review of Nancy W's work, I agree totally, "I think Nancy is a most talented writer, with lots of wit, humor, good pacing, occasional pathos (appropriate to her oftimes grim situations)." I loved the humor too, not sure what TYPE of humor that is, but I really liked that deft touch she has.

    Denjer, we are very glad to see you back, do you really think Carolyn's story could not happen today? I would hope not, that the father could get away with it, but I'm not sure here….was he ever indicted? Bless your heart on putting the book down several times, I have too. You have to put it down for a bit to breathe, I think.

    Thank you for those thoughts, what happened to her parents to make them that way? Don't you think this stuff is being passed down unless people realize it's not good and make a conscious effort to stop it?

    Joan K, I agree with you on Carolyn's treatment when she gave birth, but I myself can still remember things said to me when I was also giving birth that didn't seem particularly compassionate, (or helpful for that matter) I hope times have changed but I have a feeling not. Good point on why she was treated better, afterwards, about time, huh? For heaven's sake who could NOT have compassion for somebody in that situation!

    Oh good point on the parallels with how her grandmother treated her own mother!! Well done!!

    Do the others of you think at some level her mother blamed Carolyn!?!?!

    A very good point on capital punishment, and the incorrigibility of some people, what do the rest of you think? I love this question: "Capital punishment is another issue. The question is: are there some people who can never be rehabilitated, and should be incarcerated forever? And is fear of this leading us to fail in rehabilitating and helping the others?" and will ask Pat to add it to the heading, thank you!

    OK! What do you all think about the questions in the heading today and Tabatha's story?


    December 8, 2003 - 06:03 am
    At the very beginning of the essay, Tabatha is called "blackie." I think these terms are used in the black race because for too long beauty had been defined by what was seen in or on a magazine cover. Until lately, white skin and blonde hair defined beauty. God forbid, if you were very dark. I think it is different now. There are more black models in magazines and more black movie stars, more black role models in other fields too. Black women have learned or are learning to find their "true beauty" and not strive to wear the beauty of someone else. I think this is another one of Tabatha's discoveries which helped her reach a healthier self.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 8, 2003 - 06:56 am
    Oh, HATS, I'm so glad to see you here! I read GINNY's posts earlier and went to AOL to read my mail, thinking, If only HATS would come in. You're right. That blonde, blue-eyed white woman has been the standard for beauty forever, it seems. Listen, that attitude didn't just make it hard for Black women, what about people with brown hair-colored hair and plain old hazel eyes and freckles like me? I sometimes think this stupid, historical preference for blondes is based on the idea of virginal purity. White is perfect and right. Anything else is not.

    Black is beautiful, as far as I'm concerned. Look at Halle Berry. Look at Ella Fitzgerald. Look at Billie Holiday. Look at Lena Horne. Look at Denzel Washington. Look at Gregory Hines. Look at Sidney Poitier. Look at any Black person walking down the street. Once again the world sees itself as black and white, not the shades of gray it truly is, and judges everything that way.

    Rastafarians are a religious sect originating in Jamaica whose members worship Haile Selassie as savior (Jah Rastafari) and believe Africa, especially Ethiopia, is the promised land. To wear dreadlocks at one time meant you belonged to that sect. Now to wear them is stylish, a la mode, at least with white people whose hair is not made for this.

    What's her name in the old movie, "10" -- Bo Derek ! -- wore them. I saw a little blonde girl on a plane who'd had them done in the Caribbean. She looked awful, tiny corn-row braids pulled tight, with pink-white scalp showing through. I think at one time it must have been an easy way for Black people to wear their hair. There were no straighteners or irons to flatten hair in the old days. HATS will correct me if I'm wrong.

    Isn't it funny that the old superstition about nail clippings and cut-off hair has a basis in fact? A person's DNA can be identified with these. That's not why Tabatha wanted to save her dreadlocks, though.

    I don't have trouble reading this piece. It's jazz, not classical music, and it's not restricted by any rules. Feel the beat? Hear that theme of Hair in the key of B flat running through it? Hear that improv? Hear the beat? That's what this story is -- a jazz improvisation.

    I have to mention Tabatha's drawings before I say anything else. This woman is a talented artist. I love them! And I'm so glad they were put in this book.

    Bonnie Foreshaw tells Tabatha, "The hair on your head affects people and is a testament to the world about who you are." Didn't you ever feel that way? For years my hair didn't just tell the world who I was; it told me. I wore it a thousand different ways, depending on the mood I was in or the particular occasion. I spent as much time fixing my hair and putting on makeup as I do in the morning writing posts now.

    I think it's hard for most of us to understand what it must be like to have been raised in a "live by the gun, die by the gun", reefer-smoking, roaches in the ashtray, Bluesy, boozey kind of ghetto sidewalk rap culture. Sometimes it seems to me that it's a defiant rebellion against slavery that straight white man's domination brought about.

    I like Tabatha. I like her story. Well, I like jazz and would love to hear her music. I'm going to try and get her CD. Did you know that in the old days the word "jazz" meant the same thing as a four letter word beginning with F?

    That's enough from this white woman. I'm going to brush my gray-brown-grunge-color hair that's almost to my waist and bind it up with a black velvet scrungy into the old-lady pug that's my hair statement today.


    December 8, 2003 - 07:33 am
    MAL, I love your posts in this discussion. I couldn't even put my hair in an "old lady pug" as you say. I have always had baby-fine, straight, mousey-brown hair (now rapidly turning grey). It's funny how life is, but as a child I always envied anyone with naturally curly hair and wished for it.

    Did anyone notice in the story "Thefts" that the things Carolyn's mother bought her in the hospital after the birth of the baby all seemed to signify childhood and a return to it as though nothing had ever happened? I believe her mother was not able to face the truth of the man she'd married. It was much easier for her to ignore it and pretend it never happened. I notice, however, that when she packs her bags to leave the hospital, she has a few True Confession magazines she tosses in with her comic books. How confused she must have felt. The scene on the bus where she runs away (on page 91) and the statement "I hate this girl for ruining my life." is very powerful.


    December 8, 2003 - 07:34 am
    Hi Mal, your posts always add an extra flavor. At times, you write my very thoughts. It's like your in my head. Of course, I enjoy and learn from the other posters too. I read Tabatha's essay awfully fast. I received my book in the mail just this past Saturday. So, my thoughts might be a bit blurry or disorganized. I am doing a bit of catch up. Will come back later to talk more about Tabatha.

    December 8, 2003 - 08:13 am
    Strewth, what a mob of posts! This is really interesting and the questions are good too. First of all, I’ve been shocked by the stories about the treatment the girls received…..and that’s after working for years in prisons. We have a few officers who I feel were frustrated coppers, but if their behaviour was inappropriate they were weeded out. I think one of the differences in the pay scale differences between here and there. I was shocked to read what pay the officers receive. Starting pay for an officer here is $36,000 per year for a base grade officer. They also get overtime for weekends and evening and night shifts so most of them start out making good money, somewhere close to $50,000 and it keeps improving as they go up the scale. One gets what one pays for.

    Our mission statement includes proper treatment of inmates and the emphasis is on correction. The punishment is loss of freedom. We keep our incalcitrants in two high security units. Aside from that, the focus for the rest of the inmates in rehabilitation. Our officers are also part of the case management process and they have a caseload just as programs staff do. There is very little burnout among prison staff here. Among programs staff there are programs and facilities to address any possible burnout. Another thing that helps is that we got time off in lieu for overtime worked. With that, I was always able to have a 3 day weekend. Also, our basic yearly rec leave is 4 weeks with 12 weeks long service leave every 10 years. We could also add additional overtime in lieu to our rec leave time. Consequently, I always had a minimum of 6 weeks holiday per year. Big difference, eh?

    Ginny mentioned having to be tough or you’re walked over. There’s toughness and toughness. It sounds like the toughness exhibited by the guards was misuse of power. I had what I feel was an appropriate reputation among the inmates. I’d hear them saying….she’s tough but fair, but don’t try to BS her, she’ll see through it and it’ll take donks to regain her trust in you. And if you’re not fair dinkum in group, she’ll dismiss you and suggest you come back when you’re ready to be honest with yourself. All staff have in-service training and are expected to have this proper toughness, not the inappropriate form of misuse of power. We all had 6 monthly Performance Reviews…inappropriate behaviour towards inmates meant one was placed on probation and if it continued, one was out of the service.

    Aside from lifers, never to be released, every other inmate will eventually be released. If they are treated poorly with misuse of power, they will carry their anger out into the community and take it out on the community. If they are aware that they can rehabilitate themselves and willing to gain from the programs offered, plus being treated like a human being, many will be released, will not re-offend and will become contributing members of the community.

    Mal, thanks for offering a synopsis of the AA and other 12 Step programs. Like you, I feel that everyone in the world could benefit from that program. I don’t know if you’re aware but I’m a non-alcoholic trustee for AA. I think you lurk in our folder so you'd know that one of our pollies engaged in drunken behaviour at a Parliamentary Christmas party. Alcoholism is no respecter of position in life, career, education or intelligence. He's now going to get help for his alcohol problem. I think he suffered from 'terminal uniqueness,' eh?<g> Nothing like having a public rock bottom, on the TV and in the newspapers.

    Carolyn, you’ve hit it on the head….”Dehumanisation within the prison system.’….in contrast with humanisation. We have a system where every inmate receives an in-depth assessment as soon as they arrive in R & R (Reception and Remand). As an example, substance abuse problems are identified at that time. The assessment is then placed on the computer (CIS) and is added to by staff…Senior Correctional Officer, Program staff, Sentence Management. We have drug searches here. Any internals on women are performed by medical personnel with with a female officer standing by.

    We have what we call ‘Drug Court’ here. Some are sent to Rehab and/or ordered to go to 4-5 AA or NA meetings per week with a prison sentence suspended, to be instituted if behaviour is inappropriate or drug tests come back positive. Many feel resentful at first having to go to so many meetings, but in the long run, most end up wanting to go. AA has a saying ‘If you don’t get AA, AA will get you.’ I heard a tape by a recovered alcoholic who is a Judge in LA. He sentenced a resentful woman to many meetings. When she came back to him, he asked her why she had gone to twice as many meetings as she was ordered to go to. She said she was going to show him, but eventually she showed herself that AA was the answer. As you know, I am also totally against the death penalty and very pleased that we’re one of the majority of developed nations who do not believe in capital punishment.

    Horselover, our officers do not carry guns. In all the time I worked in prison, I only saw the guns come out once, during a riot. In most instances, riots are quelled by dogs from the dog squad. We use DU (Detention Unit) for those who have been very naughty. Otherwise, it is loss of privileges. Random searches are a regular occurrence to keep the contraband down.

    All in all, I think I'll keep our system here.<g> Stats for reoffending for women prisoners is very low...9%. Therefore, treating the women like human beings, providing programs for exiting the crim and substance abuse sub-cultures appears to be working. Stats for men is higher but still acceptable...22%, mostly after they have relapsed, violence for alcoholics, armed robs for addicts.


    December 8, 2003 - 08:27 am
    Bobbiecee, I was most impressed with what you told us about the Aussie prison system. I would like to see more of that attitude and approach here. I suspect a lot of our prison problems arise from the fact that the system is simply overwhelmed. Which, of course, points to a much larger societal problem. ...Babi

    December 8, 2003 - 08:47 am
    BaBi...Having worked in prisons up there before I migrated here, I agree with what you said. There is a huge societal difference between here and there as well and the crim cultures are entirely different. Yours is more violence prone. (please don't take offence) Also, our crims 'pecking order' is different to yours. Ex. Crims who break and enter in a 'battler's home' (an every day citizen) are way down the 'pecking order' and get harassed for their offences. Safe crackers are the highest. Rock spiders the lowest. Armed rob with a loaded gun is not OK and harassment of an innocent citizen during a bank rob means harassment as well. It's OK to rob a bank but not a small business. I hit this a lot when running Victim Empathy groups. They have their own system of 'ethics.' This includes the male inmates not swearing in front of a female staff member, or getting agro toward one. If they forget and do swear, they say 'Sorry, Miss.'


    December 8, 2003 - 08:59 am

    December 8, 2003 - 09:03 am
    Oh, Bobbiecee, your 'criminals' are so nice! And I am not at all offended; our 'lot' is unarguably more violence prone. And unfortunately, that has become more true of the citizenry as well as the 'crim culture'.

    Now tell me, please... what is a 'rock spider'? ..Babi

    December 8, 2003 - 09:07 am
    Hi Everyone,

    Just wanted to say I got Wally's book this AM. I am still reading Sue Monk Kidds's excellent book and 2 more selected books. I have printed all of the questions for both books. So I'll be busy for awhile getting something written down to post. I'm afraid I'm far behind in Wally Lamb's book. Hope I can catch up. There is only so much time in a day. And 11:00pm is time to hang it up for the night. Anyone got any suggestion of how I can catch up?


    December 8, 2003 - 09:11 am
    Catch up, Anne? I'm still waiting for whoever is monopolizing the lone copy at the library to return it. I do hope it's not someone here. I may have to read the book after everyone else has gone home! :>( ...Babi

    December 8, 2003 - 09:23 am
    Welcome Hats

    It is so good to see you here I will be looking forward to your posts.

    December 8, 2003 - 09:24 am
    Bobbicee... Thanks for such an informative post... I wish there would be a way for the administrators of our prison system to study yours. The success of such a low percentage of returns speaks for the success of the methods of treatment.

    Nancy W. Good to see you back... Maybe we can talk you into joining us in some of our other discussions.

    A picture is worth a thousand words... and Tabatha's drawing of her life through her hair styles is great.. Not only a good writer, but an illustrator, as well.

    BaBi is right... I think our "criminals" are worse.. and Our prisons seem to be training grounds for the young prisoners.

    kiwi lady
    December 8, 2003 - 09:33 am
    I have to be honest and say we have some "not very nice criminals here". The toughest prisoners would be the gang members. Unfortunately we have criminal gangs. The three main ones are Black Power, Mongrel Mob, and Highway 51. They run the drug trade and the very organised car theft trade.

    Our reoffending figures are much higher than Bobbies prisons. I am not sure what the percentage is but its higher than 9%. I believe the reoffending rate for women is lower than for men.

    I do believe that there are some people who can never be released from prison. They are in the minority but they do exist.


    December 8, 2003 - 09:34 am
    BaBi...I do agree that there is more of a penchant for violence in your culture. I must admit that when I went back to visit my parents in the SFV, I was a bit frightened. One time I was driving from the airport to my parents, in the slow lane, fortunately, when there was a drive-by shooting in the two fast lanes. I got off the freeway at the next exit. From then on, I drove via Mulholland Drive. Bit of a wimp, I am. I can't imagine a drive-by shooting here. We have road rage, with fisticuffs on occasion but that's all. Normally it's the two fingered salute and being called a bloody drongo or galah.<g>

    Again, please don't take offence, but I feel the tendency toward violence among the citizenry has something to do with the obsession with guns there. We have strict gun control laws here, fortunately. I have a thing about guns, or should I say, against them.

    A rock spider is a child molester. We have two other terms for them, 'tamperer' and KF (you figure out what that stands for). They have to be in protection against protection because the Crown Witnesses in protection will 'blanket' and 'snake' them. I must say that I thought some of them deserved it. Sometimes it was hard to be professional and remember I had a duty of care when dealing with them.

    I'm retired but still doing consulting work for Q-Corr... substance abuse relapse prevention work with inmates at Release to Work Centres. However, my private work is with the victims of abuse. I find that much more rewarding.

    I decided to retire from full-time work in prisons when I was off for a long time after my cartilege crumbled. When the Human Resources bloke came out, he asked me what I would prefer to do if I had plenty of money. I said 'Help women who have been abused find themselves.' He said 'What are you doing working in a mens prison.' I thought, then said, 'To get more super before retiring.' Anyway, after checking it out, I found I had enough super and investments to retire as a self-funded retiree, so that's what I did. Now I'm only doing the work I enjoy...substance abuse groups and helping victims of abuse help themselves.


    December 8, 2003 - 09:47 am
    Hi Ginger, I have read and gained much from all of your posts. Still catching up.

    December 8, 2003 - 10:37 am
    "Were you surprised that being a darker shade of black was seen as not desirable?"

    No. A brilliant friend told me that the school system in DC didn't want to send her to an academic High School because she is dark black. When she got there anyway, the students (all lighter skinned) all excluded and teased her until she dropped out and got her GED. She then went on, eventually earning a PhD and becoming a college professor.

    December 8, 2003 - 11:11 am
    everyone, I have been following the posts, and I just wanted to say that years ago I read an interview of a man who had been in the Japanese prison system, and then was transferred to the U.S. system, and the differences he observed. He admitted that the Japanese prison system was HARSH, but said that it was FAIR. A prisoner knew exactly what to expect and was not at the whim of his fellow inmates or the guards. When he was sent back into the U.S. prison system, the opposite was the case, and he never knew where he stood with either his fellow inmates or the guards, because almost everything was unprofessional and whimsical, depending on mood and some individual's sadistic streak. Of the two prison systems, he admitted he preferred the harsher Japanese system to that of the U.S. because of its fairness and knowing exactly what to expect. I would think it's much like a parent who is ultra stict but always fair compared to a person who parents according to mood and whim.

    Here is a little insight into the Japanese prison system:

    December 8, 2003 - 11:29 am
    Welcome Mountian Rose it is good to see you posting. You need Not stay out in the Cold. (BG)

    Your clickable to the Japan prisons are just great, I loved it and it shows the difference between the two.

    All of us that were in Federal prison in the 50ies had to work, I worked raking leaves then as the months went on I polished brass door knobs and after they took my daughter to a caretaker before I got out they had me working in silo but I forgot what I did as it kept me high much of the time and was a hard job as I recall. I lost weight then.

    After they took my daughter and left some babies with there mothers I would not come out of my room for a long time. They wrote my Mother that I did Not belong there but she destroyed the letter much later she wish she had Not but it was to late.

    I did Not know that the prisoners today can Not work and that is a shame, to much time on there hands etc. as they say Idle hands are the devils work shop. Especially in the prisons.

    kiwi lady
    December 8, 2003 - 11:30 am
    The Japanese style of prison would not work in other countries. Firstly Japan has a different culture. They have a culture of "honor". To go to prison is a huge disgrace in the first place. To the Japanese family honor is everything. This culture leads to other problems such as denial of mental illness etc.


    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 8, 2003 - 11:59 am
    Its interesting that several years ago we were in Jamaica. There were on the beach a number of males in dreadlocks selling ganja... Marijuana.. Part of their religon according to them, but I noticed that they were a lot more interested in selling it.. The dreadlocks on these particular people stunk.. I was told by someone at the hotel that part of the religon was to not bathe the locks or undo them.. Whew.. So on the outside world, a rasta has a hard time with straight people. I know I would and do avoid them. Then I read this book and I suddenly have a bit more sympathy, although that is mostly for Bonnie, who interests me so much. Tabatha is so far away from anything in my experience, that I do not relate to her story at all. Well written and the picture was drawn really well, but thats it. No emotion actually. Odd..

    December 8, 2003 - 12:54 pm
    in this case it was an AMERICAN MALE comparing the two systems, and he much preferred the Japanese system. Since I have experience with neither one, I just found his views very interesting regarding the differences. And no matter what the society's rules are, fairness is fairness in any society, and will work if it's incorporated in whatever system, instead of whim and unprofessionalism and letting the sadistic tendencies loose on people who cannot defend themselves. People respond to fairness no matter who they are.

    Ginger, a lot of the reason why most prisoners cannot work in the American system is because of the private interests not wanting to be in competition with prison labor, and that includes such things as prisoners growing their own food. Apparently the food industry and others, have lobbyist who look out for their interests so they can supply prisons and make money. My opinion is that teaching prisoners usable work skills ought to be more important than any private enterprise making money, but alas, such are the workings of capitalism---and the sad part is that ultimately it costs us a whole lot more than if prisoners were rehabilitated with usable skills ---not only monetarily, but also emotionally.

    December 8, 2003 - 01:23 pm
    to deal with when you are powerless (as a child or a prisoner or someone who is ill would be) is to be dependent on someone else's whims, where you never quite know what the rules are because a lot depends on other peoples' moods and power hungers.

    That is one thing my parents were unbelievably good at. I knew the rules, and I knew if I did A then B was the consequence of my own actions. And the rules were ALWAYS enforced and never depended on what "mood" they happened to be in. So the choice was completely MINE. I knew that if I disturbed dad while reading the paper what the consequences would be, because they were always the same, and so I could choose whether to disrupt him anyway and deal with what I KNEW was going to happen, or I could choose to wait. On the other hand, no matter what my parents' "mood" was, if what I requested was reasonable they would accommodate me. They were amazingly disciplined in that area of life.

    My own husband never understood that and so our children were raised according to his "whims" and his "moods", and the consequences were devastanting for one. The other one managed, somehow to survive. And I could talk to him until I was blue in the face, and he did not understand what I was saying----that children DO UNDERSTAND the rules and that choice is everything.

    Same with those in the prison system, I would think. I can't think of anything worse than to be the victim of someone's whims and lack of proper training, or to be the victim of someone else's power trips.

    December 8, 2003 - 01:48 pm
    We even had a herd of milk cows where I was. Greed has taken over the USA and maybe even other countries. Hey a family can have gardens etc. so why Not prisons, Yes I saw your explanation as I was just thinking out loud and typing. Smile.

    December 8, 2003 - 01:59 pm
    Tabatha’s introduction cuts right to the chase. We learn right off the rip that this child will be assailed by grief, grief enough to last a lifetime. Her mother is absent and addicts of every kind surround Tabatha as she vomits beer and Cap’n Crunch. Sicko, Rock Spider-Uncle Wesley is a “stand in” daddy making this child feel “loved” as he drapes his damnable tan blanket over her. Whatdidn’t she have to endure or learn? My favorite sentence in this story is “I was really scared now. If he threw away my hair, I would wind up where ever it had gone.”this poor kid.

    They must have thought you were Rapuntzel Tabatha; tieing your dread locks together and escaping from their tower. FOOLS!

    My sentiment about the nurse is much like my comments about many prison guards. Some just don’t belong in the penal system doing whatever they do. Nurses, doctors, cops, guards; it doesn’t matter-- if the attitude such as theirs prevail, then they need to get out! There’s no reason for it and I will not even attempt to defend them. They are 100% wrong IMO and I have no tolerance for them. The fact that they can't appear malleable or soft to the prisoners is BS. They have a responsibility to their charges, to themselves and to their God.

    December 8, 2003 - 02:55 pm
    something that just hits you as you are reading. It might be funny, touching, something said very well or, as the whole piece comes together it just falls together incredibly well. It hits a chord...touches your heart.


    December 8, 2003 - 03:02 pm
    I just want to say that with each story I feel some kind of connection to the woman who wrote it. I have never had similar circumstances and yet have felt exactly the same as they felt many, many times. It’s really amazing and who would have thought this would happen while reading a book about women in prison. I would have never guessed it! Mary

    December 8, 2003 - 03:28 pm

    Here is a site with a very long dissertation about "dreadlocks" and other names for the same thing in other cultures. As he says, anyone who doesn't comb or cut his or her hair for a long time will get dreadlocks. My mama called them "rats" but that was pre-Rastafarian. Here is a quote re. the origin of the word "dreadlocks":

    "...the word dreadlocks is not a universal term (each culture in question seem to have a word of their own) but relates to a specific lifestyle known as Rastafarianism. In this text I am sloppy enough to use "locks" and "dreadlocks" interchangably. This is not recommended practise. Use the indigenous word, if not available then "locks" will do. The word "Dreadlocks" is of Jamaican origin. Made up so because in the early stages of the movement people were afraid of the Rastamen (dread means fear or horror). Another explanation is the locks bearer is the one who is the fearer (biblical fear of the Lord, that is) but I'd say that sounds like afterwards-made-up-to-fit-in..."

    December 8, 2003 - 03:39 pm
    Just to clarify something, corn rows and dreadlocks aren't even close to the same thing. Corn rows are rows of tiny braids, dreadlocks are wads of seriously tangled and matted hair.

    If you go to the link I posted and read about them, you will find that "dreadlocks" that can be undone aren't really dreadlocks, either, and dreadlocks that are "done" are not really dreadlocks.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 8, 2003 - 04:13 pm
    ZINNIA, (Karen?), it's obvious to me that what we call "Dreadlocks" here in the U.S. aren't dreadlocks at all. I feel sure that what I read in the article you posted is not what Tabatha was talking about.

    I think MARY's surprise at finding she has something in common with women in prison is fairly typical. I know there was a time in my life when I felt the same way.

    I believe we have a tendency to set ourselves apart from imprisoned people because we say, "Of course, I would never do anything that would get me in jail. Those people are different."

    I'm not certain and have no proof except this book, but it's my feeling that any one of us, given circumstances of abuse and/or environment could end up the same way as the women in this book. What we forget is that a majority of prisoners are not Jeffrey Dahmer or anyone else in that category.

    Crimes of passion can happen in a split second.

    A person can drive an automobile thousands of times after having a few drinks with nothing happening; then in one split second he or she has killed another human being.

    Millions of people buy and smoke marijuana illegally. If they're caught, they are imprisoned. People were imprisoned when they were caught drinking alcohol during Prohibition.

    "Respectable" people can become desperately poor almost overnight and steal something to sell because they have to feed their family. All kinds of things can happen that could get any one of us behind bars.

    The women in the book are living, breathing human beings just like you and me. They have brains which they use and feelings that are just like ours. We forget sometimes that these people are not just a number or a statistic. They are real, and they've been caught for doing something against the law.

    I'll bet you didn't know that forwarding an email you received from someone else to a third party without permission of the author of that email is breaking the copyright law? That if you use that email for certain purposes you could go to jail?

    We don't think about these things. I hope after reading Couldn't Keep It to Myself we will become aware of the fact that "Except for the grace of God, there go I."


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 8, 2003 - 04:28 pm
    Hi, NANCY WHITELEY! I'm sorry I didn't say hello sooner. I have a couple of questions for you and NANCY BIRKLA.
    1. Did you work while you were in prison? If you did, what did you do?

    2. Was the treatment you received unduly harsh while you were in prison?

    3. What do you think the average person can do to help improve the quality of life in prisons?
    Thank you.


    December 8, 2003 - 04:57 pm
    Here is a picture of a wig that is dreadlocks.

    And here is another picture: (give the 2nd pic a little time to load)

    Ann Lamott - author of Traveling Mercies, Bird by Bird and Blue Shoe has her hair in Dreads. She's a white gal who joined an Evangelical Church and one of the ladies fixed her hair for her like that. She loves it. If you read Traveling Mercies it explains how they are made. It takes time. I'd almost like to try it myself. Last year we had a week of silly things to do at school and one day I wore a hairpiece of little braids and fit it in with my own hair. It was silly and fun. It's a lot of work getting the hair ready...the hair has to be back-combed many, many times to prepare for the dreads themselves.


    December 8, 2003 - 06:59 pm
    Ginny, You asked if, at some level, Carolyn's mother blamed her for the incestuous relationship with her dad? I think you bring up a good point. This is very often the case, sometimes subconsciously. The mother, whose world has been turned upside down, looks for a reason. Some will accuse the daughter of dressing too "sexy," even of tempting the father by sexy behavior. This is the same thing that frequently happened in court during rape trials -- the victim was accused of "asking for it" with revealing clothes and/or flirting behavior. It's only recently that this sort of testimony has fallen out of favor.

    You said that an account of OJ Simpson in jail did not sound like the prison in this story. You wondered if women are treated differently from men? You should keep in mind that O.J. was in jail during his trial because he was denied bail, but he had not been convicted of any crime yet, and as it turned out was found not guilty. Of course, his celebrity and money to pay the guards for what he wanted probably didn't hurt either.

    It is not just in the U.S. that there is discrimination based on varying shades of black. In many South American countries, most notably Brazil, you can find the same sort of stratification within the black community. The lighter the skin, the more Caucasian the features, the lighter the eye color, the higher on the social scale will the individual be. The earliest black movie stars and entertainers, like Lena Horne, had relatively lighter skin and atypical black features. This has changed, at least in the U.S.

    MAL, You said that "any one of us, given circumstances of abuse and/or environment could end up the same way as the women in this book." I want to say Amen to that! So many of these women suffered so terribly at the hands of the very people who were supposed to nurture and protect them. Their options were severely limited. I know they say everyone has choices, and not everyone who comes from poverty winds up in prison, but poverty is not the same as abuse. I think my anger at such treatment might have led me see crime as a viable alternative to passive acceptance of society's callous disregard for my welfare.

    December 8, 2003 - 08:29 pm
    Everyone has choices, but if a person cannot see the choices, then it is as though there were no choices.


    December 8, 2003 - 08:33 pm
    High-profile people also tend to get better treatment in jail, prison, etc., BECAUSE they are high-profile people and they are under public scrutiny and view, regardless of what they have done or whether the public is sympathetic to them. They have clout, their visitors have clout, their lawyers have clout, and even their detractors have clout, and they are seen and heard and heard about regularly.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 8, 2003 - 08:52 pm
    Choices, shmoices, clout, shmout, we're much too serious here. Let's grab the two Nancys and all the rest of the writer gals and Wally and his wife and Ginny and her husband and Pat Westerdale, and go out for some pizza and have some fun! Heck, after we eat it we'll go make a snowman in the park and throw a couple of snowballs and knock his hat off and laugh and sing Jingle Bells and Good King Wenceslas and Oh Chanukah and Amazing Grace. What a terrific night it's going to be!


    December 8, 2003 - 11:25 pm
    Mountain Rose, what a wonderful cyber name you’ve chosen. I enjoyed reading the article you offered. This sentence was significant, IMO. "They don't coddle them, but they don't abuse them, either." We don’t have towers. They were dispensed with years ago. In fact, the towers are now used for Program’s staff offices. Aside from the stairs, I loved it. The view across the city and of the mountains was fabulous. The training our Officers receive is similar….6 months training and 2 months of being rostered on with their peer mentor. Also, Uni education is encouraged, in fact, essential if an Officer wants to progress up the career ladder. I’m not sure of the percentage of Uni trained officers but it would be similar. BTW, I agree with your answer to Carolyn, having a knowledge of both systems, having worked in both systems, here and in the US.

    Ginger, I had no idea that inmates weren’t allowed to work either. Here almost every prisoner has a job. They get paid between $2-5 per day, depending on skill level. Because the basic amenities allowance is very small, all prisoners want to work, some opt to work 7 days per week. I think it’s a huge mistake to not allow inmates to work, in fact, to not insist on it. As you say, idle hands are the devils workshop. BTW, every prison in SE Queensland has a large garden. The inmates grow the majority of the vegetables used for meals in prisons, and they are so proud of their gardens. Carolyn, sorry but I’m not sure I agree with you either. In Qld we incorporate many aspects of the Japanese system and it works. We also address mental health issues. Inmates need consistency, fairness and toughness when needed. They need to know what the parameters are. The vast majority respond very well to these parameters, and to being treated fairly, toughly and consistently. Since most inmates are substance abusers, their emotional growth stopped when they started abusing substances. Therefore, they often need the same parameters as 10-12 year olds, and respond well to these parameters.

    Zinnia, high profile people do NOT receive better treatment in Queensland prisons. They demand it but the more they demand the longer they’re kept in menial jobs, such as rubbish patrol, yard cleaner, etc. Once they are willing to fit into the prison routine and stop bellyaching about how special they are, they gain the necessary humility and are then able to address their offending behaviour and substance abuse issues. Lawyers here don’t have clout with Corrective Service personnel. They learn that quick smart.


    December 9, 2003 - 04:40 am
    Sometimes things get into such a quandry and rage, that there is no time or ability to choose.

    December 9, 2003 - 06:23 am
    Linda, it sounds that way to me, too, kind of worrisome here.

    NANCY looking in from work, Dad said you were “awesome?” I agree, I think so too, I’m sorry I missed you on it, and can see why Janet would cry, it’s searing. I am glad you and your sisters are close!

    Yes please do explain the “hole,” and Pat will you also add to Nancy’s page these:

  • How did you hear Wally Lamb was coming to the prison? Was Dale there first? What attracted you to the class, had you always thought of writing? Why did (Pat, these all need to be indented) so many people drop out, are they sorry now they did?

  • Is the attitude of the guards which we see in Carolyn’s and Tabatha’s stories real? Was it worse or better?

    Hats, I’m so glad you got the book!@ I agree with you on the focus on how girls are taught, well HAIR is a symbol cutting hair off prisoners in WWII was devastating, but I agree with you about hair, on those dred locks, do they take them down daily or do you wash the hair with them in the locks, do you know?

    It looks a long tiresome process, to me to do them up, SO glad you got the book, ISN’T she talented, tho, in art? Thank you for those thoughts on relative blackness and true beauty, I am glad to hear it.

    Ok thank you Malryn for the Jazz analogy to the piece, I am sensing disjointedness also, but I just saw Love Actually which I LOVED and it too was disjointed, very fabulous even with the nudity!

    Oh good point Danjer on the presents Carolyn’s mother brought her in the hospital, good point!

    Bobbicee, thank you for that insight into Australian prisons, I’d like to hear more. I am not the one who talked about being tough or being walked over, I was appalled.

    I think one of the problems everywhere is so few people have the opportunity to play on an athletic team! There you learn teamwork, cooperation and the role of a coach. Bobbie will you please copy your post verbatim over to the PBS Program Clubs discussion?

    I think it would be of good use there and of interest!

    Anneh, yes, read Nancy Birkla’s story to catch up and be ready to go tomorrow when she has scheduled a live chat IN THIS DISCUSSION tomorrow as I wrote you , I hope in email? First read Wally Lamb’s Notes to the Reader and then his Couldn’t Keep it to Ourselves, and then skip to Nancy B’s story for Wednesday and Thursday, two live chats and then go BACK and pick up Nancy Whiteleys two because Nancy Whiteley as you can see, is HERE too.

    Hope that helps.

    OK Folks, I have a problem here? I didn’t think it would make a difference but am on the road, am in Charlotte, NC, and just lost because this ^@&@*%@*# laptop froze, two huge posts and answers to your wonderful thoughts? This is all that is left, half of one response to 38 new posts !! THAT is a record for SeniorNet!!

    But I love everything you’ve said here, will you continue to talk to each other about Tabatha’s story, and Nancy Whiteley’sand I will put up in the morning if I have to go live at Kinko’s, Nancy B’s heading and will be home at noon, Pat Westerdale is the Temporary Discussion Leader here till I can get home, please, everybody, read Nancy B’s story before tomorrow and we’ll begin with it first thing.

    Bobbicee, Carolyn, Mountain Rose, could I beg you to copy over those posts on the state of prisons in general into the PBS discussion? I think they need to be seen there, too? Pat can help you find it?

    See you tomorrow,

    Stranded in Charlotte NC Without a Laptop That Won’t Freeze!

  • Ginny
    December 9, 2003 - 06:32 am
    What are your thoughts on Question 11? " "But the crowd's roar was overtaken by those other, more familiar voices: You're not good. You can't sing. Yo so black and ugly, ain't no one gonna love you." (Page 109). "

    How do people sabotage themselves, in life? Have YOU ever heard "a voice" in your own head telling YOU you can't do it? You're not good enough? You're stupid?

    You can't succeed with a diet, with your own goals? Where do these voices come from?

    Where did Tabatha get this input?

    Does everybody hear these voices or is told these negative feedbacks, and if so how does anybody overcome it? What are some techniques that people use, like athletes who visulize over and over crossing the finish line or winning the gold medal, what's that technique called?

    Where are you supposed to HEAR these positive thoughts and what could you say to Tabatha whose negative voices seem to overcome the postitive ones?

    What if you have NO positive feedback in your life anywhere? What are you supposed to do? Who are you supposed to believe?


    December 9, 2003 - 07:10 am
    GINNY...I'd say that the attitude of the guard as described in Carolyn's and Tabitha's stories was real. That's the way it was when I worked in Corrections in the US, and the way it was in Queensland when they had the Prison Service, prior to changing to Correctional Services. The DG, who had a vision of Corrections vs punishment, had to retrench the many guards who behaved just like that. I'm not sure how to copy the posts I wrote over to the PBS discussion. Could you or somebody help me with that, thanking you in advance.

    You ask how people sabotage themselves. They listen to childhood and adult messages from others and incorporate those into their own heads, then take those messages on as who they are. A good portion of the work I do with clients now is to identify those childhood messages, and in the case of inmates and abused wives, etc, messages they have received that they have taken on. Then they challenge those messages and devise new messages. Every time the old messages come up in their heads, they need to do thought stopping, thought challenging, then repeat the new messages. I got a phone call from one of my clients today. She is actually working in a Prison Farm as the D & A Counsellor. Her problem is not with the inmates. It's with a young Psychologist who put her down today. We went through that process on the phone. BTW, she is a recovered alcoholic, 17 years sober, but still takes on her parental messages on occasion. As I said in a previous post, 90% of our communication is with ourselves. If we accept and repeat the negative messages without thought challenging and thought reconstruction, those negative messages define who we are and what we're capable of.

    I had a few negative messages from my own childhood that I had to confront. Thankfully I had gained the strategies to deal with them with my Uni training and appointments with my peer supervisor while in Uni. I wonder if they do that now, with Psychs in the US and here, because young Psychs here certainly aren't aware of their own issues. I don't know what currently happens in the US in Psych Departments.


    December 9, 2003 - 07:12 am
    I have always tried looking at the positive side of things, no matter what. What I have noticed is that people either concentrate on the positive or the negative and it seems to be an inborn trait. Some people have to be TAUGHT to look at the positive side of things. For example if you lose your job and you tend to think negatively you probably are going to feel sorry for yourself and give up. If you tend to think positively, you will look at it as an opportunity to better yourself and work harder at finding another job.

    December 9, 2003 - 07:15 am
    Hi Ginny,

    I am familiar with corn rows, rows of braids. I am not as familiar with dreadlocks. I think the dreadlocks must be a style more familiar to young people. If I think of dreadlocks, I think of long braids. Obviously, I am not correct. If I had girls, I would know more about these hairstyles, but I have four sons.

    I think everyone hears those voices of doubt, demeaning thoughts. Whispered thoughts that say we are not worthy to do what we wish to do. I think these voices belong to the unfriendly children called bullies whom we met in school or unfortunately, to family members who laugh at our lips, noses, foreheads, etc. I don't think we realize how names can hurt and remain in our heads for so long.

    I have been called names. My nephew called my legs baseball bat legs. To this day, I think my legs are shaped like baseball bats. When I developed before my friends in school, I was called blockbuster. I wore a sweater just to hide my chest. On the hottest days, I wore a sweater to the corner store hoping no one would notice my developing chest. And all of my life I have been called pee wee, short stuff, half pint because I am four eleven.

    All of these names stayed with me and helped me decide how to think of myself. I had to make a choice and decide whether to listen to the voices of others or allow my voice to scream the loudest. I think, in the end, Tabatha learns to believe in herself by hearing her own voice and realizing that her whole self was valuable.

    December 9, 2003 - 07:34 am
    In Tabatha's essay, what really moved me is that she had never experienced a real and pure love in her family. So, she feels that Uncle Wesley's love is true and clean. That really got me. To be unable to recognize tainted love from what is truly the right kind of love. I think it took a lot of courage for Tabatha to write that she felt loved when her uncle touched her.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 9, 2003 - 08:33 am
    GINNY, since you're only a hop, skip and a jump away in Charlotte, why don't you come over to Apple Chill and say hello?

    Imagine what it's like to be absolutely different from anyone else in your school class:
    At school: "What's that thing on your leg?"
    "Why do you walk like that?"
    "Why can't you run?"
    "You're a cripple, go home where you belong."
    From the bus driver: "You're just a little lame girl."
    More at school: "Don't get near me or dare to touch me; I might catch what you had."
    "Why's your back crooked?"
    "No boy will ever look at you. You'll never get married."
    "Look at her gick leg!"
    "My mother and father told me Infantile Paralysis messes up your brain.
    Ha ha ha! Marilyn Stubbs has got a crippled brain. She's crazy!"
    Try and keep negative thoughts out of your head when you're treated like that. The differences between me and other people are not unlike the differences between Blacks and whites. There are times when we're treated like freaks of nature.

    There's more than just a psychological factor that affects how we feel about ourselves, though. Illness and injury and pain can change body chemistry. It's hard to feel good about yourself when you're sick. Medicines, alcohol and other drugs can also affect body chemistry and the brain. Poor nutrition can, too.

    Tabatha smoked pot. People around her did, too. She says, "Seeds from the weed Pete is smoking pop and fall like shooting stars." Beautiful writing, and she tells it right. That's exactly what happens.

    Did you ever smoke pot? Hash (Hashish)? I have. The marijuana was bought for me by my daughter's boyfriend, quite a lot older than she, and the man who ended up her first husband. The hash came from friends of his who were visiting. They lived near Amsterdam in the Netherlands where these items are legal. They were never my "drug of choice." Alcohol was. There was a lot of this stuff around me because each one of my kids experimented with drugs. It was the "stylish" thing to do in the upper middle class area in Westchester County, New York where we lived in the 70's.

    Pot and alcohol added to the feelings Tabatha had about herself and added to the "low self-esteem and the self-destructive habits" that, by her admission, contributed to her "rage and incarceration."

    There is a huge amount of anger in Tabatha's story. And why not? Her childhood was filled with negatives. She'd been pushed around and misused from the time she was a small child. Ghetto mindset told her there was no way out; that what the adults around her and her peers had and did was all there was.

    I see a person here who is full of talent. She's a really good artist. Wally Lamb says on Page 111 that Tabatha is also "a gifted singer-songwriter" (who should be performing; not working at Friendly's dishing out ice cream and slinging corned beef hash.) All this talent in a young woman who had to sneak out to perform and climb in an attic window in order to avoid being slapped around by a drunken mother.

    No wonder she's angry. I would be, too -- and was, when I was called all those names and treated the way I was because I was different, or treated like a mentally defective cripple by people when I was an adult. "Your husband must love you very much to marry you the way you are." Especially when I knew inside exactly what I was and what talents I had, just as Tabatha did. Anger turned inward leads to self-destruction. Turned outward, it can lead to prison.


    December 9, 2003 - 09:02 am
    Mal, I'm in tears after reading your post. The wonderful thing is that you've worked through all the abuse you received from others as a result of your handicap, as well as dealt with your substance abuse issues, and you have recovered and risen...phoenix rising. Like you, I see the same things in Tabitha. It was always painful for me when I could see the beauty in people and their talents, but they were unable to see it...yet. Consequently, I did all I could to open their minds so they could see who they really were and what they could become. I've have received payment a hundred-fold for my efforts. Not everybody was able to break through the barrier but enough did that I was able to keep on keeping on, and offering my clients the strategies to allow them to break through the barriers and become the people they were always meant to me. BTW, you're probably aware, but most recovered substance abusers are very talented aesthetically as well as intelligent. Your forte is writing, Tabatha's is art. I have always tried to identify my client's strengths and talents as a way for them to help themselves to go through the barrier and find themselves. You obviously had people who helped you as well because you are a wonderful writer, and a person who has used climbed the stairway and become the person your Higher Power always meant you to be. BTW, one of the bits of philosophy I live by, and which I try to offer to my clients as an incentive is: God's gift to you is Life. Your gift to God is what you make of it.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 9, 2003 - 09:23 am
    BOBBIE, I was lucky to have been born with some genes that made me bright enough to win scholarships both to the New England Conservatory to study music and to a college where I was exposed to things which gave me a fine education.

    I suppose, in a way, I was lucky, too, to have been raised by an aunt who made me do everything she couldn't do and always wanted to, though I hated her for it. She pushed me up on a stage when I was a child. People liked my music, and that helped my confidence. I was never really "raised" because the adults who raised me worked, and I was left alone to my own devices from the age of 11. I grew up like Topsy.

    Whatever factors made me as I am, I think stubbornness played a big part. I was damned if I'd let anybody try to make me something I wasn't. I was, and still am, determined to succeed at something. That strong inner push at least got me on a computer building web pages and writing and to SeniorNet.


    December 9, 2003 - 09:47 am
    Mal, the 'stubborness' you mention was your survival instinct. I see that in many of my clients as well and try to draw that to the forefront. You have succeeded...although in AA you say you aim for progress, not perfection. You have done that...bless your heart. I've seen many others draw on that survival instinct, their stubborness and determination....and succeed. It's very emotional and rewarding for me to see see women find themselves and their spirituality. I really feel I am now fulfilling my purpose by helping them to help themselves. I'm just thankful that I have the ability to help them. It's so rewarding for me to see them find themselves.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 9, 2003 - 09:49 am
    BOBBIE, and those women are very lucky to have you in their lives.


    kiwi lady
    December 9, 2003 - 10:51 am
    I still have a very bad self image. Through my therapy I was persuaded to see that I was a worthwhile person. All my sisters have poor self esteem also. Why? A mother who was constantly dieting. A mother who had convinced us we were fat. (we were tiny) If you got a new hair cut or a new dress it was always criticised. Our mother was very beautiful we always felt inferior to her. I look at photos of her at my age now and she only looks 30. Even if you are not abused you can be crushed in other ways.

    December 9, 2003 - 10:57 am
    Ginny has spoken... Here I am and 30+ messages since yesterday at this time.. I don't know how Ginny keeps up....

    What can I add? The questions have brought answers and more questions and more answers.

    Bobbiecee, your post on messages was good... I think everyone has had some bad messages thrown at them and it is difficult to get past them. "Acentuate the positive, eliminate the negative."

    Tabatha as all of the writers here most surely had the survival instinct, as mentioned by Bobbiecee. Mal called it 'stubborness'. My mother called 'being a mule'. It is what makes us survivors whether in or out of prison.

    Be sure and check in tomorrow for questions on Nancy Birkla's "Three Steps Past the Monkeys" and her on line posts.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 9, 2003 - 11:02 am
    PAT, thank you for subbing for GINNY while she's away. We appreciate it and all the terrific work you do on the headings of these pages.

    CAROLYN, your mother is a sick old woman today. The only way she can hurt you now is if you let her. You are in control, and you are smart, talented and beautiful.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 9, 2003 - 03:10 pm
    It's four hours later. Where is everybody? In Charlotte with GINNY and a laptop that won't work?


    December 9, 2003 - 03:46 pm
    What IS "the hole," did you understand that? Yes I did as in the olden days the hole was a cell that had No windows, No sink, No toilet, just a slop bucket that you got to empty once a day when they let you out to take a shower. What little food you got was Very bland. I don't remember why I was put there but belive me it was only one time. That will learn ya darn ya not to say no in a hurry. The worse of it all was in the jail cell awaiting transfer as I seen a girl going though withdrawals from drugs as I had never been on drugs and hope never to be as it was terrifing for sure.

    December 9, 2003 - 04:15 pm
    These are the words to You've got to accentuate the positive
    Listen up both Authors and Poster.
    You've got to accentuate the positive,Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don't mess with Mister In-Between
    You've got to spread joy up to the maximum Bring gloom down to the minimum Have faith or pandemonium Liable to walk upon the scene
    (To illustrate his last remark Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark What did they do Just when everything looked so dark)
    Man, they said we better Accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don't mess with Mister In-Between No, do not mess with Mister In-Between.
    I do live by these words on S/N and to All I have contact with here or at home.

    December 9, 2003 - 05:06 pm
    MAL: I also cried about your experiences in school. I wonder now if that is why my mother home - schooled me until High School, so I wouldn't be teased and made to feel bad about my handicap (I never asked her, I wish I had). If so, it helped. Entering school for the first time as a shy teenager of fourteen was hard. But I don't remember being teased, just ignored. It helped that my twin sister was in the same class. We stuck together, and made friends amoung the other outcasts. The hardest thing was sitting in class. I used to tell the teacher that I had to go to the bathroom, and go and sit in an empty stairwell to get away from people. But most of the people I know had a rough time in High School for one reason or another. Once I got to college I was fine. Like you, I was lucky enough to be smart enough to hang out with the "brains" who cared more about substance than appearance. Being the only "girl" in most of my classes was very hard on me professionally, but good socially. All those male "math nerds" were glad to meet a female "math nerd".

    December 9, 2003 - 05:59 pm
    I'm glad this discussion is so active. Whenever I sign on, I find so many great posts with wonderful ideas. I tend to be a pessimist; always looking for the worst that could happen. I once read a book called "Learned Optimism" which basically advocated the kind of techniques Bobbie was recommending to help change the messages in your head.

    Someone once said, "Fear neither causes the thing feared to happen nor prevents it." This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. We can't always have control over what happens to us, but we can control how we think about it. I try to practice positive thinking about the world and about myself each day as best I can, and you guys certainly help in that direction.

    I enjoyed the "Hair Chronicles." The technique of using her changing hair styles and her attitude toward them was very original. I felt so sad about the way Tabatha slowly lost all of her close family. She describes this in an unemotional tone, but I could still feel its effect on her.

    How right she is that "no one deserves to be talked down to and assumed valueless." I think many children are seriously harmed by parents or peers who torment them in ways that cause them to feel stupid, ugly, and valueless. How many stories have we heard about children or teens who commit suicide after months or years of torment and bullying at school?

    I'm glad that Tabatha is finally finding out who she really is, who she is becoming, and why. I feel sorry she had to go through the prison experience to get to this point, but perhaps God does work in mysterious ways.

    Ella Gibbons
    December 9, 2003 - 06:49 pm
    Was I surprised to find myself wondering if perhaps prison was beneficial in some ways to Tabatha. As she stated, Pete was killed by a bullet at the age of 20, her other brother was killed at the age of 30 - many of our young people on the streets are killed one way or the other, Tabatha could very well have been dead had she not been in prison.

    "I exchanged my first abusive boyfriend for my second, and number two for number three." How long would it have taken with a lifestyle such as that, to have been on drugs, or worse.

    Prison gave her time to think about herself, her life, her values, even though the prison was an awful experience.

    What an insult to be told "When YOU PEOPLE are out there, you tend to neglect your bodies. Just sit around and get high all day."

    YOU PEOPLE!!!! Who are they?

    I loved the rap tune though, another surprise for me because ordinarily I don't understand a word that RAP singers say even though I like the beat at times.

    Her hair meant less to her after she had been in prison for five years - listen to this:

    "I've been in prison for five years. I do the best I can with my hair, keeping it pretty and tamed with limited supplies.....I have worn my hair in its natural, jet black color. It's a lot healthier without all those chemicals, and so am I."

    She tells us that since coming to prison she is more in tune with who she is, who she was, and who she is becoming.

    Time to think! Time to pull away from the world she has known, and plan for the future.

    Perhaps Tabatha has benefited from this time? I would like to ask her if this advantage of prison life outweighed the disadvantages.

    There are many instances of narrative into expostion in Tabatha's story, I'm attempting to spot them as they occur. On pg. 105 the author goes from a conversation into the past and becomes a narrator for a story into her teen years with her sister. Would this be an example? Spaces between past and present is also another example these authors are using.

    December 9, 2003 - 07:30 pm
    Is Very talented in many ways and I do like her hair style now as to me it shows peace. She is Beautiful to boot and can surely pick any one she choses to assoiate with. I wish you well Tabatha.

    December 9, 2003 - 08:19 pm
    Tabatha's piece is different from the first two, in that she does not reveal her inner feelings to us in the same way. But they are there just as strongly. When she says that what the neighbor did to her made her feel loved, that tells it all. What lack of feeling loved there must have been in the rest of her life!

    kiwi lady
    December 9, 2003 - 09:48 pm
    When I read through Tabatha's story my first thought was - She did not stand a chance - living in a ghetto, mother obviously an alcoholic. Sexually abused - lack of self esteem. Mother had abusive partners. Mother in turn used very heavy corporal punishment as the norm. Brother introduces his kid sister to drugs. I can see how all of this led to the choice of abusive partners and finally the assault and the jail sentence. The one thing I can't understand (because I was caregiver to my four little brothers and sisters) how she could go out and leave her 8yr old sister alone. To me that is inconceivable.

    I think maybe landing in prison was a good thing for Tabatha. The incarceration made her stop and look at herself. I do believe that sometimes good things come out of a terrible experience. Tabatha reclaimed her life. I am thrilled that she had such a dramatic turnaround. I would love to get hold of the CD and listen to her sing. Tabatha I think you are very pretty. Your hair is amazing so black and so thick. (Would be nice to think that Tabatha was lurking even if she did not come on in and talk to us) I liked the theme of the hair throughout the story. Tabatha is also a very talented artist. I hope she can take some classes in the future both in singing and art.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 9, 2003 - 11:27 pm
    Hi Folks,

    I've been reading and keeping track of your ever-growing list of questions and comments that appear throughout the various posts, and I thought tonight I'd address a few of them.

    --Ginger, concerning stigma attached to being an ex-prisoner -- I still experience hurtful consequences, due to my past mistakes (even though my felony conviction occurred some time back). I've especially struggled in my education and in the job market. A felony conviction can prevent a student from receiving a federal pell grant (to pay for college tuition and books) Even though I maintained a 4.0 GPA through over 100 college credits, I was ineligible to apply for various scholarships I otherwise would have qualified for. In KY, a felon is disenfrancised for life (cannot ever vote again). When I moved to Indiana, I regained my right to vote (the right is restored after the individual has finished "serving out" a sentence), but a tradeoff was that I lost the ability to work in the early childhood education field, which is the area I was finishing a degree in, and that I'd become experienced in through working as a lead teacher in a child development center. In Indiana I am prohibited even from substitute teaching in grade schools or high schools. I've endured so many humiliating and heartbreaking experiences, even as recently as a couple of months ago, but I continue "putting myself out there;" if I believe I can do some good somewhere, I will try, even if doing so means walking through some embarrassment and often ultimate disappointment.

    --Mal, I love the way you jump into the spirit and the theme of each piece ('specially with your hair statement). Thanks for your support and for bravely sharing your own 12-step experience. One thing I feel I need to make clear is that I never did (and won't)identify w/any specific 12-step organization, in any venue that concerns our book. Due to the 9th tradition of all 12-step fellowships, a member needs to maintain personal anonymity "at the level of press radio and films," and as the result of publishing a story that relates directly to my own recovery, that means me. I will admit, though, that I stretched it to the limit by identifying as an addict, and by quoting (verbatum wording) the steps of my program. Still I never named the fellowship :0)!

    --Carolyn (Kiwi Lady), I sympathize with your continuing struggles w/anxiety. I too have experienced lots and lots of therapy. Two most helpful techniques for me have been CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and more recently Shadow Work (powerful, powerful stuff).

    --Concerning inmate treatment by prison staff -- I think I need to put this one on the shelf until I have more time to address it (when I do, my answer won't be very pretty either).

    --Ginny, I'd love to tell you about all my experinces traveling, on book tour dates, but what I already told you is about all there has been for me. Nancy W., Robin, and Tabby have done much more of that stuff than I have.

    --ALF, in response to your comment about Carolyn's conflicting body language, well, some time back a therapist pointed out to me that in the past, I often spoke with my hands covering up my mouth -- a red flag indicator of childhood sexual abuse.

    --Bobbie, sounds like you have a clear understanding concerning addiction and recovery; not everyone running the show does (at treatment facililities and especially prisons).

    --Did I have a job while I was incarcerated? Yes; every inmate incarcerated in the KY Correctional system is (or maybe was) required to have either a prison job, or to go to school full-time, during the week. I worked as a teacher's aid in the prison's GED prep program. I earned 35 cent per day. The reason I'm not sure how this will work in the future is because in KY, every dollar that went toward prison education has recently been removed from the state's budget. Scary thought, huh? Scary and really unbelievable!

    I guess that's it for tonight. I look forward to visiting with all of you tomorrow!

    Peace and best, NAB :0)

    kiwi lady
    December 9, 2003 - 11:46 pm
    Nancy CBT has enabled me to function - I wholeheartedly agree its good therapy although when I started it I could not understand how it would help. I realised just the other day its taken me about 6 yrs to perfect the technique and apply it without even thinking. Could you give an outline of Shadow work. If you had time if you click on my user name you will be able to contact me by email if you don''t think its a topic suitable for here. I will understand if you don't have the time to do this.

    I do have a friend who has a criminal record from when she was a college student and 37yrs later it still prevents her from working in some areas although she has never reoffended. It was for negotiating a fraudulent cheque for about $100. She was talked into presenting it at the bank by an abusive boyfriend. When I heard about her conviction I could not believe it - it was so out of character. Her crime follows her to this day.

    December 10, 2003 - 01:14 am
    I see in your eyes and smile a sadness that I do understand. I appriciate Indiana allowing you to vote.

    I Especially like your saying I found the little girl inside of me and threw out a life line to her in the form of paper and pen with love, mutual respect, and help from God and finaly became friends wth her.

    December 10, 2003 - 05:02 am
    WHOOOP! Jeepers and whoop! I hardly know what to SAY here, First off:

  • DALE GRIFFITH, who teaches at York Correctional Institution with Wally Lamb, would like to enter the discussion!!

    Her chapter, which you want to read NOW, is on pages 336-349, and she will be able to give us another view, we'll have it from the POV of the inmates and then we can hear from her what SHE is trying to do and her perspectives, I can't imagine anything more exciting.

  • THEN if that is not enough, I'm taking down this morning the heading on TABATHA ROWLEY but am also incredibly pleased to announce that SHE is coming in, too! And we can ask her some of the questions we had thought about, I'll put up her art as well for the benefit of those of you who do not yet have the book, you'll be stunned. I am excited and hopeful to hear what she's doing with her life!

    Gosh, that's 6 AUTHORS in one discussion, overwhelming, isn't it? I am overwhelmed with their kindness, I just love this experience!

    I think we need general questions on each person's experience in prison for one, the mind boggles here hahahaah But it's definitely a GOOD boggle!!



    In the heading this morning you can see a photo of Nancy Birkla and her husband John taken a couple of days ago, I love that photo, don't you? and this entire experience.

    This morning we begin on Nancy Birkla's searing story of a real trip through Hell. It's very well written, too. I have a million questions, no, maybe 2 million. We'll ask Pat Westerdale (thank you PAT) to get up a Nancy Birkla page of Questions and now that we have Tabbi also (Tabatha Rowley prefers to be called Tabbi) we'll get up, Pat, if you will, a page for her, as well!

    SIX AUTHORS in ONE Discussion!! This is an incredible gift, you'll have to take charge here and help out while I spin delightedly and wide eyed, over here in the corner!

    <Back after lunch,

  • Stephanie Hochuli
    December 10, 2003 - 06:48 am
    I love Nancy's story. Extremely powerful images of addiction and no self worth. This is one of the stories that seemed to reach deep chords for me. I have never had addiction problems, but she seemed to reach out to me with her descriptions and I really feel as if I understand more clearly the why's of addiction. Nancy.. I consider you a person heroine. I wish we lived closer, I would be honored at 65 to be your friend and confidant.. Go Nancy.. ignore the stupid people.. You have come out the other end and that is such an accomplishment.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 07:31 am
    Before I go on to Nancy Birkla's story, I have something else to say.

    How can anyone possibly think that being in prison is beneficial or good for anyone? People in prison are totally dehumanized; they are a number just like an animal in a cage. They have no rights; they have no voice. They have nothing except what someone in the book said, "A cot and three hots."

    The word "arrest" means "stop". The two times I was arrested it took me off a sure suicidal route, and I was glad because I couldn't do it myself. Did going to jail do me good? It was the most humiliating and terrible thing that ever happened to me.

    The two policemen who arrested me the second time were kind to me and "on my side" (partly because of my handicap, I feel sure) until they found out what my blood alcohol count was at the police station. Then they completely changed.

    I didn't realize they were going to put me in a cell. When I did, I instinctively tried to pull away from the policeman who was holding my arm. His grip tightened enough to hurt me, and he very firmly led me to the cell. I was just another prisoner to him, and he couldn't care less what happened to me. All he thought of was doing his job and getting me off the street.

    The parole officer I saw after I went to court was tough. It didn't matter to her that I was going through a desperate time of my life. It didn't matter to her that I didn't have enough money to live and nobody would hire me. What mattered to her was getting me out of the state of Massachusetts' hair and her hair.

    She told me I had to spend 30 days in jail and attend AA meetings while I was there. When I told her I was leaving that state, she said okay as long as I sent notarized notification every month that I was attending 12 Step meetings and appeared in her office in six months and at the end of a year, or I'd be brought back forcibly. How I got there didn't matter to her, but I mustn't drive in that state for a year.

    She told me I was "weak", felt sorry for myself, and she said everything else except come out with the words, "You're no good."

    If that happened to me (and remember I am one of you, a participant in SeniorNet just like you) what happens to women whose crime is more than drunken driving? My guess is that they are treated like dirt, like scum, by people who are often their inferior in talent and intelligence. Is this kind of treatment conducive to recovery from addiction or anything else? No, it isn't. There's nothing good about it.

    The sadness I feel as I read each one of these stories is that there is no alternative, not to punishment, but to the kind of cattle jammed into trucks headed for the slaughterhouse treatment these women receive. I had a very small taste of it. I hate to think about what was done to them.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:58 am
    Before I take off for my work day, I'd like to address the question asked concerning treatment of inmates by prison staff.

    Interestingly, just recently I had an experience that triggered a mild post tramatic stress-type reaction in me, and it was one of those things that seemd to come "out of nowhere," completely blindsiding me (Wally refers to this kind of stuff as a "knee jerk reaction").

    I was at an all day in-service that the college I work for puts on each fall and decided to take in a the "mini-seminar," one concerning prison education. Well, two corrections officers from KY's womens' prison demonstrated (while dressed in a prison guard's uniform and an inmate's orange jumpsuit) what preparing an inmate for transport might look like. During the demonstration, the "inmate" made an "under her breath" wisecrack remark, while ansering a question the guard asked (not a terrible one, just something that might be considered rather typical) and the "guard" reacted as one would if actually in the situation.

    I began shaking and almost crying as I thought back to my own days of incarceration. How I felt passed rather quickly, but I was absolutely dumbfounded by my reaction; I had no idea that I remain feeling traumatized by some elements of my prison experience.

    Even though I only remained in prison for a very short time, I'm sure I could relay stories from every singe day concerning unneccessary abusive treatment, like when about a dozen officers were lined up around us, like winners of some reality game challenge, laughing and poking fun of the entire group of us the night we were arrested. They were absolutely high from the conquest. The same night, a female officer ridiculed me as I coughed and gasped and cried due to the severity of an asthma attack I was suffering. I really believed I might be dying and she was reminding me, "nobody proimised you jokers a picnic one you got HERE."

    Although I realize the definate need for a skilled level of assertion, when guarding prisoners, much of my experience included over-the-top abusive treatment. Even though I never said or did a single thing to warrant inappropriate treatment, the entire time I was there (I was much too scared, and sad, and traumatized), I was yelled at, sworn at, pushed around, laughed at (especially if I couldn't contain my tears until I was safely in the shower; I'd try to hold it all day, because in the shower was the only place I was safe from ridicule).

    I even overheard a prison staff Dr. cracking a joke prior to my gynecological exam -- something about whale fishing, much too graphic and pathetic to quote in full right here, right now, but the remark k affected me so badly, I did not submit another pelvic exam for about 8 years!

    More in a few minutes . . .

    December 10, 2003 - 08:09 am
    What great posts.

    I didn't have any of the experiences with drugs or being in jail that some of you have had. Also I've never been addicted to anything (other than my first cup of coffee in the morning) so I have a hard time understanding that. My dad was an alcoholic, but I never met him until I was twenty years old, so it didn't affect me much. My mother-in-law was an alcoholic and died quite painfully. It did affect my family somewhat as my kids never really got to know her. I did not get in contact with my mother and her family until I was 35.

    I am wondering if there is some way we can get people to understand addiction and therefore find better ways to treat it?

    My daughter is administrator/director for Hope Network in Michigan. She runs the program for developmentally disabled adults. She is always trying to get more money to pay her workers, the ones who take care of these people. She says right now many of them can get more money by working at Burger King. What a shame. Taking care of people who are less able than we are should be top priority. Prison guards and teachers should be getting top pay in this country, not CEO's and ballplayers.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 08:18 am
    The point I'd like to make, though, does not concern what were defintely instances of inappropriate or even abusive treatment by prison staff (including administrative personel, guards, and even medical "professionals).

    Although I remember many, many words and actions of the ones who were really jerks, I can't remember any of their names or even what they looked like, but there were others too, the ones who treated me kindy and attempted to help ease my anxiety.

    On my second day incarcerated, still in the county jail, I attended an AA meeting in which I shared that I felt so powerless because I didn't even have a pencil or a piece of paper to write on. A women who had brought the meeting in told me I could have her pen, which I gratefully accepted. I had no idea that bringing that pen back to the cell block was "a violation" or that a standard pen was considered a potential "weapon." I was able to spend the entire night journaling on the back of a commisary order sheet before an officer saw me writing and grabbed the pen out of my hand. She asked where I had gotten the pen and screamed at me what the consequences of violating jailhous rules could be. It was so horrible, especially when she seized not only the pen, but what I'd written as well.

    A little while later, a different guard came into my cell and handed me a felt-tipped marker. She told me felt-tipped markers were OK and I would be able to buy some when I could order from the commisary.

    Right now, 14 years down the road, my eyes are filled with tears thinking about the kindness and the compassion of that particualar corrections officer. And here's the point that I hope drives this little story home -- although I can't remember specific details about any of those others, other than their hurtful words and actions, I do remember this particualr officer perfectly. I remember what her face looked like, the color and style of her hair, the expression on her face, the kindess in her eyes; I even remember what she smelled like, her soft lightly perfumed fragrance. And every time I have looked at that "disheveled pile of papers" in the blue folder, I think of her and how she really affected my ability to remain hopeful that somehow I would make it through whatever was ahead of me.

    There were several others that I remember with equal fondness and gratitude but sadly they were few and very far between!

    December 10, 2003 - 08:21 am
    Could one of you ladies give me an opinion on this? While I am sure it would not apply to all corrections officers (as witness the kindness of the officer Nancy speaks of), there has been a longstanding impression among the general public that prison guards tend to be 'bottom of the barrel' in law enforcement. More brutal, more judgmental, harsher, less qualified, less educated. Is this an unfair assessment, based on Hollywood misrepresentations, or would you say it is accurate? And please forgive me if the question has been asked before. I have not been able to real every post. ..Babi

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 09:19 am
    First of all, I'd like to thank NANCY BIRKLA for taking the time to come into this discussion to tell us about her experiences, and today to enlighten us about treatment received in prison. We all need to be educated about these things. I appreciate the fact that you are willing to do this, Nancy, sometimes at the cost of painful memories for you.

    Nancy says on Page 123,
    "My problem was with the Higher Power. I believed in God but had serious doubts that God believed in me."
    This really hit home because I felt the same way. How could the "God of love" have allowed the many, many painful, soul-wrenching things that had happened to me from a very early age? The polio at age 7. The death of my mother when I was 12. Numerous other things that went on, one right after the other, year after year, before I ever opened the door to a 12 Step meeting.

    In a curious way Nancy's relationship with Bobby reminds me of mine with my husband. For the few crumbs of attention and affection he'd throw my way, I'd do anything, including demeaning and debasing myself in awful ways. Nancy felt inferior because of her weight problem. I felt inferior because of my handicap.

    Bobby realized that restraining Nancy, holding her down against her will, terrified her and made him master. My husband soon realized that I had a terrible fear of rejection based on my having been given away when I was 7. I equated this with my having had polio, which the child mind in me told me was my fault. By contracting that illness, I had done a terrible thing, committed a sin. My husband rejected me by turning to ice and acting as if I wasn't there. How many other women are used this way, I wonder?

    When I think of monkeys, the first thing that comes to mind is "the monkey on your back", or addiction.

    The only time I ever had an experience like the one Nancy had about her grandmother was when the aunt who raised me and I went to a summer camp on the ocean, run by the church I went to, a few months after my mother died. I remember vividly that I was wearing a dress my mother bought me -- can describe it to this day. Despite the fact that there were many people congregated there all talking and laughing, when we walked into the camp dining room suddenly everything became quiet; there wasn't a sound. Then I heard my mother say, "Honey, I love you."

    That's all I'm going to post about Nancy's story for now. I'll end this by saying that Nancy is a very, very good writer. I admire her openness and her fine ability to write about her pain.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 09:42 am
    One last thing:

    I think the title of Nancy's story, "Three Steps Past the Monkeys", refers to the 3rd step in 12 step programs.
    "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."

    December 10, 2003 - 10:11 am
    I will address this question to any of these authors in Couldn't Keep it To Myself, who care to respond to it.

    Was there ever a time that anyone tried to help you with your spirituality as you were learning how to make wiser choices in life and to take responsibility for your own lives?

    We are all so psychologically complex, multidimensional beings that I can not imagine climbing out of the shadowy worlds of your doubts and fears without feeling grace and a rebirth of some kind. Our humanity and our divinity go hand in hand and as you have each emerged from your darknss and found light I wonder how you can do it without reclaiming your spirituality?

    I understand that spirituality is in the eye of the believer but it is a question that keeps rearing its head, plauging me for an answer, with each sordid story that I've read.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 10:42 am
    ANDREA, according to my computer dictionary "sordid" means "filthy or dirty; foul, depressingly squalid; wretched, morally degraded." Are you sure that's what you meant?

    I'm not one of the authors, but I will say that all 12 Step programs are based on spirituality. All people in any one of these programs help each other.


    December 10, 2003 - 10:44 am
    Babi, I think "the bottom of the barrel" probably pretty well describes those who become prison guards, for the most part, in the U.S.A. I have the feeling it attracts the type of people who have themselves very little self-esteem and therefore feel the need to lord it over others. Sometimes I get that feeling with police officers also, although there are exceptional people in any group who not only take their jobs seriously, but who do them conscientiously and professionally. I think the pay for prison guards is also quite low in comparison to other professions, and so it attracts a certain type of person. It isn't even that they are any less educated or intelligent than the general population, but they have their own "issues" and ought not to be put in charge of people who are helpless. And they definitely need more training than any of them are getting, with constant seminars to reinforce what they learned in training.

    I have a friend who was recently involved in an incident over a PARKING TICKET. She is 65 years of age, a law-abiding citizen who didn't see a bent-over sign in a private parking lot. The police were incredibly rude to her and when she defended herself verbally she ended up in jail, where the guard was an obvious lesbian and was even more rude and abusive. This is a woman who has a job, pays taxes, raised a family, never broke the law, has some severe health problems, and is a senior citizen---and she was treated terribly.

    It seems that people who go into these professions not only don't have adequate training, but they let their emotions run away with them instead of not reacting to the arrested person's emotions. It's normal for someone who is arrested to be upset and confused and angry; it ought not to be normal for the those who are supposed to be professionals to react in abusive ways, but alas, it happens all the time.

    I also think it has much to do with the general violence in society, including in our entertainment, the glorifying of the military mentality (which I understand in war against a declared enemy, but not in peacetime against its own citizens), and the tone the top person in command sets. If the top lets the bottom get away with abuse, the rank and file will be abusive. It's a law of life, even in corporate leadership. The tone is set from the top, no matter what the top tries to tell the bottom echelon. The bottom does whatever they can get away with. I like the American Indian way where the clans had a "war chief" in time of war and self-defense, and a "peace chief" in times of peace. One can't really expect one person to switch back and forth like turning on a tap, and it makes sense to me to have different leadership, depending on circumstance.

    For a long time now I have thought that with as wealthy as this country is, our priorities are screwed big time. We spend money everywhere (including waaaaaaaay too much foreign aid, and much waste) except where it ought to be spent such as on better education, health care, rehabilitation, professionalism in the use of power, learning about peaceful ways of living, alternative energy sources, and a decent safety net for every citizen. But we, the people, are just as responsible. We are the voters, and we are the ones who spend billions on false and glittery idols, and we are the ones who don't have our priorities straight.

    kiwi lady
    December 10, 2003 - 10:48 am
    Mal I think you missed the point. Nobody I think said Prison was a good place. I think I said good things can happen from terrible experiences. I have always been told by those who deal with addictions that sometimes to get to the absolute bottom of the heap is the only thing that will make an addict face up to their problem. That is why families are told not to enable their addicted child or parent to carry on drinking or taking drugs. Not to continue to be the rescuer. I have seen parents rescue their kids from imprisonment by hiring the best lawyers and the kid has just gone on their merry way in the same lifestyle until the next rescue. At least in prison the kid would have dried out and maybe been able to think rationally for once about their life. That is just my opinion. I always told my kids that if they broke the law I would support them by attending court etc but I would not save them from their punishment.

    December 10, 2003 - 10:51 am
    I absolutely agree with you. I am not necessarily defending prisons, but I do know that forced rehab in lieu of jail or prison has a dismal record, so maybe we need to give some real thought to other alternatives.

    And I also have to say that when we choose behaviors, we also choose the consequences of those behaviors. Unfortunately, when one is addicted, his or her thinking is not rational, so the only time to make the "right" decision would be before the first use. And, again unfortunately, that choice is usually made when a person is too young to make rational choices.

    I say "usually" because there are a lot of exceptions. Until a couple of months ago, I had a woman living here as my caregiver. She had a background of drug abuse that began at age 44 and then everything that went with it, including incarceration, forced rehab, and finally voluntary rehab. She had been clean a year when I hired her. Her drug use only lasted for a few years but in that time she lost her 10-year-old daughter and her entire life was destroyed. We had something good going here... she helped me and I helped her. But Child Protective Services (who knew her history all along) called one day and said she had to be out immediately because of my small grandson. I fought for her but to no avail because she would not fight for herself. She went back to the restart shelter where I found her, refused to do the things they required or look for another job. After a month, she took the "easy" way out and went back to her former "friends" and ways and disappeared. I suspect she was programmed for failure when she was young, although she claimed to have had a lovely childhood with loving parents.

    I, myself, became an alcoholic at age 31 and stopped being an alcoholic at age 39, so I guess there are exceptions.

    December 10, 2003 - 10:59 am
    Pain brings gain of stregth.

    I am wondering what the hole is like now?

    December 10, 2003 - 11:45 am
    I have a question for Tabbi. Are there any other artists in her family? I love her art journal. Sometimes our gifts come down through our families. My sister loved to knit and crochet. She taught me to crochet. I feel like a part of her lives in me as I continue to do handwork. Tabbi, did you teach yourself to draw and do you still draw? What makes you happier drawing or song writing? Could you share one of your songs with us?

    December 10, 2003 - 12:09 pm
    Hi Nancy Birkla,

    Thank you for joining us. I have enjoyed and learned a lot from reading all of your responses and reading your essay. The Wizard of Oz is a movie that spoke personally to you. I have seen it often. After reading about what you took from the movie, I will look at it from a different perspective. It is no secret that Judy Garland led a troubled and painful life. Did you think of Judy Garland when watching The Wizard of Oz? Did you compare her life to yours?

    December 10, 2003 - 12:18 pm
    Ms Birkla,

    Speaking of family connections like the question asked of Tabbi, if they would not feel too personal to you would you mind ansering a few of the questions for Wally Lamb that got lost when he posted them? Some of them were asked by me and they pertain to your relationship with him. If you do not wish to answer them for any reason I will understand, but I am very curious about what role if any Mr. lamb played in the time in your life when you were incarcerated and how you became included in the book. Whatever the reason, I do not think the book would be the same without your essay. I think it increased the credibility of the book because have endured for a long time and have done well with your life since prison. Thank you very much for sharing your story. I wish you the best, Mary

    December 10, 2003 - 12:22 pm
    Here are some links to information about the Shadow Work that Nancy mentioned:

    The first link says that Shadow Work is based on Jungian psychology.

    This is a quote from the third link:

    Shadow Work is a system for assessing your own and other people's shadow behavior so that you can interact more effectively. You can use it at home and at work to live more successfully.

    This stunningly ingenious technique was developed by Thomas Atwood, Ph.D. It has been taught and applied in many settings. Shadow work has deep insight into the hidden agendas of everyday life that hinder interactions...both in personal life and your work environment . It offers effective techniques to help you assess and overcome those hidden blocks to positive interaction.

    I saw some other links that had to do with using the dark symbols on the tarot but I don't know if that is the same thing.

    December 10, 2003 - 12:48 pm
    Mal: Perhaps daunting or distressing would be more a more appropo description of these stories, instead of "sordid." I'm sure many of these women found their own lives sordid to a degree.

    Ella Gibbons
    December 10, 2003 - 01:37 pm
    Wouldn't we all like to know how they train guards in prison? What behaviors are they taught and who supervises these guards?

    In the Army, men are beaten down emotionally, yelled at, punished for any infraction and all of that is for a purpose. I'm no authority on army techniques but it does work well in the armed services to make a better soldier.

    Prison should not be a pleasant place to be; otherwise everyone that has ever been incarcerated might want to go back! Hahaha Purposely, an ex-prisoner should shudder at the thought of returning to the humiliations and harsh treatment. It is no picnic and might give a person pause when they go to take another drink or another drug.

    MAL, no one is saying that prison is a nice place to be! We are saying that time alone, and time to think about your past behaviors, time to get clean from the drugs or alcohol addictions could very well be beneficial to some. And being locked up and away from temptations could be the answer to some of those who experience it.

    kiwi lady
    December 10, 2003 - 02:02 pm
    Ella although some people have the idea that being harshly treated in prison is a reforming experience, statistics tell us it is not. The prisons who run good drug rehab programs such as 12 steps and have adequate counselling services together with a good work training scheme have far better stats of rehabilitation. Unfortunately these prisons are few and far between.

    December 10, 2003 - 02:35 pm
    TABBI: You really hit something deep in me when you said that what your neighbor did to you made you feel loved. I would like to know, if it's not too personal, if now, after prison, you have been able to find that feeling of being loved. If you don't want to answer, that's ok.

    Thank you so much for coming. I want you to know that this is one place where you are loved.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 03:51 pm
    ELLA and CAROLYN, thirty days spent in a Detoxification-Rehabilitation Center gives people the quiet time and opportunity to reflect about how to change their lives while ridding them of the desire to use drugs with the help of therapy and 12 Step programs and exposure to people who have been "straight" in those programs for a long time. People are treated firmly in these institutions, but they are not ever abused.

    ZINNIA, there is no such thing as an "almost an alcoholic" any more than there is being "almost pregnant." If you drank steadily for eight years and then stopped, the best chance is that if you picked up a drink now and drank it you would not just be at the place where you were when you stopped, you'd be farther down the alcoholism road.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 03:54 pm
    How did they de-tox people in the prison where you were? Were certain prescribed drugs and therapy offered along with 12 Step programs, or was the only method of detoxification "cold turkey"?


    December 10, 2003 - 04:11 pm
    Mal, I never said I was "almost" an alcoholic. I was a full-bore alcoholic with all the trimmings, regardless of what you think you know on the subject, and you are in error in my case. I was an alcoholic and I am no longer an alcoholic and have no problem whatever with alcohol. I can have a drink if I want and it does not lead to a binge; however, I can't recall the last drink I had because I don't like the stuff and don't WANT to drink it. I have been clean and sober for 24 years, have never attended a 12-step meeting, but I was an alcoholic previous to that 24 years.

    You probably are not aware of the effects of brain injury and I won't bore you with the details, but I suggest that you might learn something if you stop correcting other adults when they present you with facts about things they know and you don't. Pardon me if that sounds rude, but in the United State where I live (which might be different than the one where you live, it's acceptable to respond to the rude comments of others. You keep telling me that I am in error when, in fact, you are in error on the points of dreadlocks and alcoholics. There are other kinds of alcoholics and addictions beyond what you know.

    I had three strokes when I was 31, injuring the portion of the brain that controls such behaviors. I was young enough that the brain finally healed and I no longer was out of control as to alcohol.

    After I was clean, and when my father was still alive, he used to insist that I have a drink of Irish Whiskey with him on Christmas. He knew how much I hated it, but he would insist and I adored him, so I would have an Irish Coffee. It did not lead to even a second drink, let alone a binge. Nor did it lead to craving those. Now that he has been gone for 7 years, I realize that his goal was to tell me that he knew I was healed, for which I thank him.

    My then husband and I went out for dinner a few times and had a drink with dinner. No, I didn't go on a binge. And no, the maybe 10-15 drinks I have had in the ensuing years did not send me further into alcoholism as you promised.

    I'm not saying that this is possible for everyone or even for anyone other than myself. Maybe God gave me that miracle the same as he gave me the most recent one. But if you think I was NOT an alcoholic I'll be happy to give you some really gory details.

    December 10, 2003 - 04:29 pm
    Carolyn, I agree with you, and Ella, sorry but I don't agree with you. In the Army personnel are abused so that they don't have an independent thought and will follow orders. In many cases, the personnel who have been abused in the armed forces are unable to adjust to civilian life. Many end up having emotional disorders and engage in violent behaviours. It definitely does not work with prisoners. They either become institutionalised and cannot adjust on the outside, or become more angry and take it out on the community when released. Having programs which deal with their substance abuse issues, offending behaviour, victim empathy and education and job skills programs encourages ex-prisoners to function well on the outside.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 04:35 pm
    ZINNIA, I'm sorry if I have offended and irritated you. I was repeating what numerous psychiatrists and psychologists have told me and what I've learned over the years in 12 Step programs.

    I live in North Carolina, by the way.

    My elder son was badly injured in a terrible automobile accident in 1977, so badly injured, in fact, that his whole face had to be rebuilt. As a result of this head injury, he suffers from schizophrenia and psychotic episodes. I took care of him and supported him and his condition on a very small income for over five years, fighting with medical doctors and the government to get him decent care and a disabiity insurance since he could not do this himself. My son will never recover from those injuries or his alcoholism. So, yes, I have had a small amount of experience with brain damage. However, I do not claim to be an "expert" on brain injuries or anything else.

    Because of the risk of offending you or anyone else, I am leaving this valuable discussion. Thank you all very, very much for your thoughtful comments. Special thanks to the brave women who wrote this book and are willing to talk about their experiences in this discussion, and to Wally Lamb who made the book possible.


    kiwi lady
    December 10, 2003 - 05:00 pm
    Mal - Don't withdraw from this discussion. It is an emotive one. For once don't run! We are bound to have very strong feelings on this subject as many of us have experienced alcohol abuse either doing it ourselves or having loved ones in the immediate family who do or did. Stay and talk!

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 10, 2003 - 05:09 pm
    CAROLYN, I am not running away from this discussion. As I have said, I don't want to take the chance of offending anyone, especially the writers of this book, by anything I might inadvertently say. I'll continue to read the posts, and if I determine that I have something worthwhile to contribute, I'll post.


    December 10, 2003 - 05:36 pm
    MAL: on another site, you rightly chided me when I wanted to stop posting when the going got tough. This site it tough for me even without the background you have. I can't imagine what it is to you. But your contributions have been so valuable, I really hope you will reconsider.

    December 10, 2003 - 05:57 pm
    MAL....Please reconsider and stay with us. Your posts are important and excellent, and you are important as well. You know from your program that that running is not the answer. Also, some people have their sensitive feelers out and will take offence at anything. The AA program has the answer. Pick up your Big Book, turn to page 67, read the first two paragraphs, then say the prayer in the first paragraph. I have just said it myself, now you say it, then return to us. Then add a little prayer of thanks that you have a program for living and a way to handle hurt...without either runing or resorting to abusive comments. C'mon Mal, you're one of my favourite people. Carolyn and Joan are right. Remember, you don't need everybody to like you. You'd be disappointed in your self if some people did.<g> A hug to you across the miles, and when Anneo gets over there, I'm going to ask her to give you an extra big hug for me.


    December 10, 2003 - 06:06 pm
    Hello, Everybody, I'm baaack! hahaha

    I have about 100 posts to catch back up with, I read them all in Charlotte and wished I could talk to each of you about each post and the QUESTIONS the QUESTIONS you ask marvelous, just shining! But no time no time, I've been composing this for 15 minutes and it's SHOWTIME!!

    I'm very excited about our Live Chat tonight with the wonderful Nancy Birkla on her story "Three Steps Past the Monkeys," and I hope you will take advantage of this FIRST on SeniorNet, and let's see if we can avoid crashing the site.

    Pat is getting up a page for Nancy Birkla's questions so we'll take the questions you ask and her answers and have a very nice "Interview" with her when it's over.

    Nancy, I must tell you how...just overwhelmed I am by your kindness, I see you here answering our reader's questions all along and showing by your own example what greatness is, I am very much looking forward to tonight, and am going to move to a laptop in front of the fire my husband built so I don't miss ONE thing HERE or about HOME where I am very glad to be this cold rainy night.

    Isn't this something? Also thank you Nancy B, for going into the PBS discussion, that was also very kind of you and I do hope to have a wonderful discussion there.

    Because some of the subject matter in this book is very difficult and touches us all on different levels, I hope we can be particularly careful to assume good will on the part of each speaker. Let's try to build something positive here, something that might have lasting value and results, from this incredible opportunity, let's turn the spotlight now to Nancy Birkla and see what we can learn.

    Let's start by saying that of course, Nancy will choose what she has time to answer, she only has an hour tonight, it's taken me almost 20 minutes to do this, so just keep that in mind?

    OK to start us off and give her something to react TO (what are YOURS?) My first questions are:

  • How long did it take you to write this? Did you add the Oz and the Monkeys from the first or later on? The images are very well done and woven in, very complex.

  • What did the evaluation sheet assessment mean by "expansive personality?" That would seem an asset, to me?

  • You said on page 140 that "An addict who wishes to hold true to the principles of her recovery must conquer her shame and regret over the past and, as much as possible, share her experience with others." Could you elaborate on that a bit? How is the conquering regret over the past part of this sequence?

  • Nancy, why did you title it "Three Steps Past the Monkeys?" OH and I have a MILLION MORE, those are just to start us off, what do YOU all have to ask?

  • Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:13 pm
    Hi Folks,

    I'm here. Sorry I'm a few minutes late; I got hung up in really bad traffic, and then I wanted to catch up on exactly where we are. I'm ready now.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 10, 2003 - 06:14 pm
    Nancy, I think we are all delighted to hear from you. It would be even nicer if we could see one another and hear in speech. Would it be possible to hear more about you and Wally and your relationship before the book was written.

    December 10, 2003 - 06:18 pm
    Hello, Nancy, nice to be here with you. I really thank all of you for what you have written and for what you are doing here.

    I thought my librarian would faint today when I told her what is happening here and because of that conversation, she allowed me to leave a stack of SeniorNet bookmarks! Yayyyyyyyyyy!

    December 10, 2003 - 06:18 pm
    Nancy! We are so glad to see you, see my post in green right above yours for more questions to add to Stephanie's.


    December 10, 2003 - 06:19 pm
    Hi Nancy....I've been sitting at my computer waiting for you to get here. I just went into world times to make sure I had the right time, and I did. Fancy not trusting myself. It's 11.18 Thursday morning here, in the middle of summer.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:19 pm
    Boom -- there it is, right off the bat, huh? I was feeling relieved when I saw those questions addressed to Wally, so I could follow his lead, and then off into cyberspace the answers floated . . .

    I certainly don't mind getting down on a personal level concerning my life, but Wally does like to remain a bit more personally protective that I do. May I please promise to answer that one (and I will) in a post a little later tonight? Or maybe even a little later in this discussion, OK?

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:21 pm
    Ptherwise I'll gush for an hour about how terrific he is, and we'll never get any further! I do promise I will address those questions; I just need to organize my thoughts a bit prior to posting, OK?

    December 10, 2003 - 06:24 pm
    Nancy, is there a particular book (or books) about the writer's craft that you would recommend? Is there a text that was used in the classes at the prison? I am very interested in the teaching methods.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:24 pm
    Hi Ginny and everyone else. what an honor it is for me to join your discussion. Thank you for inviting me.

    December 10, 2003 - 06:26 pm
    I'm thinking that Wally Lamb must be one heckuva fine teacher to bring out this kind of writing and I'd like to know more of the nuts and bolts of it. Maybe he could write a book about it if he hasn't already done so. And maybe he, you, and the others could give us pointers.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:29 pm

    Although it was not explained in detail, I was not incarcerated at York, and I am the only non-York affiliated contributer to the anthology. Wally invited me into the project more toward the end. And concerning textbooks, well, I've taken plenty of English classes but learned more through reading classical American Literature, Mark Twain, Henry James, and more contemporary authors like Alice Walker.

    Ella Gibbons
    December 10, 2003 - 06:29 pm
    Nancy, thanks so much for sharing your story with us. What amazes me is that it took so very long for you to realize that many of your problems, nightmares, etc., were due to the neighbor who brutalized you and Holly as youngsters. Did you ever have counseling or therapy? Your parents never suspected that something of this nature could have happened when you were a child? So many people have "come out," so to speak, about childhood abuse by men and how it has affected their whole lives.

    I'm so glad you are well now and the picture of yourself with John is beautiful!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:31 pm
    Then after I perfected copying everybody elses syle, and had completely lost my own "voice," Wally helped me undo much of what I learned so well!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:33 pm
    Gaining back a voice on my own, a more casual one than I was used to writing with, was a difficult task for me.

    December 10, 2003 - 06:34 pm
    Thanks, Nancy. I did know that you were not at York, but I thought you might have some info on it. Perhaps Mr. Lamb can answer that at some later time.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 06:37 pm
    You probably notice that when I post, there are lots of mispelled words and grammatical errors. This is not because I do not know the rules. One thing I learned through this writing project was not to get so hung up on the mechanics that I lose track of my thought process. This became one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned, and I believe my writing has changed as the result

    December 10, 2003 - 06:41 pm
    I'm an absolute slob online, even though I taught English for many years (now I teach art as healing, computers and computer graphics). But this is commmunication, not English class, and your point is a good one and one that I will use in the future. One bad habit I've gained from online is the overuse of ellipses and exclamation points. I'm jury-rigged on a laptop right now and that also makes things nearly unbearable. My main puter died, new one doesn't work, so I had to rig this up to feed my addiction.

    December 10, 2003 - 06:41 pm
    Nancy: HATS asked an interesting question earlier about the Wizard of Oz theme. We know that Judy Garland struggled with addiction all her life. Do you see a parallel between her life and yours?

    December 10, 2003 - 06:42 pm
    Hello Nancy, and welcome. I am so glad you can be with us, and really appreciate that you are so willing to answer our questions and help us better understand women in prison.

    I'm a latecomer to this discusssion and have been reading some of the posts of the past few days. Was TOTALLY SHOCKED at hearing some of the restrictions placed on those who have been released from prison -- like not being able to vote - in Kentucky, and being totally eliminated from any positions in elem. and sec. schools.

    My question, and if you don't care to answer, I'll understand. Do your current colleagues know about your background and how do they react to it? Do you feel your incarceration has had an effect on their relationships with you?

    December 10, 2003 - 06:45 pm
    Wow, an explosion of posts and we're still HERE! Exciting! I missed 3 posts back there, everybody hit PRINT PAGE in the upper right corner, and see what you missed!

    WE'RE the ones honored, to have you, Nancy, and it surely is!@ Congratulations on your 4.0 average and your scholarship, that is fabulous, you spoke of how hard it is to reenter the job world, etc., having been in prison, did you find the academic community more open?

    How do you feel about monkeys today? I'm trying to say you had said you can watch the Wizard of Oz now, without trauma, does seeing a monkey bother you? I sort of was taken by the possible monkey imagery? symbolism? as in "monkey on my back," I liked that, but I personally hate monkeys and can't bear to look at them at all (they hate me, too) hahaaha Seriously.


    December 10, 2003 - 06:47 pm
    Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for being here. Here's a question that came up when you said you "found my way to drug abuse through food." There are so many people in the U.S. who are overweight and addicted to food, but very few of them ever become involved with drug abuse. Losing weight and giving up bad eating habits are difficult enough, but surely you are not suggesting that there is really a direct connection to drug abuse. It may be that the same self-esteem problems that cause overeating can in some cases also lead to medicating oneself with drugs and/or alcohol, but I think in most cases food addiction is not associated with drugs other than perhaps diet pills.

    I was interested to see that you once lived in Smithtown. I live on LI, about a twenty minute drive from Smithtown. I also once taught in the Hauppauge School District, which is nearby to Smithtown. Fortunately, I never had to deal with students who tormented another student as you were. It's such a tragedy that many schools have not learned how important it is to deal with such bullying. Students can be traumatized for life by going through experiences like that day after day, and some even resort to suicide to escape the pain. Thank goodness, you stopped at "cutting," and did not take any drastic step.

    December 10, 2003 - 06:53 pm
    Thank you Nancy for sharing your story. Dont worry about spelling we all make so many errors we have learned to decode! Thanks to all the posters as well you are doing such a good job all I have to do is read and silently applaud...anna

    December 10, 2003 - 06:54 pm
    I think there is a huge connection between food addiction and drug addiction. So many people who are overweight turn to drugs instead of to sensible eating and exercise. Forty years ago, it was uppers of some kind and the doctor gave them to my sister. She turned to drugs to solve every problem, because that's what she learned from my mother, who died of drugs and alcohol. My sister escalated over time and to this day is an addict, but now it's cocaine and crystal meth and heroin. I was once told she had a $600 a day habit, but that was a long time ago and who knows what it is now... or where she gets the money... or even if she is still alive. I have not seen her since my father died and she threatened to kill me, but prior to that, she would steal anyone blind. I still let her in my house until that threat, though, because she was my baby sister and I loved her.

    I was finally able to quit smoking (not soon enough, obviously) because of seeing a man (Gary Zukav) on TV who said that all addictions are an attempt to avoid pain. Then he told about a woman who was an alcoholic and who started to feel instead of drink, began to cry and cried every day for a year. But at the end of that time, she knew she was okay. (I do suspect there was a bit more to it than that.) But I learned to cry that day, began to learn to feel my own feelings and deal with them, and never ever craved another cigarette except for the day they did the broncoscopy that led to the terminal, inoperable lung cancer diagnosis.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:04 pm
    ZINNIA....I've seen that happen over and over again. People use amphetimines to give them a high and so they lose their appetite. Then they use alcohol and benzos to sleep, then more amphetamines, etc, in a downward spiral. The addictive processes often have the same etiologies....unresolved childhood issues, low self-esteem, unresolved anger issues, and is some cases, imbalanced endorphins.


    December 10, 2003 - 07:07 pm
    Nancy, Some things you said in your piece went straight to my heart and made it ache for you:

    "God's not listening to me."

    "Satan must own me. He must prevent my prayers from reaching God."

    "I can't remember what hope feels like anymore."

    So many of us have felt this way at some time in our lives. But to lose hope is to be dead. I'm glad you finally realized that God did not abandon you, and He has helped you find your better self.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:09 pm
    Well, I'm still here, but between jumping back and forth and trying to keep up, I guess I managed to log out and at least one post got lost.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:10 pm
    The only time in her life when she was thin was when she was on coke, and being thin was a huge issue for her. She thought she was ugly but she wasn't anything beyond statuesque. Rubens would have dismissed her as too thin. Last time I saw her, she had horrid sores on her face, tracks on her arms and legs, her nose was awful, eaten up, and she sniffed non-stop, all marks of heavy drug use. She also just generally looked like she'd been beat through hell with a soot bag and to my mind, fat would be far preferable to any of that.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:11 pm
    Nancy - are you subscribed to this discussion? If not, scroll down a ways and click on the SUBSCRIBE button. Then you only have to hit CHECK SUBSCRIPTION to get everything new since you last read posts.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:13 pm
    OH NO! YOU TOO? Well you're in good company, first Christina Schwarz lost a post then Wally Lamb lost half of a huge one and now Nancy has lost one (if you are in the process of posting? You can't go back and look at what somebody said you'll lose it, you have to hit Post My Message first to sort of save it, I am so sorry!

    As there are only 4 minutes left in your hour, would you want to just save your answers for the unanswered questions here today for tomorrow, Nancy? I hate to impose on your good nature, and keep on asking beyond your hour, we can collect all the questions for you on your own page? Pat has it ready but it's blank. I have one about dentists, too.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:17 pm
    When I'm writing a post,I just scroll up to see what someone said...I don't use the BACK button.

    And if I'm on an antsy computer or server, I compose in Notepad, saving often, and then copy and paste into the discussion when I'm done.

    If you have used the BACK button, you can usually use the FORWARD button to get to the page where you were writing UNLESS you have clicked on some other link in between.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:19 pm
    Part of what I tried to post is that I'm having a hard time keeping up with reading and posting. I think one got lost somehere out there with Wally's missing answers . . .

    What I tried addressing was the connection between food, drugs, etc. I don't mean to imply that food abuse leads to drug addiction or visa versa; to the contrary, I don't believe any subtance can CAUSE an addiction. Instead I believe that the underlying problem IS the ADDICTION itself, and that is what we addicts want to feel relief from, so we use (and then use and use and use some more) food, drugs, sex, whatever, to help ease the underlying pain, anything to make it go away for a few minutes. The compulsive and obsessive need to arrest the pain, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to do so, that is what the addiction is really about, not the substance itself. If you're not an addict, you probably can't understand what I'm trying to say. If you are an addict, then no doubt you understand exactly what I'm trying to say.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:23 pm
    I'm OK staying for a little while yet. And I think I got logged out when I tried sneaking a look for an e-mail I'm hoping to get -- my bad!

    December 10, 2003 - 07:25 pm
    I completely agree with you on that one Nancy. And so many things can be addictions, religion, reading, shopping, collections, ad infinitum, but there are only a few that can lead to people being locked up. I think we lock up and destroy ourselves with the rest, in one way or another.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:26 pm
    I have a feeling that some of the terrible treatment inmates get in prisons is generated by politics. In the U.S., whenever court decisions mandate better conditions in prisons, such as less overcrowding or proper medical care, politicians and columnists start complaining about "coddling criminals." If non-violent offenders are sentenced to minimum security prisons, people describe them as "country clubs." I have no doubt that this way of thinking probably affects the minds of corrections personnel who do not want to be seen as contributing to the "coddling."

    I agree with Mal to some extent -- there is probably no prison experience that can be pleasant in any real sense. When your entire life is controlled by others who can harm you on a whim, you must yearn only to get out. If any good comes of such an experience, it's likely to be because of the kindness of volunteers like Wally Lamb who give unselfishly of their time and talents, and strive to find the hidden goodness and talents of others.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:30 pm
    Bingo Zinnia, that's exactly the point of me essay. Because there are fewer illegal sustances that people use than there are actual addictions, many, many more people are affected by the disease than anybody can imagine. But addiction can lead to horrible circumstances and eventually become deadly even if no drugs or alcohol have ever been ingested.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:31 pm
    We do have a Chat Room here in the books but we don't ever use it? Some people can't type quickly enough and some people are "outshouted" and so they are sort of swamped away, at least this way you get your "say," but if you all wanted to we could try the Books Chat Room, chat rooms do not usually lend themselves to.....extensive thought?


    December 10, 2003 - 07:32 pm
    NANCY....I agree with what you said about the addictive process. The drug, food, other behaviour, etc, is the obvious symptom of the need to medicate, numb and alter reality. The need is then to address the underlying issues. Right?

    HORSELOVER....from my short time of working in Corrections in the US and my regular reading of US newspapers, I agree with you.


    December 10, 2003 - 07:36 pm
    Nancy, if you saw any of the links I posted about Shadow Work, did any of them relate to what you are doing? I ordered a book by Ivan Illych(sp?) today... 1926, on that subject.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:39 pm
    I had that same thought but then it occurred to me that people who weren't present wouldn't get the benefit. I do think it would be great to just go there and gas, though...maybe not answer huge quetions, just gab. It might be too overwhelming for the stars, also.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:40 pm
    Do you think I should really roll onto my soap box here and present my theory concerning many of our social problems resulting from inappropriate providers in pre-school programs? When we refuse to pay "teachers" more than $6 or $7 an hour to teach our youngsters during their most formative years, then how can we expect quality development? We try fixing too many things after they are already broke, and we spend a greater fortune in the longrun.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:40 pm
    How's that for something coming out of left field?

    December 10, 2003 - 07:42 pm
    I am reading all your posts and some is clicking in. I got the book 3 days ago. (Couldn't keep it to Myself). I'm on page 126 now. How would anyone suggest I do to understand the questions Mr. Lamb has written for us to get the most out of the book? I wish I had had my book when the discussions started, but that's the breaks. I want to say to all that your posts are very interesting and informative. Almost all the selected books are good. But I found out I can't keep up with 3 at a time. So I'm sticking to this book and hope I'll soon have some intelligent posts, I hope. I'm glad to read writer's the technique as I'd like to write a novel sometime.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 07:44 pm
    Concerning the Shadow Work, the first link is the program I have done my work through. I am planning on attending another seminar in February. By the way, I didn't know they had a CD about their "tombstone process." I'm going to order it.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:44 pm
    Nancy, I'll join ya... LOL!!! But we are incredibly lucky right now. I'm raising a 4-year-old grandboy because his mother has a drug problem and he is in an excellent Head Start program. But those teachers buy food because the food is yucky, they spend so much of their pitiful salaries on stuff for the kids, etc., etc., etc.

    I sure agree about fixing things after they're broke.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:44 pm
    I like Left Field, is it your opinion (are there any stats, or studies on this, I know this is your field) that the influence of a pre school teacher can overcome a bad home enviromnent? I know about Head Start, but aren't you talking about something other than reading readiness?

    December 10, 2003 - 07:44 pm
    Nancy, I agree with you about all the kinds of addictions that do not necessarily lead to prison the way drugs do. My uncle was addicted to gambling which led to enormous debts, and threats on his life from the loan sharks to whom he turned when no one else would lend him any money. He spent every cent he earned at the race track, his wife eventually divorced him and took their daughter with her. Everyone in the family tried to help him, but he didn't turn his life around until he hit bottom and feared for his life. But he never went to prison. Eventually, he married again and was able to conquer his addiction.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:47 pm
    Yes, Nancy, please do expound. I agree with you. Early childhood education is a big topic here, by the federal Opposition. That is exactly what should happen, work with the children in their formative years.

    BTW, I agree with you about addictions other than drugs. Unless the root problems are addressed, the consequences can be disasterous.


    December 10, 2003 - 07:49 pm
    Terrific about Shadow Work, Nancy, thanks! I'm going to look into that. The book I ordered (from the library) is titled, interestingly enough, Shadow Work, (haha) by Ivan Illich, 1926.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:50 pm
    I agree that we spend money on things we shouldn't and don't spend enough on things we should. Our priorities are screwed. Go ahead and elaborate on that. From your perspective it would be a learning experience for us all.

    Horselover, I agree with you where you stated "I have no doubt that this way of thinking probably affects the minds of corrections personnel who do not want to be seen as contributing to the "coddling." -- That is probably the way the public thinks and I do suppose in some prisons it is also true because of politics and money that must be funneled into the "right hands". So the whole system ought to be revamped from the top down and the bottom up. NO ONE, no matter what crime he/she has committed deserves to be treated in inhuman ways, and everyone is entitled to basic respect and basic fair treatment simply because of being a human being, prisoner or not. No one needs to "coddle", but there's a difference between "coddling" and giving simple basic respect to a fellow human being, because "there but for the grace of God go I". We ought to all remember that, and we really do need an attitude change in this country.

    December 10, 2003 - 07:52 pm
    Nancy, you can roll your soapbox out of any field and we will be happy to hear it. Yes, it does seem we pay a heavy price when we don't pay enough to do something right the first time, and must later to do repairs. Do you see any analagy between the pay for pre-school teachers, and that for under-paid prison guards.?

    December 10, 2003 - 07:56 pm
    Oh... and I forgot to add that Drewie's Head Start class in the afternoon, and one in the morning, is stuffed into a far too small space. That space for 17 children is, in fact, smaller than the Principal's office space. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 08:02 pm
    I'm not sure about anywhere else, but in KY, an entry level prison guard would be paid at least double what an ECE teacher with an associate degree could expect to earn. And a prison guard has no educational requirements other than a high school diploma, which once again goes back to maybe not being the more appropriate individuals to manage the pressure cooker environment of hundreds of emotionally and mentally disturbed individuals cohabitating 24/7.

    December 10, 2003 - 08:04 pm
    I want to thank you and everyone else who wrote their sad stories. I think prison is quite simular to a few months in a mental facility. When my husband was dying with cancer, I was a basket case and the police put handcuffs on me and drove to the nearest facility. The helpers are not as rude and rough talking as the workers in the prison. But the rules were structured and the place locked up. I felt all the time that someone would steal some of my clothes. I had a few bucks and put it under the pillow. I had to stay 3 months and couldn't go home. I had to go to a halfway house and rules had to be obeyed there and you had to work like a dog and had to have a job to pay the rent. People there were younger than me and I was teased and lost some money there. When you see the writers again please tell them that a lady they don't know good luck and I admire their tenacity.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 08:06 pm

    You have no idea how much the same your experience sounds.

    December 10, 2003 - 08:08 pm
    Thanks to whomever suggested we subscribe..I have been leaving and coming back and it was driving me crazy...Nancy you can get on your soapbox here and share your parents and now as grandparents we have often been dismayed by the fact that all teachers are not paid enough or respected enough and that educating our children should be a priority ...thanks again for your kindness in coming in here isnt as easy as chat would be but I think for the kind of in depth discussion we are doing here it is the best way...anna

    December 10, 2003 - 08:09 pm
    I don't know about elsewhere, but at the college where I worked, the ECE people with Associate's Degrees began at $7 an hour. Now why on earth anyone would work that hard for an associate's degree to earn the same as someone at, say, Home Depot, is beyond me. Except that, as we all know, most ECE people truly love children and want to add something to their lives. And there was always the hope of a supevisor position, which paid a decent salary, but there were only two of those and they weren't available. And the one Director, who also taught.

    And then there are some who do that field because they can't think of anything else to study. They aren't very good with the children, but they usually hang around until they get fired for one thing or another.

    December 10, 2003 - 08:16 pm
    Anna, it's so nice to see you here! Teachers also are not supported enough. Parents need to grab the reins again and start taking an active part in their children's lives, training, and positive discipline, not wait until they've gone wrong at 14 or 15 (or even earlier) and try to correct it.

    Children need to be taught respect for their elders, their teachers, their parents, etc. I don't mean whipping them... I mean that if a child misbehaves at school, the parents should support correction, not make excuses, throw a hissy fit, or file a lawsuit. I think parents and teachers together could turn this country around, but so many parents are too busy getting bigger homes, more cars, more season tickets, more video games for the kids, or on the other end, scrabbling to survive, and worse yet, scrabbling to get their next hit or their next bottle.

    And to that end, we need more community programs, before- and after-school programs, areas and activities for kids to keep them off the streets and out of troubloe. After all, if there's a pack of dogs and you have the only dog on a leash, what happens? And what happens when the leash is gone and you aren't around? Your dog becomes either one of the pack or its target.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 10, 2003 - 08:20 pm
    Well, I managed to get us way off track from discussing the book, didn't I?

    I just got booted offline for a few minutes, and then while logging on again, I realized what time it is. I'm going to need to get going. I have to proctor and scribe for a student taking a final exam in the morning. I'll be back tomorrow afternoon, too, at 2:00. Hopefully I've gotten "the hang" of things tonight, and I will manage OK tomorrow.

    I will go back and read everything that was posted tonight, and then I will answer it all in subsequent posts, especially that opening question. If I can;t get it done tomight (I'm feeling awfully tired) I will have time by tomorrow night.

    Again, thank you all so, so much for your interest and support. Peace and best, NAB :0) PS: I was so excited to hear that Tabbi and Dale will be coming into this discussion too!

    December 10, 2003 - 08:25 pm
    Do prison guards receive any kind of training? And are there programs such as an assoc. degree in Criminal Justice with a focus on institutions?

    December 10, 2003 - 08:30 pm
    THANK you so much Nancy, good heavens it's 10:21, we have imposed on your generosity way long enough, it IS hard to do this all at once, but I think you've done a super job and we appreciate your going back thru, I'll put them all on a link below Wally's picture above for you so you don't have to take so much time searching, many thanks!

    I enjoyed that, I thought it was fun.

    And thanks to all of YOU who participated, I think, for our first time ever in doing a "Live Chat" on a Message Board, we did pretty doggone well. I really did not think it would flow like it did.

    Annneh, I'm so glad you got the book, let me answer you more fully in the morning, you've asked a good question!

    Zinnia, we might ...let's go in the Community Center sometime next week, all of us who would like to try, and fool around with the Books Chat, as far as I know it's ....I would say not changed, like the chatterbox, but let's just meet, those of us who might like to try and see how well it works.

    See you all tomorrow, I, too, am very excited about Dale Griffith and Tammi Rawley coming in and Pat has all of their Questions Pages ready, now we have to get YOUR questions up on them!!

    Plenty of great questions in the heading here for YOUR thoughts before Nancy rejoins us at 2 pm tomorrow Eastern right here, and if you'll post any you have not yet, we'll get them on the pages where she won't have to go back and forth and back and forth, but she did a fabulous job, nonetheless!

    Thank you ALL!


    December 10, 2003 - 08:33 pm
    Pedln, another super question, thank you so much, I'll put yours up on Nancy's Questions Page for tomorrow, I am so glad to see YOU here from your trip on the road, did you have to go to Kinko's after all? Thank you for making that extra effort, so like you, we're a good group here!


    kiwi lady
    December 10, 2003 - 08:40 pm
    Yikes I missed it all! I was helping Ruth with doing a body wave on her very straight hair all ready for work on Monday. She did get a job at last! After 4mths she was almost at the end of her savings! The body wave turned out great! Never mind I will try to get in tomorrow. Does anyone know what time it will be in Auckland- I am not good at working out time zones.

    December 10, 2003 - 08:50 pm
    Carolyn, what time is it there now? Look at the time on my post, and add three hours for Eastern Time, since that time showing is Pacific and you can figure it from there? haahaha

    See you all tomorrow!

    At 2pm Eastern, hopefully!

    Many thanks to Pat Westerdale for her steady hand the past few days, she did a super job, fantastic discussion, are there any unanswered questions in the heading or in your own minds about this story?


    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 06:21 am
    Well, I'm ready to head out for my workday and will probably not be able to check into your site until 2 PM, when I promised I'd be available again for a little discussion time.

    I've gone back and read over everything from last night. I now know that more than one of my posts got lost (so much for my "hotshot" attitude concerning having mastered your site).

    I will answer again the couple of questions that wandered off and all the others too, but I will have to do so later tonight, unfortunately, after I've already finished up with the actual discussion. I'll just do like Nancy W. did; I'll write them out into several post while not in an ongoing discussion.

    In the meantime, may I ask some of you a question? Mal has posted what she believes the title of my essay means, or where it might come from, but I'm curious what others think about it. Before I tell you how it actually came about, I'd really first like to know what your best guess is. How about it?

    I look forward to chatting with some of you a little later on.

    NAB :0)

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 11, 2003 - 07:38 am
    I am probably wrong. I had assumed the monkeys were your fears and addictions and you were indicating that you have passed them and are ready to redo your life..

    December 11, 2003 - 07:43 am
    It's the number THREE which intrigues me? Three Steps Past the Monkeys. In the analysis of literature, there ARE no right or wrong answers, we have only our theories, you can see Wally Lamb in his segment saying once he's published the book, it becomes the reader's what a super challenge that Nancy has thrown us, let's say what we each think and then see what she intended, and see what we can learn here, thank you, Nancy!!!

    I question the THREE? If it refers to the 12 Steps, then this story focuses on the Third One. Is she saying then that the THIRD one is the most important? OR???? I must look up Malryn's link to the 12 steps (because it would seem logically to me that the third one would be the last) and see what the others are?

    OR does it not refer to the 12 Steps AT ALL? Then if not, what DOES it refer to?

    What DID you all make of the title, that's Door #2 in the heading and this is a wondeful challenge here today, I'm very grateful that we have it. WHAT a discussion, thanks to you all!!

    THREE steps, what does it mean?

    (if monkeys are involved (that is the actual creature not what it might symbolize) I'm a million steps past them, I can tell you that) ahahahah More later...

    December 11, 2003 - 08:15 am
    three monkeys to me, always mean the three wise monkeys. I assumed that you had indeed seen heard and spoken, much you would prefer to pass by.Miss Birkla, love writers who are not into the mechanics of writing, its so dash boring.I venture that you have a natural gift though.

    I came home from my alleged holiday today, and it (the holiday) without giving tedious detail turned into an horrific experience. I was so depressed and despondent, came in here and read through 300 posts, which had me on a roller coaster of emotion, but was so peaceful at the last and mostly because of the comments by the authors and posters, who indeed restore ones faith in the goodness of people.

    I havn't the time, its almost 1am here, to say much except yes Ginny, if you are going to have compassion towards those incarcerated, I dont think you can choose those convicted of "nice" crime.It is such a cliche to detest the crime and the circumstances which led to it, whilst trying to have compassion for the criminal, but I think indeed we must , if our compassion is genuine.Earlier this year, I met again an Australian nun, I had known whilst teaching in Sydney, and she is assigned as a companion to prisoners. She has in her care a woman who murdered, over time, four of her own children, and shows extraordinary concern for her welfare.I always remember as well the movie Dead Man Walking, where the American Nun sat and watched the murderer she had been trying to save from death being electrocuted.She sat where he could see her eyes as she wanted the last thing he saw in this life to be love.

    It is beyond my words to tell these women, featured in this book, of my admiration for their stories, and hope that the combined compassion of these senior women will give you hope and be some small barrier against the hurts you may yet face because of your incarceration.

    Bobbee if you really think famous people are treated the same here, I wonder how you explain Renee Rivkens treatment at the hands of the New South Wales penal system.He seems to have had a charmed stay, or lack of it.I certainly think though we need to imprison some people, without any of the bad practises mentioned in these stories. I guess if we pay people miserable wages, and conveniently ignore what happens we will have a bad system in both our countries.We always get what we pay for, and if we pay little the message is we dont care about the training of the officers, or the treatment meted out to prisoners.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 09:29 am
    Welcome back, ANNEO. Why did I think you were leaving the tenth for your holiday?

    We're not talking three monkeys here, we're talking the number 3. The title of Nancy Birkla's story is "Three Steps Past the Monkeys." What does the number 3 signify?

    There's the trinity.
    There's three strikes and you're out.
    There's "Three Faces of Eve."
    There's "Three Blind Mice."
    There are three sides to a triangle.
    Three fates.
    Three graces.
    Three furies.
    Cerberus was a three headed dog.

    I'm sure there are more, but it's getting close to lunchtime. I think I'll have a triple decker sandwich with three slices of tomato, three slices of bacon, three lettuce leaves and some mayo. I'm not going to worry about what that symbolizes!


    December 11, 2003 - 09:40 am
    "In the meantime, may I ask some of you a question? Mal has posted what she believes the title of my essay means, or where it might come from, but I'm curious what others think about it. Before I tell you how it actually came about, I'd really first like to know what your best guess is. How about it?"

    To me that means she is asking us about the TITLE to her story, not just the number three---or did I miss something?

    But there are three monkeys also: one who hears no evil, one who sees no evil and one who speaks no evil.

    And then there is always the "monkey on someone's back", which could be all sorts of very personal things, such as childhood abuse, spousal abuse, a dead-end job, illness, lack of certain abilities, personality quirks, etc.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 09:49 am
    I said "Monkey on your back" yesterday, but today GINNY said in Post #418:
    "It's the number THREE which intrigues me? Three Steps Past the Monkeys . . . . I question the THREE?"

    December 11, 2003 - 09:53 am
    I was under the impression we are responding to Nancy's, and I quoted her question above. I was also under the impression Anneo was responding to Nancy.

    So whose question is being responded to?

    I do hope you are having a delicious lunch.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 09:56 am
    You takes your choice, I guess. I answered NANCY's question yesterday. I am answering GINNY's today.

    It's Cyberspacely, virtually delicious. (Actually, I had Slim Fast.)


    December 11, 2003 - 10:26 am
    Hi, Rose, I think we can answer any question we wish? I was answering Nancy Birkla's question, and in so doing, as is my wont, posted another, so you can answer all, none, or make up your own, go for it!!!! hahhahaa, And we're very glad to have you, and your thoughts. Address the question YOU would like and others will do the same, and we'll all learn something, I think?

    Anneo, I am so glad to see you back and sorry for your horrific holiday, you deserve better!

    I am sorry to see I am doomed as there is no way on earth that I will ever have any sympathy whatsoever for Joel Steinberg, but I will continue to learn from the examples of people who are further along in the way, (I sound like Gandhi, wish I were more like him) welcome BACK!

    I'm really hung up on something Dale said in her chapter and I want to address that tomorrow, have thought of it all day, but today we have a wonderful fantastic opportunity, let's not waste it, if we can?


    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 10:30 am
    Just checking in during a few spare moments in my otherwise extemely busy day. Looooooooving all the chatter concerning the title, and Wally is right; a reader's own interpretaion is always ultimately the right answer (at least for that reader, it is); after all, we can't very well "dial up" an author whenever we read something. We have to depend on our unique sense of interpretation, the way our own experiences shape our perceptions and views of what we read and also how we look at the world around us. I love everything you're all teaching me about that! Later Gators! NAB :0)

    December 11, 2003 - 10:55 am
    I remember where Nancy said about finally being able to move on to the third step, so I think that is the "three steps" part, and the monkeys were, of course, part of the threat from her molester and caused the nightmares that plagued her afterwards. Remember that she had an epiphany in jail when she had to sit in the dentist's chair and remembered the molestation of herself and her friend.

    I also think Rose is dead on with the "..sees no evil and one who speaks no evil..." because the threats kept Nancy silent and repressing (not to mention suffering) all that long time.

    I gasped audibly and then began to cry when I read that part. Of course, all of these women tug at my heartstrings and I have cried at least once in every one of them. Even Wally Lamb's part made me cry. One of the post powerful sentences I have ever read was "Bartholemew had sledgehammered the dam of distrust..."

    So that's my guess about the title. I have identified so much with Nancy's story because there are so many parallels with my own life.

    December 11, 2003 - 10:57 am
    HEY there's Nancy, well I'm going to say....if pushed, that THREE Steps past the monkeys means to me that this essay is about what happened, the events surrounding her THIRD step, but the "monkeys" or what I think they represent, which as I (and Rose) mentioned before might be the monkey on your back type of thing but as Zinnia just mentioned could be also the results of her childhood trauma. At any rate I see them still out there, circling, but they have lost their power to harm, she's stronger than they are, and so the whole thing is an ongoing progress, and THIS story is just one chapter in the journey. I'll find out if that's what's intended here shortly, so fun. I'm so glad Nancy is reading the discussion, as I'm totally behind today getting up all the questions on her page, so will try to do that now, but I think she's seen them all.


    December 11, 2003 - 11:10 am
    I think your "monkey on the back" idea is also a good insight. Based on that, I wonder if Nancy isn't reminding us, also, how close an addict can be to falling back into addiction... just three steps away from that monkey on the back?

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 11:23 am
    Nancy could also be three steps away from the panic disorder taking over again. I know that every day is a struggle for me and some days it would be very easy to let the panic take over. Its constant self talk that enables me to do what you people would consider a very simple thing like going to the Supermarket. Actually last night I managed to do something ( with Ruths support) I have not been able to do for years. We went shopping (in the Christmas Rush) to buy sandals - we both needed a pair. When we got in the car my chest immediately began to tighten like someone was squeezing me. I bit my lip and said nothing. When we got to the huge discount store the car park was full and when I got out of the car I immediately felt like my legs would not carry me. I said to Ruth - I really wanted to come here more than anything but I don't know if I can do it. She suggested that she give me the car keys so I could escape to the car if I needed to. I decided to go in to the store. I had to take a trolley to hold me up (my legs get weak when I am so frightened) and she kept me so busy finding sandals for her also that I could not focus on my fear. We ended up getting identical leather sandals (made in Brazil) because they were the smartest low heeled ones available. It is my treat to myself for Christmas. Do you know it felt so good to have cast that monkey off my back for the night!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:01 pm
    Hi friends, Well I'm here!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:03 pm
    Right now I'm situated in the campus writing center, which feel a lot like "coming home;" Id have no peace trying to do this in my office!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:15 pm
    Is anyone there, or am I doing somehting wrong again?

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:16 pm
    OK, I'll jusdt begin posting from my notes . . .

    December 11, 2003 - 12:17 pm
    I'm here, Nancy... and I'll just watch you post from your notes rather than get you off track with chatter.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:20 pm
    Ginny, you asked how long it took me to write my essay for the book. Well, although it was stretched out over about a year, there were great gaps of time without any writing or editing.

    I began my initial draft in May of 2001, and sent it in the first week of July. It was about 40 pages long.

    withing a couple of weeks, I recieved back Wally's first "editorial review" of my draft with many, many hand-written comments, suggestions and also accolades over what already "worked well."

    December 11, 2003 - 12:22 pm
    We're HERE Nancy, so good to see you!

    Are you open to a question on the pins or would you rather pass on that one?


    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:25 pm
    I then worked on a very lengthy rewrite (about 70 some pages, if I recall, as Wally suggested I do -- write long and then "pare it down" later.

    Mostly in that draft I attempted to address everything Wally brought up in the notes from the first draft (re: not "giving away" so much in the introduction, rearranging sequence, clarifying certain events, etc. He provded me with a birds eye view of what the reader saw in what I'd written . . .

    December 11, 2003 - 12:25 pm
    Nancy when you first started your draft, how did you begin it? I have never seen the Wizard of Oz (I know I'm the only one on earth who has not) but have seen up until the part where it starts black and white, her old world, and then turns to color, her new world. I'm struck by that in the film? And I'm struck by the same type of thing in Alice in Wonderland, Alice goes thru the hole to a whole new zany colorful out of control world and I wonder if you chose the Wizard of Oz continuing theme BECAUSE it might also reflect your life in addiction or whether or not you kept on being haunted by it?


    December 11, 2003 - 12:27 pm
    Also I'm interested in your journal entries throughout the chapter, are they the same as what you wrote or have you altered them for the same of the chapter?


    December 11, 2003 - 12:29 pm
    I'm sorry I'm late, I was over in the PBS discussion being blown away by that Nancy Birkla posting there, who knows one of the women ON the program, zowie!

    Sorry, here but delayed, that's a fascinating post over there, everybody go look!


    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:31 pm
    After that, we corresponded back and forth several times concerning what he thought vs. what I thought concerning what was really important to be included and what may have been unnecessary in creating a consistant understanding of what I was trying to say. I agreed with him in some instances, and he very respectfully agreed to just about everything I told him felt really important to me for inclusion. There were a couple of places where we differed pretty significantly, but if I told him something did not "feel right" to me, or that he might not understand why I needed to have something left in, I finished up feeling like "my own story" is what ended up being published.

    December 11, 2003 - 12:32 pm
    Were his thoughts more on arrangement or presentation than content or both?

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:36 pm
    That was it, pretty much. I received a final edit for review (rightfully, I credit Wally with significant input toward my introduction, which although had been thematic w/the Wizard of Oz all along, did not get fully written until after the conclusion. In other words, it was toward the end that I watched the video of the W of O and wrote about relating to Dorothy, and then the introduction was made to fit the conclusion.

    I hope this explains a little about the editing process. Well, this and Wally's insistence to "show it, like watching a movie," rather than just "telling it," and "remember to pull the reader into the story."

    December 11, 2003 - 12:37 pm
    MOUNTAINROSE, thank you for your thoughtful response to my question. I can certainly testify to the truth of your statement that the upper echelon sets the tone for how things will be done. I saw that when I worked for the State as a nursing home inspector. It made all the difference in the world who was sitting in the Administrator and DON offices. I often saw a poor facility turned around to a fine one with a good administrator and DON, and vice versa. So, if prisoner abuse is tolerated, we know where to place the responsibility, don't we.? ...Babi

    December 11, 2003 - 12:38 pm
    And the "pulling the reader into the story," what are some of the devices he suggested?

    I am picturing you there in the campus writing center, what does it look like?


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 12:39 pm
    When Nancy has a chance, I'd like to ask her if they de-toxed women with medicinal drugs and therapy in the prison where she was, or did these addicted women do it "cold turkey"?


    December 11, 2003 - 12:39 pm
    Just to humor me, could everybody hit PRINT PAGE in the upper right hand corner, just for the heck of it?? hahaahaha

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:40 pm
    Also, writing the very last paragrah in the narrative from the perspective of my 6 year old self -- that was Wally's idea. Although I re-wrote it pretty closely to how I first did through my prensent day narrator voice, well, it certainly changed the whole feel of it (and frankly just about killed me) when I wrote it over from the perspective of "my little girl within."

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:41 pm
    Help me out, what do you mean, PIN?

    December 11, 2003 - 12:45 pm
    The PIN thing was the part where you hurt your own self and said that it made the other pain go away? Do you have, (this was my question on that one ) any more insight today into why that seemed to help, it sounds horrifying, I am really wanting to understand what you were thinking. In reference to your post just now, I bet going back into a 6 year old's viewpoint was very traumatic, and was it DIFFICULT as well? How would you go about that? Putting yourself back in the mind of a child?

    I don't think I would want to make that journey but I'm not as honest as you are.

    December 11, 2003 - 12:46 pm
    GINNY and all: for me, hitting "check subscriptions" works much better than "print page". I'm pretty sure I'm not missing anything that way. Sometimes it throws me into another discussion, but I just keep hitting it till I get back.

    December 11, 2003 - 12:48 pm
    Joan, when Nancy is thru here let's discuss Subscriptions, I hate them, and don't want anything jerking me around (I want to be the jerker) but let's do that at 3?

    Thank you for that,


    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:49 pm
    Hi Mal & everyone else too. I promise I'll try to go back and answer everybody's questions eventually (and unfortunately probably mostly outside of the discussion, since I can't possibly answer multiple questions at the same time) I'm pretty good at jugging tasks, but Lordy -- you folks are intense. Your excitement is contageous, and it's iginiting my desire to write. Thanks, I needed some motivational leverage!

    December 11, 2003 - 12:53 pm
    NANCY: don't feel you have to answer every single question. When Ginny's questions become too much for me, I pick one or two that speak to me and run with them. Please feel free to do the same.

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 12:55 pm
    Hi Nancy ,

    Don't have any questions for you today but welcome. I will read the posts later. I have to go off air as daughter is coming down to fax off her final assignment for the year to her Course Tutor.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 12:55 pm
    Oh OK, about the self-hurting stuff (formerly referred to as self-mutilation).

    This is actually one of the posts that got lost last night (I think). Self-hurting (or cutting, bulemia, anorexia, pulling out of hair, severe nail-biting - the kind that doesn't stop before bleeding and pain, etc. These are all "hallmarks" of sexual abuse. Statistics indicate something like a 90% corelation.

    Something I've learned through all my behavioral and Social Science classes (and also years and years of therapy) is that sadly, my story is considered a fairly "normal" one for a sexually abused child.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:00 pm
    What really trips people up is that children's psyshes are wired to supress things that are just too difficult to deal with, ergo the years of not remembering. what does not surpress along with the memories, though, is the pain and trauma of the event. Then everyone thinks the kid is just crazy after all, since 80% of the abusers are family members or close friend of the family, the kiddos are confined within 4 steel walls of denial -- usually never an immediate grasp of the obvious

    December 11, 2003 - 01:00 pm
    NANCY: the self hurting post didn't get lost. I deleted it when I saw you were leaving, so as not to keep you -- we kept you too long as it was. But I'm glad you saw it and responded. What layers and layers of pain.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:01 pm
    . . . for either the kids OR their immediate family

    December 11, 2003 - 01:05 pm
    Ah, this is beautiful!
    What really trips people up is that children's psyshes are wired to supress things that are just too difficult to deal with, ergo the years of not remembering. what does not surpress along with the memories, though, is the pain and trauma of the event.

    Joan? Just to be sure everybody is clear here, you would not be able to delete Nancy's post on the self hurtingi but one of your own?

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:05 pm
    This is why I feel so strongly about appropriate and highly educated professionals needing to be teaching the kids during their most formative years; mostly their parents can't or won't recognize very obvious symptoms "that someting's rotten in Denmark," probably because Mom and Dad have lived in Denmark their whole lives as well!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:06 pm
    Too little intervention too late is why we have to keep building more and more prisons.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:07 pm
    I did not know that about the self hurting!!! Bless your heart, thank you for that explanation!

    Joan K is right on this one tho: just pick and choose and ignore the rest but unfortunately our time is again up!! BOY you are so interesting we'd could be here all day, it looks like the best approach is to give our authors a slate of questions in advance, would you say, and then let them pick and choose what they want to talk about? (We're new to this? This is a first, does it show? hahaha) Or? I like to have choices when I speak but I can see how it might appear as a blizzard of demands, which certainly it is not intended as: it's a blizzard of interest!

    Thank you Nancy! We really appreciate it, you will never know how much we appreciate your taking your time and sharing the insights you have with us, this is unbelievable: we are all learning here every day, thanks to your generosity, it's wonderful.


    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:08 pm
    I tried so hard to write around the childhood sexual abuse but couldn't, no matter how hard I tried, because (imagine this) my parents learned about it for the first time when the book was ready to go to the publisher.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:09 pm
    Oh! What was their reaction?

    December 11, 2003 - 01:09 pm
    GINNY: sorry I wasn't clearer. I posted a question on self hurting last night, at the same time as Nancy was posting that she had to go. When I saw her post, I deleted mine, so she wouldn't feel she had to stay and answer it.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:11 pm
    Writing for CKITM, and then following through with signing the contract (which frankly I came very close to backing out of), well it was simultaneously the most terrifying and the most empowering thing I have ever done (or probably will ever do again).

    December 11, 2003 - 01:12 pm
    I go through on the print page this time it worked Very good for me. Thanks.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:13 pm
    Do you guys have to finish up? I'm good for around 15 more minutes, and then I will close with the promise to address each and every quesiton that has been asked of me before this month ends!

    December 11, 2003 - 01:14 pm
    Nancy if YOU'RE here we're here, YAY, just don't want to impose on your good nature! We'll follow YOUR lead and let you conclude when ready! YAY!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:15 pm
    When I first called to tell my folks that Wally had asked me if I wanted to submit a draft for "possible inclusion," it became a pretty bad scene with my family for quite a while.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:16 pm
    But why?

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:17 pm
    My mother pretty much flipped (and not handsprings of joy, either), so I proceeded without another word to anyone in the family. Well, i then had one of my brothers read my first draft, and he wigged out so badly, he threatened never to speak to me again if I went through with publishing (he surmised it "would kill" my folks. He then followed through with his threat not to talk with me for an entire year!

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 01:17 pm
    Was your family worried that your writing for publication would hurt you? Or were they afraid it would hurt them, Nancy?

    December 11, 2003 - 01:19 pm
    Nancy--I'm not really here because I wasn't able to get the book, but I've been reading the discussion.

    Thank you for making yourself available to us and answering so many of the questions.

    My son was in an alcohol treatment program a while back, and he told me about all the women there who cut themselves. It was the first I knew of SI.

    Because I come from the family I do, I understand why it was so difficult for you to tell them of you potential essay.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:20 pm
    You have to understand that I come from a family that poractices a "code of silence" BIG TIME and all the time. I've pretty much blown my family's world of denial up to smithereens, huh?

    December 11, 2003 - 01:22 pm
    Welcome Maryal, I did wonder where you were, you are really missing a heck of a book, but I know you're leaving soon on vacation.

    Nancy, but in the book, your mother and father and brothers and extended family are portrayed with love? And YOU look triumphant? There's no criticism of them at all, wait a minute I think I missed a post of yours. One thing I did wonder (or should I shut UP with the questions) about your family I ...I'll stifle.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 01:22 pm
    That "Code of Silence" can do terrible damage to kids. They become forced to lie.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:23 pm
    Oh! So until you wrote this person who knew your family knew your story?

    December 11, 2003 - 01:26 pm
    Parents denial can be Almost as bad as the sexual abuse itself.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:26 pm
    Oh I'm pretty sure most of the fear centered around the fear of exactly what I might reveal. You have to remember that in a family w/addictions, one could write an entire encyclopedia re: disfunction. I did try hard to keep the focus on me, but along with me not understanding " why I was the way I was," I also had all these interpersonal (and individual) relationships with family members who didn't undersatnd why I was the way I was (or why they were the way they were, for that matter).

    It's all had a happy ending, though.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:28 pm
    That's what happens when you turn inward and upward for spritual guidance in decision-making. I honestly didn't know if I would go through with publishing or not, until the very last minute. I just kept praying and praying for God to intervene in this most important decision.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:29 pm
    And just look at you now! What an inspiration!

    December 11, 2003 - 01:30 pm
    Nancy, I can see The happy ending in the picture of you and your husband.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:30 pm
    I hope you are glad that you did publish. I know all of us here are.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:30 pm
    When my folks read my "final draft," which was their very first read of my essay, they called and left a message on my answering machine telling me that they recognized my talent and that I wrote a really good story, and that they were proud of me.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 01:32 pm
    I'm proud of you, too, Nancy, and so happy I am able to know you a little through this medium.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:33 pm
    I know it's been the result of my courage in refusing to keep that particular secret any longer that has ultimately forced my family to talk about things nobody has ever talked about before.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:35 pm
    ME TOO, Malryn, I totall agree, and I'm so glad we can share this super experience with our SeniorNet Books family, YAY for ALL of us! That was a wonderful message your parents left.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:35 pm
    My father did share me that reading what I wrote is terrificaly painful for him, and it doesn;t get any easier no matter how many times he reads through it. I told him that I didn't write it for him, and I think he should not read it again.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:36 pm
    He tells me that my mother, on the other hand, can;t stop talking about the book and nobody can get out of their house without recieving a copy of it.

    December 11, 2003 - 01:37 pm
    I imagine so, he hurts FOR you rather than himself and what he might or should have seen or known.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:37 pm
    God is do good, all the time, but especiually during the times we do not understand that it really is true!

    Nancy Birkla
    December 11, 2003 - 01:41 pm
    Whoops, typo . . . what I meant to say is that God is good, all the time, and with that I really do need to say so long and get back to work.

    Thanks you so very much for gising me the opportunity to chat and to write. You are a most enlightened and open-minded bunch!

    So long for now, and keep looking for all those answers I've promised!

    Peace and love, NAB :0)

    December 11, 2003 - 01:42 pm
    Thank you, Nancy, you're a point of light, I have so much enjoyed this experience and we very much appreciate it, loved your mom sending people away with the book!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 01:44 pm
    Thank you very, very much, Nancy.


    December 11, 2003 - 02:00 pm
    Thank you as Now many people understand so much than they did before. NO that you have done much Good in this discussion that is world wide so it carries the message to most of the world with people having relation far and wide. You have done Gods will is my belief. Thanks again as I appriecicate your joining us so Much.


    December 11, 2003 - 02:30 pm
    WHEW wasn't that exciting? Ok what I'm going to do now is go back thru, we're almost at 500 posts, go back thru the last 200 posts and pull out some of the fantastic things you have said. You may think that because you were not answered, etc., or whatever, that nobody saw them, but we not only saw them, and they have added to our collective experience, we want to address them.

    Hats, you're one of them, I love your perspectives and questions and what I'm going to do now is gather UP all of those questions for Nancy B and Nancy W and Tabbi and put them on their own question pages and email them to Nancy B and Tabbi.

    Tomorrow I want to look ONE day EARLY in addition to our look at the end of the month, at Dale Griffith's story? Since she has the intention of coming in, I want to look at hers while we begin looking at Hell and How I Got Here by Brenda Medina, and it's a pretty sizeable story, goes from page 144-175, so when you come in in the morning you will find a brand new heading (I hate to say goodbye to Nancy B, I hope she will not leave us) and it will focus on Brenda, but in addition those of you who have already read Brenda's story, please skip ahead to Dale's, she's on pages 336-349, and as a person who has taught at York for 10 years what she has to say is something I think we should have read first, along with Wally Lamb's. At any rate we'll be getting up things for HER to talk about as well starting tomorrow since she is also coming in at various times as she can!

    SO! Any last thoughts on the title? On the grandmother AND grandfather appearing? My grandmother told me the same type of story about her own grandmother, I'll tell it tomorrow, but she swore by it, and was the least fanciful woman on earth, are there any similar incidents in your own family or friends you've heard about?

    Any last thoughts on Three Steps Past the Monkeys?

    Hate to leave it,

    Joan K, I don't use "Subscriptions" because when a new post comes in, doesn't it take you there? I like to look over the entire menu and see where a new post is, by myself, but I KNOW many people LOVE Subscriptions, thank you for mentioning that option. Unfortunately even Subscriptions (we did a test before we came on today) miss some of the posts, sometimes as many as three posts if people are posting together, the only way to see them all is the PRINT PAGE, I'm glad you used that, Ginger, but I appreciate your mentioning that Joan K, and I hope that if people would like to know more about Subscriptions if you will write either Joan here or Pat Westerdale, whose name is in the heading here, they can help you figure out how to use them.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 03:10 pm
    I have never used subscriptions. I want to be able to pick and choose which discussions I go to, so go to the RoundTable Discussion menu and start from there.

    I don't seem to have the Print Page feature on my tool bar. Guess I'll ask the computer pros who live in the main house and find out why.


    December 11, 2003 - 03:31 pm
    Malryn, it's not on your tool bar, thank you for saying that, so I can know what's wrong, scroll up? UP? Up to the very top of this page on SeniorNet?

    Click on this to view the PRINT PAGE in the upper right hand corner of SeniorNet's page?

    December 11, 2003 - 03:33 pm
    Can you see it on the extreme top right hand corner of your screen? It's next to the words Enlarge Text, Shrink Text, Email Page, Print Page?

    All that is right across from the words on the left Welcome you are logged in as Malryn?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 03:34 pm
    Gosh, thanks, GINNY! I'm laughing at my stupidity!


    That's great!


    December 11, 2003 - 03:37 pm
    You're a long way from stupid! We're all new to this technology. And because YOU were intelligent enough to ask, somebody else, maybe 10 other people, will now know, everything works to the good, thank you for asking!


    December 11, 2003 - 04:02 pm
    "Whee" I can watch the Movie December 16- 03 "What I want my words to do to you" on my PBS station on my (None) cable tv. I am elated.

    December 11, 2003 - 04:06 pm
    I am glad you found out how to use the print page, I just found out today also.

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 04:31 pm
    I do believe in appearances although I believe in God. Once recently I had a vision of my son Matthew it was so real it frightened me. I had a premonition of something bad about to happen and so I called him. He was on the road on a very black spot on our roads. I asked him to pull over and told him about the vision. He was shaken. He drove on and saw a terrible accident. I believe to this day my delay saved his life. I believe God sent me that vision.

    December 11, 2003 - 04:52 pm
    Tomorrow, Friday December 12, the Oprah Winfrey TV show will focus on Women In Maximum Security Prisons. You might be interested in this segment of her show.

    December 11, 2003 - 04:53 pm
    OH Yes God does just that as I even know why I have had to go through so much as it so I could understand the people that go though it as you never till it happens to you it has been said and I believe it to be true.

    December 11, 2003 - 04:55 pm
    Thats a comforting story, nice to be reminded that God is around us.


    December 11, 2003 - 04:57 pm
    GINNY: I agree with you about subscriptions. It makes me seasick. I ONLY use it to get out and back quickly in these live chats, since (apparantly due to my slow browser speed) it takes me about five minutes of struggle to get to the bottom of print page. When I am just checking for new messages, I just go in. I'll have to risk losing messages.

    December 11, 2003 - 05:07 pm
    Thank You so much as now I know to watch Oprah as some times I do miss her program. I so try to watch a movies on Women in prison when ever I can and maybe one of Our writers here will be on it or one of our "What I want my words to do to you" as you never know.

    Hi Anneo Yes knowing God is with us is Comforting.

    December 11, 2003 - 05:12 pm
    I come to the Books home page and click on each discussion that interest me and when all is done I use my subcriptions to go to some other places rather than play solitaire or some other game. To each his/her own.

    December 11, 2003 - 05:41 pm
    Hi Ginny,

    Sorry I have not been here. I have a bad cold that just knocked me out. I hope to feel better tomorrow. Nancy B. is so inspiring. I hope to catch up on all the messages.

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 05:45 pm
    Hats hope the cold is better soon.


    December 11, 2003 - 05:53 pm
    Anneo, Rene Rivkin was clever enough to get medical certificates and to have brain tumours. Pauline Hanson, Everidge and Diane what’s her name…previous Chief Justice, did their time as did all of Joh B-P’s good old boys. I was working in the prison they were in at that time and therefore know that they did NOT get special treatment, in fact, got the treatment I explained in my previous post.


    December 11, 2003 - 06:36 pm
    I know that the aftermath, the "secret keeping," is often far worse than the abuse itself.

    One of my uncles began molesting me when my mother ran off again and left us (my older brother and me) at my grandparents' home when she ran off with her divorce lawyer. My earliest memories are about never belonging anywhere and never being a person. People even kept changing my NAME, at least first and sometimes last, every time I moved. Identity crisis? You betcha!

    At age four, my uncle captured me on the back landing, took me to the cellar and tried to rape me. In the midst of that, another uncle came home and caught him in the act, burst through the door, yanked him off me, and proceeded to beat hell out of him, both of them cursing and screaming. I lay there covered with something I didn't understand. I don't really recall too much from the time he locked the cellar door when I was trying to escape until my other uncle came in. Then I don't remember anything until that night. I know someone must have cleaned me up and dressed me.

    My mother was apparently summoned from wherever she was. I never saw her, but I heard her voice. They locked me out on that landing, in the dark, right where I had run to hide from him. I banged at the door, hysterical, crying and calling for help but they would not let me in. I was sure I had done something very wrong to be punished so.

    Not long after that, my mother broke one of my arms for the first time, and I was sure that I must be some kind of horrible child. I spent most of the rest of my childhood hiding in the closet to escape notice or trying to be good enough not to be hurt, even going through three physical abusers during my alcoholic period as an adult.

    No one ever talked to me about what had happened, no one comforted me, and I was punished if I shied away from that uncle or mentioned anything about it. After my father and mother got back together, when I was 7, she would beat me for even mentioning my grandparents or where they lived or anything about that time span. She was a closet alcoholic, a prescription drug abuser and a violent child abuser and she would pull teeth, break bones, or beat us insensible with anything handy, usually a length of yellow brookstick, always being careful not to leave marks that my father could see. My brother received a lot of abuse, also, but I was her primary target. The funny thing is that I remember him screaming but I don't remember my own pain. I learned not to cry, because crying usually drew worse abuse, and never cried again until I was in my fifties.

    At some point, my father got wind of the sexual abuse. She told him that I had a vivid imagination (a 4-year-old can make up that kind of thing?) and he let it go. I think out of embarrassment and because if he knew, he would have had to do something about it.

    She finally slipped with that broomstick and my dad couldn't ignore the physical abuse any longer and put a stop to it. Then the emotional abuse started, searing words that rip a child to shreds.

    From my earliest memory, she believed that I had "bad blood," because of a cultural thing and she never missed an opportunity to remind me or anyone else who would listen. She spent the rest of her life convincing everyone that I was no damned good, and when I was an adult, trying to take my children away from me. When she died of drugs and alcohol, my first reaction was a terrific relief that she could never hurt me again. My dad talked about her addicitons for a couple of months and them clammed up again until shortly before he died.

    At fifty, I confronted my uncle over the telephone and got concrete proof on tape. My kids heard it and I was going to play it for my dad. But in that moment, I grew up a bit and remembered that that was then this was now, and that he was an old man. Also, he was in the Phillipines when the actual abuse happened and could not have done anything. When he found out about it later, we were in another state and far from the uncle. I had to forgive him and try to make a relationship and I became his favorite in the end and the only one who really cared about him. My kids did tell him about the taped conversation and he drove the 100 miles to my house to apologize. He said, "I'm sorry, I didn't know. If I'd known, I would have killed him."

    But just the other day, driving along in the car, I began to scream at him, "You DID know. Why didn't you at least talk to me, tell me you believed me, tell me it wasn't my fault? And why didn't you protect me from my mother?"

    What happened that made my uncle and my mother the way they were? I really wonder. On one level, I forgive them. But on another, I don't. I am raising my 4-year-old grandson and he just recently said something to me that led me to believe something had happened with a friend of his mother. I carefully asked the right questions (thank heavens!) and he revealed the "secret" he had "promised not to tell." I have everyone on EARTH involved in this and the kid who did it is going to spend a long time in jail and the rest of his life as a registered sex offender.

    It was a different era when I was a child and people tended to keep things to themselves because of "what the neighbors would say." And God forbid that anyone interfere in someone else's household. It is STILL a different era in some households.

    But things are different now and at least someone who cares can make a difference.

    Good heavens... some sort of dam burst and all of that just came pouring out. This post is far too long and far too much, but I'm going to leave it because it feels like I have put down at least part of a heavy burden, among people who understand.

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 06:50 pm
    Zinnia thank you for trusting us with your story. I have to say I am crying as I type this. I never experienced anything like that. It has taken great courage for you to share such a terrible story. Someone in my family was a child abuser and I have the child she abused as my own daughter now. The emotional scars have never left my daughter- she was beaten, and taunted about her looks in that house. She is now obsessed with her appearance. She is a beautiful talented girl but I don't think however much I tell her what a beautiful young woman she is, she will ever believe it deep down inside. I have very little to do with the abuser and she is in denial. It was actually a neighbour who reported her to the family. My sister was only a guardian to this child it was not her natural child. This should not have made any difference to the way she treated this poor little girl who had already lost her mother to cancer. What she must have suffered. She said she used to lie in bed and pray to God she could come and live with us. We just went over and took her and arranged for guardianship. She was eight years old and vomited all the time with nerves when she came to us. I could not wish for a better daughter and I am so glad I have her.

    December 11, 2003 - 07:47 pm
    What a beautiful thing it is that you are the protector of your now daughter. Thanks for telling us about it all and that you made and that are still making a difference. I like a good ending like this.

    Zinnia, Your post has made me aware that I also should tell abit more about my past such as my Mother said she had a secret that she would carry to her grave and she did and I can only asume it was bout her childhood, will never know. I watched her hugging other children but she Never did me that I can remember and told me she was raised Not to hug but I saw her hugging other children. Oh how I wanted a hug from her as I loved her so much. She tore up the paper from the warden that said that I did not belong in prison out of guilt I think as she did get me my very good paying job and during a long lay off I told her that I was Not going back as I had a job that last five years so she said why is it that you are Not going back to Bendix, your junk car if so I will buy your choice of car if you will go back you will only pay me for the price of the car No interest so I went back to work at Bendix with a brand spankin new car and did pay back every cent. Then she took me around the farm that had been divided up into lots and said which property do you want and I chose one that had No plumbing, No electricy and she said well they are so far behind on there payments and I have given them many notices so it it yours when we get them out, well she did just that and cosigned for a loan for me to make it livable and I payed it off in no time and kept adding on to it. I did like my home Very much when I had it done. Oh I forgot to tell you that she got down on her hands and scubed the urine filled floor till it had no more smell. To be continued as this post is to long to suit me. Ginger

    December 11, 2003 - 07:56 pm
    I could never I think tell it all out loud, but the pain just never leaves somehow, and as you say comes out of nowhere.I get so angry when people say put it behind you, and would love to know how anyone who has never been abused can really believe it is ever forgotten.

    The thing that bothers me most, even after a long and comparitively happy life is that inherent feeling that the evil is somewhere inside myself. So often when one trys to have feminist issues raised, because of that strong feeling that untill men stop seeing us at something to be used, nothing will every really change, one feels admonished to silence. I so wish I could understand why at three years old I felt already unable to speak out, why is that? Why is it if one was beaten or robbed it would be ok to talk, but to tell of sexual abuse is so unusual.

    I always feel so betrayed by women who loudly proclaim that there is no need to be dominated by men, and even after 33 years of living with and being loved by the gentlest and kindest of men I have no less shame than that first spirit crushing experience. My grandfather and uncles are now safely dead, one of my brothers is dying and seems really dependent on my faith to help him out of this world. I have visited twice and ring him weekly, hoping that helping ease his burden will somehow lift mine.I hate that "you reap what you sow " scripture, whatever could I have sowed. Sorry,


    December 11, 2003 - 08:03 pm
    She's so lucky to have been rescued and lucky to have you!

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 08:09 pm
    Anneo I think that it has to said out loud in order to have some sort of closure. I have tried to encourage my daughter to go to the relative I spoke of and tell her how much she hurt her and how she felt and how it still affects her but do you know the abuser still has power over her and she said she cannot do it. Now the abuser has a very bad form of athritis for her age and my other sister says we should not confront her. The sister I am very close too was the victim of bullying by the same abuser as a child. My mother would not listen and as she was at work all day could not be bothered to do anything about this child who also hit my mother when she was a teenager. My mother was scared of my sister. What a mess!

    December 11, 2003 - 08:10 pm
    But as I look back on all of this I know she did it out of Guilt for letting me swing (meaning going to prison) as she could have prevent it but was told by her lawyer it would teach me a Lesson (what Lesson I wonder Not to run from a raptist) and the knock down drag out fights that her and dad had all of my life.

    Well the raptist came to Mothers house and she called me and said he wanted to see me and I came here in the house that I Now live in and we sat having coffee and he said he was so sorry and wanted me to forgive him and I DID, he went back to his home town and passed away within a year so I was glad that I had forgiven him. To be continued.

    December 11, 2003 - 08:12 pm
    We were just talking about this earlier today and I was certain I could not talk publicly. I started to make a tiny post about how the aftermath is often worse and something happened. I think maybe I am somehow "loosened" by what we have been discussing her and by what these courageous women wrote in the book, plus the openness, honesty and sharing of our SeniorNet friends. I want to work on writing out the rest of it, because what I said here is just the tip of the iceberg, and you are the only person on earth who already knew so much of it.

    I don't believe the scars ever go away, as you said, and I feel as nasty and awful inside now as I did then. The only difference is that I understand now what was happening.

    I think we feel like terrible frauds... like if people actually know how shameful we are, if they knew how bad we were (because we still believe WE were the bad ones), if they knew how worthless we are, they would stone us, or tar and feather us, at at the very least, shun us forever.

    December 11, 2003 - 08:24 pm
    did I ever mention I wuv you.


    December 11, 2003 - 08:24 pm
    We were still very close, but No hugging for many years and then she had a stroke and could Not walk, talk or eat and I wanted to bring her home but my daughter stepped in and took me to court saying that I was unfit as I had her in federal prison. To shorted this I will just say the kid who lived in Calif. lost the case and Mom spent two years in my 24/7 care and passed peacefuly in her home as she wanted to just after I sold my own house and before I got the money for it. Not the end but this has been enough for me for tonight. Ginger

    December 11, 2003 - 08:25 pm
    I loved my mother, too. I try to think of good memories and sometimes there are some. They don't blot out the awfulness, but they do help. I recall her hugging me one time in my life, on Christmas Eve. I was 10 and I had just read "The Little Match Girl" and I was crying about it. I found her sitting in a rocking chair, with her little green coffee cup full of whiskey, drunk as a lord, but she took me on her lap and hugged me for a few minutes before raging at me to get to bed.

    I think that's part of the twisted mind-tricks. We love them, so they must be lovable; they don't love us, so we must be the ones who are not lovable.

    December 11, 2003 - 08:57 pm
    Oh such words of wisdom you have spoken. I to felt unlovable also. Mom always cook the best meals especialy on Holidays and decorated all so well. Mom drank Jim Beam but Never hid it in a cup.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 09:09 pm
    I've decided my life has been a cuppa tea compared to some of you. The difference between the sexual experience I had as a six year old child with an older male and yours is that I liked it and didn't feel threatened at all. When I went to my mother and told her about it she said, "Well, honey, it's all part of growing up, but it's best if you wait a while. Just don't ever tell your father because you know he has a short fuse," and I didn't.

    I never felt dirty; I never felt guilty, and I never felt ashamed. That was because of the mother I knew for such a short period of my life, who made it clear to me that I wasn't the only girl around who had experienced such things. It's no wonder I've missed her these sixty-three years since she died.

    ANNEO and ZINNA, you have to be somewhere in your sixties by now. Have you had help in getting over this obsession you have with something that happened so far in the past? Have you not been able to accept any of it? Have you not forgiven the males? Even GINGER forgave the man who did something to her that could have ruined her life. Have you not forgiven yourselves enough to stop being so tormented and torturing yourselves with what's only a memory now? Haven't you tried turning this torment over to a Power that's Higher than yourself and letting that Power handle it, so it will leave you alone?

    I'm quite a lot older than both of you. It's been quite a long time now since I've felt guilt about anything, including the drinking I did. I lost any feeling of guilt and the pain that accompanied it when I accepted my life and myself.

    Accept the things you cannot change
    Have the courage to change the things you can
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 09:16 pm
    I think everyone loves their parents. We see children often protecting abusive or addictive parents. I have never felt as strongly as my two youngest sisters about Mum. They have even worse memories than I do. However I am very good at putting up walls. I remember little of life at home only the life I had with my grandparents - I went back and forwards from home to grandparents. Mum had a boyfriend who is now our stepfather and she used to leave my sisters at home by themselves when they were only about 11 and 13 and go away all weekend to be with her boyfriend. I was married by then but prior to that I had care of my four brothers and sisters all school holidays and as a teenager had to take a toddler with me everywhere I went. Some people thought I was her mother. Lucky these two were good kids but they felt so abandoned. She worked all week and went away all weekend.In those very needy years she hardly ever saw them. The older one of the two girls has grown up as a rescuer and the younger one is possessive of the older sister. A little girl still at 40 something stuck in the teenage years emotionally. She is angry and we all fall foul of her mood swings. The way I look at my mum is I treat her like an elderly friend not my mother. I don't have a mother - daughter relationship with her. She is happy because I never rock the boat and I am always pleasant with her. The other kids have this need of her and its like a codependancy. They have a love/ hate relationship. Mum is sick now and old and I don't see any point in confronting her over our childhood issues. My sisters every now and again blow up at her and then feel remorse and run around buying her things etc. I want to say to them _Mum is Mum - her social life has always been more important than her family. Her friends are also more important. You won't change her - just go with the flow. However it made me determined to be a real Mum to my kids and help out when they need me in illness etc. They know they can come and talk to me about anything and I don't take sides even with tiffs they have with their spouses. I get a lot of satisfaction from being the Matriach of a large extended family. My kids informed me that since there was no Dad any more I was the head of the family. I thought that was quite flattering!

    December 11, 2003 - 09:18 pm
    Obsession? I don't think it's an obsession at all. It's something that is THERE, whether we like it or not.

    I have lived a decent life and contributed to society and I don't believe I obsess about this any more than you obsess about your lameness from polio and the things that happened to you because of it. Inward or outward, an injury is an injury, not necessarily an obsession.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 09:22 pm
    ZINNIA, I tried so hard to phrase that post so it would not be offensive to you, yet in my heart I knew there would be something you'd find that I said wrong. I offered my hand in fellowship, but guess it wasn't the right thing to do.


    December 11, 2003 - 09:29 pm
    So are you suggesting we are obsessive and unforgiving.And gosh I wonder why I never thought of just enjoying the experience. You make it sound as though we are underachievers who have made no progress.

    As for talking about it, your reaction is enough to make me shutup for another 57 years, certainly never mentioned any of this untill I came to seniornet, to anyone other than my husband, and spent all of 2 minutes on it with him.

    I could prattle of my family and my marriage and my double degree, and a lifetime of working with abuse victims in my own defense but quiet frankly think I will adopt your normal reaction and go off in a huff.


    December 11, 2003 - 09:29 pm
    I'm bumfuzzled as to what you mean. Is anything other than total agreement with what you say automatically a negative thing of some kind?

    You made statements, I made statements. What the heck is the difference?

    Was it obsessing when the women wrote their stories?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 09:36 pm
    What I said to each of you is what I learned from a very good psychologist and in 12 Step Programs. It didn't work yesterday, and it's not working today.



    December 11, 2003 - 09:36 pm
    You have come up from your childhood and done so well, I and am Very please to be your Senior Net sister. Thanks gal.

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 09:36 pm
    Zinnia and Anneo - I have never yet met a person who did not suffer from being sexually abused. In fact today many parents have picked up on sexual abuse by observing a sudden behaviour change in their young child. Very young children often show extreme anger and older children often withdraw. Teachers pick up on these things too.

    Anneo and Zinnia please don't be offended I really appreciate how hard it was for you to open up to us and everyone else realises this too. Don't go away from this discussion.

    December 11, 2003 - 09:54 pm
    Please speak from your heart Not from a psychologist point of view as We are All human even psychologist. I have been through the 12 step but have the Holy Spirt or Holy Ghost what ever you chose to call it and it works for me as I Love and Aprieciate Gods guidence so much.

    Take No Offense at these words my S/N Friend but you have a lot of growing up to do as you are always going to leave a discussion for one reason or another and that to me means Grow Up and do the best you can as You do have so much to offer with your writing en al.

    I say this will much Love so think about it Please, Ginger

    December 11, 2003 - 10:18 pm
    betrayal of a child's trust, the ULTIMATE cause for confusion, because it's usually the very people whom they MUST trust for survival that do this to them. I am so very sorry that his has happened to so many women while they were children, and especially to some of you. It is quite a mind-boggling revelation to me because until I was married I had never even heard of such a thing.

    My family moved every 2 years, my father was a tyrant, but a kind tyrant, and my father was also very aware of everything that went on within the family. He discussed issues with me whenever he felt I was ready, and listened to what I had to say and trusted me. There were NEVER any undercurrents or overlays of sexual abuse in my family, certainly none that I ever felt. And as I grew into a young woman my father took great delight in watching me develop and complimented me if he thought I looked pretty, without any mixed messages. Because of that, even though I look quite ordinary, I always felt beautiful inside. I guess I was sooooooo lucky!

    When I married I entered a family in which my father-in-law sexually abused his daughters. I'm not sure what happened to my husband, because when I met him he had scars from cutting himself and from holding his hand over a burning candle to make whatever pain he was in go away. I had lived such a normal life in comparison that what he was telling me never really sank in even when I saw the scars, and I simply could not comprehend why anyone would do that to themselves. And of course, he continued the patterns that he had learned into our marriage. He never abused our children physically, but mentally we were all abused. Because I was an immigrant who had grown up in a household that had a totally different culture, I spent most of my life in confusion. Was this the way Americans did things? Was I the one who was wrong and had to change my ways? I wanted to be a good American and fit in, and it never occurred to me until much later that he was WRONG. It took me years and good psychologist to find out it wan't me at all. And to survive mentally I finally left him. My children are still in pain, especially our daughter, and I wish I had left him sooner. But I was young and confused and in a culture I didn't understand, and I felt that if I tried hard enough, worked hard enough, was kind enough, generous enough, loving enough, I could make it all well----and of course that didn't happen.

    My husband, the one who supposedly loved me, would turn around every time I disagreed with him and give me the "Heil Hitler" salute. I didn't know this when I married him, but he had a whole holocaust library, and used me as his victim to "right all the wrongs" even though I was a baby during WWII, having been born in 1941, and didn't have anything to do with that.

    But none of that is as bad as what a sexually abused child goes through. As an adult one can learn how to cope, and I did. I learned how to be tough, with a skin like a rhinocerous, and I can tell undercurrents that go on in any group (there are a lot of them going on here, but I hope they pass , AM very sensitive to my environment and ultra sensitive to any sort of manipulation or infringement of my boundaries, and I put a stop to it immediately no matter what anyone thinks of me.

    I still can't really get a handle on how a child who was sexually abused can cope even years later, and I would like to know if that is a modern phenomenon or has always gone on and was just covered up well, and if it happens in all societies or just in our Western/industrial/impersonal societies where children are not valued in the same way, and where people seem to be obsessed with "do whatever feels good" no matter whom it hurts.

    My heart just goes out to anyone who has ever had to cope with this sort of abuse.

    December 11, 2003 - 10:23 pm
    I also hope that No leaves this discussion as Wally Lamb and all the Authors in this book have been so Gracious to share so Very much of there selves with us and I would hope that others would Learn from them. Those that leave will Never know what they have missed or maybe it is to painfull for them to share with us, Who really knows what has happened to them in there past and how they have over come it.

    Abuse and or Prison leaves us all scared and here by trully sharing with All of you has been the Best therapy I have ever had. It is much like the 12 step therapy but We are a sharing it with the World in this discussion. If I can help by sharing I will just as the Authors are doing to help All and I feel this book will be the best selling book as We All can relate one way or another to it.

    Again Thank You All for the Book and Our Senior posters for sharing and LOOKIE, LOOKIE there is still so much to share with more Authors coming in. Yea I say

    December 11, 2003 - 10:28 pm
    I also want to ask you not to leave. Your posts have been very open and very educational to me. We all have our own experiences. All of them are legitimate. Every hurt is different. I can tell you've had as rough a time of it as any of us have and you look at it all in your own unique way, just as we all do.

    I guess what people are asking you to do is to just not nullify their experiences and their feelings which they are entitled to, just as you are entitled to yours.

    I think as human beings we are all in the same boat as far as hurts, even though the hurts may vary, and we ought to be hugging each other instead of having our feelings hurt. It's difficult in a medium such as this where we can't see facial expressions or read body language, and often words on a screen come across as more cold than we intended or meant them to be. So let's just all give each other some breathing room, OK? These are highly emotional issues being talked about. No wonder everyone is a bit testy.

    But do stay! And I'm sending HUGS and sympathy to you in your loss.

    December 11, 2003 - 10:49 pm
    I just have to tell You are my kinda person as you do know how to protect your self as I do when seeing your posts in "what I want my words to say to you." and here, You are Very special to me But know I am Not puting the make on you as I am just stating the Facts Mam as some times I get so Misunderstood, Smile. Thanks for coming into Senior Net. Ginger

    December 11, 2003 - 10:52 pm
    Wise words, MG! Thank you.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 11, 2003 - 10:53 pm
    Thank you, Mountain Rose. I have no intention of "nullifying" anyone's experience. I hate to see people suffer for really long periods of time. Recently some new health issues have arisen for me, and it is best that I cut down on some things and try to get some rest. Thank you for your condolence. I appreciate your kindness.


    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 11:00 pm
    Well said Mountain Rose and Ginger. This is such a wonderful discussion. I don't think there is anywhere else on the net that people our age would open up to each other the way we have. Its a great compliment to SN that people feel safe in here. As I have said before SN is a real community with REAL people. When I met Vera there was no strangeness it was though we had known each other for years. All I hear is good reports about the SN bashes. Those of you who live in the States have made some very real face to face friendships from participating in SN. We should write a book about SN! I have been sent books from other bookies as well as books are so expensive here. For instance Stud Terkels book is $65 here. I can get it post and all from B&N for $43NZ. A big saving! My kids can't get over the generosity that has been shown to me and I am like a big kid as I run out to the mailbox and get my book! I do talk about you'all to my kids - not this sort of stuff but when someone is sick or someone has a new grand - stuff like that. My kids get very confused sometimes trying to work out who are my face to face friends and who are my cyber pals. The only awful part is I get so upset if someone passes on. They were not just a user name to me they were a real person. There is such tremendous support for everyone in here. It don't get much better. We have even frantically tried to track people down if they don't post and its uncharacteristic for them.

    December 11, 2003 - 11:22 pm
    everyone will miss you if you go. I also know that you hate to see people hurt for such a long time and I believe that's what your words really meant to convey. But I also think everyone is on their own time schedule. We learn as we go, and we never really stop learning up to the day we die. And it's OK. Hopefully you will feel better again soon. This discussion, I think, has opened a lot of wounds that never have healed. We grow scars. The wounds never go away completely, but we have to remember that a scar is stronger than the original tissue was.

    Thanks gals, I do think this forum and the subject matter and the things that all these writers have shared have been very cathartic for everyone. And without body language over a cuppa coffee it does sometimes get difficult to know what people mean or what their intentions are. If we all sat around a table over tea I'm also sure things would never be misconstued in the same way, because a smile can make all the difference in the world, or a question asked to clarify something, or a hug given when someone is in pain.

    I also know I often sound tough and inflexible. I've been told that by many cyper friends, who are still my friends. And I suppose in many ways I am, although in real life I come across as very feminine and soft. But life has also made me what I am and my inner core is tough because of that.

    kiwi lady
    December 11, 2003 - 11:32 pm
    Lets all sit back and take a cyber cup of tea. We will feel better in the morning I am sure.



    December 11, 2003 - 11:54 pm
    There has been so Many Miracles happening to So Many on S/N in the short six or seven years that I have been here it some time boggles the mind and I rejoice in them and feel so sad when We lose anyone but when our time is up, it is up what else can I say.

    You and Vera have struck my heart as anyone that can make the so called Bashes that I call extended Famiily Reunions now, should make it a point to go I think but it is just my/and so many/ others feelings as have you have Not been huged by the people you Post/talk to every day, Well there is a reason, Maybe health or what ever and we understand so well.

    We will be going to the DC Bookfestival again in October 2004 and it has always been Great even when we were there during the sniper attacks we feared Not as We have been thru so much in our life time why it is just another bump in the road to us.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 12:34 am
    I went to bed and couldn't sleep, so decided to come in and tell you who I am. With this medium it is so hard to know.

    My name is Marilyn Freeman. I was 75 years old last July 2nd. This is a real accomplishment because when I had polio my parents were told I'd never live to be 18, and that if I did I wouldn't have the use of either of my arms or legs.

    Last May I developed Cellulitis in my left, polio leg. I recovered, but my foot still swells so badly that I often can't get my shoe on. My shoe is attached to the leg brace I wear, so I can't wear that either, meaning I cannot walk.

    Because of chronic skin infections on the thigh of that leg which have worsened, probably because of circulation problems, I have been unable to be fitted for the new brace I need which might allow me to walk with crutches. I never have a painfree day. I had to stop driving my 18 year old car.

    The home health care I had, which began in June, ended after six weeks when Medicare stopped paying, meaning my supplemental insurance stopped paying, too. I can't get on the shower bench alone any more, and can't afford help, so I haven't had a shower since July.

    The last time I was out of this apartment, which is one big room, was September 28th when my daughter and I attended a brunch at the home of Georgehd's son and his family in Durham, and I met George.

    I can't get out on the deck of this apartment because I can't push the wheelchair over the door stop. I am alone 23 hours a day except on Saturday or Sunday when my daughter has time to come in for longer than an hour.

    I had minor problems with my bladder last Spring. It is worse now, and there may be a kidney complication. I'll know about that soon.

    I am not really ill, but my body is wearing out little by little. My eyes need attention if I can ever get to an ophthalmalogist. My hearing has diminished. I can no longer play the piano because my hands are so crippled with arthritis that I can't even reach an octave. I was once a concert pianist and a concert singer. My singing voice is gone. It is too painful for me to hold a brush or knitting needles, so I cannot paint pictures or knit any more. I am still able to type.

    Because of childhood polio I have spent my life compensating for what I could not do. My compensation this time has been publishing three electronic literary magazines, in which writers who might not have their work published otherwise are published. I've done this for seven years. Recently the benefactor who paid for web page space I use became unable to help me any longer. I have extremely little money and cannot afford this luxury, so my daughter bought me three months' worth of space. I paid her for two with a gift I received recently, but neither she nor I can afford to do this long. If I stop doing this publishing, I'll have to find something else to do.

    I also write short stories and novels and lead the Writing Exchange WREX writers group here in SeniorNet. All of these things are demanding, and I work very hard. My only recreation is participating in discussions in Books and Lit.

    I had hoped to go to the Virginia Bash in Richmond in May. I haven't been away from this area for over three years. Early this month I learned that I would not receive the money I had planned to use to do this, so it is very likely that my daughter and I will be unable to go.

    Throughout all of these setbacks I have tried very hard to maintain a positive outlook and attitude, and, of course, I have not had a drink. Yes, I am sensitive and I suppose, perhaps because I feel so very vulnerable right now, I am even more so.

    That's who I am. I thought you might like to know.

    December 12, 2003 - 12:51 am
    Am aware of your difficulties, and have never shown anything but sympathy for your situation, and admiration for your handling of those same difficulties.

    I have no intention of seeking to excuse my hurt reaction to your comments on my admissions.There is much in what mountain gal says about how it might well be different around a table, but we dont have that table and it behoves us to be especially careful about our comments I think.With that in mind I apologise for reacting to your comments by adding to your burdens, but the end result of them remains the same.Had I been a better person, and had a better holiday I may have done better,I apologise to all in here that I did react badly. My first instinct, not to talk about all this should have been followed.


    kiwi lady
    December 12, 2003 - 12:57 am
    Mal, I for one do know why you are feeling like you are right now. However do not give up on the bash- miracles do happen. Your body imprisons you and my mind imprisons me. However limited as my life is its a whole lot easier than yours because I can get out within my safety zone. I can go to the library and the store and last night for the first time for years Ruth took me to one of the big stores when it was crowded. I don't say I enjoyed the terror but I enjoyed the fact I made myself stay in the store until I had got the things I wanted. I would love to be like Ruth - her brother is taking her into the most trendy part of the city to treat her to dinner to celebrate her new job and then taking her to a jazz bar. Last night was the first time I had been out in the evening for years. I generally stay home all weekend too except if Ruth or Nicky take me to the library. I hope that you feel better tomorrow Mal.

    kiwi lady
    December 12, 2003 - 12:59 am
    Anneo - I am glad you did talk to us. It was NOT the wrong thing to do.


    December 12, 2003 - 01:39 am
    OH Ginny How did we make this a bit different and off the discusion if I had any thing to do with it Please forgive me.

    We really should go back to the book and the Authors that have been and will be sharing with us THERE Life.

    kiwi lady
    December 12, 2003 - 02:07 am
    Ginger you do not have anything to reproach yourself with. Lets just get on with things. I think nothing but good can come out of all the sharing that has happened in this discussion. I am not at all upset. Don't take it all to heart so much! Tomorrow is another day!

    December 12, 2003 - 04:59 am
    First of all, I want to say how much respect...and feelings of love I have for those of you who have been abused in childhood. It takes great strength and bravery to be able to even break the silence and address those issues in one-on-one therapy sessions, much less share those experiences in a world-wide forum such as this.

    Just sharing those experiences brings up strong emotions, as it brings up some of the emotions which occurred during the initial abuse. However, every time you're able to share the pain becomes a little less and has less power over you. The saying 'We're as sick as the secrets we keep' is so true, as is the saying, 'A problem shared is a problem halved.' Of course people would be feeling a bit sensitive, and get a bit stroppy, whether it was childhood abuse, overcoming substance abuse, or having to deal with physical handicaps. I even got stroppy when I became emotionally involved in my daughters trauma...and was even feeling traumatised myself, and that wasn't nearly as traumatic as some of the situations many of you experienced in your childhood, and even adult lives.

    I view this forum as one where the participants have bonded with each other, rather like a family, and heaven knows, families have fights, but they don't stop loving the member they've had the fight with and eventually their relationship becomes stronger if they can work through it. I see this occurring at present.

    I feel very moved, not only by the sharing but also what I am currently seeing...the making-up. Pat yourselves on the back. You're all survivors and I'm so proud of all of you. And, I'm sorry if I got a bit stroppy. I didn't mean to offend anyone. I got a lovely card from one of the friends I visited when I went down south. (Carolyn, it was Vera who you've met)...a card letting me know she understood my pain about Krysti and was there for me. It was a SN card. Hint!


    December 12, 2003 - 06:14 am
    The good news IS (well one of the pieces of good news) is that we DON'T have to move on!! I had written Pat Westerdale in panic last night we needed Brenda Molina's heading up THIS MORNING and she said no, it's not till Tuesday? YAY! Reprieve! SOOO we can remain a bit longer with Nancy Birkla and let's go back and get Tabbi's questions, too?

    And I'd also like for us to read Dale Griffith's chapter in these few days of peace we have before we start out again, as she's coming in and we don't have anything to ask her, either? Could you read her section and see what you want to ask her? I have 2 million questions for her, here's our chance to find out from the administration side, we'll have both sides here: an incredible opportunity!

    The BAD news is all mine, I see that there are 53 new posts here of a very searing personal nature, but I only have 4 minutes left before I leave, so I'm not even going to try to address them now, (but I will, later) except to say {{{{{HUGS}}}} to all of you for the pain I can see you have suffered, I am so sorry, thank you for showing us the commonality of the human experience in sharing your own stories, and your own examples of how people can rise above what happens to them: they blew me away, but more on that later, I'm sorry I have to leave.

    And because of that, I need your help?

    If you can find Print Page, (Joan I have something on Subscriptions you will like, later) will you look back the last 300 posts or so and find every question addressed to an author and will you take, if you are willing, ONE author to look for, like Tabbi, if you'll say here, (you'll have to post it here or others will be duplicating work) "I'll look for Tabbi Questions" or whoever, and then post all of them? I hope that you will, as you come in today, each take a different one till they are all covered! Likewise will one of you take Questions for the Group and will one of you take Questions for Nancy Birkla, (we want the questions that are not currently on their own pages) Will one of you take Nancy Whiteley? Will you just come in here and paste them so Pat can put them on each page?

    Check the heading first and make sure the question is not up there? That would be SUCH a help? I have regarded you all as equal Facilitators , Partners in this discussion presentation, and I really REALLY REALLY would appreciate that assistance this morning, this is a huge huge undertaking, we've never done anything like it before and I don't think it's bad to admit I need some help?

    There are still also some really good questions in the heading and only a couple of people have said what they thought Three Steps Past the Monkeys means, so I'm so grateful to have another day to look at Nancy B's story, back later on, let's look at Nancy's questions today, let's think up your reactions to Dale Griffith's (pages 336-349) since we have her to talk to, let's see if any of you have any other questions for Tabbi now that we can talk to HER and let's be thinking of questions for Wally Lamb, who will be back with us on December 19!

    Thank you for everything.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 06:50 am
    I apologize. I had a terrible moment of weakness. The death of my mother-in-law last night (my lifetime friend) added to it. I had no right to burden you with problems I have. I have turned them over to my Higher Power, and there is an easing now. ZINNA, with an inoperable cancerous tumor has far worse issues to contend with than I do.

    It was NANCY BIRKLA who asked me to return to this discussion night before last, and I promised I would. I believe methods she has used to overcome so much, and those I use are similar, and it is the effect of those methods that are in my post which ANNEO, at least, thinks is cruel. I've been thinking so much about Nancy, and there's a question in my mind.

    When she was arrested, she hadn't used drugs for TWO WEEKS! On what grounds then, did they arrest her? Did they accuse her of selling drugs? She hadn't been near any drugs for TWO WEEKS! Was that a fair arrest? Did the police have grounds to arrest her and put her through all she went through? Was she wrongly accused? Granted that she had used drugs in the past, if they had tested her for drugs, her urine would have been CLEAN! I've wondered about this, and wish she were here to answer.

    MOUNTAIN ROSE said a very good thing when she said we're all on our own time schedule. I assume she meant as far as recovery and learning is concerned. I went through my beginning hell of recovery and taking that painful self-inventory twenty-four years ago. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS!

    It was then I admitted to myself and another person wrongs I had done and told her everything that had hurt me. It was then I learned that I mustn't dwell on the painful scars of those things that had happened to me and hurt me; that I must turn them over to my Higher Power. When I finally knew how, it was a tremendous relief, and this is why I suggested what I did to ZINNIA and ANNEO.

    For anyone who has not been through the same process that I have, and that perhaps Nancy Birkla and other writers in the book have, the method might seem harsh; I don't know. I do know that when I went through this process, there were no hugs for me from the person who so patiently listened to what I said and watched me cry without offering even a pat on my hand. I was told that I must then go on to the next step of acceptance of what had happened to me; then the next step and the next one, and then repeat the process as often as I needed to until I had really accepted my life and myself. This was an example of very tough love.

    The last prescribed step for me and others like me is to share what I've learned with other people who are in pain and want to feel better. This is what I was trying to do with ANNEO and ZINNIA last night. I wasn't saying that this is the best or the only way; I was saying it worked for me and has worked for many others I know, and perhaps it might work for them.

    It is a lovely morning here in North Carolina. The world is full of joy. Holidays are coming, a time of sharing, being with family, and giving and love. That's what I'm focusing on today. Now I'm going to go and make some web pages for the magazines I do, for writers I know and care for. It is all I can give to them, and I want these gifts to be beautiful.


    December 12, 2003 - 06:56 am
    Good on you, Mal.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 08:20 am
    GINNY, I am looking for questions for Nancy Birkla.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 09:15 am
    How did they de-tox people in the prison where you were? Were certain prescribed drugs and therapy offered along with 12 Step programs, or was the only method of detoxification "cold turkey"? . . . . Mal

    I am wondering if there is some way we can get people to understand addiction and therefore find better ways to treat it? . . . . Jerilyn

    . . . . an impression among the general public that prison guards tend to be 'bottom of the barrel' in law enforcement. More brutal, more judgmental, harsher, less qualified, less educated. Is this an unfair assessment, based on Hollywood misrepresentations, or would you say it is accurate?

    Was there ever a time that anyone tried to help you with your spirituality as you were learning how to make wiser choices in life and to take responsibility for your own lives? . . . . . Andrea

    I am wondering what the hole is like now? . . . . Ginger

    Did you think of Judy Garland when watching The Wizard of Oz? Did you compare her life to yours? . . . . Hats

    Wouldn't we all like to know how they train guards in prison? What behaviors are they taught and who supervises these guards? . . . . Ella

    How long did it take you to write this? Did you add the Oz and the Monkeys from the first or later on? . . . . Ginny

    What did the evaluation sheet assessment mean by "expansive personality?" . . . . Ginny

    How is the conquering regret over the past part of this sequence? . . . . Ginny

    Nancy, why did you title it "Three Steps Past the Monkeys?" . . . . Ginny

    Nancy, is there a particular book (or books) about the writer's craft that you would recommend? Is there a text that was used in the classes at the prison?. . . .Zinnia

    Did you ever have counseling or therapy? Your parents never suspected that something of this nature could have happened when you were a child? . . . .Ella

    Do your current colleagues know about your background and how do they react to it? . . . Pedln
    <br. Do you feel your incarceration has had an effect on their relationships with you? . . . . Pedln

    How do you feel about monkeys today? . . . . Ginny

    I'm trying to say you had said you can watch the Wizard of Oz now, without trauma, does seeing a monkey bother you?. . . .Ginny

    I sort of was taken by the possible monkey imagery? symbolism? . . . .

    Surely you are not suggesting that there is really a direct connection to drug abuse? . . . Horselover

    The need is then to address the underlying issues. Right? . . . . Bobbie

    Nancy, if you saw any of the links I posted about Shadow Work, did any of them relate to what you are doing? . . . . Zinnia
    Are there any stats, or studies on this, that the influence of a pre school teacher can overcome a bad home enviromnent? I know about Head Start, but aren't you talking about something other than reading readiness? . . . . Ginny

    Do you see any analagy between the pay for pre-school teachers, and that for under-paid prison guards.? . . . . Pedln

    Do prison guards receive any kind of training? And are there programs such as an assoc. degree in Criminal Justice with a focus on institutions? . . . . Pedln

    I wonder if Nancy isn't reminding us, also, how close an addict can be to falling back into addiction... just three steps away from that monkey on the back? . . . Zinnia

    Are you open to a question on the pins or would you rather pass on that one? . . . . Ginny

    Nancy when you first started your draft, how did you begin it? . . . Ginny

    Are your journal entries the same as what you wrote or have you altered them for the same of the chapter?. . . Ginny

    Were his (Wally Lamb's) thoughts more on arrangement or presentation than content or both?. . . . Ginny

    What are some of the devices he (Wally Lamb) suggested? . . . . Ginny

    Do you have any more insight today into why that (using the pins) seemed to help? . . . . Ginny

    What was their ( your parents') reaction (to the book)? . . . . Ginny

    Was your family worried that your writing for publication would hurt you? Or were they afraid it would hurt them?. . . Mal

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 09:57 am
    Whom did you have then (when her father deserted you)? . . .Ginny

    Whom could you trust from that point on besides herself?. . . . Ginny

    Which is the true face of earth (the view from the airplane or what's on the ground)? . . . . Horselover

    Now that you are out of prison, do you let people know about it? If so what is their reaction? . . . .Jerilyn

    What might the airport scenes symbolize?. . . .Ginny

    What does the recurring EGG imagery mean? Could it symbolize something?. . . .Ginny

    Nancy, do you see your sisters now and how is your relationship with them? . . . . Ginny

    Do they have different memories of these events or are they the same?. . . .. Ginny

    Do you think impaired judgment caused by the abuse of alcohol and/or other drugs plays a significant part in the committing of crimes that make people end up convicted and serving a prison sentence? . . . Mal

    Did you come to know Nancy Whitley by the time your story was ready for publication? . . . Carolyn

    I should like to ask each and all of these women, how do we help change things?. . . Anneo

    How do we let them know that ours is not simply voyeuristic interest, but rather a compelling need to see our society do better?. . . .Anneo

    I would like to ask the authors who are parents how they try to provide that (a good) foundation for their children. . . . JoanK

    Wonder what that means (repetition of the egg image)! . . . .Giinny

    What would be the conclusions of a child raised who was betrayed?. . . Ginny

    What can we do?. . . Ginny

    What does the title (True Face of the Earth) mean?. . . . Ginny

    What happened to Izzy and his wife? . . . Horselover

    What would Izzy have written? . . . Stephanie

    ARE some people doomed to look "trashy?" . . . Ginny

    Is your mother still alive now and if not do you think you could write again? . . . . Ginny

    Nancy, what are you writing now? . . . Mal

    Did your parents' problems and divorce impact on your life in any way?. . . .Ella

    If you had had a more loving home, would your life have been different? . . . . Ella

    Were you searching for love from all the boys you had relations with? . . . . Ella

    Was Izzy a real person? . . . Ginny

    If so have you heard from him since you wrote the story? . . . . Ginny

    How can we stop this pattern in people's lives? . . . Hairy

    Do we need a better economic system?. . . .Hairy

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 10:15 am
    For Tabbi and the other authors:

    1. Did you work while you were in prison? If you did, what did you do?. . . .Mal

    2. Was the treatment you received unduly harsh while you were in prison?. . . .Mal

    3. What do you think the average person can do to help improve the quality of life in prisons?. . . Mal

    Questions for Tabbi:

    We all love your artwork. Have you had any formal training in art?. . . .Mal

    How did you hear Wally Lamb was coming to the prison? . . . Ginny

    Was Dale there first? . . . .Ginny

    What attracted you to the class, had you always thought of writing?. . . .Ginny

    Why did so many people drop out, are they sorry now they did? . . . .Ginny

    December 12, 2003 - 10:47 am
    You can omit my question about the writer's craft. I finished the book last night and there is a comprehensive list at the end.

    Also, Nancy answered my question about the Shadow Work links. She posted that the first of those links is the method she uses.

    I apologize for my participation in anything that hurt anyone. I should not have posted something so personal, painful and private in front of a bunch of virtual strangers. It did seem appropriate at the time because I was sharing the same sort of thing as the authors and other posters. But to read that I was obsessing was entirely too much pain, and I fear that I reacted rather than acted.

    I know what Anneo has been through and I think she was far wiser than I when she elected not to post about it.

    Mal, I can certainly relate to your disabilities because I am also disabled. I also have serious financial difficulties and am unable to afford the copays on all but 3 of my meds right now. I also build commercial web sites and I am an award winning artist, writer, student and teacher.

    In the midst of that, I am raising my 4-year-old grandson because of my daughter's addictions and her fight now to overcome them. I have no one to help me and no nearby friends because I have been sick ever since I moved here in May. My grandboy has no one else on earth, so we struggle along together and we are doing a magnificent job of it, especially considering the circumstances.

    I think what we need is to ask gentle questions rather than pontificate and make learned pronouncements when we are talking about people, events, and issues with which we are not familiar. I don't think your disabiity, life, or situation or mine give us license to hurt others.

    Someone made a very good point that we can't see the facial expression or hear the tone, so we need to be doubly careful of how our words affect others who read and post here.

    When I tell these facts about my life, I have little or no self-pity. I live with my situation and I keep fighting to make it better. After all, even though I was never arrested or in jail, I am the person who made the wrong choices that got me where I am today. And in many cases, compared to the women in the book, it seems like the only difference is that I didn't get caught. I didn't get caught drunk driving, I didn't have anyone killed because of my drunk driving, and I managed to get away from my abusers as an adult before I crossed the line.

    I thank you all for the people you are. If I have gained nothing else from this wonderful book and discussion, the women in the book and the posters here, I have gained more knowledge that I am not at all unusual, that things could be worse, and that other people have also struggled against heavy odds and gone on to fight to make better choices and have better lives.



    kiwi lady
    December 12, 2003 - 10:58 am
    Karen - You certainly have your hands full! You are just amazing! I don't know how you cope full time with a four year old. I am having two of my grands (one is a baby) on Sunday and I know I shall be exhausted when they go home. The baby is a very big kid and I have trouble lifting him.

    Hugs Carolyn

    December 12, 2003 - 11:26 am
    I'm not some sort of heroine, just a loving grammie. This child has no one else and I have no one else, so we are the odd couple. He has been in my home over half of his life and I have, thank God, been able to have a lot of influence because even when his mom was also in my home, she was not a presence. She was either asleep, having a rage, or out doing whatever it was she did. (She has recently written me a six-page letter outlining all of it.) She is very young and I have a lot of hope for her, especially since she got clean on her own and now is in five different programs that are helping her mature and put down her past. I have never given up on her, to the consternation of many friends; I have, though, given up on enabling her and/or having her in my homme.

    Drewie is a huge help to me. We are a team, he says. When he awakens each morning, the first thing he does is give me a huge smile and tell me, "Grammie, we are best buddies." Then I say, "In the whole wide world?" and then he says, "No, Grammie, in the whole uniberse." He gives me a reason to keep fighting. He's all boy and a yard wide, but also very kind and caring, cooperative and helpful. His counselor says he has the vocabulary, reasoning and thinking skills of a 10-year-old. He is a computer nerd because I have been teaching him all this time. But I care more that he is a good human being than that he is cute, intelligent, or talented. He is Cambodian, Native American, and Caucasian and has already had to deal with ethnic slurs, but he handles them admirably. Some uncivilized little hooligans in McDonald's play area, bigger boys, called him "slanty eyes" and I'm not sure what else. He just looked at them and said in a very strong voice that they had bad manners and were being "olnoxious," and then proceeded to lead them in play.

    I am most proud of him because he is very kind to others and makes a special effort for smaller children and handicapped children. He is a leader at Head Start and raises ned with anyone who wants to bully or exclude someone else. He isn't the largest child, but he has the most strength of character and is very successful at it. I think his vocabulary dazzles them.

    Okay... enough boasting... LOLOL!!! And thank you for the opportunity!

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 11:32 am
    To see some of Zinnia's beautiful artwork, please click the link below.

    Artwork by Lady Zinnia

    December 12, 2003 - 11:49 am
    ZINNIA: please never be sorry that you have shared so much of yourself with us. You have enriched all our lives by doing so. You are right that all we can give at this distance is our love and support, but know that you have those from all of us. I did not post last night, but I was there, crying with you.

    I too have a four year old grand who is the light of my life. But I could not raise him alone as you are doing. I admire that so much.

    I am sorry that your artwork doesn't show up on my browser.

    kiwi lady
    December 12, 2003 - 12:02 pm
    Karen - What do I say, I am blown away. I LOVE your paintings! The portraits of your dad are just incredible.

    December 12, 2003 - 12:12 pm
    Thank you all, and thanks to Mal for posting the link. That server is awful for popups and I am working on my own domain but the shoemakers children go barefoot in this case. I have a lot of newer things but have not photographed and/or posted them. I do have a couple of other sites that have to do with my art in other contexts and I'll find the links and post them soon.

    I went back to school in 2001 to add on an art degree. Have two years in, 4.0, and won 9 scholarships. Stopped last December because of going into the hospital and have been in and out ever since and on medical leave also from working. Had to forfeit half of the scholarships. And I put everything on hold to be able to care for the little guy full time because his mom fouled up and lost his child care for when I was at school.

    I hope to be back at school and teaching or counseling again, at least part time, by Spring semester, now that Drewie is firmly ensconced in Head Start (afternoons) and KinCare has authorized me some additional respite care for him, also. I don't want to take away too much time from Drewie but I do want to keep proceeding towards my goal and/or towards having one heck of a grand time going to school.

    December 12, 2003 - 01:10 pm
    I too love seeing the paintings. Thank you, Mal, for posting the link, and thank you Karen for putting them on the internet. I love them. My two favorites are the one of your Dad at the top and the one of the store front that has won many prizes. I see why.

    December 12, 2003 - 01:10 pm
    Please excuse this butting in here again, but I have to do it!!

    Zinnia, I am overwhelmed by your art work! WOW!@!@!@!@!@


    December 12, 2003 - 01:35 pm
    Wow! Thanks, Mal, what great Lists.. That will make a great way for me to organized the pages of questions for each author.

    I really would like to include all questions, because it shows that individually and as a group you have given these stories some real thought. Questions about the prison systems, the writers methods, and questions about their personal lives ....

    If you have questions that you haven't posted, but wonder about.... post them so they can be included too.

    December 12, 2003 - 01:46 pm
    I just looked at the VERY nice pages by Zinnia... Beautiful... I know they are copyrighted, but could I print a couple to hang on my board above my computer?...

    December 12, 2003 - 02:02 pm
    You sure can and thanks so much for the compliment of doing so! Since my script will prevent you drom downloqading the individual graphic files, I would be happy to send you any that you would like to print. Just let me know!

    December 12, 2003 - 02:02 pm
    Thanks MAL for that link and Zinnia they are wonderful....what a talent...I cant say which I liked best but the one of you father stands out..and the painting that was a prelude to your friend telling you her dream....those are not steps to nowhere but in my mind steps to somewhere....I often have a dream or even sometimes when I just close my eyes and find myself at the beginning of a road...someplace I have never been but also know it leads somewhere and is is not a road to fear....your painting reminded me of that picture in my mind. anna

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 02:41 pm
    Yes, ZINNIA is a very fine artist. I have known this for some time and wish she'd send me some pictures for an art page I'll feature in my magazine, Sonata. I only wish something would happen so you could go back to art school and continue what you love to do and do so well, ZINNIA. I'd like to tell you that I grew up not far from Hampton Beach, and every time I see your painting I grow homesick for New England and the beach I love so much.

    Since I believe music and art are two of the most wonderful things in the world, I am posting a link below of two of my paintings. I am not an artist of the caliber of ZINNIA by any means and never had a lesson, and this is not an art competition or any other kind of competition, but the picture I painted from memory of my mother a few years ago is on this page. I didn't have a picture of her, so painted one. Later one of my sisters sent me a picture. I hadn't forgotten how my mother looked when I painted this picture many, many years after she died.

    The other painting is a composite of a room in the house in Massachusetts of the old New England Yankee who gave me such good tough love, at a time when I thought my life had ended, and a window in Florida where I lived after my mentor died and I no longer was taking care of him.


    December 12, 2003 - 03:05 pm
    almost miraculous---the way women are in touch with emotions and the way they are so willing to share their lives and their pain so openly. What that does for each one is that it helps each of us not to feel so alone. I think the male gender is far behind us in that evolutionary path, and I'm not sure they will ever really catch up. They can rarely share that openly with each other, and that's why they need us to show them the way or at least give them some clues.

    I also think that because of that very ability of being in touch with our inner cores, women in prison who get the opportunity to explore these emotions (such as in these writing classes) have a better chance at revamping their lives. Looking back like that and getting in touch helps one to see the road one has taken, and where a person might have wandered off on a destructive detour.

    I've written my autobiography, or at least have begun it, not as anything to ever be published, but just to leave as a legacy for my children, and to see in a chronological order why I ended up where I've ended up, why I react in certain ways and not in others, and it certainly has helped me come to conclusions as to where I made bad choices in my life.

    Most of my bad choices stem not from parental childhood abuse in my case, but from being born in WWII in Berlin, Germany, and spending the first 5 years of my life in war with hunger and bone-chilling cold, with no home except for a little red wagon, and death and destruction all around. My very first childhood memory is at about age 2 and is of a bomb shelter which suffered a direct hit, when all the lights went out and people fell all over each other like rag dolls. Many of them, in their heavy winter coats, fell on my little brother's baby carriage, and I remember my mother, in that gloomy light, clawing her way over the pile of people to get to her baby down below, because she was frantic that he would suffocate under all those winter coated people. She had superhuman strength to get them all off her baby, and once he was free, the relief she felt that he was alive and breathing. I remember the gnawing hunger, the moving armies, the planes that used us as target practice where we'd have to drop into ditches over dead bodies while my mother shielded us with her body, and the TB my brother and I had after the war was over because of malnourishment.

    So I wrote it all down, and it helped me to see why to this day I react in certain ways to waste, or to the testing of air raid sirens, or people not "getting on with life" no matter what they have to endure. My mother endured incredible stuff, just as other people did then and are still enduring, but she did it, and she protected us to where nd I never felt much fear, and I felt loved and cared for. And once it was over she went on with life, singing while she worked like a dog to get us enough food so that we would be cured of TB (which she succeeded at!), and I remember my childhood as this golden shiny wonderful thing.

    Isn't it odd though, my brother has different memories, and his are nowhere near as bright and shiny. I wonder why we are all so different in such similar circumstances.

    kiwi lady
    December 12, 2003 - 03:11 pm
    Oh Mountain Rose - What terror you must have suffered as child. I break my heart when today I hear of the civilian casualties in war. I am so angry. I cannot hate anyone enough to want them to die. Its beyond my comprehension how people can shrug off the deaths of all those children in our global community who are war casualties. Thank God you were spared. There are so many amazing stories coming out of this discussion that its like reading another book. You are all such amazing people, and so talented!

    December 12, 2003 - 03:23 pm
    I'm familiar with Zinni's art and can't wait for her to post more, but obviously you are also extremely talented. And lordy, how I love to hear the piano! Of all the arts, if I ever come back in another lifetime, it will have to be as a musician! My dad was a violinist in the Berlin symphony until he was canned for his politically incorrect views, but he used to play for us every Christmas---just for the family. And I'll never forget his serious look as he put that violin under his chin until it settled into just the right place, and lifted the bow, and then that wonderful waterfall of sound!!!

    I think art is the thing that saved my sanity. When the bombs fell and the sirens blared and the world shook, all my mother used to have to do is hand me pencil and paper, and I'd be off in my own little world without fear of anything at all. I'm still like that, and my happiest moments are when I'm out in nature working on a painting. When the weather is good I'm always outside.

    Now that things have calmed down a bit, I also wanted to tell you Mal, that I think your mother did a wonderful thing when you described sexual abuse to her as a child. Unlike a lot of mothers, she did not deny that it happened, and seemed not to have reacted with either shock or anger, but handled it in a matter-of-fact way and BELIEVED YOU. I think mothers who don't believe their daughters or punish the daughters in some way do more damage than the original abuse. I know that was the case with both my sisters-in-law, whose mother refused to acknowledge that it ever happened. From that time on the girls learned not to trust their perceptions anymore, and once you learn to mistrust your own perceptions, it's the beginning of crazy-making and a constant fight to figure out where your boundaries are.

    Because of the way both my mother and father were, I think I would have reacted much like you did. My mother always handled WHAT IS in a very matter-of-fact way and believed me to where I could trust my perceptions, no matter how chaotic my life subsequently got when I got married. No wonder you missed her so.

    I'm sending HUGS your way. Did you know that we are both "Moon Children" or "Crabs"? I knew that before you gave your birth date, 'cause it's us crabs that have the tendency to crawl into our shells when we feel overwhelmed or hurt or confused. I have the same tendency, which is also why I'm a hermit. The thing is, I like it inside my shell all alone, and I come back out only whenever I get bored. By the way, my birthday is July 3rd, and once I figured out that all the fireworks that happen during that time of year were not in celebration of my birthday (my first really BIG disappointmentin life!) I felt I could handle anything else that came up. LOL

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 12, 2003 - 03:31 pm
    MOUNTAIN ROSE, your post made me cry. Imagine that our birthdays are so close! You're right about people born under the sign of Cancer. We do crawl into our shells to pull ourselves together. People think we're running away. We're not, really. We just have to be quiet and very peaceful sometimes.

    I'm so impressed that your father was a violinist in the Berlin Symphony. It takes much talent to play in an orchestra like that.

    I hope someday you'll show us some of your paintings. Thank you for what you said about mine.

    My mother was a very special woman. My life would have been quite different if she had lived to be older than her early forties.

    Many hugs to you, too!


    December 12, 2003 - 05:43 pm
    Did Anyone see the Oprah show today about women Prisoners?

    She mentioned the Pov "What I want my words to do to you" and "Coundn't Keep it to myself" she had some of the prisoners from the York Correctional Instutition there also. I liked seeing there real face and expressions. For me it was a very emotional program.

    December 12, 2003 - 06:01 pm
    The type of Hell you have been through early on in your life is Very sad to me as I have Not been through what you have but for most of us it seems that it is nessasary to make us strong as it has made you the strong person you are today, I am glad for that.

    Lady Zinna

    I love what I have saw of your Paintings and will get back very soon I hope.

    A legally blind friend of mine has fallen today so her family called me as she has broken her left leg, left arm and her right wrist so I have been Very busy today but do hope to get back to your Beautifull paintings.

    Mal Hey there you are on you way with another talent of yours. You never seem to stop amazing me.

    December 12, 2003 - 07:10 pm
    I've been gone for a little more than a day, and so much has taken place here, it took me 30 minutes just to read all the posts I missed. This book, much more than the fiction discussions, seems to generate personal memoirs among the participants that are similar to those of the authors. It's amazing what each of us brings to the reading of this book. I take my hat off to all of you for the courageous way you have coped with whatever life dished out.

    Mountain Rose, I'm so glad you are writing your autobiography for your children. I wish my mother and grandmother had done the same. There are so many things I would have liked to know about their lives and feelings. I know your children and grandchildren will be grateful that you took the time and effort to do this for them. Bravo!

    December 12, 2003 - 07:53 pm
    Mal - I really loved your paintings. Your style is marvelous and reminds me a lot of some of Van Gogh's paintings. (MG - did you see that similarity?) I hope there are more and wish I could see them. The paintings you see on my site were done before I ever had any formal training. It just sort of showed up in my early fifties. I went back to school trying to put a foundation under my house on stilts but they don't teach classical methods or things like actual drawing techniques... they wanted weird stuff, and I gave it to them, but I much prefer to produce beautiful things, regardless of media. My "weird" things are mostly symbolism rather than ugliness.

    I have seen many of Rose's paintings and she is extremely talented as well as prolific. Rose - I can't imagine what it must have been like for you in wartime Germany. That has to be like a surreal sort of nightmare to you now, but it must have been a living hell at the time.

    kiwi lady
    December 12, 2003 - 08:16 pm
    Karen - I love beauty in paintings too. There is enough ugliness in the world without putting it on my wall!

    December 12, 2003 - 09:49 pm
    I don't remember it being that terrible. I remember moments of sheer terror, but they were only moments, and I credit my mother with the fact that it was not more traumatic for me. Not only did she have an uncanny ability to find food (mostly wild plants since she was an expert in plant lore), but in spite of the conditions she kept us as clean as she could, continued to tell us pretty stories and she was always singing to us. She had a pretty voice and they were happy songs. I still remember the words to most of them, and Roxie and I often sing them when we drive, in her honor. And she picked up abandoned children along the way with whom we shared our dilapidated wagon until she found the next Red Cross station in which to drop them off with the hope that their families could be located.

    Like Mal's mother, she was very matter-of-fact and I don't remember her in any sort of panic or showing any fear---at least not to us, although she must have been terrified. When I'd see dead bodies in a ditch and asked her why those people aren't moving and looked so stiff, she would simply say, "They are dead people who have been shot." and then she would direct my attention to something pretty, like a cloud or a flower or a tree, and babble on about something positive. And so considering what was going on all around us, I have never felt particularly traumatized by it. As long as I had my mother I felt safe, even if that was just an illusion. Wish that all children had been so lucky.

    It does amaze me when I look back at how good she was at that, and like I said, I remember my childhood as being mostly golden. The things that did affect me were subconscious, and I've pretty much worked them all out. Both my parents suffered from post-traumatic stress for the rest of their lives from the things they saw and experienced, but they made a decent and safe life for my brother and me in spite of that. I got an insight into just how awful things had been for my mother when she relived some of them after she had Alzheimer's and was in a nursing home. It was amazing that she survived and that we survived reasonably intact.

    Believe it or not, the real trauma began after the war and especially after we came to America, and that's when I had to do some really hard work to deal with some of my background issues. But with the help of what I call "angels" in my life, including one particular teacher and an excellent psychologist, I've done the work and I'm at peace and am probably the only truly happy person I know. LOL

    And I also want to reiterate here, as I've said in other forums before, that the war HAD TO BE FOUGHT. There is no sense to me in being sentimental about things that need doing, and Hitler had to be eliminated. If the sacrifices had not been made, we would all be living in hell right now; and I feel the same way when any dictator is toppled and taken out. To do that I would even volunteer my own life, because I've heard all my life of what it was like to live under a dictatorship. So no, I am not anti-war. War is always tragic, and the innocent always suffer, but sometimes war has to be fought to stop even more suffering by despicable tyrants. To me that's just the way life is.

    December 13, 2003 - 12:45 am
    ZINNIA, MAL: both of your sets of paintings are great. I hope you keep it up.

    December 13, 2003 - 01:44 am
    ZINNIA and MAL....Wonderful paintings. I spent almost an hour studying them. It was like a trip to the Art Gallery. Thanks for that.

    I'm full of peace and serenity today. I took 3 of the blokes from the RTW Centre to their first outside AA meeting, and have taken on some the peace, serenity, love and spirituality which was in that meeting. As you said, Mal, everybody could benefit from the 12 Step programs.


    December 13, 2003 - 05:19 am
    Zinnia and Mal, your paintings are very, very beautiful.

    Kiwi and Everyone, my cold is a lot better. I don't have the flu, thank goodness.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 13, 2003 - 05:29 am
    Actually, BOBBIE, it occurred to me that what we participants here have been doing is a little bit like a 12 Step meeting. We have shared with each other some major things that have happened in our lives that we probably wouldn't have shared anywhere else. That's what happens at a meeting. Once in a while it has felt as if there was a speaker, as there are at speaker meetings, and we have had guests to tell us of their experiences. There were times when I felt as if you and I were 12 stepping. (You know what that means.) There have even been moments of the kinds of serenity that happens at 12 step meetings. There certainly has been a kind of bonding. What's been missing is the long table we sit around, the big urn of coffee, dry milk, sugar and sweetener, ashtrays and cigarettes sometimes, the laughter and camaraderie after meetings, and the Serenity Prayer.

    God grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change
    The courage to change the things I can
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Every line in that little prayer is an important step to the serenity you feel, BOBBIE. It's been an important help to me in great times of stress, including the few slips I've had over this period of twenty-four years.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 13, 2003 - 05:58 am
    Good morning, HATS! I'm very glad you are feeling better and that you don't have the flu.

    MOUNTAIN ROSE, I never felt as if I was sexually abused. The reason for that is, of course, because of my mother's reaction when I told her. I do think that our reaction to our children and grandchildren is very important.

    How lucky you are to have your little grandson with you, ZINNIA. I have five grandchildren. Because of circumstances and distance I see them rarely. The oldest is 27 and lived here a few years. In fact, Megan and I lived together a year, during which time I got her into 12 step programs to help her over an addiction problem; pushed her into a job and watched her start to recover. She now lives in Connecticut. The youngest is 4. I haven't seen her for two years. One I haven't seen since he was a baby. He's in his 20's now and lives in Massachusetts. Another lives in Florida. He's almost 13, and I haven't seen him since he was a year old. My daughter's son was five years old when I moved here to North Carolina, and I watched him grow up. We had a lot of fun together when he was small. I especially remember the "Midnight Eaters" parties we had when his parents were out or working. There was always ice cream with lots and lots of toppings. He's 18 now and at a university, so I don't see him much any more. The baby that's on the way is a boy. My son and his wife are naming him for my former husband. I don't know when I'll see this grandson-to-be after he's born, since travel is not easy for me any more, and I no longer get to New York as often as I did. We have an ecumenical kind of family. My New York son converted to Catholicism, and my little granddaughter is being raised a Catholic. My Florida grandson's maternal grandfather was a rabbi, and he's being raised as a Jew. He'll have his Bar Mitzvah in the Spring.

    Now I'm going to read again what Dale Griffith says in the book. I can't imagine walking into Niantic Prison that first day the way she did. I see that the Serenity Prayer is in her story, too.


    December 13, 2003 - 06:40 am
    I guess it will come as no surprise to you all that, having missed 4 days of this week's discussion, and now having read back 300 posts, I find myself so totally behind here that all I can think to do is go forward, thank you all for your heartfelt sharing of your own pasts, {{{{Zinnia, Anneo, Ginger, Rose, Malryn, Carolyn}}}} and to some of the rest of you who have likewise horrific backgrounds that you have not shared, that's a {{{{HUG}}}} for all of us who have survived and not only survived, triumphed, and who try continually in different ways, to do good.

    Thank you Malryn for isolating those recent questions!! That is a great help. The art work, Zinnia and Malryn, is out of this WORLD!! Many thanks for sharing that with US!! WOW!!

    This morning we move on. I'm going to start by talking a bit early about Dale Griffith's passage, it's the one on pages 336-349. We will give Dale the full two days at the end of the discussion but since she's coming in now, I wanted her to have some of your questions to answer and since she can provide some much needed information, I'm getting up her page this morning, let's take an informal look at Dale, while leaving Nancy B's heading intact this morning, and eagerly anticipating Nancy B's answers, what a joy this is.

    I am also hoping to see Nancy Whiteley again and Tabbi Rowley, and Pat is frantically working on their questions pages, it's a bit much to expect them to read 600 posts.

    When I read Dale's passage, it brought back a flood of memories. I don't know if you all recall something in the 70'c called O.I.C? Apparently it still exists! Here you can see it in use today for the Native American Indian AMERICAN INDIAN OIC

    I don't know what this particular program does or, almost 30 years later, what it has evolved into, the goals seem the same:

    Our Goals are: "To provide training, retraining, employment and economic development opportunities for unemployed and underemployed American Indian people in a culturally conducive atmosphere that addresses the needs of the whole person and families."

  • In the late 70's this program was administered through the local school systems here and attempted to offer free classes and GED programs to those adults most in need.

    I taught, while in graduate school, in the local O.I.C, which was administered through the adult education wing of School District 7 here in South Carolina.

    Reading Dale's story was like old home week, the situation remarkably similar, many of the adult students with a reading level of 1-4 grade, the contests and published Writing Magazines (wish I had been smart enough to think up that contest!!!!) and more….actually. More. At least in prison the students have food to eat, if they don't, they did not want to.

    It's something else to stand up in front of a class of people older and much wiser, especially in the ways of the world, than you are, in which Mary, a 40 + woman, has not literally eaten any food in three days, not a drop, no money and the kids need to eat first. It's something else to have students fall over on the floor, from all sorts of reasons, and yes it's something else to have a student rise up and attack you while under the influence of drugs.

    It's something else to have the local pimp arrive in his Eldorado (pronounced El dor AY doh) a man so bedecked in fine clothes, rings, jewelry he dazzled: what a figure he made, everybody rushed to the windows to SEE his advent, and His Highness even made a sweep of the classroom, never mind somebody is trying to teach. Easy money, rings, flash, Temptation in an EldorAYdo, and it's not hard to see how influential he was, he was almost a celebrity.

    It's a whole new ball game, a whole new playing field, but the people, the goodness of the people, even under the more horrific stressful situations, which included burning the actual wood frames of their houses, I have seen this with my own eyes, in order to keep warm, but still the goodness of the people always always shines thru. There was XXX, a young woman in the Projects, who organized a Sunday School Bible Study sort of camp in her projects to keep the kids off the streets and it worked, she did projects, they planted gardens ( I thought Dale's sentence on the planted daffodils nobody saw heartbreaking). In fact it seemed the worse off somebody in the class WAS the more they were trying to do for others.

    How can you teach such a person, or more accurately, what can you be taught, what will YOU learn? So you will understand why a quote in Dale's passage stopped me up short:

    "And don't be no trick," she said.. (Page 338)

    A "trick," Marcia explained, was a staff member whom the inmates manipulated into doing favors. "Carmen's right" she said. "Some of the women here are professional cons. Just remember, a staff member who gets played an violated the rules can lost her job." OK here, I guess the Chief Patsy of the world gulps and says, Dale, please explain this? What is meant by "doing favors?" Do you find that you have had to strengthen your own natural tendency to help, or how do you handle appeals? More for Dale……

    December 13, 2003 - 06:56 am
    I'm running about 60 posts behind, so please forgive me for being off topic.

    I finished Nancy Birkla's story and found it most profound and moving.

    I remember she asked what we thought the 3 Steps Beyond the Monkeys meant.

    Two thoughts came to mind:

    She had worked those first three steps well and had gotten beyond the frightening monkeys in her life.

    It also occurred to me that getting beyond the monkeys might have also meant her life became worse after seeing the Wizard of Oz when she was young. She went 3 steps beyond the bizarre, grotesque,frightening monkeys in that film by getting into drinking, drugging, eating - all of which were far beyond the insanity and scariness of those awful monkeys.

    Be back later. I also read the current selection which was very interesting. I give credit to all of you who have been involved with this book. It's a wonderful undertaking and it's all the love that made it come to fruition. This certainly points the way on how to begin Prison Reform.


    December 13, 2003 - 07:07 am
    Hairy (Linda) so glad to see you, and I very much like your last paragraph, "I also read the current selection which was very interesting. I give credit to all of you who have been involved with this book. It's a wonderful undertaking and it's all the love that made it come to fruition. This certainly points the way on how to begin Prison Reform."

    That is beautiful, thank you very much!

    Hats, welcome back!! I am glad you are feeling better, I was mesmerized way back there with your thoughts on why it used to be thought of as beauty in the Black Woman thank you for that. (I also enjoyed the links on dreadlocks as well, I see I also had no idea how they differed from cornrows) a very informative discussion.

    more on Dale...I will write you all several things here shortly about the Shifting Sands of the Schedule.


    December 13, 2003 - 07:13 am
    Two other things we have not asked Nancy Birkla, I'd like to add now. One concerns the inclusion of Journal Entries:

    What made you decide to include them into the story and are they changed from when you first wrote them for the sake of the story?

    I think that we don't realize fully what a complex complicated thing Nancy B's story is? It has many recurring themes and motifs, the Wizard of Oz movie and the symbolism of monkeys and the Oz like trip, the constant...almost dual flashbacks to two different times in her past, that is a very complex thing.
  • I was concerned that Nonna seemed to be the first one to tell Nancy B that God loved her. So I would like to inquire if it's not too nosy, what religious education Nancy received as a young child?

  • You mentioned Wally Lamb's work as Editor with you on this piece, what was the biggest thing you diagreed with him on? And what was the outcome: in other words what did he want to see and what did you finally decide?
  • Ginny
    December 13, 2003 - 07:22 am
    Continuing thoughts for Dale (do you notice she calls God "She?")

    You mention quite a difference in the old York Prison and the new, and state on page 343,
    The new compound, which bore Janet York's name, was a decidedly different facility. Now, all inmates lived under tightly enforced maximum-security regulation. Many of the small, incentive-building privileges and humanizing gestures extended to low-risk inmates were surrendered during this transition.

    Could you describe the difference in a regular prison and a maximum-security prison? Those of us with NO knowledge of prisons are not sure what the difference is?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 13, 2003 - 08:46 am
    1. Dale, what do you think causes the high rate of recidivism at York?

    2. Is it possibly because released prisoners go back into the same environment they left?

    3. What, if anything, are released prisoners given when they leave prison so they can get a start on building a new life?

    4. Are they given a certain amount of money when they're released, for example?


    December 13, 2003 - 09:58 am
    I'd like to call your attention to our new Links to Questions Pages, the first set under Wally Lamb's photo in the heading:
    Our Questions for Wally Lamb
    Our Questions for Nancy Whiteley
    Our Questions for Tabbi Rowley
    Our Questions for Nancy Birkla
    Our Questions for Dale Griffith
    Our Questions for the Authors

    These, of course, are still under construction and will remain so, and the authors need not regard these as a QUIZ but just pick ONE that suits and answer it and that ONE will be ONE more than we knew before, just don't want to leave any bases uncovered.

    Also note in the bottom of the heading:
    Previous Questions: Introduction and "The True Face of Earth"
    Previous Questions: "Orbiting Izzy"
    Previous Questions: "Thefts"
    Previous Questions: "Hair Chronicles"

    These pages, all, are the very hard work of Pat Westerdale, and it's quite unusual to see so many HTML pages of such attractiveness presented in 12 days of discussion, hats off to YOU, Pat.

    I think the sheer magnitude of effort being made here alone, or I hope at least the sheer magnitude of dedication and work will reinforce to you our dedication here in what we're tying to do in our dicsusison of this book, and , indeed, in our entire Books & Literature program. I would quote Bruce Springsteen but I won't, but we're not just.....hahahaha playing around here. haahahah

    (They don't call him "The Boss" for nothing) hahahaha

    Here are some general questions for all of us, just in a post here not in the heading?

  • Do you have any idea of what the prisoners are allowed and NOT allowed to have? How they come by and keep money? What the "box" is?
  • Dale Griffith mentions Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye Have you read it?

  • What did you think of Lorretta's method of writing:
    I remembered you said just write down anything, so I wrote, "I don't have nothing to say." I kept writing that until somethint else came out. It's not too good, but it's something." Stephen King says that all anybody has to do is sit at a word processor 4 hours a day and he will become a writer, have you ever tried that technique?

  • What do YOU think a Writing Program can do for inmates?

  • What is your opinion of Dale Griffith's statement on page 343: " the prison school, where standards are high, personal responsibility is a must, and rehabilitation is the reason for existence." How might this differ from the rest of the prison environment and other prisons?

  • Denjer
    December 13, 2003 - 10:55 am
    Sorry, I have had not much time to post, busy time of the year for me.

    Someone brought up the subject of the prisons being used as a dumping grounds for the mentally ill. In Michigan the authorities made the decision to close all the state institutions for the mentally ill. When they did this, of course there was no place for many of them to go. They did open assisted living homes for the developmentally disabled, but so many of them fell through the cracks. A great many of them are now out on the streets. There have been a couple of incidents in the Grand Rapids police department. One where a mentally deranged man was taken into custody and got into a struggle with the police. When they could not get him calmed down they sprayed him with mace. For an ordinary person this would work, but for a man who was mentally unstable and on drugs to boot, it just made him more angry and more determined. Because of the increase in adreline flow and the ensuing struggle he had a heart attck and died on the floor in the booking room. They are now talking about training police in the handling of a mentally unstable person.

    There was another incident in which an young man, also with mental problems, stole a soft drink from McDonalds. They called the police and a woman police officer tried to detain him to ask him questions. When she caught up with him about a block away from the fast food place, he became violent and she sprayed him with mace. He proceeded to beat her up so bad that she was on leave for more then three months from the police department and has had numerous surgery to put her face back together. The young man is being sent to prison for assault. This all started with the theft of a soft drink.

    The question is what are our options? The state institutions were terrible places in which the mentally ill were warehoused and forgotten. We don't want to go back to that, I'm sure.


    December 13, 2003 - 10:57 am
    I am really impressed at the wonderful job Pat has done throughout this discussion! And I add my thanks to the rest.

    December 13, 2003 - 11:47 am
    I had a neighbor who worked for a halfway house for the mentally unstable, and I recall how upsetting it was to her when that place closed due to budget cuts and she had to release all these people who had nowhere to go and could not function in society due to their illnesses.

    the thing is, until we get it sorted out, what can the police do? They ENFORCE the law, even if the law is broken by someone who is mentally ill. It has to be enforced. But what to do with the mentally ill once the law has been enforced? I think it's a time bomb to put the mentally ill together with hardened criminals, but I'm not sure what the answer is without enough money or proper direction.

    kiwi lady
    December 13, 2003 - 11:54 am
    Many of the patients in our residential institutions for the mentally ill did not want to leave. They said they felt safe and their drugs were supervised etc. The institutions were not prisons and all had beautiful grounds and they did get to go out with supervision into the community. The only reason they were closed down was to save money. Those who felt they needed to be in residential institutions should have had the option to stay there. Its criminal to just dump them in the community with lack of support (money again) to committ suicide or to be shot by police while they are having a psychotic episode. Society in general does not care about psychiatric patients. They are people just like us and they have a disablity of the mind, they do not get the sympathy those with physical disabilities get.

    December 13, 2003 - 11:54 am
    I admire people like Dale who are in the trenches daily, caring, teaching, helping. And like Wally Lamb, who has changed these (and other) women's lives forever. He has given them a voice, the idea that they matter, and the idea that someone would be interested in their words. I can only imagine how busy his life must already be and yet he takes the time to go to York every other week to work with the women there, and took the time to put together this stunning book, and takes the time to come here and talk to us about it. Same for Nancy and for Dale.

    So many times that's all it takes. To have someone care enough to act like you matter. To actually LOOK at you and see you as a person rather than a thing... a label... "prisoner," "criminal," "addict," "gangster," etc.

    We watch the TV and see the prisoners, the criminals, the addicts, the gangsters, and we lump them as a group,and stick a label on them, and dismiss them. We take random samplings and make sweeping generalizations about people of other colors, religions, cultures.

    But when we actually get to speak to some of them one on one, we can't avoid the fact that they are human beings who breathe and bleed the same as we do. We find that they are individuals with individual stories, and our hearts have to soften towards them.

    I often see young gang bangers and wanna bes and what I see are frightened children. When I smile at them, they smile back. When I ask them for directions or some other question, they are helpful and polite. In their world, the choice to NOT be a banger would be the hardest one to manage. Brenda Medina could probably tell us a lot more about that, but I have observed it personally.

    I thought the inclusion of Dale Griffith's story another stroke of genius. Her story confirms so much of what the others have to say about prison conditions, the real lack of true concern for rehabilitation, often evidenced by the tenuous nature of a place to teach, the tools to teach, etc. I was surprised to find that one can't even count on prison to be the same from one day to the next. I guess I did understand that one administration could be harsh and punitive, and one more attuned to the needs of the population and more focused on rehabilitation, but I really never gave it enough thought.

    At this point, I am wishing there were a prison nearby where I could volunteer to help with art as healing and/or computers, since that is my focus. I am currently working with abused and abandoned children, but I would welcome an opportunity to work at the other end of the chain as well.

    Like Ginny, I was really hit with Dale Griffith's remark about "don't be a trick" and it will influence me in the future. I suspect I'm an easy mark, first because I know what pain feels like, second because perhaps I feel a sense of guilt, and third because I always wanted everyone to like me, regardless of the personal cost to me.

    As SeniorNetters, we have a lot of clout, nationally and internationally. Because of this book, the women in it, and people like Wally Lamb, Dale Griffith, Nancy Birkla, I am wondering if we, as a group, could not begin a focus on volunteering in prisons. There are so many SeniorNetters who have so much to offer and for many of us it would be a way to feel needed and that we continue to contribute.

    Even though I am disabled and not able to travel any distance, and even though there is not a prison nearby, I can think of ways I could contribute. I could make individual or group websites for those who are unable to do so themselves, in order to keep on sharing their stories. Perhaps their could be a national or international "Couldn't Keep It To Myself" kind of website with links to others. Maybe we have a grant writer who could get grants to help establish and maintain this network. I could do the technical stuff of domain registration, website programming, etc., and we have many other SeniorNetters who could do the same. Maybe we have a retired CEO of some kind who would be able to set up an organization with people who could coordinate with the prisoners and the prisons, get necessary permissions, and so forth.

    Maybe we could dedicate it all to Diane Bartholemew, Wally Lamb, Dale Griffith, Nancy Birkla, and the women from York in this book.

    kiwi lady
    December 13, 2003 - 11:56 am
    Even the people working in mental health often have prejudices. I remember thinking I would like to attend the craft classes held by our local mental health unit. I spoke to my Psychologist about it. "Oh no" she said "You are not like the people who attend those classes I don't want you to go"

    December 13, 2003 - 11:56 am
    In light of the "don't be a trick," can you tell us more about the kinds of favors requested and the kinds of things not allowed?

    And could you tell us more about how we might help those who are coming back into the community ... without becoming "tricks"?

    kiwi lady
    December 13, 2003 - 12:01 pm
    That is a great idea Zinnia. I believe all the arts could be used as rehabilitation tools if they had the right teachers. When I say rehabilitation I do not mean as a means to make a living more as a tool to discover who the prisoner really is and for self realisation. We see by this writing class and by the drama classes we have in our prisons how this works so well. I believe music could help too- for instance writing and composing musicals. Another form of self expression and self discovery.


    December 13, 2003 - 12:11 pm
    Everytime I stop in and read a few messages I can see more and more good it is doing, has done, and will do - not only for prison reform, but to grab some people who are hurting and the book gives reassurance and guidance and direction to how to get out of those terrible ruts we get ourselves into.

    There are ways out. There are rehab centers, the 12 steps, AA - which also includes drugs; there is your Higher Power who loves us very much and has great plans for our lives. There is a way out - there is hope for a great future for everyone.

    As people read these stories, they can't help but look at their own lives and see what they can do - be it getting help or giving help.

    Absolutely a miracle!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 13, 2003 - 02:50 pm
    12 Step programs such as AA mention "the God of our understanding" or a Higher Power. There are some people in 12 Step programs who believe God or a Higher Power is anthropomorphized into the shape of a man. Most believe that God or the Higher Power is a spirit that has no human characteristics, the idea of which gives them thoughts of peace and love and the ability to make their own plans.

    12 Step programs stress the need to stop dependency on anything or anyone so the addict will become strong enough in his or her own right to stop leaning on and depending on the crutches of his or her addiction.

    In other words, if you get in a jam, no one and nothing will get you out of it except you. If you want to stay out of further jams, you'd better start finding out what got you there in the first place. 12 Step programs, if worked properly, give people the strength and support to be able do this. You are your "way out".


    December 13, 2003 - 03:53 pm
    Mountain Rose, You said, "War is always tragic, and the innocent always suffer, but sometimes war has to be fought to stop even more suffering by despicable tyrants. To me that's just the way life is." I agree with you that this was clear during WWII. But do you think this also applies to the Iraq War. There was a despicable tyrant there, but not every nation was ready to join the U.S. in overthrowing him. Many innocent people are still suffering and seem not to be sure that they are better off now. Sometimes the issues leading to war are a lot less clear than they were in 1940.

    Mal, I agree with you that the Serenity Prayer could benefit everyone, not just those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Ever since you published it here, I keep reminding myself of it whenever I find myself worrying uselessly about things I cannot change.

    December 13, 2003 - 04:24 pm
    Horselover, yes, I do think that going into Iraq was the right thing to do---since you asked, and you may be sorry that you asked. Not only did the U.S. do the job with a minimum amount of death, but just knowing that U.S. soldiers are there does my heart good.

    You have no idea what it's like to live under the thumb of a ruthless dictator and his sadistic sons, to barely be able to breathe because you might be arrested for no reason at all, to have your children disappear never to be heard from again. Someone had to put an end to it. And as far as I'm concerned, all those countries who did not support the U.S. forgot what it was like when they were in that boat, especially Germany. I have absolutely no tolerance for the stand that Germany took, even though it's the land of my birth. In many ways I understand why they took that stand, and I could write a dissertation on that, but I don't respect them for it.

    I cannot tell you enough about the relief many, many Germans felt when the U.S. entered WWII, such as my father or instance. He knew things would get worse for us because the fighting and bombing would get worse; but he also knew if we survived it would be a better place to be and a better life for everyone---and he was right.

    My mother left Berlin because my father had advised her to get as far away from the Russian army as she possibly could, which was brutal and did unspeakable crimes to the population, and to go to wherever the Americans were. He knew that where Americans were she would get the fairest treatment. He did not hold the French in high regard at all what with the Moroccan mercenary forces they brought in to cow the population, and even though he held the English in high regard, America won hands down. So that's what she did, and that's why we were out on the road in that little red wagon, to get to wherever the American army was. You have no idea what a relief it was to finally get there, and those wonderful GI's who showered us with food and medical care even though we were the "enemy".

    I am absolutely certain that the boys in Iraq are no different, but that the news media never reports that if they can help it. And the skirmishes that we see are a result of those who are still attempting to keep Saddam and his cronies in power, or the religious fanatics. I can guarantee that the ordinary Iraqi is not only glad that Americans are there, but are hoping Americans will stay at least until they get themselves settled and safe from the vultures that surround them right now, and are just waiting to take over all of Iraq.

    The U.S. has never to my knowledge colonized anywhere and has no interest in becomeing an empire. If we do get oil out of this, that is simply a side issue and never ever was the main issue. The U.S. did a job and then helped Germany get back on its feet. My father was one who was picked to help Germany get back on its feet and he worked together with Americans during the whole rebuilding process. I remember the GI's and MP's who came to our house to have their meetings with him, and how kind they were and how much they helped, and eventually Americans gave the power back into the hands of Germans.

    The fact that those same people have forgotten all the help they received angers me no end. They, of all people, ought to know that the U.S.A. is NOT there to colonize or build an empire. U.S. boys are giving their lives to HELP, just as they did in WWII.

    And I for one will be eternally grateful that they did. If they hadn't done so we would all be living in a hellish world right now. I lost about half of my family in that war, including three of my grandparents in Russian concentration camps. I can guarantee that if they had been in an American camp they would probably have lived.

    Well, you asked for my opinion, and there it is. When children are imprisoned such as they were under Saddam, when so many people are killed and shoved into mass graves after being shredded and tortured, when ordinary people are arrested for no reason and young women are raped for the pleasure of the dictator's sons, someone has to put an end to it. And putting an end to it costs lives, whether we like it or not, but in the end it is fewer lives lost than would have been lost if we allow the dictator just to continue with the ugly games. A tyrant will ALWAYS push the limits to see just how much he can get away with----ALWAYS!!!!

    I believe in the U.S.A. and it's basic moral fiber, no matter what the news media shoves down our throats, because I've seen that moral fiber with my own eyes and in times of war, and I was that "enemy" child that thought the G.I.s were the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I've written it all down, and to this day when I re-read it, the kindness and decency brings tears to my eyes.

    December 13, 2003 - 04:37 pm
    Mountain Rose, I am NOT sorry I asked. I want to thank you for your reply, and am glad that there are those like yourself who do not agree with the stand taken by some governments. I hope the majority of ordinary Iraqis also feel this way, and that as their lives improve, they will enjoy more of the benefits of freedom.

    December 13, 2003 - 04:42 pm
    "Many innocent people are still suffering and seem not to be sure that they are better off now. Sometimes the issues leading to war are a lot less clear than they were in 1940."

    It took more than FIVE years to get any semblance of law and order back in Germany, to where people felt hopeful again. After so many years of total chaos to think that everything will be OK immediately is a pipe dream and totally unrealistic. But a better life will happen for most of Iraqis, whether they realize it or not, and whether they are grateful for it or not---and many probably won't be. To expect the U.S.A. to just come in an wave a magic wand is asenine and stupid and short-sighted. To expect the U.S.A. to fix everything that boils down to their own problems that have been going on for generations is also asenine. But I do know the U.S.A. will do the best it can to give back a base from which the people will have to do the work themselves, just as prisoners have to do the work themselves in a safe environment.

    With any army occupying a country there will be bad incidences, and even I remember some of those, but we need to look at the overall picture and forget the petty little things that are bound to happen wherever a group of human beings is involved, and we have to remember that the news media loves to report those and forgets all the good that is also going on at the same time, just like they do right here in this country.

    As for the issues leading to war, a tyrant is a tyrant is a tyrant. Seemed very clear to me.

    December 13, 2003 - 05:41 pm
    MAL……I agree that it has been somewhat like a 12 Step meeting, the sharing, the bonding, even moments of serenity, etc. Yes, on occasion it did seem like we were both 12 Stepping, and the reaction on occasion was the same, eh?<g> You mention the coffee, laughter and camaraderie after the meetings. I made sure that the leave of absence included an hour for ‘the meeting after the meeting.’ Most important. That’s where the blokes mingled, got phone numbers and really began to bond with the members.

    I use the Serenity Prayer on a daily basis. I have a cut glass one hanging in my family room where it catches the outside light. I also have one in the loo (we have a separate room for the toilet), on the door, along with the Desiderata. It’s a carry-over from when No 1 son was a teenager and was a bit into arguing in an attempt to resist parental authority. When he was about to push one of my buttons, I’d say, ‘Scuse me a minute, I have to go to the loo.’ By the time I’d had a sit and a read of the Serenity Prayer and Desiderata, I’d come out calm, etc. You know, he never did figure out what I was doing or why.<g>

    You are so right about the 12 Step programs stressing the need to stop dependency on anything and anyone, other than a Higher Power. Just change the wording in the first step: Powerless over ______. All people’s lives become unmanageable as soon as they attempt to gain power over any person, place or situation. I also agree with you that your mothers reaction to your initial abuse was so very important.

    DALE…..I loved the phrase "And don't be no trick." It’s essential that staff not get caught in the inmate’s con jobs, even their attempts to deny responsibility for their behaviour. BTW, I call my God; Mother/Father God. My belief is spiritual, not religious. My own spiritual philosophy is: ‘Religion is man trying to show God how good man is. Spirituality is man allowing God to show man how good God is.’

    I was saddened to hear that the Janet York facility changed to maximum-security regulations and lost “small, incentive-building privileges and humanizing gestures extended to low-risk inmates.” A huge step backward, IMO.

    CAROLYN…….As you know, we had the same idea here, release the patients of psychiatric facilities. And like you said, it was to save money here as well. Many of ours didn’t want to leave either, and the results were disasterous. Being unsupervised, they wouldn’t take their medication, then would commit crimes or suicide when their ‘voices’ told them to. Like in NZ, the psychiatric facilities here in Brisbane were also well run, with beautiful grounds. Fortunately, after an expose, the trend is now back to staffing the pychiatric hospitals, and increasing the number of protective care homes for the mentally ill in the community.

    I worked in the forensic psych section in one of our prisons for awhile. Every time an inmate became unstable and needed psychiatric intervention, we’d send them back to the forensic psych hospitals for treatment and stabilisation. Eventually, the powers that be became aware that by sending the mentally ill out on the streets they were seeking protection by committing crimes and getting into prison. This is when the change in thinking occurred. Subtle way of getting the point across, eh?

    You mention the arts as rehabilitation tools. Recovered substance abusers usually are either gifted artists, musicians or writers. The abuse of substances appears to allow the interaction of left-brain/right-brain interaction and development.


    December 13, 2003 - 06:33 pm
    regarding Iraq, when we read in the paper that electricity hasn't been restored and everyone is complaining about that, amongst other mundane demands, I'd like to just say that after a war electricity is a pretty minor matter. The underpinnings of a society take a long time before they are back in place, especially when the former leadership neglected most of them to build luxurious palaces. In the meantime there are other priorities, such as finding landmines and undetonated bombs. Truth is, the person who steps on a landmine isn't ever going to need electricity again, is he? The army knows better than any reporter exactly what the priorities are, and of course the population will grouse because they don't understand the priorities, like most of us don't.

    Reason I know that? Because my brother and I found a bomb in a farmer's field when I was about 6 years of age. Of course, we had no idea what it was. All we knew was that it clanged beautifully as we lobbed rocks at it. We even got it down to a science so that if we got a rock on the side it clanged one way, and if the rock landed somewhere else it clanged another way---until my mother saw us and screamed in panic. And if you don't think getting rid of that bomb was of absolute primary importance, then you have no idea what war and the aftermath is all about.

    So when I read the paper and hear the reporters whining, I just roll my eyes, not only at the ludicrousness of what they say as though they know, but the lies and distortions and the realization that their spoiled way of life has given them not a clue as to true priorities.

    OK, that's the end of this subject for me. So let's get back to the real reason why we are here.

    Ella Gibbons
    December 13, 2003 - 07:29 pm
    Isn't that a lovely picture of Dale at the beginning of this story? And she's just as beautiful on the inside I think.

    I would have been very frightened, as I'm sure she was, the first day on the job when I was faced with the "giants," "wrestlers' muscles" - the language, the yelling. It's a new world there and to enter it as a teacher must have taken courage.

    No doubt her friend, Nancy, was right when she told her she would never be bored - how can one be bored when you are constantly "watching your back."

    What was most amazing to me is how prisons for women have changed over the years; in the early seventies the women could go fishing and fry up their fish and have a party - and incarcerated women were allowed to keep their children with them for the first year after birth.

    I would like to ask Dale why, in her opinion, prisons have had to change into the maximum-security cells of today with none of the privileges they had previously, i.e., fishing, keeping their children with them, keeping expressions of individuality, personal clothing, etc.

    I would also like to ask Dale or any of them if the tougher sentences for drug-related crimes are working to society's benefit? Obviously it is overcrowding the prison system and I wonder if it is of benefit to the individuals incarcerated there.

    It was discouraging to read your comment, Dale, that prison can be a step up from life on the streets, a safe harbor.

    December 13, 2003 - 07:47 pm
    I wonder how the recividism rates for the two eras compare.

    As to the "safe harbor" thing, I can certanly understand how that would be true. Imagine that you have been released. Where do you go? Who do you know? Are you likely to be welcomed somewhere by the "decent" people we talked about earlier?

    I think the odds are that you are likely to go back to the same or similar kind of life you had before, among the same kind of people if not the very same people, same hardships, same barriers, etc.

    It seems to me that maybe there could be transition places for people to help them get a job, a place to live, start school, learn life skills, or whatever it takes to make a better life. Maybe these skills, or some things leading to them, are taught in some prisons, but they should be taught in all of them. Some people wouldn't gain from it, but I think most would.

    Heaven knows that when a person is released from the hospital there is still a recovery period, sometimes a very long one. So why not prison? If someone didn't know how to succeed on the outside, what makes it likely that they will succeed after some time separated from it? And isn't that what rehabilitation is supposed to be?

    I really admire people like Nancy Birkla and Ginger who made it in spite of everything and who now tell their stories to give hope to others.

    December 13, 2003 - 08:01 pm
    I am not registered here, and just wanted to read, because as a former prisoner I wanted to see all I could about how these women survived.--------- The reason I now speak, and it wont be to argue is I just wanted to say to Rose because I am not prepared to argue here does not mean I agree with your pro-war outlook. Sometimes a person just feels like they have to be counted. I have tried to write here in separate paragraphs and it won't work, can someone help.My lack of education makes words hard to write or spell anyway and this took forever and I lost it once.I got out of jail but untill my husband died recently I was still locked up, if that makes sense.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 13, 2003 - 08:18 pm
    emmalynn, thank you for posting. I'm glad you're here with us. Please post again.

    To make paragraphs, type:


    where you want the space.

    Bless you.


    December 13, 2003 - 08:18 pm
    giving my opinion from my experience and point of view. I do hope you join the discussion because I'm sure you would have much to add from your experience and point of view.

    But if I can help with whatever problem you are having, I'll be happy to do that. By separate paragraphs, what do you mean? If you just want some space in between paragraphs, just hit the "Enter" key twice, which will give you double spacing. I'm afraid if it's much more complicated than that, Ella or Ginny or someone else might be able to help you since I'm sort of a computer klutz.

    But welcome to the discussion. I wasn't registered either, and just jumped in when I had something to say. LOL

    December 13, 2003 - 09:21 pm
    Type < p> (but omit the space) at the end of the paragraph for a paragraph. Type < br> (omit the space) if you want a hard return but no blank line in between. Not case sensitive.

    December 13, 2003 - 10:01 pm
    We the Welcome comimtee will do our Very Best to help you get around in here. Please watch for the Message Subject as it will mention Senior Net. One of us will be sending you a Welcome email.All of us Were new here at one time and had to learn as we were Not born with with this knowledge, We All had to learn it.
    Welcome to

    Senior Net

    The Book discussion of

    "Couldn't Keep it to Myself"

    WE The Posters are Very Happy to have you here as you can tell.

    All of us have our cross to bear.

    From a ex Prisoner myself, Family Love, Ginger

    December 13, 2003 - 11:25 pm
    Hello <p> How are you

    Makes a Paragraph

    Like this:


    How are you.

    December 13, 2003 - 11:41 pm
    I think I will just try the enter two times

    Thanks for all your help, will just keep reading it is all very good. Can I email a lady in here I want to talk to, or is that not to be done.

    Well thats ok Rose if I don't have to agree with you, I dont care if you don't with me either.So we will be alrite.

    Ginger I saw what you said, I think I like the way you say things as you sound a lot like me.It is good to be on my own at last but it is hard to do even little things.I get scared easily, especialy at night now when it seems more bad.I will see if I got paragraphs.

    kiwi lady
    December 14, 2003 - 12:09 am
    Emma-Lynn - Welcome to this discussion and to Senior net. I know what it is like to be scared at night. I slept with the light on for about two years after my husband died. I then got a night light and now I have no light. I just made very sure the house was secure at night. I have two little dogs also. If you are allowed and could afford it could you perhaps get a small dog from the pound? You will never feel really lonely with a dog or even an inside cat. Its something to cuddle up with at night and another living presence in the house.


    December 14, 2003 - 12:16 am
    Hi Emma, welcome. I agree with Carolyn's suggestion. I've had a dog and a cat since my husband died. The dog is at my feet right now and sleeps beside the bed at night. She's a German Shepherd so would be protection if I needed it. Meanwhile, she's my loyal mate and friend.

    BTW, I agree with you in re the war but don't want to get in a discussion about the war in this forum.


    December 14, 2003 - 12:39 am
    I could get a dog, never been alowed to have one, at least my husband left me some money and I want to be alone but night makes you remember a bit to much. It is a long time from when went to jail, but it is in your head and around you. I have kids but they know I am not like there dad and are shamed of me a bit.They went to east coast, and that is right for them.

    Bobie glad you agree I know how it is when you are forced to be a type of way and that is what we do. We try to make people like us, but I would not want people to be always like me, because it is not very fair.

    I dont have the book and would be a while to read but will go and try to see how they feel.My husband was a person who worked at jail, and he was nice but he always needed me to be the same as I was in prison.

    December 14, 2003 - 12:55 am
    You have permisson to email any one of us as that is why we have our emai address under our name as we can go around it if we wish to. Email me Any time you but do put From S/N in the subject line as I tend to discard all that I do Not reconize due to the things that are comming into are email.

    You are meeting a Very large group of sharing and caring here so You fit right in. It is my pleasure to meet you.

    Your email address is Not correct as being on the wecome group I did email you and it was returned Address Unknown.


    kiwi lady
    December 14, 2003 - 12:58 am
    Emma Lynn I feel sad because you show me loud and clear that you don't like yourself very much. I don't try and make people like me any more. I am me and if people don't like me for myself well thats just too bad! I am a mum of four, grandmother of 6, I live in a small old house that I own with things I love all around me.The things aren't worth much but they have sentimental value. I don't have much money but I think I can say I can count many blessings. It means more to me for my three year old Grandaughter to tell me I am the best Granny in the world than if I was given a million dollars. One true loyal friend means more to me than a dozen acquaintances. I hope that you will find that one loyal friend before too long.


    December 14, 2003 - 01:11 am
    Emma, one of my sayings is: I don't have to have everybody like me. I'd be disappointed with myself if some people did. Be true to yourself!

    A dog is a wonderful loyal and gives unconditional love. Carolyn has small dogs which can be on your lap at night and which love to give and receive love. My neighbour has an adorable fox terrier.

    I think it's time to start being good to yourself and start loving yourself. I know Carolyn agrees with me.

    I don't have my email address on SN, but if you want to email me, let me know and I'll send you an email with my address.


    December 14, 2003 - 02:00 am
    Sorry, Ginger I will go and see why and change it if I have to, it may be full up.

    December 14, 2003 - 02:09 am
    Ginger it is rite so I dont know why it didnt work.I could try to send it to you

    December 14, 2003 - 02:22 am
    Well I hope that worked am going to bed now and it is nice talking, so you know I am here. You made me cry Kiwi lady but it was good crying. goodnite

    December 14, 2003 - 02:51 am
    I recieved your email and Thank you.

    The only thing I see different is this: in your email to me.-----Oposed to under your name.

    In one of those green things at the bottom of every page you will see that one of them says Preference so if you click on that you should see in yor email address how to change the e there to E, If you have any problems just let us know here or email me and We will help as we are here to help you in any way to get around Senior Net. You Have found an extended family here.

    December 14, 2003 - 03:18 am
    I am Very tired so Nite, Nite to All.

    December 14, 2003 - 06:09 am
    It never cesases to amaze me how it is just meant to be. Each of our lives were meant to touch anothers in here. I am blown away by all of these marvelous, courageous women who have joined in this discussion . It is truly meant to be. God bless all of you. I have spent the last two hours in front of my daughters computer- crying. I am so touched by what each of you have had to endure and the way in which you have bravely related these stories. It makes me so proud to be a part of this organization, particularly this Books/Literature site.

    December 14, 2003 - 07:40 am
    Emma Lynn, welcome! We are very glad to see you here and hope you will be able to get the book and join in immediately, it sounds as if you have much to offer this discussion, thank you for joining us!

    Andrea, (are you in NY already??) I agree, actually, I almost think that we're in the grip of a powerful thing here and it's my hope that at the end of it we can do some good. I LOVED Zinnia's suggestions for what we might all do.<br.
    Hairy, (Linda) , thank you for this "other side of the coin" possibility in the title Three Steps Past the Monkeys!!
    It also occurred to me that getting beyond the monkeys might have also meant her life became worse after seeing the Wizard of Oz when she was young. She went 3 steps beyond the bizarre, grotesque, frightening monkeys in that film by getting into drinking, drugging, eating - all of which were far beyond the insanity and scariness of those awful monkeys.

    Great point!

    Malryn, thank you for those excellent questions for Dale, and you, too, Ella and Zinnia, now when she comes by she can see what we are asking, I agree, Ella, and I thought she did her part amazingly well, I felt I was there, too.

    I was struck by this statement, also of Dale's: " the prison school, where standards are high…" I am very proud to see that standards ARE high there, they are here, too, we keep aiming higher in the Books and higher, we do have a purpose here other than just some slipshod thing, and I think that's the only way to go: excelsior: higher and higher, thank you ALL for lifting us ever higher.

    Denjer, thank you for your insightful remarks and questions on the "prisons being used as a dumping grounds for the mentally ill. "

    I noticed on the Oprah Show that Eve Ensler (in our PBS discussion of Women in Prisons, click on the top of any heading on SN to see the link) said prisons were essentially warehouses for the women, just holding pens, not rehabilitative facilities.

    You ask a good question: The question is what are our options? The state institutions were terrible places in which the mentally ill were warehoused and forgotten. We don't want to go back to that, I'm sure. These are all tough questions and when you consider that almost ALL prisoners WILL be released, we need to try to understand what makes the difference in a successful return to society.

    Carolyn, thank you for telling us how New Zealand handles the mentally ill.


    Zinnia, I agree with this, in spades:
    I admire people like Dale who are in the trenches daily, caring, teaching, helping. And like Wally Lamb, who has changed these (and other) women's lives forever. He has given them a voice, the idea that they matter, and the idea that someone would be interested in their words. I can only imagine how busy his life must already be and yet he takes the time to go to York every other week to work with the women there, and took the time to put together this stunning book, and takes the time to come here and talk to us about it. Same for Nancy and for Dale.

    And I loved this one:
    As SeniorNetters, we have a lot of clout, nationally and internationally. Because of this book, the women in it, and people like Wally Lamb, Dale Griffith, Nancy Birkla, I am wondering if we, as a group, could not begin a focus on volunteering in prisons. There are so many SeniorNetters who have so much to offer and for many of us it would be a way to feel needed and that we continue to contribute .

    Even though I am disabled and not able to travel any distance, and even though there is not a prison nearby, I can think of ways I could contribute. I could make individual or group websites for those who are unable to do so themselves, in order to keep on sharing their stories. Perhaps their could be a national or international "Couldn't Keep It To Myself" kind of website with links to others. Maybe we have a grant writer who could get grants to help establish and maintain this network. I could do the technical stuff of domain registration, website programming, etc., and we have many other SeniorNetters who could do the same. Maybe we have a retired CEO of some kind who would be able to set up an organization with people who could coordinate with the prisoners and the prisons, get necessary permissions, and so forth. .

    Thank you for those ideas, too.

    Hairy, thank you for that beautiful "what this book is doing!"

    Malryn, did you happen to see Oprah the other day? You said, "In other words, if you get in a jam, no one and nothing will get you out of it except you." And Oprah said who do you have in your life to that beautiful girl and she said myself. I felt so sorry for her, she's startlingly beautiful and very troubled. In fact I wondered if, perhaps, it was some sort of medical problem. I hope she can get some help.

    Bobbiecee, thank you for sharing your experiences with the Australian prison systems, , they are riveting and very valuable to the discusison!

    Ella, thank you for those very fine questions, I also was stunned by the prison's being a safe harbor, what do you tihink the solution can be?

    Zinnia, I also wonder how we can find out the recividism rates for the two eras compare!


    December 14, 2003 - 08:00 am
    Ok this morning I enlist your assistance in taking a TWO DAYS LOOK, we need today AND tomorrow, to consider what Wally Lamb has said exclusively to US, tho I hope we are thinking about what Wally Lamb has said every day as we approach these stories, but today we need to look (I think it is extremely rude and foolhardy to be honored by the presence of a VERY famous author and hear his words and then completely ignore what it took him so long to write and present to us?) So let's look today directly at what he wrote and then think on it EVERY DAY, Pat has it on an HTML page and I want to ask her to get it up today also for our continued reference.

    As you know we have lost half of his answers, to our eternal regret, but we can look at the first half.

  • Hi, everyone. I've enjoyed your rolling discussion of CKITM and the questions you've posted for me are great--far more interesting that the usual "What's Oprah like?" and "Do you write with a pen or on a computer?" So let me dig in and see how many of these I can get to before the predicted nor'easter begins here in Connecticut and I have to hightail it from office to home.

    1. Yes, as editor I chose the order of the essays--writing each selection on an index card and playing with various combinations on the floor of my office until I thought I had a pretty good variety and flow for the reader.

    Ok here we can see one role of editor, can't you just see him on the floor with the index cards? Here we want to ask who got left out? What do you think he means by "variety," and "flow for the reader?" What is he talking about here, do you think??

    The lead-off story presented me with a particular dilemma. Originally, I planned to make "Izzy" the first story, and the only one by Nancy Whiteley. But fairly late into the editing process, Nancy's second effort, "True Earth.." began to evolve through a number of drafts. It, too, was strong work and I couldn't resist sharing that one with readers, too. I chose it as the first essay because it depicted Nancy's childhood. Chronologically speaking, I thought it might offer readers a kind of cause-and-effect look at two excerpts from the writer's life.

    Do you feel the order he ended up with accomplished his goal of "cause and effect?"

    Originally, I wanted to flip-flop mine and Dale Griffith's essays, putting hers as the first and mine as the last. (Dale is my co-teacher in the workshop; she's a paid full-time educator at the school and I'm a volunteer.)

    And in those few words Wally Lamb elevated the "volunteer" to strasospheric heights, doesn't he (sorry that the apostrophes here are not showing, just do your best!) Makes us all proud to be volunteers which is what all of us here on SeniorNet are, proud to be in his company.

    But my publisher, Judith Regan, felt strongly that readers should hear first from me, so I complied. Later, I came to agree that that was the better order. So you see--editors, too, can benefit from editing!

    2. The workshop is structured more loosely than a college course that's shaped by a syllabus and semester deadlines. York School is in session year-round. Sometimes I'll begin one of our two-hour sessions with a ten or fifteen minute lesson on some aspect of writing: point of view, "ingredients" of a dramatic scene, even mechanical stuff like when to put the apostrophe before the s and when to put it after. (When I was a kid in school and didn't know where to put it, I'd place the apostrophe right over the s, hoping the teacher would give me the benefit of the doubt!)

    Do you love that? I've been looking for an s with an apostrophe over it ever since, in character sets and I think I’m gaining on it hahahaha. Love it. I feel the same way about apostrophes after words ending in s. But are you surprised to find him talking not of emotional experience, but of mechanics and the "Ingredients of a dramatic scene?" How important IS it then that writers AND readers pay attention TO mechanics?

    Often, I'll "prime the pump" by engaging the students in a ten- or fifteen-minute writing exercise, which they're free to turn into a full-blown piece if they've hit upon something that interests them. From these opening activities, the class usually segues to the work at hand: a.) drafts in progress that writers have submitted to me the session before and which might benefit from a whole-group reaction and which I'll read aloud or have photocopied for them. (Trust me--you wouldn't want to have to pay my Kinko's copying bills.) and b.) writing that's new that day--a piece in progress for which the writer hungrily seeks feedback. "Who wants to share new work?" I'll ask. Usually one or two women want the rest of us to have a listen and offer our responses.
    How important do you think it is for a writer to get feedback? Does it matter what kind of feedback it is?

    How important is it to YOU to get feedback for what you have posted here?

  • Ginny
    December 14, 2003 - 08:22 am

    3. In fiction, a dramatic scene usually has characters, dialogue, description, action, and reaction. Interior monologue (what the narrator may be thinking in the midst of all this) is often a part of the mix, also. Exposition occurs when the narrator takes a step back from the scene to offer explanation, background info, "back story," etc. Exposition is sort of like the glue that holds the scenes together and allows the story to progress.

    OK here in a very short time, Wally Lamb has laid out for us the elements of a dramatic scene:

  • characters
  • dialogue
  • description
  • action
  • reaction
  • Interior monologue
  • Exposition.

    Can we look at Nancy Birkla's Three Steps Past the Monkeys, could you get out your book and see if you can find one instance of Interior Monologue and one of Exposition? Maybe we can all learn something here, it's obvious, or should be, to anybody, that here is an opportunity for US to learn right along with the prisoners, let's take it, let's push ourselves to a new level, let's see what we can learn here?

    In Nancy Whiteley's "Orbitting Izzy," take a look at pages 54-55. The two paragraphs beginning with "Everyone who knew Aldo warned me.." are exposition. Beginning with the sentence, "When I arrived at Isadore Weintraub's accounting office ..." the writer moves from exposition into scene.

    In recreating their memories as scenes, the writers were encouraged to evoke the five senses so that readers could vicariously live the scene (feel, smell, see, taste, and hear it) as opposed to just hearing about it second-hand. For many of the writers, that made them relive the memories, good or bad. Reliving the hard stuff was difficult for many but also therapeutic in that it got the pain, hurt, and guilt out of them and onto the page, where it became easier to handle.
    I think the writers have done a super job of engaging the reader, from the imaginative openings to use of these five senses, can you find an example in ANY story where the readers can especially feel the scene?

    4. I write my novels for myself, working hard (and often suffering along with the characters) until I figure out who these fictional concoctions are on a deeper level and what they're trying to tell me.

    Wow! What's a good question to ask here, where he gets the ideas FROM to begin? What motivates him to want to write? He did a beautiful talk at the National Book Festival on the background of This Much I Know is True, I wonder what sparks a writer to begin? It seems to me that injustice seems to motivate Wally Lamb or the need to make things better, that's only my own opinion, to extend comprehension and understanding. What's your opinion? Especially those of you who have read all of his books?

    It's only by finishing the novel that I come to know what it means--and that's only what it means TO ME. My feeling is: once I finish the story to the best of my ability and the publisher sends it out into the world, it's no longer mine any more. It belongs to which ever readers are good enough to read it. So I encourage readers to filter the story through their own experiences and needs and find whatever they want/need to find in the story. If reading group members disagree with one another, so much the better. There should be no one right answer or one correct interpretation.

    WE need to EMBLAZON this on every book discussion we have! FINALLY we have from the "horse's mouth," so to speak, (and a college professor who teaches the craft) what the book club reader is supposed to be doing! Let's read, mark, and inwardly digest this for all time. THANK YOU MR. LAMB!!

    (It may be Dr. Lamb, not sure, that's what the U of W GA calls him)

    Was this news to you all?

    In other words, do what he says.

    The reader isn't cracking walnuts, after all, but applying stories to his or her life, the better to widen understanding. As for the anthology CKITM, I only ask that readers listen to the writers' voices with an open mind and a generous heart. If they do, I think the reward is that they'll come out of the experience with a deeper understanding of some very complex issues.

    Would you say that Couldn't Keep it to Myself accomplishes that goal so far in our group?

    Note here his use of the word "anthology." What IS an anthology and how does it differ from other forms of literature? What's the purpose of an anthology? You can see the entries were carefully planned?

    5. No, I've never run into Paula (not her real name) ever again. And please don't misunderstand: I only borrowed a visual image; the character of Dolores Price in She's Come Undone is very much cut from fictional cloth. The funny thing is, though, over the years, from time to time, people I know have claimed they've "found" themselves in my fiction. They're off the mark when they make these claims, but if they feel flattered, I usually let then have their illusions.

    What does it say when an author manages to capture the commonality of human emotion so well that people think he's writing about THEM or that they have "found" themselves in his books? What do we seek when we read fiction, what do we hope to find?

    Why do you suppose the real Paula, who must know he's written this book, has not contacted him? Do you think she recognizes even a small part of herself here? Don't you wish you knew what she thought?

    Why do any of us read fiction, at all?

    I think these will do for today's thoughts, let's concentrate on what Wally Lamb has said today and tomorrow, and be on the lookout for any of our guests, because Mr. Lamb will be back this Friday, if you have any questions for him, NOW is the time to post them?

  • Malryn (Mal)
    December 14, 2003 - 08:48 am
    Writing is a craft. A good piece of writing is a well-crafted one. The first setting down of a story might be emotional, as might the first reading by an in-house editor as Wally Lamb was at York, but from then on it's just plain work. Correcting errors, moving phrases or paragraphs, putting the apostrophe before the s instead of on top of it, etc.

    When I write, I write perhaps 500 to 1000 words, copy the page, paste it to an email and send it to myself so I can self-edit what I've done. My writing comes back to me in a different format, and I can see my errors better. I either list them on a piece of paper and make corrections later, or I go back into my word processor and make a correction immediately, then go back to the email to find more errors and make those corrections one by one. After I do this, I continue writing, and repeat the same process.

    When I've finished, I let the chapter or the story rest overnight perhaps; then go through it again with a fine tooth comb for more changes and corrections. After repeating that process two or three or even more times I submit the piece to WREX where it is critiqued. With their objectivity, the WREX writers may possibly find even more things that need to be changed, so I make those changes, too. I do this with every single piece of writing I write.

    The feedback from members of WREX is extremely important. I've actually thrown out things I was writing and started all over again because of a negative reaction to the theme or the way I've written it from writers who read the piece.

    I'm a firm believer in self-editing and other editing, and was reading last night how May Sarton hated to have her writing edited. Lack of editing certainly shows in her novels. A well-edited piece of writing is a polished, good work.

    Feedback to posts? Feedback from an impartial, objective discussion leader is extremely important to me. The feedback we give each other as participants is often biased in our own favor. We may pay attention to posts which bolster our own opinion more than we do feedback which disagrees with it. I am always acutely aware of feedback which is in disagreement with what I say unless I am thoroughly convinced and have proof that there is sound reasoning behind my particular conviction.


    kiwi lady
    December 14, 2003 - 10:24 am
    I am very glad that Wally Lamb reinforced my thoughts in the area of interpretation. I think literature is like painting or music each person will take something different from it and often feel different about the piece according to their own experiences.

    For instance when I read I never see the intricacies of the language or symbolism I am enthralled with the characters and who they are. I realised the other day that even the setting for each incident in the book is secondary to the development of the characters for me as I read. People absolutely fascinate me so the characters in the book fascinate me. Everything else does not really matter to me. If the dialogue is good, the interaction between the characters realistic and the book is discussing an important issue- that to me is a great book!

    When I read Wally's introduction to this book I was reduced to tears it was so very honest. If I am deeply touched by a book I regard the book as a great book.

    When I write which does not seem to be very often now I hate editing my work. When I have done a lot of writing it has always been at a time in my life when I am in crisis. To put my feelings down on paper has always been a method of coping with things for me and a method of healing. I showed the journal I had written after the death of my husband to a close friend. I was struggling with my belief system and feeling great anger and despair all at the same time. I had got the journal out about two years after I stopped making entries. She told me I should have made it into a book to help women who were going through the grieving process. Do you know when I read that journal now I do not remember writing any of it. It's as if someone else wrote it. I worked out that it was my inner self or my spirit that was crying out as I wrote the journal. This is why I can see how taking writing classes into prison could be such a tool for good and healing.

    The stories of these women have moved me very much. My daughter also cannot wait to read it as I have enthused about it so much.

    Sorry Ginny I just can't dissect a book! I get too emotionally involved with the characters to even notice style etc!

    December 14, 2003 - 10:40 am
    I join the others in welcoming you to this discussion and also to the wonderful larger community that is SeniorNet. This is just the beginning of many wonderful friendships for you.

    I used to be nervous at night, heard all kinds of noises, until I got another dog. He's small but a nasty little thing, so I see him as protection. I also see him as "early warning" and I know that burglars tend to shy away from homes where a dog begins to bark. But the best thing is that he accounts for all those little noises that seem to come in the night. Most of them are caused by the house shrinking as it cools or a cat outside, but I used to terrify myself with each and every one and that would keep me awake.

    Please feel free to e-mail me anytime you want, also. People who don't want to be e-mailed usually don't post their e-mail addresses for others to access.



    December 14, 2003 - 10:49 am
    Why do I read fiction? For a long time, I read fiction just for entertainment. Now that I am older entertainment is not my main goal. My main goal in reading fiction is to obtain some insight into how to become a better person. In other words, what can I gain from the book that will improve the way I act and communicate with family and friends and with myself.

    While reading Wally Lamb's book, I have discovered through each essay a way to improve upon my own way of thinking. I might come away with only one gem on a first reading, but that gem is so powerful that it will stay with me forever.

    December 14, 2003 - 11:17 am
    As usual don't have a lot of time to post, so will get right to the point.

    WALLY LAMB, how many hours a day do you spend on writing when you are working on a book and how much time on editing? Do you have other people helping you with the editing? Do you like to edit? I missed some of the earlier posts, so am not sure if any of this was answered or not.

    Welcome, EMMA. My husband works a swing swift and is on midnight to eight for a week every month. We have a hundred pound black lab/golden retriever mix who occasionally prowls around the house in the middle of the night. He is heavy enough so that he sounds like a person walking around. I can't tell you how many times I woke up in the middle of the night and in my half awake state thought someone was in the house. It would take me a few minutes to realize that if someone were in the house my dog would be growling. We live way out in the country and it is pitch black here when no moon is out. Our dog is very gentle with the grandkids, but is quite protective of us and them. When they spend the night here, he leaves his bed on the floor in our room and sleeps at the foot of the bed in their room. Beside that he is a loving companion to both of us. I always highly recommend a dog to anyone who can take care of one. The vet bills aren't cheap, but our dog is worth every penny and then some.


    December 14, 2003 - 11:56 am
    One problem I find with many writing groups is that they only seem to be mutual stroking societies and there really is no one with enough experience to provide real constructive criticism. Many people don't know how to give constructive criticism or are afraid to do so, and many more don't know how to accept any kind of criticism. Many people have no clue as to what constitutes good writing, so their "criticism" isn't likely to be much help.

    I think having someone like Wally Lamb, who has the education, experience and success to know what he's talking about, would be wonderful. I really think that any writers' group should make some effort to have a pro in their group or at least looking at their work. This would actually save people a lot of embarrassment and a lot of rejection should they decide to submit to publishers.

    I write for many different purposes. I write dark poetry that helps me work through pain, grief, etc. I write songs, mostly gospel and country because of the instruments I play, and those are mostly on a more positive note. I write for children; I write to remember my history and to work through problems and "hand over" hurts new and old. I journal some; I journal separately to motivate myself with art; I journal another one to help me work through things with my wild child and my grandson. And I write for the pure joy of writing when something occurs to me. Some has been published; some is hopefully for publication and most is not. I'm lucky in that I have a group of former colleagues who will tear my writing apart if need be, and encourage me at the same time.

    December 14, 2003 - 12:41 pm
    GINNY: WHAT A SUPER JOB OF ASKING QUESTIONS. I don't have much time but I'll try to deal with some of them.

    WALLY: do you feel the editing and rewriting process helped the writers get deeper into their thinking (it obviously helped the quality of the writing. It is clear that the writers really got into it. How did you find the right combination of support and tough criticism to bring out the best without scaring them off? Do you think anyone was scared off?

    I liked your story first because your feelings going into the program mirrored mine in reading the book. ("How did I get into this? I have to learn to say no to Ginny"). and I could get hooked along with you. Is that why the editor put it first?

    December 14, 2003 - 12:48 pm
    WALLY: you start the book with a stories from a writer with a middle class background. Nancy W. deserves to lead off from the quality of her writing alone, but did you also think it might be easier for middle class readers to break down some of their preconceived ideas in this more familiar setting?

    December 14, 2003 - 01:01 pm
    On feedback: interesting that Mal looks for critique, and I look for support. But I am not a writer. As humans, we need both. In this discussion, I think the support we give each other has become important to all of us. I love the fact that GINNY responds to every post, but I also think you must not feel guilty if sometimes you JUST CAN'T. I also love the fact that we were so productive that we outran even your boundless capacity for work. I hope it happens again.

    In less emotional discussions (for example The Story of Civilization) I admit I am disappointed if I present an idea and no one picks it up and runs with it (whether they agree or not),

    December 14, 2003 - 01:06 pm
    I was wondering how the inmates took it who were not allowed to participate... like the one who wanted to talk rather than write, etc.

    I thought the order of the stories was good and I was really glad that Wally Lamb decided to have his own first. It really set the stage for everything that followed. I feel like the impact would have been quite different otherwise. I also feel that having Dale's last was like putting the frosting on the cake, because what she said was like a benediction as well as a confirmation of so much of what the others had to say.

    Diane's stories had so much impact and I think the rest built up to that. I wonder what she could have gone on to write and accomplish had she survived, but at least she got some catharsis and some affirmation and some good sense of self, and God bless Wally and Dale for making that possible.

    Having Nancy's at the beginning also made sense to me in several ways. She has gone on to great accomplishments, and that is encouraging and motivating. It also completes a story (as far as being in prison) and has a positive outcome, something that is not, or is not yet possible with some of the other stories.

    I am so sympathetic to Bonnie Foreshaw's story and I wonder why her sentence is so much longer than people convicted of the same offense. I also believe there should have been some clemency in her case and if not then, there should be some now. If someone stood in front of me and threw it in my face that they had harmed my grandchild, particularly in that way, I can't say that I would not snap, in spite of my non-violent Quaker beliefs and ways. And if you think there isn't a different standard between high profile and low profile, consider the difference between Bonnie Foreshaw and her case and that of O. J. Simpson. Patty Hearst?

    December 14, 2003 - 01:14 pm
    I have to remark that if I were not in this discussion and if I knew nothing about this book or even about Wally Lamb, I would have bought this book solely because of the cover art. It hit me really hard and then reading about how it was made hit me even harder.

    My compliments, also, to the person who designed the cover, chose the fonts, etc., and who built the cover, and to the same or different person who typeset the book itself. All of that really adds to the impact of the book.

    I just had the most amazing experience/thought. I just realized that I have been through this book once and looked at each author's photo once. I was just looking at the back cover and realized that I know each of them by name. If nothing else does, that ought to tell them how much impact their stories have. It was like I just finished reading a book about my family, went to the back cover, and there they were... all my sisters, my cousins, my children, my nieces, ... and me.

    December 14, 2003 - 01:17 pm
    " My feeling is: once I finish the story to the best of my ability and the publisher sends it out into the world, it's no longer mine any more. It belongs to which ever readers are good enough to read it".

    That's GREAT. An example from another field: My father was a lawyer who wrote the US patent law. People were always asking him what he meant by -------. He would answer: it doesn't matter what I meant to say. It says what it says. If I didn't say what I meant, that's tough. You are just as able in figuring out what it means as I am. He felt very strongly about this. It took me awhile to figure out why. If the law must be interpreted according to what the writer meant, then certain people are more priviledged that other if they have acces to the writer's thoughts or papers. If it means what it means, then a cat is as good as a king. We are all equal in figuring it out. (After my dad'd death, a well known judge asked for his notes on writing the law. My mother wouldn't give them to him for that reason).

    December 14, 2003 - 01:29 pm
    Remember that Joan Baez song, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"? There's a line in there, and an old Indian saying, that says, "Take what you need and leave the rest." It means what it means to whoever happens to be reading it, as you and Wally Lamb both pointed out. I think that's what we do with books... we take what we need and leave the rest. If there's enough of what we need, then we deem it a good book, and vice-versa if not. And we all have different needs, so we don't all have the same feelings about any book, or even parts of it.

    The ability to give the greatest number of people enough of what they need is a particular talent of people like Wally Lamb.

    Joan, you must be awfully proud of your dad and his accomplishments, and I really admire his thinking on that point, as well as Wally Lamb's.

    kiwi lady
    December 14, 2003 - 02:15 pm
    Wally I think this book will have far reaching consequences, I think it will impact on the lives of all those who read it. Maybe as families pass it round and discuss it some family secrets will come out which can be nothing but a good thing. Just look what has happened here! You and the women who made this book possible must feel gratified just from coming in here and seeing our reactions. I know I have eager family members waiting to get hold of this book after I have finished it.

    December 14, 2003 - 02:21 pm
    About Nancy Whiteley’s stories: You asked if the order Wally Lamb ended up with accomplished his goal of "cause and effect?"

    I think the order is perfect. "Orbiting Izzy" is somewhat comedic. If this was the only glimpse we had of Nancy, her troubles might have seemed less harsh, and we might not have understood her attachment to Aldo which led to her return to prison. The two stories together give us a more complete picture of how Nancy got onto the road which led to York C.I.

    You said, "The state institutions were terrible places in which the mentally ill were warehoused and forgotten. We don't want to go back to that, I'm sure." This was, in fact, what led to many of these institutions being closed and the inmates released. Legal action was brought on behalf of some of those who were confined without any real treatment. Since these people were not criminals, it was found to be a violation of their constitutional rights to be so confined.

    Originally, the theory was that these patients who were released under this new law would finally receive some form of treatment on an outpatient basis, and would get help and follow-up in finding a place to live and a place in society. Of course, not enough funds were allocated for these programs, and ultimately what began as a wonderful idea became the problem we see today of homeless mentally ill wandering the streets and left to fend for themselves. Some of them commit "crimes" and end up in prison.

    You asked, "Why do we read fiction at all?" I read fiction because really great fiction tells more of the truth than non-fiction. When I finish a well-written novel, I feel as though I have learned something truly important about myself, and about the people who inhabit this planet with me.

    December 14, 2003 - 02:47 pm
    I think it's interesting that, in "Bad Girls," Bob Carini, the manager of Thompson Hall, has the Serenity Prayer on his wall and says that it helps him know he's "not doing this job alone." He also says that it reminds him "of the limitations of my power to fix all of the world's injustices." I find myself needing this reminder every day as well. Sometimes, everything that is wrong in the world makes me feel that nothing I can do will make a difference. But everything we do can make a difference, and we all need to do whatever we can to make the world a better place.

    The story of Mary in "Bad Girls" and the attitude of her mother toward her child's abuse at the hands of the mother's boyfriend brought back the similar callous attitude of Carolyn Adams' mother. Things have turned around today. Children are believed when they finally get up the courage to tell about abuse, and, sometimes at least, the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.

    I think Dale Griffith's statement at the end of her piece is a wonderful summing up:

    "The women I know at York have done some bad things, but they are not bad people. Like you and me and the rest of us, they need a little kindness, a little forgiveness. I know that, but for the grace of God, I might not be the one who gets to leave the compound at the end of the day and drive home to the people I love."

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 14, 2003 - 03:08 pm
    I have never been in any other writers group except the WREX Writers Exchange, which began several years ago in SeniorNet AOL and has been here in SeniorNet Online for quite a few years now, at the request of Marcie Schwarz.

    Many people in WREX are published writers. Some are award-winning poets. A former WREX writers book, Prairie Rattlers, Long-Johns and Chokecherry Wine by Emma L. Willey, was published in September and is in bookstores now. Emma's book was critiqued in WREX before she found a publisher. Another WREX writer's book will be published in the late Spring or early summer.

    There are two former professional editors in WREX, and I have been doing editing for seven years. As I said in a previous post, I have edited several books which have been published, as well as other published pieces of writing.

    The aim in that group is to learn how to be better writers, and learn we do. The feedback we give each other is an enormous help.

    WREX writers are friends. We support each other through illness and good health, good times and bad, and have been called "The Best Writers Group in Cyberspace." What's more, our group is free!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 14, 2003 - 03:54 pm
    I read fiction for the same reason I read non-fiction or the newspaper or magazines -- I love to read. I write fiction and non-fiction for the same reason -- I love to write.

    After I wrote my first book, an autobiographical novel, I no longer wrote for therapeutic reasons. I have a strong imagination which must have an outlet, and writing is it. I've written a great deal of poetry, but do not consider myself a poet, and am less happy writing poetry than I am writing prose and figuring out how to solve the puzzles that become a short story or novel.

    Questions for Wally Lamb:
    Mr. Lamb, do you do a lot of self-editing when you write?

    Do you edit and revise your writing as you go along, or do you wait until you've finished your book?

    Did you give the York writers clues about self-editng when you taught them?

    Were they receptive to the idea?

    Are some of them anxious to continue writing? I hope so.

    Did you learn something about your own writing when you edited the writing in this book?

    What sort of book are you working on now?

    How did you find a publisher for your first book?


    December 14, 2003 - 08:19 pm
    I'm just jumping into the middle here as I've been busy since Thanksgiving travel and didn't get to the first of the discussion. I am interested as I have been involved with a prison ministry for many years (not actively for several).

    Yesterday I spent 4 1/2 hours at the local prison for males packaging goodies in zip lock bags for 1500 prisoners. This is done at the chapel, which volunteers like me built with inmate help. We volunteers tore down an old school which was donated to the prison ministry. We cleaned the bricks and took them to the prison site where the prisoners built a lovely building with a chapel and offices for the chaplain. We've heard rumors that with the financial crunch in Alabama and the overcrowding in all prisons here, the state was planning to take over the chapel and convert it to more sleeping space. This prison was built to house 750 men, now has 1500.

    There is only one women's prison in Alabama. It was so badly overcrowded and under court order to improve that about 200 women were sent to Louisiana to a privately operated prison which was cheaper than building another facility. Unfortunately Alabama prisons are in the warehousing business now and there are very few programs for rehabilitating prisoners.

    I'd love to see a program such as Wally Lamb has developed in every prison in America.

    I'm off to start reading through the posts in this discussion. Sue

    December 14, 2003 - 09:07 pm
    Are the women in the book able to benefit financially from it and, for those still in prison, do the prisons allow them to receive and use the profits?

    December 14, 2003 - 09:09 pm
    I have hunted and hunted through all the sites I'm aware of online and searched with search engines and I am not able to find the film about Bonnie Foreshaw. Does anyone know where I might be able to find a copy?

    My library site is down for maintenance, so I can't search the county libraries, either.

    LATER NOTE: Just finally found it but the rental is $40 and purchase is $249, so I won't be able to see it unless the library system has a copy or can get one.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 14, 2003 - 10:07 pm
    I posted this link to an article in the Christian Science Monitor in the pre-discussion folder. It gives information about money received by the writers of Couldn't Keep it to Myself and the fact that the State of Connecticut has sued the writers for that money to repay part of the cost of their imprisonment. There's more in the link below. I have also read of objection to the payment of these writers by a victims organization.

    Of Prisoners and Publishing -- Who Should Profit?

    December 14, 2003 - 10:21 pm
    Thanks... I didn't read all of the pre-discussion and must have missed it. I just finished reading the same information on another site and while I can understand their reasoning, I actually don't understand it.

    I would think, for instance, that victims groups would see the logic behind helping prisoners with something that might help them lead different lives when they are released.

    The stand of the prisons is just more of what we are already beginning to understand. They are determined to be totally punitive rather than to rehabilitate.

    I wonder if any of these people have actually READ this book.

    I would sure as heck rather that the perps were writing and learning new behaviors rather than getting harder, getting out and going back to the old behaviors.

    kiwi lady
    December 14, 2003 - 11:46 pm
    Thanks for the link Mal.


    December 15, 2003 - 12:19 am
    Great link, Mal. Thanks. I wonder if we could deluge the Connecticut power that be with reasoned arguments against trying to collect funds from the women who've published in this book. Taking their $6,000 each for the state may be less useful to society in the long run than letting the women who get out start over with some money of their own that they have earned honestly and with great effort and courage. Too many have nothing when they get out and surely part of the reason some end up back in prison is that stealing, selling drugs, etc. is one way to get money to live on. Besides that battered women shelter needs its 2/13th share!

    December 15, 2003 - 01:30 am
    I found the article distressing and agree with Zinnia's comment: "They are determined to be totally punitive rather than to rehabilitate." The residents who have been on Release to Work have usually saved more than $6,000 by the time they are released on Home Detention. I don't see any real difference between the girls $6,000 and our residents $6,000.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 02:43 am
    This post is written by a woman who woke up at 3:30 this morning and thought it was time to get up, so beware of what's in it, ha ha! All kinds of Ice Goblins are roaming this land in these freezing rain pre-dawn hours. My little black cat, Mitta Baben, has more sense than I do. She's sound asleep on the couch.

    Questions for Wally Lamb:
    What's happened about the case the State of Connecticut has instigated against the York writers about proceeds received from Couldn't Keep it to Myself?

    Do you know how much money prisoners at York Correctional Institution receive when they are released?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 02:48 am
    Questions for Nancy Whiteley:
    Are you still working at a deli?

    Have you tried selling any of your writing to magazines?

    Are you familiar enough with a computer that you might be able to get a job working at a newspaper?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 02:57 am
    Questions for Tabbi Rowley:
    Are you still working at Black PRINT Heritage Gallery?

    Can I order a CD of your music from Black PRINT Heritage Gallery?

    Do you play a musical instrument?

    Do you write your own songs?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 02:59 am
    Question for Nancy Birkla:
    Where are you, Nancy?

    Nancy Birkla
    December 15, 2003 - 06:09 am
    Good Morning All,

    Mal, you've asked me where I am. I'm not sure if you want to know why I haven't posted anything in the past few days, or if your question is meant in a more rhetorical sense, like where am I in life? Please clarify, OK?

    If you think I've jumped into your site, jumped out, and now have abandoned all of you, well, that's sure not the case!

    I've just been extremely busy working at two jobs (finishing up finals week and advising and registering my students for next semester at the college, while trying to get paperwork, etc. wrapped up so I can be off from work for a minimum of at least two weeks for a nice vacation).

    Rest assured, I've been keeping up with reading all your posts, working on answers to the questions asked of me, and then on Saturday I had a nice long phone chat with Wally, much of the conversation re: SeniorNet!

    I've also been dealing with a couple of personal "emergencies" over the weekend, nothing too serious, just very time-consuming.

    For a few more days my schedule will remain crazy, but by Wednesday I hope to be finished with my work at the college, with no more work to take care of there until Jan. 5th. Then I should have more time to begin posting my answers and also preparing and packing for our week long trip to Florida, which is scheduled to begin on Christmas day (OH JOY TO THE WORLD; can you hear me singing it?).

    Best to all, and I'll be in contact again in a few days.

    NAB :0)

    December 15, 2003 - 06:21 am
    Thank you all for your remarks and insights. I especially appreciate those of you who addressed the questions on Wally Lamb's piece, which is available in reading his post here, 131? We will take up the last of it today.

    Malryn, thank you for this insight on how writing appears in email, "My writing comes back to me in a different format, and I can see my errors better." That's a good point.

    Carolyn, I think perhaps that the reader's right to his own interpretation, which we have said here continually for 7 years, is not the same thing as applying literary analysis or criticism (what you call "dissecting,") we will ask Mr. Lamb if, since he is a university professor, if he will add to our understanding of the latter, (like Adam Parkes did) and say a bit more about what a book group should be doing? Thank you.

    Hats, thank you for this, "My main goal in reading fiction is to obtain some insight into how to become a better person. "

    I also think that there is much truth to be found in reaidng fiction.

    I loved this thought of yours, Hats, "While reading Wally Lamb's book, I have discovered through each essay a way to improve upon my own way of thinking. "

    Welcome Sue (SpringCreek Farms) we are very glad to have you here and to hear about your project in the prison there.

    We are assembling some questions for Mr. Lamb and these will be mailed to him prior to Friday. But there are way too many to expect him to answer so he'll have to choose, thank you, that's a good one, they all are, thank you ALL for your wonderful questions, let's see which he has time to address.

    Zinnia, how beautifully you write, thank you for those inspiring thoughts.

    Thank you Malryn for that link concering the lawsuit and the State of Connecticut. We have, as you know looked at this previously, we can ask Mr. Lamb if he'd care (or is able) to comment on it.

    msgeo, welcome to the discusison, we are very glad to see you here!

    I agree with you in your sentiments on the $6,000, I'm not seeing the women "profit" we'll ask Mr. Lamb what he thinks about this.

    Bobbie, it would seem I also agree with you on the punish rather than rehabilitate here, am interested to hear more.

    I have heard from Dale Griffith and she, like everybody else is quite busy with the holidays but says she'll be here soon.

    Let's look at the last of Wally Lamb's Responses, which are now the last link in the heading above, for today, thank you all for addressing the issues he brings up and for thinking about them.


    December 15, 2003 - 06:24 am
    Hello Dear Nancy, I am sorry to hear about the emergencies and hope everything is OK, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!!! I wondered why I kept hearing "Joy to the World" this morning, and it was YOU!! hahahaha You're ONLY working TWO jobs? hahaahahHAHAHAAH, I hope you enjoy every moment of your wonderful trip!

    So you and Wally Lamb talked about SeniorNet, huh? Well I'll have to hope it was good!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 06:27 am
    NANCY BIRKLA, I figure you're right where you want to be in life, living it well one day at a time. I was missing you and wondered where you were, that's all. Thanks for coming in. Deck the halls with balls of barley!!! (Or something.) Happy Holidays to you!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 07:10 am
    A comment on Wally Lamb's statement #10:

    I have seen a degree of repression in the form of a kind of disciplinary action since the volatile time of change in this country in the 60's and 70's. There seems to be a strong tendency on the part of some people to want to return to "the good old days" before then, which, if examined closely, were not that good for many, many people.

    I think we began to be afraid things were getting out of control, and old values were being threatened, thirty odd years ago. That feeling has escalated.

    We've been more or less running scared since September 11, 2001. It was much easier to be afraid of possible nuclear war caused by a known enemy than it is to be frightened by an enemy which is unknown and doesn't follow esablished, traditional rules.

    Historically, when this has happened in the past, it's been followed by a clamping down on "lesser" parts of society -- criminals, the mentally ill, children, teenagers, young adults, women and often the elderly. Rules and laws become more strict; certain freedoms become more restricted, and any group that is a minority (or is considered one) is affected by this tightening of the reins. When conditions are such that we aren't as afraid, there is a loosening of these restrictions and a much more relaxed, kinder attitude on the part of society and the government.


    December 15, 2003 - 07:24 am
    Ok let's continue with our closer look at what Wally Lamb has said so far to us, here are the rest of his answers to our 18 !? questions, which of course we now all know got cut off by the software. I think it's a bit much to answer them again, but we can look at what he has said here:

    6. I think reading this book and listening to the women's voices is already doing something very important with regard to helping incarcerated people. So many people in our society want to put "bad" people behind bars and not think about them beyond that. Every person who reads this book--and others by/about prisoners, such as PEN's anthology "Doing Time" (editor Belle Gale Chevigny) and Mark Salzman's True Notebooks--allows those who are silenced to speak. Beyond that, anyone with the impulse can investigate volunteer services in the prisons of their areas. There's plenty of need, lots of unexpected and unpredictable rewards, and, from the prisoners, gratitude and a renewal of hope.

    Isn't that beautifully written and how proud we are to seen to be helping in this important work, we here, with our huge world wide audience—that really makes me feel proud. <br.
    I hope those of you who can will watch the PBS program tomorrow night and come in our PBS discussion (see links on top of every SN heading) tomorrow and tell the world what you have learned HERE about those incarcerated, and hope.

    Have any of you ever read the two books above? Doing Time or True Notebooks? I think we might want to read those, too.

    7. Guess Bonnie Foreshaw says it best when she writes: "What I hope is that people reading this book will bear in mind that we are human beings first, prisoners second." Bonnie's a remarkable woman, by the way. Can't wait until you read her story.
    Yes we've had an awful lot of reaction to Bonnie's segment and also Diane's, and I look forward to getting to both of them, all of the writers are extraordinary as has been this experience.

    Now this one I'm particularly proud of:

    8. The difference between autobiography and memoir: hmmm, good question. The writers' group I'm in met earlier today and I posed that one to several of the professional writers.

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! WHEE?

    To me, its like a film's long shot as opposed to a close-up. Or the difference between a sleek racing bike and a Buick. Autobiography usually takes on an entire life; memoir offers vivid slice(s) of life. One of the members of the group said she thought of autobiography as facts, people, places and memoir as an exploration of emotional terrain. The more objective external as opposed to the more subjective internal. I guess it's probably all of those. I think of the essays in CKITM as more memoir than autobiography.

    Wow, the more objective external as opposed to the more subjective internal. Wow. Wow. Wow WOW~ THANK you for that one, WOW!~

    Now we know, I'm honored something we bleated was the object of attention for professional writers, wow.

    You know what, Guys? There's no end to what we can learn here if we just open up our minds a little bit and try.

    10. For sure, the effect on me--and on my fictional work--has been significant. Having for the last 4 and a half years seen the tip of the iceberg of incarcerated life, I can't now unsee it. For instance, why are we imprisoning the sons and daughters of slaves in such disproportionate numbers? Why are we using prisons as dumping grounds for the mentally ill? Why have we more or less gone backwards from the past, abandoning so much of the rehabilitative piece of prison in favor of the more cost-efficient and society-defeating punishment ….

    OH boy what a heck of a time for the software to cut him off, I could just SCREAM, couldn't you? What is he talking about here, what are the stats on the "disproportionate numbers of the sons and daughters of slaves," being imprisoned? Wow at the issues raised, we've talked some about the mentally ill in prisons, but I really want to hear more on the last points he made there, dumping also the rehabilitative aspects of the prison experience in favor of cost effective "society-defeating" punishment. I hope he'll elaborate more on this when he can.

    I really appreciate being able to hear these issues articulated by somebody who knows what's really going on.

    I keep thinking of the difference between exposition and interior monologue and segues between different scenes and flashbacks, etc. Nancy B's piece is so complex. I guess in the world of essays it's the Compound Complex Sentence of the Essay World, in playing a little game with myself today I just opened the book up at random to her section and on page 112 I see all sorts of well written jumping back and forth, from the perceptions of others or an outward description, and an inner monologue, if I understand those terms correctly (and I really want to understand). This sentence, "Resorting to old survival techniques, I stared up, trying to catch my breath by counting ceiling tiles," I am thinking is interior monologue but I'm thinking that The van's back door slammed open. "You!" the officer said. "Get out here NOW~" is exposition? And then followed by "I knew she was speaking to me but I could barely breathe." Is Interior. When you look at the thing it's really very well done and must have taken hours, I love the way it jumps back and forth and of course the effect of all that IS, it brings you slam into the action, and you feel you are THERE.

    Wonderful technique and that's what it IS. Today is our last day of looking at Nancy B's work, is there anything else in it or in anything Wally Lamb has said you'd like to comment on?

    I have to say, just from a personal aside, that the dentist chair is a personal nemesis of mine also. I will never forget fainting (actually fainting) while 8 months pregnant while having a root canal done, (well in my own defense, you ARE on your back almost upside down for Pete's sake) and I will also never forget the dentist rolling his eyes when I asked to be able to sit up for a minute or dental surgeon or whatever he was. Boy let me tell you if he rolled those eyes at me today (I was full of apologies then) he'd be lucky to emerge with both of them, sorry. Did you know that the dental profession is the most hated profession there is? And did you know dentists have a higher rate of suicide than any other profession?

    And it's no wonder why people hate the dentist. I was going to ask Nancy why dentists bothered her but after thinking about it, they bother me, too, so it's kind of stupid to ask. That feeling of being pinioned, that virtual imprisonment, sickening, just the smell alone makes me nauseous.

    When Nonna came to Nancy, again, that happened to my grandmother, the lest fanciful of women alive. HER grandmother, dead for many years, appeared to her at the foot of the bed one night to tell her to get things in order, etc., specific instructions and comfort because a great change was coming in her life and the next day my grandfather died and her life did change, considerably, but she felt the comfort of her own grandmother, (my grandmother was born in the 1800's, imagine) and the force of that love. How can we explain such things? Can we say it did not happen? You'd not convince MY grandmother of that.

    Did you understand Nancy B's use of the term "shock probated," on page 135?

    I really appreciate all the insights Nancy B, Nancy W and Wally Lamb have added to our understanding of this book and the issues involved.

    Are there any questions in the heading here that YOU personally have no addressed? If so, let's hear from you today, our last day on Nancy B's writings, tomorrow we go two days on Brenda Molina's Hell and How I Got Here.


    December 15, 2003 - 02:38 pm
    I loathed dentists, went on my first visit at 4 years old in response to a nagging toothache.The chair, with the powerful light overhead seemed to me at first sight, itself an instrument of torture.The dentist with the unforgettable name of Chudley Hawke hovered above with the needle, and my childlike response was to bite his hand.he was unforgiving, and by way of retribution slapped my face hard.I didn't complain, stoically allowing him to remove the painful tooth, and vowed deep in my childish heart never to return.

    That proved a difficult promise to keep to myself, and meant always ignoring toothache, so that my grandparents would not bring me back to this place.Crying myself to sleep in pain at times seemed small enough suffering compared to the terror of the dental surgery.

    When I left my grandparents house, aged 15 and went to the bush as a "ladies help", I had a mouth full of decaying teeth that were as unattractive s they were painful.Finally, my sympathetic employer cajoled me into seeing a dentist.He was forced to remove all my teeth, and I convinced him to do them all, right then and there.Three months later I had a double set of dentures and the secure knowledge I would never have to see a dentist again.

    Woe is me, at age 25 had a problem with 2 wisdom teeth on my bottom jaw. George and Mother drove me into Quilpie hospital to see the flying dentist.I kept the Land Rover and left them down town, assurring them that I would be ok alone. They had no idea of my terror. I certainly did not wish my fiancee to see me demoralised.The young dentist was to say the best of him a little unskilled, I fainted five times in the next hour, whilst he was reduced to tears.However the offending teeth were removed.Going out into the 110 degree temperature, I drove down town to find the others.Needless to say I was severely under the influence of both drugs and pain. Seeing mother and george on the sidewalk, I drove up to them, literally.My sense of distance was entirely skewed and managed to finish up right in the drapers window.The ensuing melee is still discussed here in town by those old enough to recall.

    There is a point to this saga. Twenty years later, we were living in the city of Ipswich, one morning whilst brushing in the bathroom,my teeth flew from my hand into the air and fell right into the already flushing toilet, never to be seen again.I was faced with the horrific choice, visit a dentist or remain gummy. Vanity won the day and i went,with george, to the dentist he and the kids visited and who actually thought my three kids motherless, as their father was always the one taking them for checkups. He listened to my sorry saga and determined that I should overcome my fear then and there.Looking into my mouth he explained that the remains of two wisdom teeth in my upper gums would have to be cut out before he could fit a plate.He sat George in a chair right beside me, insisted I let him know, at the slightest sign of discomfort and talked the whole time about what he was doing. It was a long and tedious process, but I felt no pain and child like relief at its completion. In one hour this gentle man had eased the pain of years, only sad thing is, I have NO TEETH left now and will never need to return.

    Sorry to digress, but it does kind of show how right handling eases fear.

    December 15, 2003 - 03:20 pm
    An observation: I am trying to read all the posts, but so far am only up to 39. One thing that makes the reading somewhat tedious is having the lengthy headers on each page. Is there any way to condense that information so that it will load more quickly for those who use slow dial-up connections? Thanks. Sue

    December 15, 2003 - 03:32 pm
    if you hit print page at right hand top screen you will get a rolling screen of all posts.

    December 15, 2003 - 03:40 pm
    I just tried that and I see that I can read previous posts, but how do I get to the one I want? I've been using the outline feature to do that. Sue

    December 15, 2003 - 06:06 pm
    Sue, I'm afraid there is no way to avoid the header and the PRINT PAGE only shows the last 100 or so, thank you for wanting to read them all, the header, I'm afraid, must continue but tomorrow it will be somewhat shorter, we don't often have somebody want to read 600 posts, but bless you and I love your story about the zip locks, that one's worth repeating everywhere!

    Sue if you have a particlar person's post you want, like, say Nancy Birklas? Or Nancy Whiteley? You look for the SEARCH button under the last message and type in the name just as it appears in the login and then you be sure to hit search this location instead of search the whole site, and it will show you every post those persons made?

    If this does not help, write me?

    Anneo how well you write, Chudley Hawke? SLAPPED YOUR FACE? HORRORS!!!

    December 15, 2003 - 06:14 pm
    Anneo I just read your story again, that is amazing! Bless your HEART! (((HUGS)) to you for no teeth and driving into the drapers and toothache as a little girl but too scared to go to the dentist crying self to sleep, bless your heart.

    Good HEAVENS bless your heart!!! And in the middle of all that suddenly there are these hilarious bits: " and Vanity won the day and i went,with george, to the dentist he and the kids visited and who actually thought my three kids motherless, as their father was always the one taking them for checkups." hahahahah, didn't even want to get that close! hahahaha The first time I saw a cavity in my young son's mouth, I guess he was about 5, I cried, out of what he'd have to go thru like I did, poor kid, there's no telling what he thought. Know what? What with Flouride and brushing that's the only cavity he ever had and the other son has never had ONE, can you conceive of such a thing? Not one.

    I'll tell you what, I thought I was the one with the Dentist Horror Stories, but I don't think anybody can beat that one, you Win the Prize!

    I think we need to start a Society of Dentist Disorders, (SDD) Anneo can be President but I get to be Vice President.

    You haven't heard mine!

    Dentally Impaired in SC

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 06:53 pm
    It's not really a horror story, but let me tell you mine.

    A few years ago I drove over to the dentist about eight miles away and had all my upper teeth pulled and an upper plate put in. Got in my car and on the country road that brings me back here, and what did I see a mile or two up ahead? Four police cars and policemen in the middle of the street stopping traffic. There wasn't a lot, since mine was the only car on the road !

    I stopped, handed the cop my license and registration. When he dilly-dallied I said, "Please, could I go home? I just had all my top teeth out and I'm not feeling too good." He apologized profusely, and let me go.

    I've never found out who or what they were looking for. Maybe my teeth?


    December 15, 2003 - 07:22 pm
    I read the article "Of Prison and Publishing - and who should profit." The law in CT is somewhat different from the one in NY state. The law in NY was a response to the publication of the story of "Son of Sam." This was a horrendous series of killings perpetrated against young people in parked cars. The idea that a violent criminal would profit from such crimes led to a huge outcry and the current law prohibiting anyone from profiting from his/her crimes.

    This is quite different from trying to recover the costs of incarceration. In fact, in NY, it is totally permissable to profit from writing about your childhood or any other experiences, so long as they have no direct connection to the crime(s) for which you are incarcerated.

    I think this is perfectly fair. Should Ted Bundy, or his relatives, profit from his despicable murders? I think we do need to think about the victims in criminal cases, and how they and/or their families would feel seeing a perpetrator profiting from writing about what he did to them, or selling his story for a movie.

    CT should probably change its law to cover only the criminal profiting from the crime, rather than any prisoner using skills learned in prison to help him reenter society.

    December 15, 2003 - 07:23 pm
    Lordy, Anneo! Another link that binds us together!

    When I wes 7, I had a malady I'm told was called quinsy. I know nothing about it except that I was told it hardens the tonsils so that they have to be sawed out like wood. The day before I was to have that surgery, the doc wanted my teeth checked, just because any loose ones could cause a problem. There were no loose ones, but the dentist proceeded to lock to door and start trying to pull teeth without benefit of any kind of painkiller. I started screaming and he clapped his hand over my mouth AND nose. The nurse (a schoolmate's grandmother) was looking through a sliding window about a foot square and hollering and she finally ran into the street and got the cop on the beat, who broke down the door. My chest was black from lack of oxygen and I was ever after terrified of dentists. Anytime someone says "dentist" to me, I have an immediate urge to go to the bathroom. My dad called it the bladder response.

    I took Drewie to the dentist last week for his first ever checkup (would have done so sooner but had no access for him). I got that old familiar terror feeling but he was fine. He had his teeth examined and cleaned without any problem and said he wants to go back there every day because they were nice and they gave him five stickers. He had no cavities, thank heavens! His mother was also very good with the dentist and each of their good experiences lessens my terror a little, but I still have some. Don't tell anyone, but I wet my pants the first time I had to take Ali to the dentist.

    I wonder if they were all trained to be sadists in those days?

    December 15, 2003 - 07:31 pm
    Those of you who "loath dentists" should realize that the practice of dentistry is quite different today than it was when we were young. Procedures are totally painless; drills are high powered and very fast; and there are special pediatric dentists who are trained to deal with children's fears and concerns. Years ago, going to the dentist was like the one in "Little Shop of Horrors," but today I don't dread it at all. I have also discovered that if I take care of my own teeth properly (brush, floss, rinse), I generally don't need more than a cleaning every six months. Of course, when we were young, we had no time for this. )

    Zinnia, My heart goes out to you. The dentist you went to see must have been a sadist or a maniac. Who could treat a child in such a callous manner?

    December 15, 2003 - 07:55 pm
    I have always wondered and also wondered if there was any aftermath for him. If so, I was never aware of it. I will never know why, but as an adult, I thought that pehaps he knew I hadn't anyone really to protect me, or maybe he didn't like my color, or maybe he had admired the work of the sadists in the concentration camps in Germany (this was right after the war ended) and wanted to give it a go.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 15, 2003 - 08:27 pm
    ZINNIA, you've been abused, assaulted; your mother broke your arm, your dentist yanked teeth without any painkillers. How awful ! It's a wonder there's anything left of you ! Even in the 40's when I had two teeth pulled, the dentist used novacaine. What did your parents do about the dentist after that incident? Shoot him?


    December 15, 2003 - 08:30 pm
    I wasn't with my parents at the time. I kicked around a lot as a child. But I often wondered if anything happened to him afterwards. Since I had surgery the following morning and was in the hospital for some time, maybe it did and I wasn't aware of it, but I kind of doubt it.

    December 15, 2003 - 08:33 pm
    Horselover, your comments on the practice of letting prisoners receive money for labors, including writing, which are not profits from crime was excellent. I can see the point of the Son of Sam law. Do you know how many states make this distinction about writing while in prison? Sue

    December 15, 2003 - 08:47 pm
    That was a Very funny story, Thanks as I needed that.

    I had my teeth pulled naturally (no medication) when I got old enough to make my own discision. The deferent dentists always said are you sure of course my answer was yes. My last dentist pulled the rest of my teeth (quite a few) he gave me a percription that I never took but did get of course but at the drug store I blead quite bad and thought gee if I had Not had to get his preciption I could been home and done alright. No more dentist for me except to buy new ones. Smile.

    December 15, 2003 - 08:50 pm
    Sue, The following site provides a pretty complete discussion of "Son of Sam" laws, the court challenges, and the subsequent revisions to comply with Supreme Court rulings.

    December 15, 2003 - 08:55 pm
    Thanks, horselover. I'll check it out. Sue

    P.S. I read that page and found it most interesting. We have a very active Victim's rights group in this state (Alabama). I would like to see if this is an issue here. The article suggests checking with Victim's rights groups or the Attorney General's office. I think I can probably find our A.G.'s web page.

    December 15, 2003 - 09:10 pm
    LINKS TO STATE ORGANIZATIONS/PROGRAMS-CRIME VICTIM-RELATED WEBSITES This page has an awful lot of broken links, so it doesn't appear to be kept up to date. It might be that websites for the organizations with broken links could be found through Google or another search engine. The current link for Alabama CASA Network is I don't know about Alabama, but in California, CASA is also for adult victims of abuse.

    California 'Son of Sam' law struck down BUT... this article is nearly two years old, so I'll keep looking. It does say that, "An estimated 40 states have Son of Sam laws. New York's was the only one to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, and California's was the only one to go before the state's highest court."

    December 15, 2003 - 09:11 pm
    Thanks, Zinnia. I added that page to my favorites. Sue

    December 15, 2003 - 10:31 pm
    Many years ago I was in the habit of starting my day by having a coffee at the neighborhood Diner. At the edge of the slummiest part of town. Around the corner from the police station. The place was always crowded with big, burly cops just coming off the night shift. Always a lot of fun, despite the fact that they had been running serious risks all night, never knowing when they might have to use their guns to defend their lives. To all appearances dangers were no more a problem than water running off a duck. One morning the most fearless one of all, usually as happy-go-lucky as only a cop can get, arrived looking shook-up, and sat drinking his coffee looking exceedingly glum. Finally: 'Have a tough night?' he was asked. No answer. 'Don't want to talk about it, eh?' 'Was it very bad?' The answer finally came with a groan: 'I gotta go see my dentist today.'

    And this I've been keeping all to myself, all these years. You're the first to hear about it.


    December 15, 2003 - 11:39 pm
    DENTISTS.....I have to actually attempt to desensitise myself every time I need to go to the dentist. I know where it comes from...having to go to the dentist so often when young....the pain. Just out of the dentist's window was an A & P sign. When I used to go back to visit my parents, I always associated A & P with that horrible pain. I know dentist's are different today, which is what I tell myself prior to going, but I still have to fight that horror of dentists. One of my crowns has half broken off. Since I've used up my crown replacement maximum for this year, I have to wait until January to get it fixed. I actually breathed a sigh of relief when it cracked in November. However, it's getting close to January now....perhaps I'll wait until February as many dentists go on holiday during the summer break.<g>


    December 16, 2003 - 01:08 am
    It is so good to see your post here guess you have been observing as so many are doing but some think that they have to have read the book as I have But that is Not so as a question is a question or an opion is an opion . I wonder who else is obseving but not posting, All are Welcome.

    This discusion is like getting to know you kinda thing like I relaliaze (sp) I am Not alone as Oprah said she had been abused and that there but for the prisons being full she would have been there also but a higher power had other plans for her.

    December 16, 2003 - 01:52 am
    Many do Not understand many others but this book explains so much of how they got where they were or are. It is amazing how much so many people do Not understand about about others as we All seem to live in our own little world and are Not concend about others but our lives do inter mingle whether we know it or not, so it is good to understand each other.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 02:27 am
    JONATHAN, it's good to see you here, old dear. How's business in your snowshoe rental shack on that hill way up north? Are you still serving hot chocolate to your freezing customers?

    Well, it's like this with me. I didn't like to go, but I never was afraid to go to the dentist. I had been through so much worse before I ever had a cavity filled that all it seemed was unpleasant when I was a kid. What I hated was the vibration of the drill and the sound of it in in my head.

    I also hated to go to the Harvard Infantile Paralysis Clinic in Boston and to that awful place where they made my brace. They did the metal work right there, and that hot metal smelled terrible. The place looked and smelled like my childish conception of Hell, not anything like the plush orthotic shops of today where they send all the brace-making work out. I didn't like it when those men with cold hands would trace around my leg with a big pencil so there'd be a pattern of my leg on that big piece of brown paper I had to lie on. Then when it was made, they'd push and shove and hurt me to get the thing on.

    Braces like mine are all custom made. My first brace ( which wasn't too different from what I have now ) cost $25.00. That gives you an idea of how long ago it was. Now they're a few thousand dollars.

    Frankly, I disliked orthopedists more than I disliked dentists. Sometimes I think they're all born with a scalpel and other instruments of torture in their hands. One I liked when I was small. He had practiced in China on the other side of the world, and that impressed me. In fact, he gave me a Chinese coin. Darned good thing. I never could dig a hole deep enough to get to China on my own.


    December 16, 2003 - 04:02 am
    Dentists: I'll join your society in a minute. I hate dentists, and my mouth shows it. Forget about dentists being different now. They hurt.

    From Wally Lamb: "Having for the last 4 and a half years seen the tip of the iceberg of incarcerated life, I can't now unsee it."

    A friend told me a story about walking on the edge of a beautiful lake at sunset. She enjoyed the beauty until she tripped over a discarded soft drink can. She looked around, and the whole edge of the lake was covered with litter. She haddn't seen the litter at all, but once she saw it, she couldn't unsee it. I have found that trofso many things. We train ourselves not to see the pain and suffering around us. And as a society, we are very good at hiding the suffering away, so we won't have to see it. But once we see it, we SEE IT. (My friend got to work and cleaned the lake up).

    December 16, 2003 - 04:11 am
    "The sons and daughters of slaves" being incarcerated. Wally Lamb is right. Studies have consistantly shown that people of color are more likely to be jailed than whites for the same offense. This is especially noteworthy with capital punishment. People of color are more likely to be sentanced to death than whites.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 05:51 am
    JOANK, Sue has posted that she spent 4 1/2 hours at a prison "packaging goodies in zip lock bags for 1500 prisoners." She also said volunteers tore down a building and cleaned the bricks and helped build a chapel and offices for the chaplain. What can we do beyond things like this besides insist on legislation that will make changes in the inside?


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 05:55 am
    "Even more troubling than the absolute number of persons in jail or prison is the extent to which those men and women are African-American. Although blacks account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, 44 percent of all prisoners in the United States are black."

    Graphs showing ratio in prison of Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and others

    December 16, 2003 - 06:58 am
    There is another equation in this mix that people seem to totally ignore. I have three grandchildren who are of mixed race. How can we go on seperating (even with statistics) the races like this? When those three grandchildren fill out a form that asks them to check white, black, hispanic or other, I want them to check "other". If they check black, they are denying my side of the family. At least that is the way I feel about it. I went for too many years not knowing about my Native American heritage because my dad was ashamed of it. My mother was Swedish descent and my father was French Canadian and Native American. I want them to consider themselves Americans and that is all. When you throw in my husbands side of the family which was Scotch, German and Irish, they are truly representive of the American melting pot.

    When they say black, on forms or statistics, what does that mean anyway? We can't change the way people have been conditioned to think overnight, but we can make it unacceptable by our own actions reactions.

    A few years back when owners on our little lake were talking about forming a Lake Association one of the landowners was totally opposed to an association. He made the statement that if we formed an association he was going to put his house up for sale with such and such a realty company (the company he mentioned was black-owned). For a minute there was dead silence, then another neighbor stood up and said, "Well, good! Maybe we'll have better neighbors." The man who made the original statement walked out of the meeting to the applause of the rest of the gathering. He sold his house a year later and it was bought by someone who tore it down and built a new one. (we did get a better neighbor).

    This is just one example of speaking out. Sometimes when we hear remarks made like this we are too afraid to speak out or say something. I have noticed that people attitudes are changing, but it will still take time.


    December 16, 2003 - 08:39 am
  • Good morning, I am running a bit behind here as you can see, and have just put up the new material for today which is on Brenda Medina's story, which we'll look at today and tomorrow, starting with Page 144 and ending with her haunting poem which I want us to look at later on.

    Thank you all for your 22 new posts I will be back on later today with my own reactions to Brendalis's piece, but for now what did you all think of it, note new questions in heading, sorry that Nancy B's page is not put up as a link yet,
    BE SURE TO WATCH TONIGHT at 8 pm, check your local listings for the PBS POV Documentary "What I Want My Words to do to You," and help us out in the PBS discussion by posting your reactions there. New prison, new prisoners, not the same as "ours," or how we've come to think of them, but well worth watching for the commonality of the human experience and the subject, I look forward to welcoming all of you in there, as YOU really know, now, the people behind the image, and good for you!

    Hope to see you there tomorrow

    JONATHAN, I am delighted to see YOU here and hope you will stay!

    more later, let's look at Brenda's piece today if you will, questions in the heading to jump start your analysis or ask your own!

  • Ginny
    December 16, 2003 - 09:44 am
    Joan K you mention
    JoanK - 03:11am Dec 16, 2003 PST (#700 of 704) "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single oy"..... David Bader "The sons and daughters of slaves" being incarcerated. Wally Lamb is right. Studies have consistantly shown that people of color are more likely to be jailed than whites for the same offense. This is especially noteworthy with capital punishment. People of color are more likely to be sentanced to death than whites.

    and Jane posted yesterday in the PBS discussions these atatistics to go along with the ones Malryn has posted:

    At year end 2002 there were 3,437 sentenced black male prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,176 sentenced Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 450 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.


    It appears Mr. Lamb was right:

    December 16, 2003 - 09:47 am
    There's to be a LIVE CHAT with Eve Ensler tomorrow from 3-4 Eastern at the Washington Post site and you can submit your questions in advance that day. See the PBS discussion for more details, but we here are entereing the world of Brenda Medina, and what a world it is, kind of reminds you of West Side Story at first, doesn't it? What are your impressions of this essay?

    What particularly jumped out at you?


    December 16, 2003 - 11:07 am
    MAL: Did you think something I said was a criticism of someone here? What? It certainly wasn't --- you should know by now that I think you all are great.

    GINNY: as a statistics nut I have to point out that the statistics you gave on black and white incarceration, while shocking, are not the total story. Blacks are more likely to be incarcerated than whites FOR THE SAME CRIME. There are fewer studies of this (unfortunately, I've lost my cites in the mess my house has become) since it's harder to document, but those there are confirm it.

    ZINNIA: I understand your feelings about your kids having to declare themselves in a racial/ethnic category that doesn't fit. There is another side to the story. When I worked in housing, I sometimes worked with those whose job it was to ensure that there was no racial discrimination in the assignment of families to subsidized housing. If the database we used had not had racial information on the tenants, their job would have been impossible. (They weren't able to do a good job anyway for various reasons, but that's another story). In some areas, where there were a lot of mixed race families, as many as one third to one half of the people marked other. That showed us that our racial categories were inadaquate, but it also made it impossible to tell what was going on.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 11:27 am
    JOANK, no, I didn't? I had to go and see what you were talking about in your Post 707. It was a reasonable and legitimate question addressed to you and other participants: What do you think we can do to change conditions inside prisons besides the kinds of things SUE mentioned, and how would we do it?


    December 16, 2003 - 11:28 am
    Joan, Your story about tripping over trash while watching a beautiful sunset near a lake reminded me of Doris Grumbach's story about suddenly tripping over an empty Coke bottle while visiting the marvelous Mayan ruins. The disconnect between these wonderful surviving buildings and the trash left by the tourists visiting them was something she could not "unsee" either.

    December 16, 2003 - 11:44 am
    Joan What I usually do is mark "asian" because that is what many people guess when they look at him and also because I want to help the entities and agencies who are helping us. Head Start, for instance. I don't know if they still have "quotas" and he would be top of the list in any case because he's CPS, but I do want to make every effort to help them get their funding. He has dark hair, very fair skin, kind of Aztec eyes, and a definitely Cambodian nose.

    Mal I can only imagine the fear and pain you suffered regularly with those braces. I worked in the polio part of Rancho Los Amigos Hospital when I was very young, in the days of iron lungs, and I was in tears daily (and finally had to transfer) because of the suffering I witnessed daily. But I also saw some of the most stupendous courage I have ever seen in everyone from a smiling paraplegic 3-year-old scooting around on a small platform with wheels to a quadriplegic making magnificent art with a pencil in a holder in her teeth.

    Statistics I know that people of color would still be getting the shaft, but I think the statistics would make more sense if they compared arrests by race first and separately compared arrests to convictions by race by percent. Here's an example of how the statistics can give a false impression. The numbers are made up just so that I can do the math.

    If 1000 in 100,000 people of color are arrested and 50 of them are convicted and 100 in 100,000 Caucasians are arrested and 10 convicted, and you only look at the convictions, you say that five times as many people of color are being convicted. But if you look at the percentage of arrests to convictions, 5% of people of color arrested and 10% of Caucasians arrested are being convicted. I know it's not true, so don't jump my case... I just want to point out that there probably are no fair statistics and the "convictions per 100,000" one really lacks a lot as to conveying anything beyond inflammatory stuff.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 12:12 pm
    Brenda Melina's story was difficult for me because I don't know much about Caribbean culture and the things which influenced her when she was growing up. The Santeria religion is one, so I did some searches.

    The Santeria religion has many gods and goddesses. Rituals are practiced, including sacrifice. It reminded me a little of the religion in Ancient Greece, except that there seems to be a kind of voodoo element in it. To someone like me who is not part of this religion, it seems to be based on much myth and superstition. Of course, that is not true for the believer. Has anyone here had any kind of exposure to this religion?

    You can see more about this by following the links below:


    More about Santeria

    Brenda Melina's mother suffered from some kind of seizures. It sounds like a kind of epilepsy, but I'm not familiar enough with that condition to know. Do any of you know enough about this type of seizure to know what it might be? Relatives said she is "possessed" by demons. Apparently no doctor was called. I'm sure these seizures were very frightening to Brenda and her siblings.

    Brenda was locked in a utility closet with the doll, La Negra. Is this a voodoo doll? Can you imagine how frightening that would be to a child?

    Brenda says later, "Maybe I was afraid to consider the possibiity that that uncontrollable 'somethings' can enter you and take you over." She goes on to say that "addictions can take many forms, and that hers was in the form of a dangerous boy named Manny. Have you ever been addicted to another human being? Have you experienced what Brenda did? Falling in love is something like an addiction. You can't stop thinking about the person with whom you're in love, and there's a tremendous pull to be with that person all the time. Do you think it was truly an addiction that made Brenda become attached to Manny and do some of the things she did?

    More follows.


    kiwi lady
    December 16, 2003 - 12:15 pm
    Karen - the stats are the same here almost for our prison inmates. I would say that good lawyers and money keep a lot of our white population out of jail especially young offenders. I have seen this with my own eyes including a rape with violence charge where the son was packed off to a mental hospital - parents big shot lawyers. I knew the girl who was attacked - it ruined her life - she hates men and is blind in one eye from the knife attack and also limps. She was 17 - the boy was the same age- it was a premeditated attack and he had been watching the house knowing her parents were going out to a meeting and she would be alone in the house. He asked to use the phone and she knew him by sight and knew who his parents were so she let him in where he proceeded to rape her after subduing her with stab wounds. I don't remember ever seeing anything in the papers about the attack so money and influence count for a lot. We do however have a very big incidence of violent crime amongst our Polynesian community which can be directly traced to drug usage. My two grands have Maori heritage and I am not speaking from a view of prejudice. The elders are very worried about the drug usage and parents feel very helpless. I also know that a child in my own extended family was kept out of custody because he had well off and articulate parents (drug and burglary charges) he had some sort of youth scheme out of prison but it never stopped his drug use and I know the mother flew to Australia suddenly last year and we believe he may have got into trouble over there. She has always got him out of facing up to his actions by being able to buy good defence and the fact that he is white and middle class and can present himself well.

    Like Karen says we should look at the arrest figures.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 12:29 pm
    There's something else to be considered when reading Brenda Medina's story. That is the difficulty Puerto Ricans must have when they come to this country. The culture here is very different from what they have known. In my hometown, immigrants stuck together in their own ethnic groups. They made their own turf or territory to help withstand criticism and prejudice from the majority group and others in the city, and were very protective of their turf.

    This reminds me of ancient tribes and tribal cultures which exist even today. Did gangs spring from this tribal culture, I wonder?

    Gangs seem to me to be something like a college fraternity or a sorority where there's hazing one must pass and certain things are required before a young student is accepted as a fraternity "brother" or a sorority "sister". Add to this structure a certain ethnicity, and there is the basis for a gang. Fraternities and sororities are very territorial and competitive and even have their "wars".

    I'm rambling on like this in attempt to understand gang mentality, which is a very important part of why Brenda Melina was sent to prison.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 12:39 pm
    ZINNIA, I want to make it clear that I was not afraid of braces. I didn't like going to the polio clinic because the examinations hurt me, and I was treated like a number, not a person. The same was true at the brace shop -- I was a number, not a person, and the measuring and fitting procedure hurt me. I didn't like it at all. I also objected to the fact that nobody told me anything about what they were going to do or did to me at either the hospital where the clinic was or the brace shop.

    The only discomfort I had from wearing a leg brace as a child was the weight I had to drag around, about 7 pounds. As I grew older, the weight of the brace increased to nearly 10 pounds, depending on the weight of the shoe attached to the brace. I did not suffer pain from the brace. The only time I've suffered pain from a brace was when the combination of sweat and leather caused inflammations and subsequent infections in my thigh. Those inflammations rubbing against steel while walking can be very painful, indeed.


    December 16, 2003 - 01:03 pm
    Most kids get involved in gangs for self-protection more than anything else.

    In many areas, it's the only hope of being "okay" and certainly better than trying to fight it out on one's own.

    I keep trying to imagine what I would have done in Brenda's shoes. Would I have stood up verbally and likely become a co-victim with the girl who was killed, would I have jumped in and made an effort to save the victim, risking certain injury if not death, would I have run away and been the next victim, would I have kind of stood back and tried to appear allies with my gang friends, or would I have joined in the beating and killing? Who can say if they have not been in that position.

    It's a world most of us don't know and nearly impossible for us to comprehend or judge. Bless Brenda for opening up and telling this story. My daughter was the victim of a gang beating by a bunch of white girls because she was new, a police explorer, and perceived as a narc, even though she was not. There were nine of them. She was jumped from behind in broad daylight on a busy street as she walked home from a job interview. Her skull was fractured from kicking and her ribs were kicked in. It stopped and her life was saved only because a man finally stopped and jumped out of his car with a cell phone in his hand calling the police.

    We stood up and eventually put all of them in jail, but it was a long, hard process with ever more threats and violence. Our house became a safe haven for kids who were trying to avoid gangs and being in them. We were burgled, my car was vandalized, my house and yard were regularly trashed and vandalized, anyone who befriended her was attacked.

    My message to the kids was that they had three choices. They could buckle and let the gangs walk all over them, sending the message that they could do as they pleased. One did and ended up dead. They could form their own gang and also end up dead, injured, or in jail. Or they could stand up, press charges, and not be afraid to speak up in court. All but one who made a police report spoke up in court. The one who did not also got escalating harassment and ended up dead. The rest of the kids are all still alive, but not doing well. But I do have to say that we were in a fringe area, not a hard-core gang area, and I'm sure it was far different from Brenda's situation.

    Both the gang members and the other kids though, seem to be so hopeless. This is their world. Fear and trying to survive is all they know. They are not particularly concerned about getting driver's licenses, jobs, education, etc., and I think it's because they don't think they have a future. All of the "good guys" involved have gone on to drug addiction and the attendant problems, including my own daughter. They all started with pot and they all have gone on to much harder stuff. Why not? They see this as a world they can not survive, so why not escape it however they can?

    kiwi lady
    December 16, 2003 - 01:04 pm
    We have had a program recently about gangs from the perspective of children who were conceived and reared while their parents were gang members.

    The attraction of a gang is when a child is born usually into a low socio economic background, there are often problems in the home, domestic violence drug abuse etc and the child finds a group which is accepting of them and also gives them 'mana' (maori word for presence or you could loosely translate it as self esteem). The gang provides them with an extended family and an acceptance they usually do not get at home. Often these children come from homes where there is no father or a violent father.

    The interesting thing about this program is that the second generation often want to find a life out of the gang scene and even the parents don't want their kids to be full gang members. One gang members daughter was going to be in the Police Force and he was actually very proud of this fact and glad she had made a new life for herself. The kids who drift into the gang life often find that as they mature they want to leave but they cannot for fear of retribution.


    Diane Church
    December 16, 2003 - 01:35 pm
    Sorry I haven't posted earlier, having read the (library) book back in November when it first came in. And I have followed the riveting posts here from the beginning. I feel humbled and awed by your experiences and more so by how you've dealt with life's cruelties. And then written about them so skillfully, so honestly. How I wish I could reach out and hug each of you and make the hurt go away. But I can't but just know how much you are admired. And that goes, too, of course, to Wally and each of his writers. I'm in the presence of giants!

    Just my one little contribution, for now, about gangs and it pretty much echoes what Carolyn said. This is from back in the 70's when we lived in Los Angeles and I think gangs were just starting to become a problem - violence, graffiti, etc. A local paper had an article about these local gangs with some pretty good interviews. And the one main thing I remember that had such an impact was that most, if not all of these kids, had NO ONE TO GO HOME TO. The fathers were absent, mothers out working and they just had no sense of family at all!

    Joining a gang meant instant identify, self-worth, and that glorious feeling of belonging. Put that way, how could you not understand?

    But then (damn - is it really human nature?), the identity thing jumped a few notches and escalated into warfare. Must it always be so?

    I wonder what can be done. It's not easy to replace a loving mother in the home with a "program" after school but there's got to be something.

    This begins with a real problem and becomes a worse one.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 02:06 pm
    I think this is interesting:
    Bajita Onda provides "Multilingual educational alternatives to gangs, drugs, addiction, and violence."

    Bajita Onda

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 16, 2003 - 02:44 pm
    Brenda.. Having a son in law enforcement, I see the other side of Brenda's story. Gangs cause so much trouble in any community. Even in the so called safe areas. I live in an area of the country that has a high latino population. They tend to gather and live in groups depending on where they come from. Then the gangs form. It causes severe problems. I had a retail store close to a large latino core.. I could give you horror stories for months on what happens when they decide to hang around a shopping center.. On braces. My brother was hit by a car when 8.. He wore braces in a variety of combinations most of his life until back in a wheel chair. I know that Mal is right. Steve suffered from the braces. None were ever perfect and he ended up with so many infections in his lower leg and foot. Modern dentistry is a bit tricky. I have a young dentist now. All of the bells and whistles, but two years ago, I had to have a root canal with a tooth that would not numb.. Made for a totally horrible experience. I did tell him, never again.. pulling does not look bad at this point.

    kiwi lady
    December 16, 2003 - 02:53 pm
    I am having difficulty dealing with the aspects of the reason Brenda went to jail. I think I will opt out of commenting on this story. I find it hard to understand how someone could keep hitting another person who they did not know or who had caused them no harm. My thinking is colored by this continual picture in my mind.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 16, 2003 - 02:55 pm
    Kiwi,, I am with you, but I did see in our center, a whole group of girls in gang colors attack another girl not in the colors and if someone had not called 911 in a hurry, the lone girl would probably have been seriously hurt.

    December 16, 2003 - 02:58 pm
    This is not aimed at anyone, I'm just thinking out loud. It's another (maybe unconscious) prejudice when people think only of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities when someone says "gang."

    We suffered as kids from groups of white bullies (they weren't called gangs yet and probably were not as cohesive as today's "gangs." My daughter was attacked and beaten, as I said, by a gang of white girls. The majority of gangs in that particular town are white, and not necessarily skinheads, although some of them are. It used to be a semi-rural Dutch dairy town and a lot of these bangers are the descendants of those hard-working dairy people!

    And I have to remark that one of the early gangs in this country and one of the worst for getting together to harass, maim, and kill was a group of white men known as the KKK.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 03:34 pm
    What about prison gangs? I found a very interesting article on the web today by a former inmate who was the head of one.

    STEPHANIE, I'm so sorry to hear about your brother's accident. Yes, people who wear orthotic appliances like braces, or prostheses like artificial limbs, have real problems with inflammation and infections caused by pressure and rubbing of the skin by what they must wear.


    December 16, 2003 - 03:35 pm
    that bad behaviour, is only perpetrated by people who are less right thinking than us, we simply compound the prejudice in my view. Surely we should be rejoicing that brenda admits her fault and allows us some chance to see where such behaviours spring from.

    It seems to me that the same girl, who wrote the poetry has somehow faced her demons, and I personally ache for her and the circumstances which got her incarcerated.Why is there always a but in our deliberations, we are part of this society that is responsible for gangs, and yet we so willingly apportion blame, to the black, the hispanic or anyone else we see as different.


    December 16, 2003 - 03:52 pm
    I remember when very young that the all white girls would be gangs of Catholics and a gang of Prodacents (sp) I went to both kinds of schools got jumped by a gang and showed them what for, when I came into our house my Dad said how are the others, in return I told him that they were in Bad shape also. He was proud of me for being able to take care of myself. Race is Not all of the problem as when we think about it many married couples have knock down drag outs so if two people who love each other can't live in peace how can we expect our world to have peace. That is why I like this line "Let there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me" but I have also been taught Not let myself be a punching bag.

    December 16, 2003 - 03:59 pm
    that reminds me of a funny story. We have a wall hanging which says, "Gods peace be to this house". Many years ago, as I was trying to get my three kids to school on time without screaming too loudly, my brother, visiting at the time, said, "having that thing hanging here is tantamount to blasphemy". I have since tried to improve my game. <G>


    December 16, 2003 - 04:00 pm
    I absolutely agree, Anneo. What a tremendous gift to us for her to open up, to lay herself and her demons bare for all to see.

    And I can't help but remember how young she was and how vulnerable and fragile young people are, how much they want to belong, and particularly a motherless child who had been through the things she had been through.

    And yes, we are responsible. At least in this country, this has been brewing and growing for such a long time. And we watched it and our children watched it and somehow we let it happen. So many people were (and are) caught up in more of this, faster that, bigger something else, that things have gotten totally out of kilter. So few children are being raised in their own homes by their own mothers and fathers anymore, or at least the majority of their days are somewhere else and a high percentage are in single-parent homes. So many more affluent people are giving their kids activities and stuff but not the things that really matter, like standards, manners, morals, respect, responsibility, the work ethic, and blah, blah, blah.

    It takes a national standard and a community standard and people who are willing to do what it takes to enforce them and we don't have that anymore. For instance, when I was in New Hampshire, I saw a waitress tell off some teens who were smoking. They got sheepish and apologetic and left quietly when she still ejected them after they had extinguished the cigarettes. In much of California, she would have been sassed, cussed, knifed, and/or shot. And I also observed in New Hampshire that if you didn't do something when your child misbehaved in public someone else would and the parent of the offender was embarrassed, not "in your face" or threatening bodily harm or lawsuits.

    December 16, 2003 - 04:05 pm
    The Smile I am wearing almost hurts as it is so big.


    December 16, 2003 - 04:14 pm
    Thanks for your help and quick response earlier with my posting problem, Ginny! And I really want to say how impressed I am with the job your are doing in this discussion. Keeping up with all of us is a huge task, especially putting up with our petty bickering and understanding it for what it is. And for coordinating so many things, also. God bless you and everyone else involved, including SeniorNet itself, because this is really a life-changing, enlightening experience and hopefully for everyone involved.

    We are having some tremendous opportunities here to walk that mile in someone else's footwear.

    December 16, 2003 - 04:25 pm
    You are someone I admire no end because I remember how you took a huge chance and opened up to us before any of this discussion ever started. Did you find that it helped you heal more after that had happened? Were you surprised by the supportive response and the acceptance? Did you have any negative response? I imagine this discussion has validated and helped you even more, but am I correct? Do you find yourself standing a little straighter, literally or figuratively, and holding your head up a little higher now or had you already gotten to that stage thru earlier healings?

    Does the catharsis of opening up, verbally or in writing, help as much long term as I think it does? Does it take away some of the heaviness inside and the feeling that one is not and never will be quite as acceptable as other people?

    Anyway, thank you! You're one of my heroines! (Or is it no longer P.C. to say "heroines" and do we just say "heros" now?)



    December 16, 2003 - 05:35 pm
    I haven't finished Brenda's piece yet, but from the part I read which included the description of the seizure, it's not easy to decide if the cause was epilepsy or Santeria. A friend of mine spent a year in Jamaica working on her PhD. She described ceremonies during which the participants danced and drank until they would fall down in a form of seizure.

    So far, reading this book might give the impression that everyone who winds up in prison as a result of criminal activity probably had a poverty-stricken childhood that also included abuse of some kind. But we know that middle-class kids whose parents try to do right by them can also become addicts and/or commit crimes which send them to prison. I haven't finished the whole book yet, but wonder if we will meet any such inmates in Wally Lamb's group who can tell us in their own words why they ended up behind bars.

    Mal, when you were telling us about your braces, I couldn't help thinking about that scene in "Forest Gump" when, pursued by bullies, he runs faster and faster until his braces break and fall off. He then outruns them all because his muscles have grown so strong by exercising against the restraint of the braces. I guess this is just a fantasy and probably the result of his having been misdiagnosed in the first place. But the way you have managed to do everything you want to do despite the handicap makes me visualize you as throwing off the braces mentally, if not physically, and running through life ahead of us all.

    December 16, 2003 - 06:54 pm
    Q- I remember how you took a huge chance and opened up to us before any of this discussion ever started

    A-.I did take a gamble by opening up but humans especialy the S/N posters need to know that it is best to be open (caring and sharing) for both the sharer and the one you are sharing with.

    Q- Did you find that it helped you heal more after that had happened?

    A-Yes it did help the healing process.

    Q-Were you surprised by the supportive response and the acceptance?

    A-No I was some what surprise but Not to surprised as I do have faith in my higher Power and Love people.

    Q- Did you have any negative response?

    A-I had No negative response which I am so very Gratefull for as I was some what afraid that even S/N might reject me after I told the truth and I do Love S/N.

    Q- I imagine this discussion has validated and helped you even more, but am I correct? Do you find yourself standing a little straighter, literally or figuratively, and holding your head up a little higher now or had you already gotten to that stage thru earlier healings?

    A- Many of my classmates knew about it as it was plastered all over our local paper in this Very small town at the time and registered in on my high school after 40 years as my address was Aldersen, W. Virginia but I have given them my new address, so that has been changed.

    My blood relation know about but it is Never brought up in any conversation when I am with them.

    My Neibors, (Friends) know about it but when I told them I was a little concern as to how they would respond, Even after telling them I thought Now why did I do that but there was a reason I found out a bit later in life.

    At our 50th reunion in 2001 No one talked to me about it.

    I feel a relief at having told about this on S/N as The Extended Family Love came thru "Loud and Clear". It almost brings tears to my eyes to post this. Does choke me up a wee bit.

    Q-Does the catharsis of opening up, verbally or in writing, help as much long term as I think it does?

    A-I have no idea what the word catharisis means and cannot find it in my dictonary.

    Each time I trust people to tell them and they accept me for myself it lifts the burden of guilt which I have always called Shyness.

    Q- Does it take away some of the heaviness inside and the feeling that one is not and never will be quite as acceptable as other people?

    A-Yes it did but Not anymore.

    Q-Anyway, thank you! You're one of my heroines! (Or is it no longer P.C. to say "heroines" and do we just say "heros" now?)

    A- How about feeling like Extended Family.


    Ginger to some, But Gingee to some also.

    December 16, 2003 - 06:58 pm
    I Must leave for a While to watch the Movie "What I Want My Words to Do to You.

    Catch Ya'll later.

    December 16, 2003 - 07:04 pm
    catharsis simply is a release of emotions, which make us feel relieved, makes one feel better for having talked.

    Incidentally, have to admit I sure didn't, feel rather more introspective now if that was possible.


    December 16, 2003 - 08:50 pm
    Oh my gosh.. y'all are so lucky! It's not on here until 9:00 PM and that's Pacific time!

    Pardon me and my big words, Ginger. I'm not trying to bumfuzzle and amaze you, that's just how I talk. "Catharsis" means "purging" or "purification."

    If you go to, you can get a free and REALLY handy reference dictionary, especially if you download the tiny definitions program so you can get it instantaneously on your own puter. It seems that no dictionary has everything, except maybe the OED, but this one is pretty good. If it fails, or if you don't download it, there's a good one at Yahoo and other good ones can be found through just by typing in a word and then the word "definition," like this: catharsis definition

    December 16, 2003 - 09:01 pm
    I wrote my previous message some time ago and forgot to hit POST MESSAGE. Then I went on to paint a dozen ornaments (with Drewie for his teachers and other friends...) came back and there it was.

    Anneo, I felt the same. Initially, it felt like catharsis but then I had to shrink back into myself a bit. But I have gotten some of the recommended books and I am at least going to write more of it, even if no one ever sees it. Last year, I did a lot of "embellished books" with stories of separate incidents along with designs, drawings, etc., mostly on the pages of old music books. My intent was to take it somewhere and bury it when I finished but I still have not finished. But I'm feeling more like starting at the very beginning and working my way forward. So many things came to mind once I started thinking about it.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 09:33 pm
    Dear ZINNIA:

    Doesn't writing the same thing over and over as you try to come to terms with what was done to you reopen the wounds you bear and make them hurt and bleed? I know mine did when I did the same thing. I even had the idea of burying these writings, just as you do.

    When the time came that I knew I had to turn the pain of these wounds over to the God of my understanding, my Higher Power, I went out and found some small flat rocks that would fit in my hand. I scratched words on them like Anger, Hate, Pain and Hurt. Then I took put them in a bag and got in my car and drove to the reservoir. I parked on the bridge and took the stones out one by one and threw them in the water. They were gone forever, and there was no way I could ever dig them up or get them back.

    Little by little I began to feel better. Oh, there were times when something would trigger memories that hurt. Then I remembered that the pain of the past was gone forever.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 16, 2003 - 09:53 pm
    After a good deal of thinking I've come to the conclusion that what bothers me about this story is that Brendalis Medina describes a senseless, violent act, whereas the other writers did not. I've been trying to understand it and what made it come about.

    Brenda's mother insisted that she go to a Catholic parochial school because public school had turned her older siblings into troublemakers. Brenda says, "Most of my classmates were from wealthy families and I was the skinny little Puerto Rican girl whose family was poor. . . . I'd show up in Kmart shirt with frayed cuffs and my sister's hand-me-down Mary Janes." Her classmates were wearing "crisp white button-down shirts" that matched their uniforms, and they taunted her for the way she looked and was dressed.

    Brenda felt inferior and out of place, as if she didn't belong. She never felt accepted until she joined the gang. Before that she'd had a very hard time.

    Her home life confused her. Her mother would be fine; then she'd scream and rage and fall into an unpredictable seizure. Her mother on the one hand believed the teachings of the Catholic church. On the other hand, she believed the superstitions and teaching of Santeria. There was nothing consistent or definite in Brenda's young life. She really had nothing to hold on to.

    The gang offered her a family -- sisters and brothers and a "mother" in the form of Sandy, the 30 year old president of the Unidad girls, a kind of lover-father figure in Manny.

    What a terrible, terrible pity that this sensitive, poetic young woman could only find security among people whose code was violence.


    December 16, 2003 - 09:59 pm
    I know your intentions are good and you may have some good points there, but I have not yet even acknowledged a lot of it. One of the recommended books is about writing as a way of healing. And I do think that something lifts, something is eased, once these things are acknowledged in some way, and even more if acknowledged more.

    In AA meetings, one says, "Hello, I'm________ and I'm an alcoholic." They do that every time, not just once, and no one ever suggests that they are obsessing about being an alcoholic. I think that it's probably very hard the first time to stand in front of strangers and say that, but then you begin looking at yourself, learning from others, and you repeat it over and over and over and it looses so much of its power to hurt you. The pain of it eases each time you acknowledge it in front of the group. And once you have gotten further along, aren't you then able to help others by telling your story over and over and over?

    I love your story about the rocks and think that would be a nice symbolic thing to do. I have a friend, a behavioral specialist, who counsels writing down things that worry you and then putting them in a jar in the freezer. They are there if you need them. She also talks about writing things down and then doing a kind of ceremonial walk into the woods to bury them. That's why I decided to do that.

    December 16, 2003 - 10:32 pm
    How writing once here on senior net some small post about abuse in an admitted past life can be construed as "over and over".There really is a mixed message here, we are reading stories of what I consider very brave women and applauding their honesty, and yet mal, you feel both Zinny and I are obsessing and being repetitious.

    I can see this isn't the place, but from my point of view I would love to know where that place is. In my case for instance, I live hundreds of miles from any 12 step programme, even if I were so inclined. Zinnia is severely restricted because of her illness and so we should never have this acknowledged you think.

    It seems to me, if I had suffered any other kind of pain it would be an okay subject. I read somewhere about shame, think it was barbara, and it made so much sense.I should love a chance to be free of it, without judgement. Not in this life I think.


    kiwi lady
    December 17, 2003 - 12:26 am
    Anneo of course you should have your pain acknowledged!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 17, 2003 - 04:45 am
    Dear ZINNIA and ANNEO:

    Please, my dears, try to understand. I used the word "obsession" once, and it wasn't in my post last night. Instead of seeing the whole of that earlier message, you appear to have become stuck on that one word.

    ZINNIA wrote in her post #736 ". . . . I am at least going to write more of it, even if no one ever sees it. Last year, I did a lot of 'embellished books' with stories of separate incidents along with designs, drawings, etc., mostly on the pages of old music books . . . . "

    She said she was thinking of writing it all out from the beginning again along with other things she had remembered. What I asked was whether repeating over again what she had already done wouldn't serve the purpose of reopening old, painful wounds rather than helping what she had accomplished earlier by exposing these wounds to light and air and taking a big step in the healing process.

    ZINNIA mentioned the repeating of "I am an alcoholic" in AA meetings. There is a reason for these repetitions. The only way anyone can get into that most expensive club in the world is to have done something about which he or she feels remorse and feelings of shame. They were not the victim of anything except the disease of addiction.

    The nature of this insidious disease is that people forget what brought them to AA, and they decide that, yes, they can drink again. The repetition of who they are, and what they did in the past while drinking shows them why they cannot drink again.

    In 12 Step programs like AA, that is called "keeping the memory green". Prisoners repeat in 12 Step meetings what they have done to be in prison in order to remind themselves why they are there so that when they are released they won't do the same thing again.

    You two women have done nothing to hurt other people. You've committed no crime. You're the ones who have been hurt. There is no reason for you to feel remorse and shame about anything. There is no reason for you to keep the memory of what someone else did to you fresh and green. Especially when that memory eats at you and makes you relive what happened and feel the pain.

    You are the victims, not the perpetrators. It is the person who caused this pain for you who should relive what happened so he or she will not forget and do the same thing to someone else. It is that person who should be in this prison of pain, not you.

    For every woman who has written her story in Couldn't Keep it to Myself there is at least one victim, and this is what they must remember so they won't repeat their mistakes. You, ZINNIA and ANNEO are victims of a crime. You have not committed one in the way these writers did, and there is no reason for any kind of punishment for you, including this hurt you feel.

    I ask you please to read what I've said carefully. I am not pointing a finger at you or blaming you here, nor was I in my earlier post. Rather, I have offered love to you and a means to recover.

    I'll end this post by saying I hope from my heart that you understand the message in this post. I'll also tell you that there are 12 Step meetings as close to you as your computer is. There are many, many different kinds of 12 Step programs on the web for you to use if you want to. Please remember that I can't get out to a 12 Step meeting either. This is why they are there on the internet.


    December 17, 2003 - 04:51 am
    Anneo, Ok what does the word introspective mean as you All speak in words that I do Not understand so Please teach me as I am her to learn..


    Zinnia, I had it already had it but just did Not take the time to look it up. Thanks for the reminder. It seems so natural to just ask my friends and you are one. What you are saying to us speaks to me Loud and Clear and so another writer is among us and has been for a long time.

    Mal, Your words have so Much to say in most of your posts and they speak to me.

    Anneo, It is Your discison and Only Yours So give it much thought.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 17, 2003 - 05:26 am
    Good morning, GINGEE. Introspective means examining one's own thoughts and feelings and sensations.
    It is a kind of self-examination.

    Have a beautiful day today!


    December 17, 2003 - 07:42 am
    Thank you all for all the fine thoughts and background material, on gangs, on dental horrors, on the Connecticut Lawsuit against the writers of the book and the Son of Sam Laws, on Santeria, on race, on statistics, and on Brenda Medina's story, among others.

    I want to get to your points next but today, while we only have one more day on Brenda Medina's story, I'd like to address it and some of the issues you all have mentioned it raises? Let's focus today on Brenda?

    Brenda has written this poem, which concludes her essay:

    Beyond the steel door, there's a mourning
    Grief for misplaced innocence

    Past the mourning, there's a darkness
    Filled with fears that make no sense

    Beyond the darkness, there's a bright light
    Illuminating half the way

    Past the bright light, there's a longing
    One that will not go away,

    Beyond the longing, there is silence
    Stillness that may save my soul

    Beyond the stillness, there's salvation
    Grace from God to make me whole

    That's a HECK of a poem! A HECK of writing talent and a HECK of a statement, let's look at it today. What does she mean by "Beyond the longing there is silence." What silence?

    What do each of the steps she takes represent? Was there one there which surprised or disappointed you? What does she mean by "Illuminating HALF the way?"


    December 17, 2003 - 07:58 am
    We just had a question raised, in fact two questions in the PBS discussion which pertain here. One of them asks what is the dominant impression you got from (the film) (this essay?)

    I was personally blown away by the writing talent of Brenda Medina. In fact, I was so taken away with it I kept wondering if THIS is one of the "as told to" pieces or if this is all Brenda? Then I got to the end and read that poem and again, it blew me away. That IS NO SLOUCH of a poem! That is incredible, and for those of you who like scansion, note the rhyme scheme and the meter, I love that thing and what it says.

    I think one thing that stops the reader in this story is the revelation of the violence and the way it's presented. We have longing for "Manny" (here again I had to stop and think. "Manny" is an old name, isn't it? Old in the ways of the 30's, "Manny Moe and Jack," famous...what? Auto store? I am surprised to see "Manny" in 2003, and wonder if, in fact, that was his name, if so it's amazingly apt: Little Man and not more than that.

    But we have emotion in the form of longing for this Manny and yet when we pick up the 2x4 and beat the helpless woman, (one assumes to death? We never hear more?) it's told from a detached dispassionate voice.

    I can see from reading all of your posts why gangs are so horrible, and what Brenda describes here is nothing different from what you see on The Sopranos and the "made man" of the Mafia. What IS hard for us to get thru is the 2 by 4, that is a BIG stick and the dispassionate telling of the attack on the woman next door who made fun of the gang, ordered by the 30 year old leader of the women in the gang, it's frightening, to us, and I expect it's intended to be.

    You can't tell me you can beat somebody senseless with a 2 by 4 and not feel anything, but here if there are feelings they are pushed behind a shell. I do think there is a person in there, and I think that person has shown us very powerfully what can go wrong when young people so long for acceptance (and old Mafia "made men" do too) that they commit henious crimes on others, in order to "belong." I guess the theory is, if you can't get respect alone by yourself as a person you can join in a "family, " a "fellowship" where you belong and whose very name means FEAR to others, and that kind of respect. I remember the gangs from my PA High School days and the "DA" hair cuts, the black leather jackets, the hoods, the REAL "Fonzies," who were not so funny, and I have heard of the Tongs, etc., but I did not realize that this kind of stuff still went on today, and is involved with an ethnic group tho I have seen West Side Story, I guess I thought that went out with bobby sox, apparently not, huh?

    So this one piece, in its dispassionate and violent depictions covering the soul of a lyric poet is truly astonishing, to me.

    There's a big problem here, I hope we can somehow help, in some way.

    Two more things? She calls it Hell and How I Got Here, I think perhaps Brenda was living in HELL before she ever entered the prison. Who are her role models in prison now? And also the chapter titles, did you notice them at all?


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 17, 2003 - 08:47 am
    I never thought "Manny" meant "Little Man". The story is about Puerto Ricans who speak Spanish, and I thought of Manuel with Manny as a nickname. The name Manuel means "God is with us."

    The name of the gang, "Siembre Unidos" (always united), reminded me of what's on the Great Seal of the United States: "E pluribus Unum"-- Out of Many, One, or united. Also on the Great Seal is this saying: "Annuit Coeptis" -- He, (God) has favored our undertakings.

    I wonder if Brenda Medina chose the name Manny (Manuel) with this in mind? Another bit of irony?


    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 17, 2003 - 09:16 am
    Ginny, I do laugh.. Were you an English teacher by chance?? You sound a bit like my poetry professor in college at times. I reacted emotionally to Brenda's writing. I would guess because I had seen and heard a lot about gangs and the damage they cause. Getting past that, the story is written very unevenly.. The emotion in Manny is strong, but the story of the attack is so very sketchy.. Possibly the emotions are too strong for her even now. Mal.. My brother suffered terribly most of his life. Hit by a car at 8, neck 7/8 broken.. spent over a year in various stryker frames, etc. Was paralyzed on one side and no feeling on the other. He lived until last year. For years things went well, but he gained weight rapidly and the last years of his life were in a wheelchair.Amazing the way this sort of thing affects the whole family. If I were a writer, I would try to explain that.. It is always with me.

    December 17, 2003 - 11:37 am
    I have to agree with Kiwi Lady who is having difficulty dealing with the reason Brenda went to jail. She decided not to comment on this, but I think we do need to say something about the negative things revealed in a story as well as the positive aspects of recovery and redemption. Brenda is still claiming that she was not guilty of felony murder because she was surprised by the stabbing after the beating began. This shows that she does not understand the concept of participation in a crime on which the charge of felony murder is based. The idea is that once you become involved in a crime, you will be unable to predict or control all the consequences, but you will be held accountable for them.

    My heart goes out to all these women. Their lives took a wrong turn when they were so young -- too young perhaps to evaluate all the consequnces of their choices. But, especially in Brenda's case, there were victims. It's interesting that she was seeking a "family." But she had a family, one that was only trying to do what was best for her. Her parents were not perfect--who of us think ours were. Yet they came to visit her every week. Her brothers and sisters cared about her. Being obsessed with the wrong boyfriend and wanting to be part of the group is not an excuse for assault and murder. The price of admission to this "family" should have been the first clue that love was not the bond that held them together.

    I do feel sorry that Brenda does not have the possibility of parole now that she has done so much to rehabilitate herself. To enter prison at seventeen and not get out until you are forty-two is definitely a form of Hell. I hope when she is released, society will give her a chance to use the skills she has learned while in prison. I also hope that she comes to realize that she did have a role in a crime that took someone else's life.

    December 17, 2003 - 12:26 pm
    I have a tendacy to agree with Kiwi Lady and horselover. I had a hard time with this story. I didn't see much remorse when she beat up the lady with a two by four. She seemed very disconnected from the whole thing.

    Last night I watched POV which was on at 10:00 in our area. I was astonded to discovery that Pamela Smart was among the writers in the workshop. My husband and I watched her trail on Court TV. The general feeling I got from her was the same as I got from reading Brenda's story. She appeared to say the right things, but a couple of things she said led me to believe she was still pretty much worried about Pamela Smart, not the people she'd wronged.

    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 17, 2003 - 12:33 pm
    Pamela Smart. Now there is a genuine piece of work. She should stay in jail. She ruined kids lives, killed her husband and generally created a mess. She never seemed to care. I lived up there when this was happening and she really came on like a victim.. Whew.

    kiwi lady
    December 17, 2003 - 12:47 pm
    Actually Horselover and Stephanie have said what I feared to say. I feel that Brenda still did not accept any real responsibility for her actions. She subtly portrays herself as a victim in her account of the crime which resulted in her incarceration. I felt differently about the other women. They took full responsibility for their actions.


    December 17, 2003 - 02:04 pm
    Well again, too, I think perhaps the lack of emotion shown here by Brenda (I think we're actually talking about two different crimes here, the one with the 2x4 and the one later on when the gang attacked somebody and that person was killed, and Brenda, being one of the gang, fell under "The Hand of One is the Hand of All" law, apparently? and was incarcerated?)

    But again, Brenda is not writing here a...mea culpa? And we're not her Confessors? Nor her judges. And so we have to take her words for what they reveal and what they don't reveal, and as I said earlier, TO ME the fact that some emotion in revealed in one place and not another (there's that pesky literary analysis again) is quite telling, but I'm not getting the same conclusions everybody else is.

    Didn't we read somewhere in this discussion hate the sin and not the sinner? I think this is a marvelous essay for discussion for exactly these reasons and I'm enjoying your submissions, and honest thoughts: does anybody have any thoughts on the poem itself or the chapter titles? I'll try to get back later I thought several of you made great points, we just finished up the Live Chat with Eve Ensler and I thought it went really well even IF they used two of my own questions (and Washington DC asked the third. haahhaah) whoever that was!

    What do you suppose Brenda means by "there's a bright light illuminating half the way?"


    December 17, 2003 - 02:26 pm
    You get it so right.Actually what I get from this girl is total honesty, devoid of emotion, when she explains her reasons for incarceration. She doesn't gloss over anything, and how would we know of this detail without her honesty.

    Then we get honesty in the poem, the knowing that the Light can only lead us half the way, in the end the choice is ours.Also though Brenda may now well understand her culpability, at seventeen? I think not.

    Do we ask for sack cloth and ashes, do we want her to beat her chest. "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault"

    I dont think she offers excuses, simply reasons. I think it is almost impossible to understand the mix of superstition and religion here, it is I fear a fine line, not easily walked by any of us, least of all the young.It is ironical about her sisters going to iron fisted men, when she herself went to a group, where individual choices would it seems be totally quashed.

    In these shoes, could I have done better, or may I just possibly have done worse. "there but for the grace of God, goes Philip Neri".


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 17, 2003 - 02:53 pm
    Yes, we are talking about two different crimes here. The Son of Sam law would not allow Brenda Medina to write about the crime that actually sent her to prison. And, yes, we appear to be judging her because she doesn't act the way we think she should -- or the way we would.

    Brenda Medina wasn't able to please anyone in her life, not her mother, not her father, not anyone. When she picked up the two by four and hit the woman, "the bitch who didn't like the family" according to Carmen, it was her initiation into the gang, and she did for the first time please someone, the president of the Unidad girls.

    Brenda's reaction to what she'd done showed me, at least, that she was stunned and even perhaps shocked by her behavior.
    "Then everything went dark. My legs wouldn't work."

    "A few minutes later, I was in some alley, at the bottom of a flight of stairs. I was bent over, holding my stomach, gasping for air."
    She doesn't pull out of it until Erika tells her they're sisters now and that "Carmen really liked what she saw tonight" and she wouldn't be on probation long. Erika gives Brenda the Unidad beads she's wearing. When Brenda puts them on she says, "I felt part of my soul slip away."

    The little poem at the beginning of the next chapter, "Dancing in Leg Chains", tells me a great deal about this young woman. The poem GINNY mentions tells me the steps she took to accomplish what she has, but this one tells me about her.
    I might have been a great actress
    with awards up on my shelf
    I'd have been a big success,
    if I hadn't lost myself.

    Deep down the real me exists
    When it's safe, she'll show her face.
    While she's waiting for that day,
    I am here to take her place.
    The frightened, unloved, lonely, disrespected, sad, real Brenda Medina is hiding deep behind a facade.


    December 17, 2003 - 04:21 pm
    Brenda was a child and in that situation, probably saw herself as having no choice. I admire her honesty. I abhor what she did, but I doubt she really understood what she was getting into. Once she was into it, fear would keep her going.

    Does anyone believe that an already shaky 17-year-old, already somewhat brainwashed by her boyfriend, would be able to resist the pull of "belonging"? In the middle of the kind of situation that got her to prison, does anyone believe it would be safe to yell at her "friends" to try to stop them, to try to protect the victim, to run away? In the mass hysteria, I think something would snap, the pack mentality would kick in, and all she would have been thinking about was doing whatever it took to go along in order to keep herself safe.

    I was completely impressed by her openness in talking about how she kept up her "badass" reputation in prison, and I think that's probably reasonable given that she probably feared that a show of weakness could be dangerous.

    I applaud her when she talks about how it took her a long time to understand and even longer to start changing her ways. Her writing about starting to open up to Ken and her "zigzag" process of changing is amazing. I think her stories, or excerpts from them, should be required reading in every high school, junior high school, and in some places, maybe even the higher elementary grades.

    I admire what she is doing to change the lives of her fellow inmates and what she has done in the realm of education. Even without possibility of parole, she has not given up and keeps on seeking to better herself and help others.

    No, this doesn't bring back the victim of the crime or change the pain of that person's loved ones, but unless we somehow are able to give her some supernatural powers, she will be unable to accomplish that. In lieu of that, it seems to me that she is taking her punishment and turning it into something positive.

    I admire her parents and their unconditional love and I'm sure that contributes a lot to the change in Brenda. I can only imagine their pain in having to see her there and leave her there after every visit.

    I'm sorry that there is no possibility of "good time" because she could do an awful lot of good in the schools and on the streets as a young woman. I'm sure she will go on to do great things when she gets out but I think the words of a 42-year-old are likely to have somewhat less impact on kids than those of someone younger.

    December 17, 2003 - 05:18 pm
    Hi to you all tell me is there any way I can email any one in a womens prison. If so email me at PETER aged 65 living in New Zealand..

    December 17, 2003 - 06:39 pm
    It went something like this:

    "I have two animals inside of myself.

    One of the animals is dark and cruel, angry, unloving and unlovable, filled with shame, confused and beset by false guilts.

    The other one is light, cheerful, gentle, kind, honest, helpful and responsible.

    My son, we all have these two animals within each one of us, and they are always at war with each other."

    And the son asked his father, "Father, which one will win?"

    And the Indian man tells his son, "The one we FEED my son."

    And that is exactly what each of us has to do. It means looking at ourselves honestly, the dark side and the light side, acknowledging the dark side in ourselves and in other people, admitting our hurts and our pain, and the hurts and pain of the people who have hurt us, and then purposefully turning to and feeding the light side. And it doesn't matter what our childhoods were like or what our circumstances are. I don't know a single person who has not been deeply hurt, and I don't know a single person who is free of very deep pain, nor do I know a single person who has not been confused and overwhelmed by their circumstances or who has not felt unloved and unlovable. But at some point we all have to make the decision whether we will stay stuck there and which side we will feed. And it is a choice.

    I hope Brenda has decided to feed her light side.

    December 17, 2003 - 06:57 pm
    After the first assault, Brenda says, "I felt part of my soul slip away." This shows that she knew she was making a Faustian bargain with the Devil--her soul for entrance to this "family" she admires. We, and she, need to realize this if we are going to debate with the Devil to try to win back this lost soul. The fact that she was seventeen, a minor, when she first made this contract is a good point to bring up. Under earthly law, a minor cannot enter into a contract or be held to its terms. We could also argue that her older brother, whom she trusted, led her astray. Maybe that's why she begins with her brother's "bloody" prank when she was only six years old. We could also argue that she was taken over by an evil force that entered her body, as it entered her mother's body when she was a little girl. Or we could argue that Manny was the Devil in disguise and obtained the contract by fraud, with false promises. But the price of winning back her soul from the Devil is still the realization that she is not innocent.

    Brenda was "dancing in leg chains" long before she got to prison. She says that her real self is hidden, the one that could have been successful if she hadn't "lost herself." In the meantime, the evil force inhabited her body and is "here to take her place."

    I think the poem at the end shows God winning the fight for Brenda's lost soul: "there's salvation, Grace from God to make me whole."

    December 17, 2003 - 07:33 pm
    1. Each inmate has a low metal trunk to store personal stuff -- coffee, snacks, clothing (state issued and a few things that can be sent in from home). The women are allowed to have only items listed on the prison commissary list -- anything else is considered "contraband" and can be grounds for a disciplinary ticket. Each woman receives a couple of tee shirts, two pairs of jeans, underwear, socks, a sweatshirt, and a winter jacket (a few other items too, I think). If a woman has no source of income, she may receive a small amt of personal care product; mostly, the women are responsible for their own shampoo and so forth.

    Prison life is tedious--the sameness would drive me mad. Some of the inmates do stay productive and busy. Some of my students have jobs outside of school -- in the kitchen, laundry, grounds, and such. Groups such as anger management, survivers of abuse, AA and NA also exist -- the demand exceeds the number of groups available. Some woman choose to do nothing but sit around in their cells -- I don't know how they do it.

    2. Prisons are rated (like movies!) from minimum (levels 1/2), middle (levels 3/4), maximum (5). The lower levels have greater freedom -- inmates in level 1 facilities either have had a long period of excellent behavior or are incarcerated for a fairly minor crime. An inmate can't become level 3 or lower until she's served a fair percentage of her time. I'm not great at the details of all this. At York, we house all levels -- we're the only female prison in the state. Thus, all the women are treated as if they were maximum security -- our level 1/2 enjoy much less freedom and opportunity than male institutions which house only low level inmates.

    It's one of the toughest aspects of our place -- women who are very "compliant" and motivated are penalized for the rowdy women's poor behavior. When York first opened, it was supposed to be for levels 3 and up -- the low security women were to have their own prison, but budget cuts knocked that out before it ever got going.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 17, 2003 - 07:57 pm
    Thank you so much, DALE! It was good of you to come into this discussion and answer our questions.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 17, 2003 - 08:06 pm

    I have found a site on the web for anyone interested in a 12 Step program directed toward people who have suffered childhood sexual abuse. It's called Survivors of Incest Anonymous, but deals with recovery from all kinds of childhood sexual abuse.

    The 12 Steps have been adapted from the original AA 12 Steps. The program works the same way.
    Below are the Adapted 12 Steps and a link to this site.

    Adapted Twelve Steps

    We admitted we were powerless over the abuse, the effects of the abuse and that our lives had become unmanageable.

    Came to believe that a loving Higher Power, greater than ourselves, could restore hope, healing and sanity.

    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a loving Higher Power, as we understood Her/Him.

    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, the abuse, and its effects on our lives. We have no more secrets.

    Admitted to a loving Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being our strengths and weaknesses.

    Were entirely ready to have a loving Higher Power help us remove all the debilitating consequences of the abuse and became willing to treat ourselves with respect, compassion and acceptance.

    Humbly and honestly asked a loving Higher Power to remove the unhealthy and self-defeating consequences stemming from the abuse.

    Made a list of all the people we may have harmed (of our own free will), especially ourselves and our inner child(ren), and became willing to make amends to them all.

    Made amends to such persons wherever possible, except when to do so would result in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual harm to ourselves or others.

    Continued to take responsibility for our own recovery and when we found ourselves behaving in patterns still dictated by the abuse, promptly admitted it. When we succeeded, we promptly enjoy it.

    Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with a loving Higher Power as we understood Her/Him, asking only for knowledge of Her/His will for us and the power to carry that out.

    Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other survivors and to practice these principles in all our endeavors.


    Survivors of Incest Anonymous/Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

    December 17, 2003 - 10:41 pm
    Wecome to Books and Literature. I don't think that anyone can contact people in prison unless you are on the persons mail list and must be approved by the powers that be.

    December 17, 2003 - 10:44 pm
    DaleNice to meet you.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 18, 2003 - 01:32 am
    I have a chest cold that's keeping me awake, so, of course, I came in here.

    Chapter Titles.

    They are a grand piece of irony.

    1. My Mother's Secret

    The only thing secret was the name of her condition. It disrupted the entire family. Two adults and nine children? Imagine what it was like when the mother tried to strangle Brenda.

    2. Family Values

    Some family, and the last thing I expected.

    3. Dancing in Leg Chains

    The greatest irony of all. Here was a young woman who should be out dancing and laughing. Look at her: Handcuffs and shackles.

    It seems ironic to me, too, that Brenda's parents who gave her so much love when she was in prison, gave her so little when she was outside and with them. Salving their consciences?


    December 18, 2003 - 07:39 am
    I don't know the answer to your question but I believe Ginger is correct, at any rate, if you're interested, do stay with us, we're really learning a lot here.

    Dale Griffith!!
    Welcome, welcome, and thank you for that insight into what prison life is really like, I got up wondering that, we know, actually, those of us who have not been to prison, virtually nothing, and we really appreciate your letting us know, many thanks!! I know you are busy!

    Malryn love the "dancing in leg chains," comment, thank you also for that interesting meaning of "Manny" as Manuel, I think I may have learned something and for the link to the Sexual Abuse Survivors site on the web. Thank you also for pointing out the Irony in the titles and for looking closely at them. That piece is exquisitely written, the poem spectacular. Her mother's "secret" was like the "elephant in the living room," and like Horselover, I'm not sure what caused it. I'm not familiar with epileptics picking up knives and attacking people, I’m not sure that's part of the diagnosis, I think maybe Horselover's addition of the Santeria, might have something to do with it. At any rate it's horrific.

    I'm running a bit behind here but our next story is to be that of Robin Cullen, and I want to put it up this afternoon, I hate to leave Brenda's story, it has SO many applications, but if you'll be preparing your remarks on Robin Cullen's Christmas in Prison we can move on to it today and then tomorrow of course we are looking forward to our own Live Chat with the incredibly generous Wally Lamb.

    Horselover, thank you for that description of the seizures, that adds a different slant to what was going on. I liked your thought on " Possibly the emotions are too strong for her even now. "

    I imagine so and I got up thinking, let's do an experiment? Let's each of us…..let's take an incident in our own lives that we really are sorry we did, or ashamed of and write an essay on it, and what would that look like? NOT to be put here, but just for ourselves. I wonder what that would look like? For instance would we tend to justify ourselves? Or make excuses? I'm talking now about the skeletons in everybody's closets? What comes out to haunt YOU or used to haunt you when you were younger? And you know what? I discovered I could not write it down? I can NOT write such a thing, and if I DID it would probably be as dispassionate as what Brenda wrote, no excuses, no rationalizations and no emotion. So in that I can kind of relate as to what she wrote. And I can ALSO definitely understand Carolyn and Stephanie and Horselover and everybody who said, well this is hard to read. Sure it is@! We want our people as Anneo said, beating their breasts with mea maxima culpa, but what they say to us and on paper is not where it matters, it matters elsewhere and I do think these authors are being honest with us about where they are. I'm amazed now, only 2 weeks in, to find myself knowing so much more than I did a month ago and it's GOOD knowledge, it's strengthening knowledge and I wouldn't take anything for this experience, it's truly a watershed.

    Remember the Oprah Show? That poor girl Megan? And how she was….how did she say it….surviving? Just surviving? And when Oprah asked, because Oprah knows do you have anybody to help, she said herself? And when Oprah asked about education, (Megan had none) and asked what are you going to do, she LEFT? The girl got up nicely and left. That's HER pattern, leaving. She walks away to get relief, she left 13 of the 14 Foster homes she was in, God knows what that gorgeous, fit to be movie star girl has been thru. I found myself wondering if there were some kind of medical problem and I noticed that some callers wanted to reach out to HER on the Eve Ensler Live Chat last night? Here's another person desperately in need of help, and I bet you Oprah does something? Bet you.

    But yes I understand, and Stephanie, hahaha you are SO droll, I do enjoy you, I'll take that remark as the greatest of compliments, but hist you mention Pat Smart, I hope you'll or is it Pam Smart? I hope you'll go talk about it in the POV discussion, I had never heard of her, she seems miserable now, and Bill is talking about her over there.

    Denjer" Last night I watched POV which was on at 10:00 in our area. I was astounded to discovery that Pamela Smart was among the writers in the workshop." I do hope you go over to the POV discussion, the "celebrity " content of the prisoners WAS one of the topics there, I , of course, had never heard of any of them.

    anneofavon - Anneo, what has happened to your name? You have lost the "lea?" Anneofavonlea? Thank you for your perspectives, which I agree with.

    Malryn made a good point here, Brenda Medina wasn't able to please anyone in her life, not her mother, not her father, not anyone. Well again, too that's true of a lot of people, who do NOT resort to violence, what's the difference here? The mistake as Eve Ensler calls it of joining this gang to get love?

    Thank you for pointing this out to us, again: "Then everything went dark. My legs wouldn't work." And this The frightened, unloved, lonely, disrespected, sad, real Brenda Medina is hiding deep behind a facade. I think so too, there's nobody here condoning an attack by 2x4s that's for sure.

    Zinnia – You said, "I admire her parents and their unconditional love"….I'm going to say I don't "admire" them? I do appreciate their continuing love, but I don't admire her mother for shutting her up with a voodoo doll in a closet and I don’t admire her and her fits, attacks, and whatnot. If she were epileptic, and she may be, that doesn't include physical attacks and screaming, at least it's not part of any epileptic I have ever known, looks like their father continued to love her mother, THAT says reams, to me, I think something else was going on in this very histrionic household.
    <brL>MountainRose , thank you for that neat passage, about the "beast within," all of us.

    That's one of the songs on the Sopranos show and it's apt, I think. To everybody, maybe?

    I used to think, while sitting in church and looking at the congregation what would happen IF, just for a moment, our outer facades were stripped off and we were seen, like a Picture of Dorian Grey, as how our souls looked to God? What would we look like? Can't get THAT Image out of my mind sometimes. "For man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart?" type of thing?

    To me looking at a book for a book group discussion is very similar. You have many different people from different backgrounds and different experiences and different reading preferences. Participant XX only likes to experience the emotions the book brings up, Participant YYY likes characterization, Participant ZZZ only likes books which touch on something in his own life, Participant QQQ wants to look for symbolism.

    All these things are important, but just as you look at a human body and only see the arm while your husband sees the feet and your sister concentrates on the hairdo, so in a book discussion we need ALL of these perspectives brought forth, ALL of them and we need to look below the surface or else we're guilty of the very thing we're trying not to do here, look only at the label and the outward appearance. We need to get to the HEART of things. Wally Lamb has stated in his public talk how long it takes him to even get ONE sentence that suits him? Kazuo Ishiguro worked weeks on some passages. These authors are worthy of our trying to understand what they did, we need ALL perspectives and we need not to deny the pursuit of ANY perspective to any participant I think.

    I think, Horselover, you addressed the reason Brenda started her essay with her brother, in the midst of all the material she COULD have started it with. I am struggling to understand what statement that makes, I like yours, actually. Sometimes in these discussions we have perspectives and ideas that you all bring which are greater than the sum of the parts, and THAT 'S what we're aiming for here, ever higher, so please YOU all bring all your own points and we'll see when we get thru if we have a complete body of work or if we only have an arm or a leg.

    Let's move on to Robin today, let's try something new? I'll put up Robin Cullen's heading with no questions, how about you all ask the questions, what should we ask, what do you think of her essay, let's hear from YOU!


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 18, 2003 - 09:38 am
    Since GINNY has said she's not putting up any questions about Robin Cullen's piece, I'm going to post some thoughts I had about it.

    When I first read the part of this essay which GINNY posted in the "Women in Literature" discussion I said that Robin Cullen sounded self-pitying and that if she were that way she wouldn't last long in prison. Since reading as much of Couldn't Keep it to Myself as I have and reading the same passages in the context of the essay in full, I have changed my mind.

    There's some very good writing here and fine description. Cullen says on Page 178:
    "The women provide the only color at this otherwise gray gathering . . . . The prison giveth, taketh away, and giveth back."
    That says a lot about the environment in which these women must live.

    It sounds as if the Catholic masses were as interrupted and confused as the classes Dale Griffith taught. There apparently is much more going on in the congregation than participation in the mass.

    What Robin Cullen describes is what happens when there are cutbacks in the amount of money slated for the existence of the prison. Along with this are increases in cost of the holiday packages sold at the commissary. With each increase in cost and each cutback -- no bags of pretzel rings; no Doritos, no tree -- there comes a decrease in any sort of hope for the prisoner. What incentive does the prisoner have to become rehabilitated? What reason is there to be "good"? What reason is there to live?

    Robin Cullen ends this with statements from the Bible. ". . . . liberty will be proclaimed and every man shall be returned to his family. No man shall oppose another" and ". . . . no one belonged at the celebration more than the poor, the blind, and the imprisoned."

    Cullen has written a very moving piece here, especially so when read at this holiday season. It seems to me that Society wants these prisoners shunted away where they won't be seen and therefore never thought of. It seems to me that Society wishes they were all dead.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 18, 2003 - 10:04 am
    I remember the first Christmas I was alone, 300 miles away from my kids, friends, and the life I had known. I had moved to New England from New York because I couldn't afford the cost of living there.

    Though there was nothing to look forward to at Christmas, I had decorated the living room of my apartment, in a town where I knew no one, with a bowl full of ornaments and some Christmas candles.

    I woke up Christmas morning, and after I got dressed I went in the living room which was exactly the way I had left it the night before -- as neat as if nobody lived there, a bowl full of ornaments and some candles on the table.

    I said to myself, "Mally, there isn't any Santa Claus" and put on my coat and went out. I drove around looking to see if there was anything open so I might pretend I wanted to buy something, when all I wanted was someone to talk with, someone to whom I could wish a Merry Christmas. There wasn't, so I drove to the ocean and parked and looked at a gray, cloud-laden sky and an angry surf.

    There was a snowstorm threatening, so I went back "home", made a sandwich, ate it, grabbed a book and went to bed. I spent the day alternating reading and sleeping, and finally that day was over.

    It was then I hardened myself against Christmas and every other family holiday, but every year after that when I was alone Christmas day, I roasted a chicken and made a special Christmas dinner for myself and anybody I could find who wanted to share it with me.


    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 18, 2003 - 10:43 am
    Ginny, I am posting in the POV as well, although I think I am a minority there as far as jail is concerned. Robin is a very talented writer. I loved the short story she wrote and for the very first time in the book felt that the story could have been just that... a story.. Always before they felt like confessions or memoirs, etc. This one.. could go either way.

    December 18, 2003 - 11:17 am
    "Zinnia SoCA – You said, "I admire her parents and their unconditional love"….I'm going to say I don't. "

    I sure do understand your point of view on this, but I guess I need to elaborate on my statement.

    I think something was desperately wrong with her mother with the voodoo and all the other weird stuff, but I also think that something changed, that was then, and this is now. The fact that their visits mean so much and that there seems to be healing and forgiveness going on is important, too. I don't know whether she and her mother and/or father have discussed the earlier problems, but maybe they have. I also imagine that both her mother and father are carrying a heavy load of guilt for what they did to her and what they allowed to happen to her.

    I started looking at a lot of medical case studies re. episodic violent disorders this morning, trying to find something that might account for her mother's behavior. And then suddenly it occurred to me that it didn't matter. It was done, it can't be undone, but all of them seem to be past it or working on getting past it.

    In her parent's circumstances, many people would avoid her and the prison as much as possible or entirely. They don't. I don't see that there is a whole lot they can do beyond that.

    I know in my heart that my mother was sorry for the things she had done but too guilt-ridden to discuss them. But something that she did and said to me just four months before she died let me know. After my mother's death, from drugs and alcohol, I got to know my dad. We forged a new relationship and we became very close. He actually grew to know, respect and love me and I felt it. It helped me an awful lot.

    A long-time friend of mine, a holocaust survivor who has led a very interesting life, has written a book. In the forward, she said, "The number of people that bad things happen to far outweighs the number of terrible events that we see in this life. That is because most people cope. Human beings are remarkably resilient."

    She went on to say that if everyone who had bad experiences did bad things, we would have chaos. The people we are seeing in the CKITM and in POV got into or were put into situations from which they could not extricate themselves in order to cope, and/or their judgment was clouded by substances or other addictions that kept them from considering the consequences of their actions, and/or they got on a generally downward path and thought they would change tomorrow and then it became too late, and who knows what other reasons.

    I think perhaps her parents fall into one of those categories. My mother was the problem, my dad was the enabler, and he kept trying to shield and protect her because he loved her. I guess he wasn't paying enough attention to the fallout or considering the long-term effects on others. I think he was hope-based as well as shame-based; shamed that it was happening and hoping that it would somehow go away and then everything would be okay. I imagine that may have been what happened with Brenda's mother and father.

    They were "big people" to Brenda just the same as my parents and other of my tormentors were to me. But I have to remember that my parents were just past twenty when all this began and had no more mature judgment than Brenda did. And this in a very different time and culture.

    kiwi lady
    December 18, 2003 - 11:54 am
    Zinnia - I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed in your last post. My husbands mother had a severe mental illness and her family shielded her and all of them were enablers. The result however was terrible damage - some of the children are very damaged adults - three of them inherited the mental illness out of seven children and doctors have said that its genetic but the children may never have developed the illness if they had not lived through so many years of trauma and stress. We since found out that my MILs mother had the illness and that my MIL had lived through a traumatic childhood including sexual abuse in foster care etc. Her sister committed suicide. I think that my childrens generation are the ones who will at last break this cycle. It took many years to unravel family secrets and it was actually after a major operation that my husband began to have nightmares about his childhood and remember traumas that he had shut away in his mind to protect himself. There are only two children who remember all that happened in their early years the rest have blocked it all out but the scars are seen in their lifestyles and in their dysfunction. None of these very damaged children committed any violent crime although they were subject to violence and much verbal abuse as children.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 18, 2003 - 04:36 pm
    I guess the answer to Brenda Medina's problem with her mother, and the people in stories related here, is that when someone is as ill as Brenda's mother obviously was and the people you mention were, there must be intervention which will get the sick person to doctors and perhaps a hospital before their conditions damage an entire family.

    We must remember that Brenda Medina is an unreliable narrator. We are not seeing the whole story here. As GINNY said earlier today: "I think something else was going on in this very histrionic household." I agree. Like drug abuse by Brenda's mother, perhaps? We could speculate on and on about this, but the fact is we will never know.

    GINNY has asked what the tone of Robin Cullen's story is. There is some sadness, of course, but what I see most of all in this piece is a kind of objective, circumspect writing. Robin Cullen is writing about unpredictable economic conditions at York Correctional Institution and how they affect the women incarcerated there. She had a point to make, and she made it well. This objective, almost journalistic kind of writing is perhaps what makes Stephanie see a difference between this story and the others and feel that it could stand alone.


    December 18, 2003 - 05:23 pm
    I didn't post this in "Questions" because it's not a question, but I hope it can be conveyed to him and/or whoever else would be appropriate.

    I would like to thank the person or persons who put the "recommended books" list in the back of the book. I already had some of them but have been buying and borrowing others. I just got Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and am thrilled to pieces with it. By the fifth page of the Introduction I had already laughed out loud five or six times, and I have already picked up a lot from her. It is also interesting that her father, also a writer, conducted writing classes for inmates at San Quentin.

    I would also like to ask if anyone could post the list here because I have returned CKITM to the library and forgot to copy the list. The book is very much in demand and I wanted others to get a chance as soon as possible. I can wait until my own copy arrives, but I'd rather be able to look sooner.

    December 18, 2003 - 05:35 pm
    You're right, MAL about Robin Cullen's story being objective. It is so totally unlike the rest of the stories. Anyone of the women could have written it. There is little, if anything personal. The one sentence that really jumped out at me was: "My eyes well up from listening to those long-term inmates reminisce about their fond memories of Christmas past in prison, but they are not happy tears."

    Diane Church
    December 18, 2003 - 06:05 pm
    OK, ZINNY - just for you (and everyone else!).

    The following were instructive to the York prison writers' group:

    Brande, Dorothea; BECOMING A WRITER









    Additionally, the editor consulted the following:



    And I'll just add my own personal comments... Any non-fiction by Ann Lamott is a joy and inspiration and I particularly loved TRAVELLING MERCIES. She is a unique and special human being. Come to think of it, perhaps a good choice for a discussion....except I think it's already been done here. Darn. And also Goldberg's book, WRITING DOWN THE BONES - I read it years ago (I'm not even a writer) and I just loved it so much I bought a copy and thought that if I ever DID want to start writing, this was a book I'd like to have at my side.

    December 18, 2003 - 06:08 pm
    As usual, you are a joy and a resource! I also have "Writing Down the Bones" and recommend it highly.

    The one about Bonnie Jean Foreshaw is a film and I finally found it but it was $40 to rent and something like $249 to buy, so I had to pass, much as I would like to have seen it.

    I am now maaaaaaaaaaad for Anne Lamott and hunting down her other books.

    Diane Church
    December 18, 2003 - 06:13 pm
    ZINNY, you clearly have exquisite taste!

    December 18, 2003 - 06:54 pm
    Diane, Thanks so much for that list of books.

    My heart goes out to Robin. Her "crime," unlike some of the others in the book, could have happened to almost anyone. It would probably have been judged an accident if she had had money and a good lawyer, and she would have received no jail time. Her case was certainly no different from Ted Kennedy at Chappaquidick who was returning from a party and killed his passenger by driving off a bridge.

    Robin's story is also different because it is a compact description of a particular time. It does not go back to her childhood, or seek excuses for her incarceration. I love the last two lines: "We can't get out and Christmas is no longer allowed in. This is a maximum-security facility." This is good writing. Fortunately, she served only three years and did get out.

    It's interesting that so many of the authors in this book learned how to volunteer during their time in prison. They learned to direct their energies away from anti-social activities and toward education and helping others. So far, those that have been released seem to be succeeding well in their new lives.

    Diane Church
    December 18, 2003 - 07:40 pm
    HORSELOVER - glad to help out! I'm feeling sorry that I've contributed so little to this outstanding discussion and that was at least one little thing I could do.

    Your last paragraph intrigues me... about how many of the writers have learned to "direct their energies away from anti-social activities and toward education and helping others". Is there a message here? What would it take to skip the anti-social activities of those so-inclined and somehow re-direct them toward education and helping others FIRST?

    Does it take that prison environment where, it must be agreed, there are not that many options to awaken the desire to "do good"? Well, no, because there are plenty of individuals who go ahead in this direction without having to go the other way first. Well, I can tell I'm about to start rambling. But, as so often in this book and the subsequent discussion, it sure has me thinking. And that can't be bad.

    December 18, 2003 - 07:53 pm
    Diane, You have asked the $64,000 question!

    December 19, 2003 - 06:35 am
    jingle...jingle...jingle...dashing through the snow.. er... no no, just running in to say thank you for your impressions of Robin Cullens' piece, am on the way in with a billion questions on it despite my disclaimer earlier, I see tons of new stuff in it and want your opinions, but just to say I had a very nice letter from Tabbi Rowley last night to say she's, like many of us, swamped by the holidays and hopes to join us soon, meanwhile if any of you would like to correspond with her personally I can give out her email, so write me and I'll send it on rather than post it here?

    Back in a moment, Diane how good to see you here and in the POV discussion!!


    December 19, 2003 - 07:16 am
    OK we have a few new questions in the heading to start us off today, I think that due to the holidays and being somewhat overwhelmed myself, I think that we'll take up Robin today and tomorrow and then do Bonnie's thru Christmas, we'll take off December 24-25 and resume here on December 26 with Barbara Lane's piece, and go from there, that WILL take us over but I'll send you a revised schedule before Christmas, we won't be too far behind. Let's reflect today and tomorrow on Robin Cullen's powerful and timely piece and then on Sunday thru December 23 look at Bonnie Foreshaw's powerful statement.


    Barbara St. Aubrey
    December 19, 2003 - 07:36 am
    Here is a link to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that shows after basic needs like food, shelter and clothing there is a need for safety followed by a need to be loved - I would think that many women in prison have a sense of safety that they did not have in their homes or at least they have established a predictable way to think about themselves within the system and so they are ready to go on to the next level - the next level being love (non-sexual) the way they can achieve this is to develope close relationships in prison or by volunteerism.

    This Hierarchy of needs explains why many who have not met their basic needs are not able to work on the needs a bit higher on the ladder.

    December 19, 2003 - 07:47 am
    Great points, all, thank you Zinna for those remarks and attention to the list of resources, and thank you Denjer for printing them here, as far as I know we have NOT read an Anne Lamott here in the Books and it appears we need to do just that, doesn't it? Too bad we can't read it with a group of prisoners and share our thoughts, wouldn't THAT be something? Book clubs United!

    Thank you Diane, for this "But, as so often in this book and the subsequent discussion, it sure has me thinking. And that can't be bad." I agree, just think, now at Thanksgiving most of us knew absolutely nothing about this subject and now LOOKIT us go, this can only be good, I'm proud of all of us.

    horselover, I liked this "Robin's story is also different because it is a compact description of a particular time. It does not go back to her childhood, or seek excuses for her incarceration." and your point about how that makes it different and how it seems like a story.

    But I think they ALL are written as a "story" they all are very finely crafted and edited and I think when you look at them from a structural standpoint you can see the care taken in presentation, it adds so much to your total experience, just like realizing this morning how this piece is sandwiched between the two Jubilees, and the grace and favor contrasts, love it. But there's something else I noticed too and want to wait and see what struck you all the most. Sure is full of irony too.

    Malryn, thank you for those thoughts on the tone, " There is some sadness, of course, but what I see most of all in this piece is a kind of objective, circumspect writing." I agree, that's why when she does express emotion it's quite effective, I think, I was taken with the breathing of fresh air, I myself have kind of a fetish for breathing fresh air so I can just imagine what it's like to breathe your last fresh breath and step back into the prison ward. I loved the contrasts in the opening scenes between the desired for grace and the Jubilee and the makeshift concrete chapel and the priests being drowned out once by a prison altercation. I was in Rome for the Jubilee in 2000 and the image of THAT compared with this is totally overwhelming, I just love this piece.

    Zinnia, you are absolutely right when you say And then suddenly it occurred to me that it didn't matter. It was done, it can't be undone, but all of them seem to be past it or working on getting past it. and The fact that their visits mean so much and that there seems to be healing and forgiveness going on is important, too. Absolutely right, all I was saying was I don't admire her for who she was then, (and we don't know her present status, is she still writhing on the floor?) But you are right, her steadfast love IS commendable.

    Carolyn, you are also right, and well said, when you speak of children and parents.

    We tend to do to our own children with a knee jerk reaction what was done to us because that's the example we have seen, unless we take steps not to do it. Imagine then what some of our fellow prisoners in this world have to go on?

    Thank you Barbara, for that excellent link!

    You reach a point in your life when you tend to wake up at 2 am grieving over something you did wrong? The thing that helped me stop waking up at 2 am in guilt over something in the past was the thought that, OK it's over, you were wrong, don't do it again. Because it's the "doing it again, " in every way, even small ways that counts in the future, and that's what matters now. The past is over, we need to learn from it and move on; if we don't learn anything at all, we tend to keep making the same mistakes. And we learn every DAY.

    What I was saying was I did not admire her mother then, and should have made that clear, thank you for that head's up! Super discussion, let's look at Robin Cullen's very short piece from the point of view of the contrasts today and see if anything new opens up!


    Stephanie Hochuli
    December 19, 2003 - 08:45 am
    Anne Lamott is a new name to me.. After the holidays which are getting close to overwhelming, I will look up things she has written. We have such a small library here, that unless it is a best seller,,it aint there.. So we have to do library loan for everything worth while. Robin writes well.. That I would guess is my message. The essay or story has a flow that works for me.. She has a larger vocabulary and uses it well.. Objective enough??? But I also just plain liked the story.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 19, 2003 - 09:18 am
    I covered some of the things in today's questions in my Post #767 .
    "The women provide the only color at this otherwise gray gathering . . ."

    "a rainbow of skin tones, their chocolate, honey vanilla, and raspberry ripple-colored hair topped with crocheted red scrunchies that sit like cherries atop those ice cream-parlor hairdos." Brilliant contrast between this and the "corridor with white steel beams, raw cinder-block walls, a concrete floor painted battleship gray, and shatterproof windows that look onto the loading docks" where the mass was held.

    I also said, "What Robin Cullen describes is what happens when there are cutbacks in the amount of money slated for the existence of the prison. Along with this are increases in cost of the holiday packages sold at the commissary. With each increase in cost and each cutback -- no bags of pretzel rings; no Doritos, no tree -- there comes a decrease in any sort of hope for the prisoner. What incentive does the prisoner have to become rehabilitated? What reason is there to be "good"? What reason is there to live?"

    And: "Robin Cullen ends this with statements from the Bible. . . . . 'liberty will be proclaimed and every man shall be returned to his family. No man shall oppose another' and '. . . . no one belonged at the celebration more than the poor, the blind, and the imprisoned.' I will add to that the great contrast of the ending. "The trees have disappeared, the roast beef dinner's endangered, and the 'presents' have been held up until the backup of money orders gets unclogged. We can't get out and Christmas is no longer allowed in. This is a maximum security facility."
    Christmas can be a very painful, difficult time for many people. There are "anniversary" memories. That is to say, because holidays are special days we have a tendency to remember them more than other days. There can be memories of childhood Christmases which seemed like a magical fairyland. Compared to what's now, especially if one is in prison, the present seems like dismal hell. Though it's supposed to be a happy family holiday, there are a large number of suicides committed at this season.

    I posted a message in Post #768 yesterday about my first alone Christmas for a reason. In contrast to other Christmases I had known, that first alone Christmas with no tree, no presents, no family companionship and love, was terrible. I imagine what I felt was similar to what some incarcerated people feel.


    December 19, 2003 - 10:33 am
    so very differently? My first Christmas alone was a blessing, and so has each Christmas alone been a blessing ever since. So will this Christmas alone be a blessing.

    My childhood memories of Christmas after the war are golden, wonderful, but as I grew up Christmas became more and more of a "custom one must just go through" whether one had any religious beliefs or not, and that seemed useless and empty to me somehow, and I kept asking why? Once I was married Christmas became a nightmare for me. By that time my parents had been divorced, and there was a lot of animosity between them; so I could never invite them together. That meant I had to do two Christmases, and even then there were cutting remarks made and jealousy displayed, mostly by my mother, and no matter what I did, she would be hurt that I paid any attention to my father. My father had remarried and I did not particularly care for his second wife, although I was polite. There was also constant competition between my aunt and my mother as to who was visited more by me and who saw my children more times, with guilt flung at me if one or the other felt neglected. And they competed about who had given the BEST presents to the children. And then add to that my husband's moods which were ALWAYS black around the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving, all the way through New Year's Day---and his moods were BLACK for whatever was going on with him. At one point my mother, after her divorce, had various boyfriends and she insisted that if she is invited we invite whoever she was with even though we might have disliked the individual intensely, and every year it was a new one (momma felt lost in those days), and my brother, the one person I wanted to see during the holidays was always off traveling somewhere (I think to escape the sort of situations I was coping with). Then there was the lack of money, and all the work of cleaning, cooking, and shopping which added to the tension and stress, having to go to work with all those obligations hanging over my head, the social obligations of that time of year---- and I used to heave a sigh of great relief when it was over for another year.

    So when I moved away and found myself alone that first Christmas, with no shopping, no cooking, no family tension, no expectations, I was absolutely thrilled. I spent the day smiling to myself, praying, napping in front of the fire, painting and walking the dog, a creature who doesn't know it's Christmas and doesn't care but for whom just my company is Christmas every day.

    Even now, I have many friends in the area where I have invitations to go for Christmas dinner, because people seem somehow uncomfortable that I am alone; and I never go. They are getting used to it but still feel bad every year, and so the invitations have become open, as a way of saying that if I feel like being there I would be welcomed. I appreciate that for the kindness it displays, but I prefer to spend the day in my own way.

    The Christmas we have in our heads is a dream, a fantasy. It works as children before we know what life is and can be; but it no longer works for me. And that's fine as far as I'm concerned. When my situation changes I simply draw a new map, and it turns out I have as much fun drawing the new map as I did when Christmas was still magical to me as a child.

    On the other hand, if I had grandchildren I'm sure I would still do all the traditional things for their sake. But I don't have grandchildren, and so I'm perfectly contented with having enjoyed the season during my younger years, having done my duty during my adult years, and now being able to relax and do absolutely nothing except keeping in mind the original intent of the day and why we celebrate it without getting involved in the contemporary exhaustion of it. It suits me just fine! New map for new circumstances, which is what I do a lot of. Life is not static and I don't mind changing with new circumstances, and I have just as much fun charting new territory.

    Frankly, I have no idea how most of you ladies go through this ritual every year, with all the duties that fall mostly on your shoulders.

    December 19, 2003 - 10:45 am
    I like this Powerful sentence: walking the dog, a creature who doesn't know it's Christmas and doesn't care but for whom just my company is Christmas every day.

    December 19, 2003 - 10:55 am

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 19, 2003 - 11:11 am
    In just a few months before that first Christmas alone I had been hospitalized first for appendicitis and then for pneumonia, and had to cope with those alone. I was more vulnerable than I might have been.

    So vulnerable, in fact, that the fact that none of my kids would speak to me really bothered me at that time. I missed my children that first Christmas alone.

    So what happened a month after that? Well, as luck would have it, I fell on black ice and suffered a serious ligament injury to my right, "good" leg. That meant a brace on the left leg and a full cast on the right.

    One of my sons and my daughter bent a little then and actually came from New York to Massachusetts to see me.

    We all have our own experiences.


    kiwi lady
    December 19, 2003 - 11:48 am
    Christmas alone for me would normally suck! I did spend one Christmas Day alone because I was suffering from clinical depression and had locked myself away. It did not make me feel any better- I cried all day! I had NEVER felt so alone since or before that Christmas Day. However this year there are some issues about Christmas Day and I have felt tempted to stay home but I will probably not do that as the memories of that Christmas Day alone are still vividly imprinted on my mind.


    December 19, 2003 - 01:20 pm
    Golly Moses, Mr. Lamb has answered ALL of our questions and says he looks forward to being here at 4 pm, so has sent his answers ahead and after thinking about it I think I'll post them now (even tho I asked him which he'd prefer and can post them again) golly moses, he answered eveyr one of them, even the ones that he had to do over. I think that's about as good a Christmas as I'm ever going to get and we're VERY GRATEFUL!

    11. My cousin Nancy and I are the only two scribes in our family, far as I know, but I come from a great line of storytellers. My dad doesn’t so much tell a joke as perform it. My late mother was one of 11 children in a big Italian family. (Nancy’s dad was the youngest and the only sibling to move away from Norwich, Connecticut.) When I was a kid, the extended family gathered every Saturday night at my grandmother’s house for supper, after which the women would do the dishes and gab and the men would play cards. On holidays, they’d put the extra leaves in Nonna’s dining room table and, after the big meal, out would come the scrap books, tins of loose photos, and the family stories that went with them. My sisters and cousins would be down in our grandmother’s cellar, playing, but I used to like to hide under the table, amongst all those adult legs and table legs, eavesdropping on all the stories.

    My fiction is usually first-person: a character telling his or her story to the unseen reader. I love writing dialogue. Maybe the seeds for my life as a fiction writer--which didn’t take root until I was 30--were planted during those holidays when I’d sit on the floor, undetected, listening in. That’s typical for writers, I think: more often than not, we’re on the periphery of the action, rather than in it, observing quietly.

    12 and 13. Here’s how Nancy Birkla’s essay came to be in the book. While chatting on the phone with her brother John, I mentioned my work at the prison, and the book that was just then evolving from it. He said, quite casually, “Hey, you should talk to my sister about her experiences in the slammer.” At that point, Nancy had been out of prison for about ten years. She and I had enjoyed each other’s company as kids but had not been much in touch over the decades of our adult lives. A few years earlier, however, Nancy had sent me some samples of her writing: vivid accounts of her childhood visits back home to Connecticut, from which I could see she had talent, voice, and good “writerly” instincts. One of my frustrations with the York writing group was that we kept losing writers whose crimes were related to drug addiction. Like many people suffering from addiction, these writers would get off to a good start, work hard on promising drafts, and then at some midway point, give up on themselves and drop out of the group. The majority of female inmates are in prison for drug-related crimes, but as the women’s book was being realized, I saw that this population was going to go unrepresented. I contacted Nancy, who said she’d kept journals during her time of incarceration but that she’d moved on and was ambivalent about “going back there” to that very difficult time of her life. She said, however, that she’d give it a try. Whatever it cost her to do so, a few months later I received the first draft of an essay that I found moving, brutally honest, and filled with potential.

    Nancy’s text ebbed and flowed from there. I’d mark up her draft with inquiries and suggestions about where to expand, clarify, and provide detail. I’d mail it back to her. She’d send back the new draft with many of those suggestions incorporated and I’d say, “Okay, now it’s too big” and suggest that she cut. Nancy invested wholeheartedly in and was patient with the process of writing: the step by step way in which an early rough draft becomes a polished and publishable one. Nancy took criticism gracefully and spoke up when my editorial suggestions seemed off base. She never gave up on herself or her essay and the result, I think, is powerful work.

    The writing and the book’s publication have served as a reuniting vehicle for us. Nancy’s become one of the family members I’m closest to and I’m enormously proud of my cousin’s courage, her generosity, and her strength of self.

    December 19, 2003 - 01:23 pm

    Here are Mr. Lamb's answers to 14, 15, and 16, this must have taken hours, how we appreciate it!

  • 14. It was just about a year ago, the week before Christmas of 2002, when I handed an inscribed galley copy to the woman I’d seen at the Crystal Mall. To date, she’s not communicated with me about the book, so I’m not sure if she ever read it and, if she did, how she reacted. I don’t stand in judgment. I only hope that if and when she reads the book, it will become an invitation to her to consider that issues related to our incarcerated brothers and sisters are complex and multi-faceted and that “us versus them” thinking may be part of the problem.

  • 15. At year’s end, some of the released writers and I have done approximately two dozen readings, q & a’s, radio and TV interviews, etc. Although we expected to, we did not run into any negative reaction to the book while “on the road.” But there was negative reaction from two sources at the time of the book’s release last January: the State of Connecticut (more on that later) and a very vocal spokesperson for a group called Survivors of Homicide, who sharply criticized my efforts in a couple of newspaper articles, saying I should be running a writer’s group for victims of crime, not criminals. Again, there’s that “us vs. them” thinking. If I’ve learned anything these past five years, it’s that these two groups are not mutually exclusive. For so many, crime becomes a regrettable response to having been victimized. I understand that victims’ rights groups are comprised of members who are in terrible pain because of their heartbreaking losses, and I understand, too, that anger is one of the ways that people survive their grief and begin to reconnect with the world. However, if incarcerated writers reflect upon their lives and seek their truths, the better to understand themselves and prevent repeating past mistakes, this does not dishonor the victims of crime or their families. One of our contributors, Tabatha Rowley, is a case in point because she’s seen the view from both sides of the issue. Shortly after she regained her freedom, Tabbi attended the sentencing of a man who had shot and killed her brother in a drug deal that had gone bad. Before he was taken away to prison, Tabatha had a chance to address this man. Rather than berate him and wish him harm or death, she instead looked him in the eye and issued him a challenge: Use your time wisely, she said. Figure out why you’re doing time and work on becoming a better person. Through her own writing, Tabatha had done just that.

  • 16. If you added up all the exchanges between the writers and me, the writers with one another and Dale Griffith, and my final edit of each piece, I’d estimate it took hundreds and hundreds—maybe thousands—of hours. I’m at least a year or two behind on my new novel (otherwise known as my paying job!) because of this project, but if I had to do it over again, I’d do it the same because I feel the book’s message—that prisoners are not throwaway lives--is an important and useful one. My life as an educator and my life as a writer are always pulling at each other, robbing time from each other, but each of these vocations feeds the other, too.
  • Ginny
    December 19, 2003 - 01:26 pm
  • 17. In my book travels, I’ve had a chance to talk to many European journalists, most of whom believe that our nation’s employment of capital punishment is barbaric and vengeful rather than constructive for society. Personally, I oppose the eye-for-an-eye justice that the death penalty accomplishes on spiritual grounds. How can we do better? I think we should a.) reinstate rehabilitation as a primary objective of imprisonment and rethink the pendulum’s swing toward a more punitive model, b.) invest more in alternative-to-incarceration programs (which are less costly and which reduce recidivism), c.) reckon with the reality that addiction is a disease and respond accordingly and d.) stop using our prisons as dumping grounds for the mentally ill. That’s just for starters!

  • 18. The following CKITM contributors remain incarcerated: Brenda Medina, Michelle Jessamy, Bonnie Foreshaw, Barbara Lane. Keeping in mind that inmate mail can be confiscated, read, and censored, you are free to write to these women at the following address: York Correctional Institution, 201 West Main Street, Niantic, CT 06357. The women have received many letters from readers of the book—Bonnie Foreshaw got a post from Norway!—and they enjoy them very much and usually try to write back. Letters from readers validate their efforts.

  • 18A. See answer #16. Having volunteered at York prison for four and a half years, I can’t at this point unsee what I’ve seen or unhear what I’ve heard. I’ve become more of an activist for prisoners’ rights, I guess; editing and speaking about the book has been, for me, a form of that activism. I’d also have to say that my experiences with the workshop have affected my creative work. My new novel in progress explores three generations of a single family that are linked not only by blood but also by their connection to a local prison. While this fiction is not a political diatribe—far from it—it is informed by the lessons the women of York have taught me, and the wider understanding they’ve given me.

  • 19. I gather the “infamous case” to which you refer is the one in which writer Norman Mailer served as mentor to prisoner/writer Jack Abbott, who’d been convicted of homicide. As I remember, Mailer advocated successfully for Abbott’s early release and then, when he was free, Abbott killed again. Embedded in your question seems to be the supposition that Jack Abbott’s actions represent those of many prisoners and that we might all be better off if professional writers minded their own business, stayed away from prisons, and left well enough alone. Sorry, I don’t buy that reasoning; Abbott’s actions and failures were only his actions and failures. That said, I don’t think writing talent should be a basis for early release; I think solid proof of rehabilitation should be. I don’t campaign for the early release of the writers with whom I work, despite the fact that I think some of their lengthy sentences are grossly unfair and stem from a justice system that’s racist and biased against the poor. (Justice may be blindfolded, but she has to be peeking at skin tone.) I don’t “monitor” the released prisoners with whom I’ve worked; parole officers and halfway-house workers do that, taking urine samples, etc. I do keep in touch with these women on a regular basis, checking in from time to time to see how they’re doing, answering their letters, phone calls and emails, offering advice if they seek it, and praising their positive accomplishments. What constitutes rehabilitation? I’d say it’s successful reintegration into society as a contributing and sustaining member. Unfortunately, convicted felons who have done their time and attempt to rejoin the work force face many biases and institutionalized roadblocks to reintegration. That’s one of the reasons why recidivism is at 60-70%. Can you imagine some CEO in private business accepting a failure rate like that? Yet we as a society ignore it and allow it.

  • 20 and 21. I feel the individual members of a book club or class discussing a literary work should feel free to take the discussion wherever they want to, and that critical and analytical responses are every bit as valid and useful as personal applications and emotional reactions to the work. The great thing about classes and discussion groups is that its members teach and learn from one another. Given that, why would you want to adapt rules that allow one type of reader to speak while another type must wear a gag? That limits the many facets of a discussion. I’ve always told my students—high school, university, and incarcerated—that a discussion class is like a pot luck dinner. Bring whatever you have to the table. Don’t come empty-handed and expect to eat for free. Together, we make a feast!
  • Ginny
    December 19, 2003 - 01:30 pm
    Wow wow wow, and WOW?

  • 22. I find creating fiction from scratch to be much more humbling and difficult than editing my own or others’ work. Much, much, much, much, much more!

  • 23. There were many promising drafts under consideration, some by writers who lost their nerve and left the group, others by writers who were paroled and left, and some by writers who joined the group well into the book’s construction and whose work had not yet had a chance to season and mature through successive drafts written over time. The writers whose work was published were the ones who invested time and effort and patience with the process. I rejected no writer’s finished work.

  • 24. Hopefully, the title implies the necessity and the triumph of not only writing but of sharing, too. These writers told some very painful truths. That they then went public with them--first within our group and later to thousands of nameless, faceless strangers—is a testament to their trust in themselves and others and to their generosity. They truly want to be of service by helping others to better understand. There’s a spiritual resonance in the title, as well. The gospel lyric from which the title is taken is this: Said I wasn’t gonna tell nobody, but I couldn’t keep it to myself: what the Lord has done for me.

  • 25. When we first discussed the possibility of a book, I imagined it as a desktop-published, stapled-in-the-middle, photocopied pamphlet of a thing that I’d have reproduced so that the women could see and share their work in print. My publisher, Judith Regan, got a look and said the writing deserved professional publication. The women were excited about the possibility that something positive, something educational, might result from their hard work. And from the start, they wanted to “give back,” too. After much discussion, Interval House, a wonderful program that assists the victims of domestic violence, was chosen as a revenue-sharing partner.

    When professional publication became a reality, I immediately contacted the Connecticut Department of Correction, informing them that a book was planned, sending them writing samples, and requesting a meeting so that we could discuss their concerns and so that I could be guided by DOC in this effort. I was met with a year-long wall of silence, as were the publisher’s lawyers when they inquired about contracts for the women. There were several calls, several requests to meet, no response. We were, therefore, surprised when, the week before publication, the women learned they were being sued by the State of Connecticut for the cost of their imprisonment. The state also sued the publisher for having paid the released women. To my way of thinking, the project was purposely ambushed.

    The Son of Sam statute, which forbids convicted felons from profiting from their crimes, does not apply to this case because the women did not write about the specifics of their crimes. Instead, the state invoked its little-used “cost of incarceration” statute, which had never before been applied to released inmates. At a rate of about $117 per day, the state sued the writers for the daily cost of their incarceration. The imprisoned writers had received no money whatsoever and those who’d served their sentences and been released had received a modest book sale income of $5,600 each—otherwise known as seed money to begin their rehabilitated lives. Suddenly, they were saddled with bills of several hundred thousand dollars, sums that they cannot possibly pay and which thwart their efforts as they take their first tentative steps back into the work force. (One writer quipped, “Gee, if I’d known it was costing me $117 a day while I was in there, I would have ordered room service.) The lawsuit was particularly demoralizing to the still-incarcerated writers.

    Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, contends that the state deserves whatever money the writers make (and, apparently, several hundred thousand more) because the women never would have become published authors if Connecticut had not convicted and imprisoned them. In my opinion, this argument blithely dismisses the women’s writing talent and their work ethic and sends them the message that the state is more interested in retribution than rehabilitation. Why are we not sending them the message that hard, honest work brings reward?

    As of now, the lawsuit is pending. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s state legislature has taken up the issue of the women’s right to be paid for their work as part of its prison reform package, which seeks to remove some of the state’s roadblocks to rehabilitation and which it is scheduled for a vote in February of 2004. Those of you who wish to send a letter in support of the York writers may address those letters to the chair of the legislature’s judiciary committee:
    Representative Michael Lawlor
    Legislative Office
    Building, Room 2500
    Hartford, Connecticut

    The more letters the better, I’m told. Thanks so much for considering this.

  • 27. Paid employees of the Department of Correction may not maintain contact with released inmates for a period of time—not sure what that is. Volunteers are not under the same restrictions. Released writers who participated in the book tour did so with the approval and the blessing of their parole officers, who understood the rehabilitative value of the project. Parole is not under the jurisdiction of DOC. On tour, the women were amazing—honest, direct, warm, and genuine. Tabatha, Robin, Carolyn, Nancy W., and Nancy B. all did a terrific job. Dale occasionally joined us, too, and she was great as well.

  • 28. Hey, Mal, you rascal—this is six questions!

  • I edit constantly, all through the drafting process. Sometimes I catch myself over-editing my work-- an avoidance tactic I unfortunately resort to when I’m unsure where the story is going.
  • Sure, each workshop discussion provides members with a refresher course on how to self-edit as they provide editorial suggestions for others. I find the York writers to be grateful for and enthusiastic about editorial feedback—much more so than many of the university students I’ve taught, some of whom assume they’ve achieved perfection in a single draft (ha ha!) That said, I remind the writers that they are the ones at the steering wheel. We offer our best responses, which each writer can use or reject. But the writer, not the critic, owns the work.
  • With every book I write or edit, I learn things that are useful to my development. I learned a whole lot about editing and word economy when I wrote the movie script for my first novel, She’s Come Undone. Screenplay is a tough form—you have to pack everything into about 120 pages!
  • Three of the still-incarcerated writers in the book remain active in the group, one has dropped out. Of the released writers, Nancy Whiteley is working on a new autobiographical piece. Tabatha Rowley journals every day. Robin Cullen has shifted focus from writing to public speaking; she’s part of a busy traveling program that educates young people about the perils of drunk driving.
  • I’m currently working on a novel—or should I say it’s working on me.
  • My literary agent promised Judith Regan (my one and only publisher since the beginning) a “first look” at She’s Come Undone when the novel was finished. With my typical bad timing, I completed the book just as Judith was getting ready to deliver her second baby. She brought the manuscript to the hospital, planning to read a few chapters bedside and then send it back with a polite refusal. Instead, she read through the night and made an offer the following day. She’s Come Undone had taken me almost nine years to write, but it was accepted with head-spinning speed!

  • 29. I get out of bed at 5:30 each morning and drive in the dark to my office, a ten minute trip. I usually start by editing (fiddling with) my work from the day before. When I’m finished with that, I’m on to new stuff. I pretty much edit all day long, though. Drafting’s grunt work for me; editing’s more like play—but you have to balance both. I usually break at around 11:00 am, exercise at the gym, grab some lunch, then get back to work at around 1:00 or so. Often, family needs, teaching, requests, and business concerns swallow up my afternoon and evening, but I try to keep my a.m. writing time sacrosanct. Morning—the earlier the better—is when my creativity kicks in best.

  • 30. None of the incarcerated writers has received any money from the book. The writers who had served their sentences and been released when the book was published each received an equal portion of the book sale money: $5,600. Interval House also received that amount. I’ve donated to Interval House a sum greater than the $5,600 I received as the book’s editor.
  • MountainRose
    December 19, 2003 - 01:57 pm
    with regard to Mr. Lamb's comment: ". In my opinion, this argument blithely dismisses the women’s writing talent and their work ethic and sends them the message that the state is more interested in retribution than rehabilitation. Why are we not sending them the message that hard, honest work brings reward?'

    The answer is that the state NEVER sends the message that hard, honest work brings reward, even when you are not incarcerated. For instance, in the State of California, when my mother needed nursing home care, all her assets except $2,000 had to be used up first for payment of nursing home care before the state stepped in with any help. At $4,500 a month it took 6 months to use up all her assets. If there is a house in which the healthy spouse still resides, the state slaps a lien on the value of half of that house to cover whatever the nursing home care costs for the ill spouse, and that amount is recovered when the healthy spouse either sells or dies. So basically when one is ill or needs nursing home care one becomes destitute. And this is for people who have worked all their lives and have tried to save if they can.

    If it's like that for the rest of us, why should it be different for the formerly incarcerated? If a former inmate goes out and gets a regular job, does the state also require the money be paid back? Or is it only for something they accomplished while in prison? And for how long? Is there a time limit? In one way I understand it, since the tax payer is footing the bill, and in another it seems to defeat the purpose because why would an inmate want to go to work to pay a horrendous bill that the state has handed them? That means all the incentive is gone. But I have no objection to an inmate making restitution for a portion of the bill for anything they did WHILE INCARCERATED, including writing, and they should be able to keep everything they earn in legal ways after release.

    Thank you Mr. Lamb, for answering all the questions so thoroughly and thoughtfully. I think we have all learned a tremendous amount here.

    December 19, 2003 - 01:58 pm
    I want to post this a little ahead so as not to be late!

    We in SeniorNet Books are delighted and honored to welcome Wally Lamb here this afternoon. Welcome, Wally Lamb! What a joy and a privilege it is to have you here, How can we ever thank you (besides not asking you ONE more thing!) ( below) hahahaa for those incredible answers to ALL those questions, including the ones you had to do over! It must have taken you hours? Gosh! THANK YOU!

    I hope you know how much we appreciate you and the wonderful work you are doing! I, in fact, am blown away by this entire thing and very grateful to you for even writing a book on it in the first place. I think maybe you have changed the entire world with this, what sorts of feedback have you received about the effects of the book?

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 02:07 pm
    Hello, all. Just zoomed back to my office from a little Christmas shopping. Desperation's a great motivator! If I can master the system, I'm looking forward to the next hour's worth of give & take. Wally

    December 19, 2003 - 02:09 pm
    HEY!! And Welcome Wally Lamb!!! We are so glad to have you here, how was the traffic? hhaha no, the system IS difficult, you have to hit <<previous and go off for a while and then return?

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 02:11 pm
    The traffic was fine--I try to avoid the big malls. It's the indecision that kills me.

    December 19, 2003 - 02:13 pm
    hahaha Crystal Mall? How could any person to whom YOU hand delivered a book not read it? I was hoping to hear she'd seen the light.

    At the National Book Festival I heard you say in your speech to a standing-room only crowd, that when you first became famous for She's Come Undone and after Oprah called, the phone then began ringing off the hook with celebrities and invitations, the life of FAME, and we were all rocking along happily, vicariously enjoying it with you, and then you said that you hated it!! You could have heard a pin drop, as people realized who they were in the presence of, it was an electric moment and the roar at the end I can still hear. It's an amazing and inspiring thing to find a man so grounded, that even fame does not appeal: would you care to talk about FAME here today? I don't want to lob something at you out of left field, we really are so grateful for all you've done, but it WAS a different and great story.

    December 19, 2003 - 02:20 pm
    Now Everybody Else, just jump right in here, don't be afraid or hold back, here's your chance to tell THE MAN what you think of his work or ask him something, we'll never have another one: don't leave the shyest kid in the class out here babbling? hahahaha

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 02:23 pm
    We've received great feedback about the book--some from unexpected sources. Wonderful letters, and the readings have drawn big, enthusiastic crowds. Many have come up in tears; they have family in prison and expressed their gratitude for the book. Three former York prison wardens have come to various readings, including the wonderful Janet York, whose long tenure emphasized rehabilitation and respect for the inmates. "The Prison That Cures With Kindness" was the headline of one long-ago article. Interestingly, the current warden has said she's chosen not to read the book; she doesn't want to know the inmates as individuals. A whole different mind set. You might be interested to know that the book's come out in Germany and a Dutch/Belgian translation will be released in the springtime. So, our little writing group has gone international.

    December 19, 2003 - 02:24 pm
    Hi Wally. Thanks for the thoughtfulness of your answers. I wondered if you saw the PBS POV show on a writing class in women's prison, and would like to compare what they were doing to your class.

    December 19, 2003 - 02:26 pm
    Good question, Joan!

    So YOUR idea and your innovation has really reaped big rewards, were you the first to publish a book of this type or have there been others? I saw people leaving your table in tears at the National Book Festival, what would you like the ultimate outcome of this book to be?

    In Edit: Ah I misread the Janet York information, how wonderful that she came to a reading, it sounds from what Dale wrote that she was ahead of her time.

    And going international! It's amazing what can come of an impulse to help others, I think that's very inspiring.

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 02:33 pm
    Joan, The funny thing is, I looked forward to watching that show for weeks, but when it aired this past week, I had fallen fast asleep on the couch in our den and missed the whole thing. Had a similar problem with HBO's "Angels in America." Early evening sleepiness is the downside of early morning writing. I've fallen asleep in movies, at Broadway plays,and once in the middle of a dinner party at the table during the meal. My wife Chris could tell you stories!

    December 19, 2003 - 02:40 pm
    It's so kind of you to be here. I did ask some questions in post #796 just before you entered this discussion, and wondered if you had a comment.

    I also wanted to mention that I read "She's Come Undone" and was amazed at how accurately you, as a male author, got into the female mind. One of my best friends read the book and it was as though she recognized herself in there, with all the nuances of feeling. Congratulations! Wonderful writing!

    December 19, 2003 - 02:45 pm
    We are reading Robin's piece now about Christmas in prison, and will all be thinking of them this Christmas. Is there anything we can do to make their Christmas cheerier?

    December 19, 2003 - 02:54 pm
    Thank you for the information on the lawsuit and the name and address of the chair of the legislature’s judiciary committee: Representative Michael Lawlor, I know several of us will certainly write, and I hope that the new issue of the women's rights to be paid for their work as part of the prison reform package will have a successful vote in 2004. As you say, "why are we not sending them the message that hard, honest work brings reward?

    Thank you for explaining that to us, I did not realize it was a little used "cost of incarceration" statute, that really sounds punitive. I am not sure how anybody would get over being assessed hundreds of thousands of dollars, are ALL of the writers assessed that? Both those out and still in prison?

    It doesn't make any sense for those prisoners to be assessed and the other prisoners who did not attend the workshops or write, not to be, they all supposedly have incurred the "cost of incarceration?" I'm not sure how anybody could say they never would have become published authors, either, jeepers. At least to me? It's hard to understand, we appreciate your telling us more about it.

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 02:57 pm
    Thanks for the compliment about She's Come Undone. If the point of view seems accurate, that's partly because I had great feedback from women (wife, writers group friends, etc)during the years I was writing the story. I hit plenty of false notes along the way but by draft # umpteen a lot of them had been dealt with. I sure learned a lot about women by writing from Dolores' p of v! As to your comment about the women's bills, yes, theoretically they're expected to pay these staggering amounts past prison and into their working lives--the state didn't just sue them for book income. As for restitution, most of the women work jobs while incarcerated (maintenance, food service, data entry, teacher's aides, etc.)for a wage of 75 cents to a dollar per hour, which goes into their accounts. They can then buy (overpriced) items such as aspirin and toilet paper at the commissary. So, they're pretty much making restitution as they go. I also feel that the cost of incarceration, like the cost of public education, is an obligation of society.

    December 19, 2003 - 03:03 pm
    We sure do appreciate your taking your time to talk to us today, and ALL of those fine answers to our questions! Thank you so much! This vote in February may be a landmark vote and I hope what you have done with your book and your work in opening everybody's consciousness to these issues will help change things, at least in Connecticut, we'll be anxiously watching and hoping, and are glad to be among those who now know more.

    Thank you SO much for everything you have done, we can never repay you!


    kiwi lady
    December 19, 2003 - 03:04 pm
    I don't know if I am too late because I am posting from Auckland NZ but here is a question for Mr Lamb.

    From what I have deduced from your comments and answers to questions it seems to me that you have received just as much from the book as the inmates received from writing it. I do not mean in the monetary sense. Would you say that your work in the prison and the contact you made with the women in your classes has changed you as a person for the better?

    Carolyn from Auckland NZ.

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 03:06 pm
    Joan, Christmas is just about the toughest time for inmates, particularly those with young kids. Sadness, guilt over the separation, etc. But each year at York there's a school assembly, during which the students give each other the "gift" of their performances: songs, dances, funny skits, readings, etc. It's very moving to witness this event and it helps the women survive the holiday. The teachers usually perform,too,often comically. One year I was Elvis singing "Blue Christmas." Another time, the "Lambettes" and I sang carols wearing sheep hats. Silliness can sometimes ease a little of the pain.

    December 19, 2003 - 03:13 pm
    disagree. Upon release from prison I am assuming that all the women get some sort of stipend to begin life anew. I would also assume that is the same amount for each woman. That seems fair to me. I am also assuming that the writing workshops were done for their own benefit, not only to look at why they ended up where they are, but to help them sort it all out as to where to go from here. So whatever earnings there are in a book should, in my mind, be a side issue, and actually I think the right thing to do would be to give that money for their maintenance and begin life with the same amount as any other prisoner who is released.

    On the other hand, once someone is set free that means their debt to society is paid, and they ought to have a chance at a new life without having the state send bills to them and putting them right back into a hole that may seem insurmountable at that stage in their lives.

    That's just my opinion. I just don't see incarceration of someone who has been found guilty in a court of law as equal with education of children, although even with educating children I'm not sure all the costs should be totally at the taxpayer's expense either.

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 03:14 pm
    Has my work with the women changed me for the better? Yes, I think so. I hope so. I came of age in the 1960s-70s and never let go of that shared impulse (sometimnes misguided) we baby boomers had to improve our imperfect world. So I've always been somewhat atuned to issues of social justice. These days, though, I'm much more passionate--particularly about the shameful discrepancies that exist between the rich and the poor. For me, the biggest joy of having had two novels selected for Oprah's Book Club has been the ability to write larger checks to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.

    December 19, 2003 - 03:24 pm
    Mr. Lamb, thank you for being here today and thank you for this book. I think it is a great testament to what just a few people (you and Dale G.) can do to help others and to make a horrible situation more bearable.

    This is a book that should be in every public and academic library. And that brings up my concern. I have access to three libraries in my county, 2 public and one academic, and was very surprised that this book was in only one of them, the city public. Our local university has a very strong Criminal Justice degree program and I don't understand why this book would not be part of that collection, except for being unaware of it. Who determines who reviews your books. Do you have any input into the review process.

    Wally Lamb
    December 19, 2003 - 03:26 pm
    Mountain Rose, a stipend to start anew sounds fair to me, too, but as far as I know, it's nonexistent. Please don't misinterpret. None of the women wrote with profit in mind. But my thinking is this: when the state imprisons you, in a sense, it owns your body for the length of your sentence. But does it also own your history and your insights? Okay, thanks for listening, everyone. Gotta go!

    December 19, 2003 - 03:30 pm
    Wow what a great experience, thank you so much Mr. Lamb, for your (over!) time, this has been super.

    Pedln I hate you came in too late, those are good questions, I wonder, too, why the book is not on the shelves, a lot of people have had problems getting it. Thank you all for being here.


    December 19, 2003 - 03:37 pm
    He's right about the social consciousness of the children of the 60's and 70's too, maybe we're about to see the fruition of that in this vote in February 2004, hope so, and I did not realize that the departing prisoners did not get a stipend, I really learned a lot today and those answers above are packed with great information, we really have been lucky here, I think and am very grateful for it, too.


    December 19, 2003 - 03:49 pm
    I Thank all of the authors also.

    Thanks Ginny for being the Discussion Leader and all the Hard work you have done to make All this work so WEll. I have been here thru it all and enjoyed all the questions the Posters put in here. I will stay till the Last Post that I feel will be a Very long way into the future.

    December 19, 2003 - 03:59 pm
    About what Mr. Lamb said regarding no one getting a stipend. So what do they expect these women to do when they are released---especially if there's no family to help them get re-established? One has to start again from somewhere, even if it's just enough money for bus fare from here to there. And with a criminal record, they already have the deck stacked against them as far as finding honest work. It sounds to me like a dog chasing its tail with no one really ever getting anywhere except by sheer luck.

    I can tell you that I've learned some things---like this little fact for instance, and the fact that sentencing seems so arbitrary depending on race and money for lawyers as well as from state to state, and also that prisons such as Bedford are more humane than other prisons, and the fact that in this one ALL women, even those for petty crimes, are incarcerated as high security risks. Something does smell rotten in Denmark. Where is the justice that I believed in so passionately? I'm having a difficult time with all this new and unpleasant information.

    Thank you Mr. Lamb, for being here. It is information that we all need to know.

    December 19, 2003 - 04:20 pm
    made me miss that, but I would like you on each and every debate I ever have, Mr Lamb. you are so inclusive, a talent I sadly lack.I wont comment on your answers just yet, as they definitly need more than a 30 second sound bight.

    Re the christmas discussion, seems to me it is all about choice, if you want to be alone of course you would enjoy it.However if lonliness is foisted upon you by circumstance you then have a horse of a different colour.

    This christmas, hubby and I have ben looking forward to christmas with just the two of us, and now it may just be me. I will indeed be lonely if that happens, no matter how comfortable my circumstance and how numerous my time fillers may be.Though he will be indeed be surrounded by people, and is the most self sufficient human I have ever known, he also says he will be alone.We have three dogs and love them all, but gosh they wont argue back, maybe a cat would be better.


    December 19, 2003 - 06:14 pm
    between my thinking and a lot of others' thinking is that nothing is ever "foisted" upon me. I can't think of when something has been foisted on me without my cooperation. There are always choices. It may not be my first choice. It may not be the way I would rather have things. But I look at it the same way I look at a painting method. I use a medium that has limitations, and within those limitations I always have choices. Sometimes they may be very limited, but they are still there, and if I look hard enough there are more than I ever dreamed possible. A plain sheet of paper and a pencil are not as exciting as a whole box of paints, but there's a lot that can be done with just a pencil, and even some pleasant surprises if I'm open to them.

    So even when I had my crazy family situation to deal with, I myself still had choices. Most of the time I made the choice to stick around and try and keep the peace for the sake of my children. But I can recall one Christmas where it was just more than I wanted to deal with because things got so bad. In the middle of the day, as everyone was picking at each other and my husband was particularly unpleasant because he didn't like my mother and she didn't like him, I picked up my car keys and my purse and went to a movie, and left all of them to deal with their own behaviors. It didn't sit very well, and no one understood it, and feelings were hurt, and I was severely castigated. But what about my feelings? I was usually very accommodating, but that day I'd had enough, and I felt absolutely no remorse or guilt for leaving, even though everyone else felt I had been just "horrible"---like how could you leave us all, how could you walk out on us on Christmas Day, when the family is supposed to be together? Well fine, you were together, and I didn't like the way you were behaving, nor was I willing to put up with it and just keep smiling while poison darts were flying all around.

    And I have choices now. I'd rather have the loving family---but I don't, so that's the limitation. And with that in mind I still have choices. I could fly or drive to L.A. where my son just married into a lovely Chinese family, and I know I would be welcomed there. I could accept the invitations from a number of friends. I could go work in a soup kitchen. I could cook dinner and invite a lonely street person to share it with me. I could drive to Reno and join the gamblers. I could bring a boquet of flowers to someone in a hospital and spend some time with them, or even just bring a basket of goodies to the nursing staff on duty during a holiday. I could drive in the other direction and visit the prison during visiting hours.I could even go to the local animal shelter and offer to take some dogs out exercise. Or I could do what I did last year, which was fix a nice meal for my mother and take it to her in the nursing home and spend Christmas day with her when she didn't even know who I was. Ideal? No, not on your life. But I still have choices.

    No matter what has happened in my life, I have always felt that I had choices and no one was responsible for my being lonely except me. And because I fully realize that, I have never been lonely a single day of my life. I'm not even sure what it means when people talk about "being lonely". I've been restless and bored, but lonely? Never! With a world filled with needy people and needy creatures of all kinds, how could I be?

    So I think it's a matter of attitude. You can be lonely and sad if things aren't the way you dream they should be, or you can make a choice about some other way to deal with whatever situation you are in. It's up to each one of us to make choices within whatever limitations we have.

    December 19, 2003 - 06:37 pm
    MOUNTAIN ROSE: thank you for your post on choices: it's something I need to paste on my wall and look at every day.

    December 19, 2003 - 06:39 pm
    having spent the last 34 tears with a near perfect man, when hes not within reach of me when I wake, for me that is lonely.I spend my life hoping to make him happy, because that is what he does so wonderfully for me. If he doesn't get home for christmas, I can settle for other things, but they will not be the same.My early morning cuppa this morning was considerably less tasty for being drunk without him, and of course I could leave the animals and plants to fend for themselves and go sit with him 500klm's away, so it is my choice to be here alone.I will not be sad, my life is way too wonderful for that, I will not be bored, can't conceive of that,I won't be alone even, because those who love me won't allow that, but I shall be lonely as a body is when a part of them is missing, this person who finishes my thoughts and loves me more than he does himself.


    December 19, 2003 - 06:45 pm
    On Robin's piece and contrasts: what struck me was the effect having this piece with a contrasting tone did to the flow of the book. I first read Robin's piece out of order, and didn't like it for it's objective tone and distancing itself from the other prisoners. But when I read it in sequence, I saw it as important or the reader. We need to step back and look at these women more objectively (as she does in the scene in mass) before jumping in again to the heavy emotional stuff. Not that there is no emotion in this piece, there is. But the mixture with irony distances it a little.

    December 19, 2003 - 06:52 pm
    Anneo, why would you be alone?

    Thank you Ginger, I appreciate that, I was very proud today that Wally Lamb came in and I know you all are inspired by his message, I have been thinking about it, and I think that's one of the more powerful things, it's very inspiring to see somebody so...gee I hate to use the word famous but what the heck...famous deliberately write a book so different from his normal books, which does so much good. And you can see that characteristic just from what he said here, he's charming, he's down to earth and he really does walk the walk as far as doing good in the world.

    I'm ....I do tend to gush, that's true, especially over somebody I admire but he's almost in another class all by himself.

    I'm proud that we are a small part of the movement right here and I hope everybody saved that address above, I certainly am going to write once I read and reread so I can make sense of what seems a totally incomprehensible application of a statute.

    I can't imagine having a bill laid on me of hundreds of thousands of dollars, I truly would give up? I mean there's no way you can pay that, it's crushing, it's just insane.

    So let's think of how we can make this work to the good, this situation here, and give it our best to do something about it!

    We don't have anybody here who lives in Connecticut, do we?

    To these old South Carolina eyes it sure looks unfair and sort of strange, how does anybody know what the women would have been in their lives? To say they would never have been writers is ridiculous, they have plenty of talent, why who knows what any of us could become?

    Let's have another look at what was said here today, this was total news to me?
    25. When we first discussed the possibility of a book, I imagined it as a desktop-published, stapled-in-the-middle, photocopied pamphlet of a thing that I’d have reproduced so that the women could see and share their work in print. My publisher, Judith Regan, got a look and said the writing deserved professional publication. The women were excited about the possibility that something positive, something educational, might result from their hard work. And from the start, they wanted to “give back,” too. After much discussion, Interval House, a wonderful program that assists the victims of domestic violence, was chosen as a revenue-sharing partner.

    When professional publication became a reality, I immediately contacted the Connecticut Department of Correction, informing them that a book was planned, sending them writing samples, and requesting a meeting so that we could discuss their concerns and so that I could be guided by DOC in this effort. I was met with a year-long wall of silence, as were the publisher’s lawyers when they inquired about contracts for the women. There were several calls, several requests to meet, no response. We were, therefore, surprised when, the week before publication, the women learned they were being sued by the State of Connecticut for the cost of their imprisonment. The state also sued the publisher for having paid the released women. To my way of thinking, the project was purposely ambushed.

    The Son of Sam statute, which forbids convicted felons from profiting from their crimes, does not apply to this case because the women did not write about the specifics of their crimes. Instead, the state invoked its little-used “cost of incarceration” statute, which had never before been applied to released inmates. At a rate of about $117 per day, the state sued the writers for the daily cost of their incarceration. The imprisoned writers had received no money whatsoever and those who’d served their sentences and been released had received a modest book sale income of $5,600 each—otherwise known as seed money to begin their rehabilitated lives. Suddenly, they were saddled with bills of several hundred thousand dollars, sums that they cannot possibly pay and which thwart their efforts as they take their first tentative steps back into the work force. (One writer quipped, “Gee, if I’d known it was costing me $117 a day while I was in there, I would have ordered room service.) The lawsuit was particularly demoralizing to the still-incarcerated writers.

    Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, contends that the state deserves whatever money the writers make (and, apparently, several hundred thousand more) because the women never would have become published authors if Connecticut had not convicted and imprisoned them. In my opinion, this argument blithely dismisses the women’s writing talent and their work ethic and sends them the message that the state is more interested in retribution than rehabilitation. Why are we not sending them the message that hard, honest work brings reward?

    As of now, the lawsuit is pending. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s state legislature has taken up the issue of the women’s right to be paid for their work as part of its prison reform package, which seeks to remove some of the state’s roadblocks to rehabilitation and which it is scheduled for a vote in February of 2004. Those of you who wish to send a letter in support of the York writers may address those letters to the chair of the legislature’s judiciary committee:
    Representative Michael Lawlor
    Legislative Office Building, Room 2500
    Hartford, Connecticut 06106-1591

    The more letters the better, I’m told. Thanks so much for considering this.

    I think this is something that we might, as individuals, consider doing to help, don't you?


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 19, 2003 - 07:08 pm
    You'll notice that I said "my first alone Christmas, not "my first lonely Christmas." There is a difference, and there are, as I said, "anniversary" memories. Mountain Rose has just described one.

    Sometimes there are no choices. My daughter, her partner and my grandson are all at the New England home of her father and his wife right now. With them are my New York son, his wife and my 4 year old granddaughter, whom I haven't seen in two years. My 27 year old granddaughter, whom I haven't seen in a year, is also there. It is a family reunion. It is not by choice that I am not there with my family. I can cite other examples of having no choice. Choice is not always available.

    There was a kind of virus going through this house which kept me awake nights coughing this past week. Last night I slept. I also had a nap this afternoon and slept right through Wally Lamb's visit. Woe is me! My only consolation is that he slept through the POV program! I want to read his generous posts again and comment on them.


    December 19, 2003 - 07:10 pm
    I just lost a huge post here but Joan, I realy like what you have said about Christmas in Prison.

    HO Malryn I wondered where you were, and he called you a "rascal, " too! I know you hate to miss that!

    Can you imagine doing all those questions OVER?

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 19, 2003 - 07:15 pm
    I saw that "rascal", GINNY, and laughed. Imagine his taking the time to answer all of my questions! What a guy this Wally Lamb is!


    December 19, 2003 - 07:30 pm
    george is in hospital, trying to get his mix of medication stabilized afer a setback last week, not especially serious they assure me just a bad time to happen, since I wuv Christmas and the kids are so far away.


    December 19, 2003 - 07:30 pm
    Oh I'm so sorry, Anneo, I hope he'll be back home by Christmas!


    December 19, 2003 - 07:32 pm
    Here's a day brightener, our Anneo, this is a good time to tell you all that the Annual Report of SeniorNet has just come out, it's a fairly substantial magazine format and features a wonderful article ON Anneo and her boarding school there in Australia (and George) WITH pictures and it's super. It's very handsomely done and talks about her class and its interaction with our discussion here of Julius Caesar, so hopefully that is cheery news, our Anneo!!!

    December 19, 2003 - 07:49 pm
    HUGE congrats! I thought it would NEVER get here. I am so proud of you two. Now you can puff and strut like a toad in love, and rightfully so!

    Love and hugs,


    Ginnny Do you know if they publish an online version of the Annual Report (as they do of the Quarterly Newsletter) so that everyone will get a chance to see the article about the hostel, the kids, the discussion, and Anneo and George?

    December 19, 2003 - 08:00 pm
    Ahhhhhhhhh! Me neighbor just brought in my mail and TWO more (used) books on the list in the back of CKITM arrived. I have an embarrassment of riches! I can't recommend this list highly enough.

    December 19, 2003 - 08:18 pm
    You are trying your Very Best to make a change in this world and in my Honest opion have done so here on Senior Net. Here is a saying that I picked up somewhere and kept to remind me of it.
    God's gift to Us is Life. Our gift to God is what We make of it.
    Keep Trucking my Friends. The Angels in Heaven cannot do Any better. I am Wishing You Well in You indevor.

    December 19, 2003 - 10:07 pm
    That's beautiful, Ginger!

    Yes, Zinnia, it's already up and there are two other articles on the Books as well but here's the one on Anneo in the Global Outreach Section (sadly tho with the 2 pix not yet online) Click here and read about Anneo, the Outback and Julius Caesar

    December 19, 2003 - 10:23 pm
    I feel so bad that I am just not able to keep up with you all. My sister came to visit for 8 days and the computer is in the guest room--so I couldn't even get on here after she went to bed. But I am busily reading as many of your messages as I can, I saw the POV program and I have read the book. Even though this is a hectic time of the year, I still feel like I am learning so much about the plight of women who are in prison. And I decided to just do what I can, even when I sign on and find you have written 200 more messages! Obviously this is a subject that everyone is able to really get involved in. So many thoughtful comments and so much sharing of personal stories! The visit today by Wally Lamb and the visits from the other authors have added immensely. And, Ginny, what a great job you are doing! Marge

    Diane Church
    December 19, 2003 - 10:24 pm
    GINNY - thanks for posting the splendidly inspiring link.

    ANNEO - wonderful, just wonderful. By golly, there IS hope for this tired old world. What a fine contribution you and George have already made. I wish you had a video of your little four-year-old making his speech. I love that.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    December 20, 2003 - 03:15 am
    After reading the excerpt several times the sentence that sums up the story and allowed me to dwell on a message that I could enlarge as well as compare to my life experiences is;
    We can't get out and Christmas is no longer allowed in.

    The "we can't get out" reminds me of the difficult spots in life that we have no control over and we can either ignore, drown them out with substance abuse or any other obsession that allows us to run from the difficulty as well as the feelings the difficulty presents or, we can simply face up to the simple truth that we are experiencing a difficult painful spot in our lives.

    As to "Christmas is no longer allowed in." my mind wanders down avenues of questions - what is Christmas - is Christmas only certain colors, shapes, sounds, smells, tastes - where is Christmas - is it certain traditions or is it within ourselves - do we shutout Christmas or, do others not allow Christmas in - if Christmas is something that can be allowed in or not allowed in then who defines Christmas. Is the lack of the traditional sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Christmas controlling our expression of Christmas - and if so then it would appear to me that we are saying all our earthly senses satisfied or not, control our belief center, our hope and love center and our expressions of belief and love.

    I am seeing this sentence more as a statement saying, being in prison is the harsh reality of a unloving, unsupportive place. By the author choosing to speak of Christmas in prison, a day that for many of us is filled with sensual expressions of the season, we can see not only the minimal or lack of seasonal expressions but, we can see what seasonal expression that was a part of the prison scenery, as a symbol of the amount of Christmas intangibles expressed in prison like; love, peace, hope for the feelings of Christmases past, a successful Christmas in the future with faith in yourself that when you are in control of your life you can and will create a personal Christmas along with, faith in yourself that you will achieve your dream of living a successful life out of prison.

    My own life experience had shut off my feeling a Christmas spirit that sprang from a personal history of Christmases - to accepting that I had to 'put' a Christmas spirit in my heart.

    I remember 1990 and the five years after - I was 57 divorced after 38 years of marriage - this was a very painful time in that the easiest was the divorce - the happenings was like an atom bomb had gone off in the family - no one could look at anyone without so much pain it was like touching a hot iron leaving flesh on the iron - I remember describing at the time, feeling like a person dragged by a chain down a dirt road. I was dead to Christmas inside and had nothing to share with anyone.

    The year before in my pain I had spent Christmas with my very best friend and her family - I felt so strained, as if on stage, trying to add to the day's celebration - my children were in the very early years of their marriages and my son had one child, born the year before, with twins on the way and his wife's large, easier to be with family, to celebrate the day. I was spending any money I earned on Therapy while attending every 12 step meeting or training session that fit my situation, so that I was at a meeting every evening or afternoon of the week.

    I got the house in the divorce but I was in so much pain I did not go after an equal share nor did I want anything - my ability to work was hampered and with little money in the bank I decided I had to "get out of Dodge" for Christmas rather than waiting around for a 15 minute visit from each of my three kids, who could not look at me or each other without pain in their eyes. I found a special to London for 6 nights that included air, hotel and a ticket to the theater for $690.

    I knew London hotels provide a free breakfast that I could eat well and take some cheese and bread for a snack lunch, eating only dinner at my additional expense. I could get half price theatre tickets at Leicester square. I put the trip and my other expenses on my credit card, spending about $1000 and flew away three days before Christmas - had some magical moments in London, like walking along the street late evening and hearing a church choir practicing - walked in and sat listening to their glorious Christmas program - my Christmas decoration was an orange purchased at a Covent Garden shop along with a sprig of holly and a red candle placed in the hotel glass ashtray - it actually looked quite festive.

    Christmas day the town shuts down with no transportation and so I made arrangements to join a tour bus that picked us up at a nearby hotel - all 50 of us watched the landscape go by, stopped for a traditional Christmas dinner with hats and crackers half way to Brighton where we sat in the lobby of a hotel and shared a glass of sherry. 50 strangers all in the same boat, alone, for what ever reason, in London on Christmas. Some collected names and addresses - I chose to simply enjoy the day knowing I would never keep up with any of these folks. My other splurge was to attend the Ballet in Covent Garden on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

    I did this for 5 years in a row, meeting my sister in London the fourth year - each year I could afford a few more luxuries, put less of the trip on credit, brought back a few gifts till finally, after much work between us, my family started to share Christmas with each other and now this is the fifth year I have traveled to be with my daughter and her family at Christmas.

    I remember one year longing so for all the bread baking I used to do. And so I baked a couple dozen loaves of various holiday breads - wrapped them in checked towels into a large open basket and sold them to shop keepers at nearby shops - I even got a commission to bake bread for an Interior Decorator's party - it was fun but the venture did not bring back any of the old Christmas feelings as I remembered them.

    And so I have had to re-identify for myself - what is Christmas - how do I express Christmas - is Christmas a feeling and if so, do I create the feeling or where or how does the feeling come - I do not 'find' or have magical feelings 'come' any longer - it seems I must do something that makes me feel good and at Christmas that usually means making merry happenings with and for others.

    I am blessed that I am free to act on my concept of Christmas rather then only creating the Mass of Christ in my heart to be shared only with a smile or an uplifting word to another whose freedom is also limited. My view is not within a closed system where others decide for me how I spend my day but then, I have determined that Christmas comes from within, not because a feeling descends but because of how I choose to think on the day, what it means in the mix of life, lived among others.

    December 20, 2003 - 03:41 am
    You are simply amazing, if I look closely at myself, I cannot even conceive of handling such pain, least of all doing it with such "class".

    This is a post I shall keep.


    December 20, 2003 - 04:19 am
    Very moving post BARBARA. To me, Christmas means just what it's name implies....Christ's Mass....remembering the New Commandment: To love one another.

    I took 3 of the RTW female residents to an AA meeting today. I was very moved by what AA does at Christmas. The meeting we went to is having a special meeting on Christmas morning, a Spiritual Concept meeting. Also, in both the Brisbane and Gold Coast areas, combined meetings have arranged for Christmas dinners, most in parks or the beach areas.

    There is no reason for any member of AA to be alone or lonely on Christmas day. Many AA members see their true family as their AA family, where they offer unconditional love and acceptance of each other, and where they practice the true meaning of Christmas. Does anybody know if AA does the same in the US? I assume they do.


    December 20, 2003 - 05:46 am
    but the funny thing is that I don't mind in the least. Until the day women feel that we actually do have choices, even under very limited circumstances, not only to define who we are, but what we will and will not do, and until the day we refuse to have things "foisted" on us, until the day that we are able to redefine what we want instead of staying in our little boxes of "shoulds", I don't see a whole lot of hope for us as far as growth and independence.

    While I certainly understand that if you've been in a loving and comfortable box that there is no reason on earth to leave it, and I'm glad for that, not all of us have been in a box like that, and so we have to cope with WHAT IS and make choices from there. Even that comfortable box will not always be there, since life changes, and then we will have to make other choices instead of longing for what ISN'T, and I see an awful lot of that, especially amongst women.

    Barbara said it very well when she redefined Christmas after her divorce. It may have been painful, but obviously she did have choices and she made them, and she had some very serendipidous adventures that she would never have had if she hadn't been divorced and if she hadn't made those choices.

    I guess what I'm saying is that life FLOWS, and like a river one moment is never the same as the next moment, and to try and keep it the same is a futile use of energy. And the moment we feel that we have no choices it's like trying to hold the river back. It makes for endless longing and sadness and sentimentality instead of getting on with the business of living in the NOW, whatever that NOW may be.

    I'm not criticizing here, nor am I trying to change any thinking, but I do feel that when human beings feel they have no choices, it is a form of slavery. And unless we have a gun to our heads, we always HAVE CHOICES, whether we see them or not. Even the women in prison have choices, and it's when they refuse to see them that they become destructive and hopeless. That's how it works for all of us, because all of us are in some sort of prison, one way or another.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 20, 2003 - 05:51 am
    BARBARA, I shared the same pain you had at the end of a marriage of 27 years' duration. My kids didn't look at me, and they wouldn't speak to me, either. It was my fault the divorce had taken place, they thought, and my former husband had convinced them they were right.

    Do you know what you're saying when you say "I got the house in the divorce"? You got a roof over your head, some equity probably should you need to borrow money to get started. You got security, BARBARA.

    I received what was supposed to be my half of the profit from the sale of our 10 room house in a wealthy neighborhood -- $10,000.00. Of course, it wasn't half the profit, but I was such a mess and so weak from the trauma I had gone through and was going through that I couldn't fight for what was rightly mine. My lawyer was up against a man who was more powerful than he was, so he didn't fight for me either.

    After it was over, my former husband frightened me into paying three quarters of the money I'd received back to him.

    Would I have loved to be able to go to London or anywhere that first Christmas I was alone! The $690.00, BARBARA, you spent to go to London that Christmas was more than my monthly alimony, which was all I had to live on, and nobody would hire this handicapped woman. I was right next door to being penniless that first Christmas.

    This was my punishment, you see, for my husband's neglect of me and his family all those years and the one affair of his I knew of -- the one with my sister which led to his asking for the divorce because he was determined to marry her.

    That's all in the past, and it happened a long, long time ago. I've been on my own now longer than I was married.

    What does Christmas mean to me? To me Christmas is a time of giving, a time of sharing. I loved shopping for my family; wrapping their presents and making them happy. I loved decorating my house. I loved baking all those Christmas cookies, fruitcakes and bread. I loved making Christmas dinner. I loved singing Christmas music in concerts. I loved sitting at the piano with my kids standing around it while we sang Christmas carols.

    Today I can't shop for and buy any gifts. What decorations I had were lost in moving or broken. The only gifts I have for my children are books I write. My sons and all but one of my grandchildren live far away from me. I don't own a piano.

    The celebrating I do now is to go in the main house and have Christmas dinner with my daughter, her partner and my grandson. Since I am no longer able to walk down and up the stairs going into the main house involves, somebody has to carry me sitting in this wheelchair. The rest of the day is spent like every other day, working on web pages and writing, coming into SeniorNet to read posts which describe somebody else's Christmas.

    And that's okay. I've found my way to live, and I live a very creative life. I am doing things today I always wanted to do. Christmas often seems like an emotional interruption I don't want or need, and I'm always glad when the holidays are over.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 20, 2003 - 05:58 am
    MOUNTAIN ROSE, the difference between you and BARBARA and me is that you wanted to be out of your marriage. I don't think BARBARA and I did, or that we ever expected the kind of betrayal that happened to us. BARBARA and I have done very well, I think, considering that the rug was pulled right out from under us. We've made choices, and we like what we do, even if we were forced into those choices, as you apparently were not.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 20, 2003 - 06:09 am
    BOBBIE, you are absolutely right when you say that nobody in AA (or any other 12 Step program) needs to be alone at Christmas. If I'd had sense enough to join a 12 Step program before that first Christmas I've ranted on about, I wouldn't have been as alone.

    Regardless where I lived, at Christmas time AA groups had what they call "Eating Meetings". Everybody brought food, and we ate together, not just once but several times over the holidays. There were meetings all day long on Christmas and late into the night Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and all day meetings New Year's Day. We celebrated Christmas and New Year's together, and none of us was alone.


    December 20, 2003 - 06:33 am
    at how PERSONALLY some commentary on discussion boards is taken. I don't recall naming any names or addressing anyone in particular and am speaking generally from my experience and my thinking on a subject and the way it's come together for me in my head. It's written to take or leave----just personal opinion, nothing more. No one has to get defensive. But I read a bit of defensiveness in some posts, and frankly, I don't "get it". Again, socially retarded me---but oh well!

    I also wanted to say regarding Mr. Lamb's comment about: "None of the women wrote with profit in mind. But my thinking is this: when the state imprisons you, in a sense, it owns your body for the length of your sentence. But does it also own your history and your insights?"

    I disagree. Even when the state imprisons you it does NOT OWN your body in any sense other than keeping it confined. It does NOT own your body to be abused, or treat it roughly or rape it or kill it or neglect it or not give it adequate medical care. A prisoner is not a slave. A prisoner is merely a person who is CONFINED according to the law. It doesn't own your body any more than it owns your history or insights----but for the time being it can CONFINE ALL of them according to the law. That also means to me that whatever you accomplish or earn WHILE CONFINED is for the state to decide. We have read already that the women are only allowed to have certain material possessions while in prison. So now the line is pushed so they can have a bank account beyond their very limited needs? And just how far does that go? If a prisoner wins the state lottery, should ALL of that money be his/hers, without having to pay back for their incarceration? If someone writes a hit song while in prison that makes a million, is that his/hers, without regard to what it cost to keep that person in prison? And as was said, none of the women wrote with profit in mind; yet now that they have a windfall (accidentally, by luck, by fate?) does the state have some right as to what happens to that money? I admit I'm having a bit of trouble with Mr. Lamb's commentary as it stands, and I realize it may be very incomplete and unfinished and much more complicated than it looks on the surface.

    On the other hand, I'm also having trouble if prisoners are simply sent back out into the world without any help at all, and I'd like to know what the actual fact of the matter is with regard to that. Not all prisoners have family available to help them get past the first few months or so, and some families would be more hindrance than help since often the very reason they ended up in prison is because of those families. So it seems to me that not only will they need money in order to survive without committing further crime, but that there ought to be some sort of transition program to give each one the best chance to get it right. Just exactly what is available? And is each state different? And why? Aren't we all one country, especially as far as the FEDERAL prison system is concerned? I can understand each state handling things in its own way when it is a state prison or a local prison, but the FEDERAL system should be uniform no matter what state it's in.

    I just have more questions right now than answers, and I don't get caught up in emotion or sentimentality or someone (even when they are famous) saying "I think it's this way or that way." Before I make a decision or write a letter I want to know exactly what the facts are.

    But that's just me. So if you don't like what I'm writing, skip right on by when you see my name. I don't mind at all. To be independent one often has to go against the prevailing winds.

    December 20, 2003 - 06:35 am
    . . . .where exactly have I ever addressed you personally that you would be so defensive? I don't recall addressing you at all.

    December 20, 2003 - 06:36 am
    I'm on my way out of town this morning but I'll be back tonight, thank you all for these wonderful posts, thank you Marge, thank you Diane, I want to look more closely at what Joan K and Barbara said, but the one thing ringing clear this morning to me is we have to do something. Barbara, I see what you said so beautifully and agree.

    Yesterday in the total midst of the busiest season of the year, a time when many of our group are travelling and. or shopping and busy (and many of our Books family are sick, our Lorrie has been in the ER, that flu is a killer) Wally Lamb took his time to come in here and because he did we're going to act?

    We ARE going to do something in the New Year. Notice his work ethic, how hard it must be, notice the standards he holds up to the class, notice the hours and hours he and Dale spend, and notice that we here ARE going to do something? In the New Year.
  • Firstly we're going to thank him properly, he and the other authors, each of us personally: more on that later.
  • Secondly we're going to speak out to everybody we see and meet and everywhere we go, on what we have learned here and the subject of this new vote in February, he went to the trouble to give us the addresses, will somebody please go get links to this pending vote and legislation so we can read more and write intelligently, each of us, as individuals, not as SeniorNet, and show Connecticut what the rest of the world thinks?
  • Thirdly we ARE going to help, somehow we ARE going to help. We have a tremendous power here, and potential, I'm not sure everybody here realizes what we CAN do, I feel as if I'm in the middle of a Dickens scenario, the lone boy left at his school desk, the halls are darkening and we sit here alone, but we've been visited by...4 Ghosts, and like Scrooge, we don't want to miss, we don't want to ignore, we don't want to pass over ANY part of their message.

    We WILL, even if we start small, even IF people are off for the holidays, January is coming and so will we.

    WE will make a difference

    Let's fan out and do just that.

    We will look at Robin Cullen's essay thru tomorrow and then on Monday and thru December 27, taking off December 25 and 26, I want to look at the beautiful (did you see the answers to the first question Wally Lamb answered, about his own family? That in itself would make a wonderful book, we want to read what he has said and revel in it, it's wonderful.

    We will not be imposing further on his good nature, answering 30 questions is enough, but we can look at what he HAS said, put nicely in the heading by Pat Westerdale as a clickable, we can study this issue of "our " authors being assessed hundread of thousands of dollars they can never pay back, and we can write in January, before the vote on this new prison initiative in February, and feel we helped make a difference by making our own voices heard. <br.
    We can talk this up among our extended family and friends and help spread our new understanding and we can even do more. And we will.

    Barbara said, "I am blessed that I am free to act on my concept of Christmas rather then only creating the Mass of Christ in my heart to be shared only with a smile or an uplifting word to another whose freedom is also limited. My view is not within a closed system where others decide for me how I spend my day but then, I have determined that Christmas comes from within, not because a feeling descends but because of how I choose to think on the day, what it means in the mix of life, lived among others."

    Well, that was just what was done to us yesterday, wasn't it, and now, like Scrooge, we need to show what we also have within did Nancy Birkla put it in the POV? Start a domino effect of passing on the positive? Let's resolve for OUR New Year's Resolution to do SOMETHING about this situation and then let's, following the example here of Wally Lamb, discipline ourselves TO do it.

    We CAN do it and now I think we must. More on this later today, will somebody get all the links they can for this new proposed bill about reimbursement for the work prisoners do in prison?

    There are 55 people in this discussion!!! If each of those 55 people tells another, that's 100. If each of those people tells another, who knows where it will stop? Let's make a difference as individuals this holiday season and see how many eyes we can open.

    Meanwhile, this is our last day for Robin Cullen's Christmas in Prison, I think it's much more powerful as it is written than it would be if it were dripping with emotion: with all the contrasts of dark and light, faith and the expression of that with the lack of expression of anything by the prison, don't you wonder what the Christmas dinner was THIS year, and what the tree looked like and IF there was anything given at all?

    What does it say that there are "seasonal returnees" who come back to the prison for Christmas, I did not understand that, even tho the ceremonies are apparently non existent, it's something and apparently it's not easy out "there," this is a whole new world, isn't it? And I am very reluctant to just say OK another book read on SeniorNet, so? OK, one down let's move on to The Nanny Diaries. No let's not move on, I can't, now, "unsee" this, let's make a difference, let's figure out how we can, let's discipline ourselves for the task, and let's do it.

  • MountainRose
    December 20, 2003 - 07:05 am
    about your present circumstances. From your posts I also know that you will deal with them the best you can.

    I picked on some of your word choices---not on you personally. If you can't understand that I can't help it, especially after I've come right out and said so.

    I guess what bothers me is that many posters here and elsewhere (and I think many women in general) feel that circumstances give them no choice. And what I'm saying is that I don't believe that. No matter what the circumstances are, we must continue seeing ourselves as having choices, because otherwise we become captives. That has nothing to do with a husband betraying someone or me choosing to leave my marriage. I chose to leave because I was betrayed also. I didn't choose to leave because my marriage was lovely. That's the only difference. And if he had chosen to leave me, it would have been his choice, and as a result of his choice, I would have had to make other choices. But I see them as CHOICES, not as something I have no control over. I am NEVER the victim of someone else's choices or even a victim to whatever life hands down.

    So what I'm not understanding is that people can actually fall into the trap of believing they don't have a choice. I will never see myself that way---no matter what my circumstances are, no matter who betrays me, no matter if it's war or peace or even if I were in prison. Yes, life does unexpected things, strange things, hurtful things, even terrorizing things----but no matter what. I have no control over the events, but I do have control over how I react to them and how I view them or if I allow life to just take over and buffet me around. And I do have control as to whether or not I believe I have choices even in very adverse and horrible events. That's the part I don't understand, that people feel they don't have a choice, and I happen to think that's sad.

    Yet when you post, I can see you've all made choices, sometimes painful choices and you've all come out OK on the other end--but they were choices. So why is it so hard to see that you did have choices all along? And that you have choices even now? And that you will always have choices?

    And personally that's how I view my life. Not as events happening over which I have no control or that are foisted on me. But as events happening over which I then make choices. It doesn't change what is happening or what happened, but a different vocabulary does change an attitude about it and the amount of control one feels one has over his/her own life. Vocabulary has a lot of impact on our thinking and how we see ourselves. One can use power words or one can use helpless words, and they do make all the difference.

    December 20, 2003 - 08:04 am
    MOUNTAIN ROSE, I agree with you 100%. A man who was a father to me in my early childhood sent me this poem once and I have always treasured it:

    One ship sails east
    one ship sails west
    by the self same winds that blow
    It's the set of the sail
    and not the gale
    that determines the way we go.

    BARBARA, I liked you post about the meaning of Christmas. It is true that Christmas decorations do not make Christmas. I think if I suddenly found myself with no family around me I would spend Christmas day out in some wilderness area cross-country skiing. Right now I have nine grandchildren, three years to 14 years and needless to say Christmas can get noisy and chaotic at times, but I love every minute of it.

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 20, 2003 - 08:25 am

    JERILYN, I am bold enough to tell you that you don't know what you would do if you had a tremendous blow and you were left alone with no family around you. (Remember your reaction to your broken foot?) I'm confident enough to say you'd do the best you can, just as the rest of us in that predicament have done and do.

    MOUNTAIN ROSE, there are times when the choices are so limited and the means so restricted and few that it's hard to see that there are any choices at all. Sometimes the only choices can be very difficult and grim.

    CAROLYN said the other day that I am a prisoner of my body. She's right. It is not my choice to live the last part of my life housebound in a wheelchair, nor were other limiting things which have happened in my life, like polio, my choice. I have made adjustments and know my mind is free to do anything I want it to, and I use it in the best way I can.

    ANNEO did not make the choice to have her husband ill in the hospital with a life-threatening illness. Adjustments have to be made to these conditions, and they do not come in a moment, or even a week, a month, or a year. We cannot expect people immediately to know something you and I have learned before them about adjusting to such circumstances. It is we who must have compassion for those who must make these adjustments and speak kindly to them while they make every effort to do this.

    I feel the same way about the women who wrote Couldn't Keep it to Myself. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "Since 1997, a vaguely worded statute and regulations have required (or, depending on their interpretation, allowed) Connecticut to try to recover from inmates the cost of their incarceration."

    It also says, "So these regulations have, in practice, meant the state goes after an inmate's funds only if the DOC happens to learn, usually from the news or inmate mail, that she's come into some money." Therefore, if one of the inmates receives a million dollar inheritance and the DOC doesn't find out about it, that inmate is not required to pay anything toward the cost of her incarceration.

    Wally Lamb has said,
    "The imprisoned writers had received no money whatsoever and those who’d served their sentences and been released had received a modest book sale income of $5,600 each—otherwise known as seed money to begin their rehabilitated lives. Suddenly, they were saddled with bills of several hundred thousand dollars, sums that they cannot possibly pay and which thwart their efforts as they take their first tentative steps back into the work force. . . . The lawsuit was particularly demoralizing to the still-incarcerated writers.

    "Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, contends that the state deserves whatever money the writers make (and, apparently, several hundred thousand more) because the women never would have become published authors if Connecticut had not convicted and imprisoned them. In my opinion, this argument blithely dismisses the women’s writing talent and their work ethic and sends them the message that the state is more interested in retribution than rehabilitation. Why are we not sending them the message that hard, honest work brings reward? "
    If these prisoners are given nothing with which to start a new life when they leave prison, how do they manage? How do they avoid going back into the same environment and same kind of life they had before they entered prison? What incentive is there for prople in prison to use writing as part of their rehabilitation if they know the state government will come after them for several thousand dollars they cannot possibly pay when they publish anything?

    I agree with GINNY that we must speak out. If deterrents like this one facing the women who wrote this book are placed in front of all prisoners who have worked hard to rehabilitate themselves and work constructively at something, how can we possibly expect an end or even an easing up of crime?


    kiwi lady
    December 20, 2003 - 09:32 am
    Ginny - Oh Poor Lorrie- is she home now?

    I think that if one has no choice about spending Christmas alone it must be a terrible feeling. I have noticed recently how many lonely people there are. I have made a point of speaking to elderly people in the Supermarket who are shopping alone. You would not believe how their faces light up and how little it costs to spend 10 minutes chatting to these people. It is amazing how interesting they are too. At one stage I could go a week without seeing or speaking to another human being as all the kids were working as were the neighbours and it was a really lonely existence. I even began to envy My daughters MIL who was in assisted living. I think it was the loneliest time in my life. However now I have Ruth in the studio and both of us have company if we wish. It makes a big difference. Ruth thinks its a great arrangement too. It must be terrible to be in prison at Christmas time if one has young children. In our prisons they do have a decent Christmas dinner and family can send approved presents such as books etc to the inmates. The food is pretty good even in Maximum security. I think being locked away from the world is punishment enough without taking away even small comforts.

    I do think SN must have made a tremendous difference to those who live alone. I know I never feel alone now even if all my family are away on holiday.


    December 20, 2003 - 12:40 pm
    "MOUNTAIN ROSE, there are times when the choices are so limited and the means so restricted and few that it's hard to see that there are any choices at all. Sometimes the only choices can be very difficult and grim."

    I agree with you, sometimes it is hard to see, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. Choices can be difficult and grim, but they are still choices, and as long as a person has choices, even if just in little ways, they can feel some sort of control over their lives. Even if I'm ill, I can choose to cooperate and be reasonably pleasant, or I can choose to make everyone who comes to visit me miserable. Of course no one chooses illness of a loved one, and no one chooses being a prisoner of the body, and no one chooses to be ill, but within those parameters you still have choices. Until the day I die I will have choices, and therefore I will have some control over my own life. If I felt I didn't have that it wouldn't be worth living.

    My father taught me that ever since I was little. We would sit around on a Sunday afternoon and he would throw hypothetical situations at me and then ask, "OK, what are your choices here?" And some of those hypothetical situations would be matters of life and death. I would come up with one of my childish responses from my limited experience, and he would listen respectfully and then guide me into seeing it in different ways---to open up more choices to me than my original emotional knee-jerk reaction. As I grew up I saw the wisdom in that, and everywhere I had choices, even when I was on a date who had been drinking and he was driving on a steep canyon road on a rainy night.

    So when it came to staying in my marriage, it was a CHOICE, no matter how much emotional abuse he heaped upon me (and I stayed for 33 years!), and knowing that it was my choice to stay (for whatever reason) I had some defenses. I could ignore him and continue with what I knew I had to do within those unpleasant parameters, I could leave him, I could try and talk to him and hope it would finally sink in, I could hire a hit-man to put him out of his misery or I could trip him as he went down the back stairs. All of those choices had consequences, and I chose the one that I felt I needed to live with for the sake of my kids. But I never felt helpless or victimized or like I had no control. And that can make almost any situation bearable.

    It is a matter of words and vocabulary. You can see it as not having any control over events, or you can look at it as having some control even if the events are horrendous, by the choices you make. You cannot change fate, but with whatever fate throws at you, you can choose what you will do with that. In other words, you play the hand you are dealt, even if it's a lousy hand. You can get out of the game and hope for better cards, you can check, you can put the minimum in the pot or the maxium, you can bluff, if you know your opponent you may be able to psych him out, you can even hope that the others have worse hands than you have and maybe win anyway. Those are all choices, even with a bad hand, and a good poker player can probably come up with more than I've given.

    Have you ever noticed the influence words have on us? Words stimulate emotion and reactions. So the words we use are important, especially those we use to ourselves. If I think I have no choices, then I have none; but the opposite is also true. And most of all, the words we use and teach our daughters are important. If they see us wandering about in a daze, despondent because we believing we have no choices, they will pick up on that and feel the same way.

    My mother had choices, even in the grimmest of circumstances, and because she made those choices she ended up in West Germany. A lot of her other relatives, who felt they had no choices because they "didn't want to leave their land or their belongings" or whatever reasons they came up with, ended up dead--and those who survived ended up behind the iron curtain.

    Even in the nursing home with Alzheimer's my mother had choices. She could get angry with the nursing staff when they changed her urine-wet bedding, or she could cooperate. Neither was a pleasant choice, but it was a choice. I never said life owes us only good things. It owes us nothing at all, but we still have choices, and I can tell you that I will have choices of some kind until the moment I cease breathing

    December 20, 2003 - 12:49 pm
    Anneo, but neither do I walk on eggs. I do not have ESP to know what is going on in her life and I don't see how that can even be expected. I picked a word she said that I disagreed with, and nowhere did I not have sympathy for her situation. If she chooses to see it another way that is HER CHOICE, whether she recognizes it or not.

    Denjer, thank you. I believe so far you are the only who who has indicated any real understanding of what I am trying to say here.

    December 20, 2003 - 12:54 pm
    Rose - In some ways, I agree with what you say, but I also think that if a person believes he or she has no choices, then they have no choices. After all, we are pretty much driven by our belief systems. Someone said that whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right, and I think that applies here.

    Women in abusive relationships come to mind here. They are often totally brainwashed and believe they can NOT get out. We know they can, but they don't, so they can't.

    I have also read that women who are held against their will and abused in various ways begin to identify with their captors. They also think they have no choice, I'm sure.

    I would venture to say that there are no hard fast answers. Some people believe they have no choices, at least in certain situations; some believe they have choices but they are not, or believe they are not, strong enough to implement them; some believe they have them and are strong enough to implement them, and yet they don't. The ideal behavior model, which is yours, is the one who believes she has choices, believes she is strong enough to implement them, and DOES.

    December 20, 2003 - 01:02 pm
    believe, and that is exactly my point. That is why I am saying what I'm saying. I cannot change the world, but I can certainly present another way of looking at things right here and right now. That is all I'm doing.

    Nor am I saying anyone has to change because I said what I feel I need to say. Just as I have a choice, ALL others have choices too. But I can tell you what works for me, and to see it in words might help someone in their choices also, or it might encourage someone, or it might just roll around in their minds until they need the information, or whatever else. We do not have to be stuck in whatever life presents us with.

    I am not saying anything other than that, and if more young women realized that, they might not end up making bad choices and ending up in jail because of social pressures or family situations or abuse or whatever else they've had to deal with.

    To pat someone's hand and say "there there dear" is not really giving them new choices, and even though it has a temporary use as sympathy, ultimately it keeps them stuck right where they are.

    It breaks my heart to see so many women going through life believing they have no choices and thereby ending up in hell.

    December 20, 2003 - 02:19 pm
    I know (and everyone else already knows) that we as a community would have far fewer clashes if we could see the facial expression and hear the tone when someone is "speaking" (SIGH!) Thank heavens, though, that we and the community do manage to survive in spite of it, and even learn from others now and again!

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 20, 2003 - 03:18 pm
    I don't see a real clash here, but I do see a veering away from the real topics of this discussion and getting bogged down in personal issues instead. For that reason, I am posting the only part of my Post #852 which I consider important and hope you'll comment on it.
    "I feel the same way about the women who wrote Couldn't Keep it to Myself. According to the Christian Science Monitor, 'Since 1997, a vaguely worded statute and regulations have required (or, depending on their interpretation, allowed) Connecticut to try to recover from inmates the cost of their incarceration.'

    "It also says, 'So these regulations have, in practice, meant the state goes after an inmate's funds only if the DOC happens to learn, usually from the news or inmate mail, that she's come into some money.' Therefore, if one of the inmates receives a million dollar inheritance and the DOC doesn't find out about it, that inmate is not required to pay anything toward the cost of her incarceration.

    "Wally Lamb has said,

    " 'The imprisoned writers had received no money whatsoever and those who’d served their sentences and been released had received a modest book sale income of $5,600 each—otherwise known as seed money to begin their rehabilitated lives. Suddenly, they were saddled with bills of several hundred thousand dollars, sums that they cannot possibly pay and which thwart their efforts as they take their first tentative steps back into the work force. . . . The lawsuit was particularly demoralizing to the still-incarcerated writers.

    " 'Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, contends that the state deserves whatever money the writers make (and, apparently, several hundred thousand more) because the women never would have become published authors if Connecticut had not convicted and imprisoned them. In my opinion, this argument blithely dismisses the women’s writing talent and their work ethic and sends them the message that the state is more interested in retribution than rehabilitation. Why are we not sending them the message that hard, honest work brings reward?'
    "If these prisoners are given nothing with which to start a new life when they leave prison, how do they manage? How do they avoid going back into the same environment and same kind of life they had before they entered prison? What incentive is there for prople in prison to use writing as part of their rehabilitation if they know the state government will come after them for several thousand dollars they cannot possibly pay when they publish anything?

    "I agree with GINNY that we must speak out. If deterrents like this one facing the women who wrote this book are placed in front of all prisoners who have worked hard to rehabilitate themselves and work constructively at something, how can we possibly expect an end or even an easing up of crime?"


    December 20, 2003 - 03:54 pm
    facts before I will write any sort of letter. I think this comment of Mr. Lamb's needs to be examined for fact: "Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, contends that the state deserves whatever money the writers make (and, apparently, several hundred thousand more) because the women never would have become published authors if Connecticut had not convicted and imprisoned them."

    Because I agree with Blumenthal that the state deserves whatever money the writers make for work done WHILE IN PRISON. And it's Mr. Lamb's parenthetical comment I want clarity about, because I don't think the state deserves "several hundred thousand more", or any more once the women have paid their debt to society and have been released.

    And I would also like more clarity as to exactly what sort of help they do get when they are released. I don't think anyone should be released with no help at all or some sort of useful transition period.

    But before I accede to writing a letter about this I want to know exactly what is happening. I don't do "bandwagons" well on conjecture and assumptions only. I do much better with real solid facts. Once I have those facts, and if I think they are unfair, I can be hell on wheels---but not before.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 20, 2003 - 04:02 pm
    Hi Everyone!

    Well, I’m feeling inspired and pretty doggone motivated after seeing all the work Wally has put into answering the entire lot of questions that have been asked of him. So now I will attempt to do the same, and then hopefully I’ll be able to get it all cut and pasted into posts before this weekend is over.

    I’ll start with the questions listed for me in your beautiful header section:

    1. About traveling/bookdates. I believe I already answered this in a post a little while back. Robin, Nancy W., and Tabbi have done a lot more book-related promo stuff than I have, mostly since I live so far away from the rest of them. I did make it to a couple of events, though. The first one felt stressful, exhausting and overwhelming. The people we met at the bookstore were great, but in all honesty, I was very happy and felt most grateful to get back to my quiet unexciting homelife out in the hills of southern Indiana. The second event I attempted make was cancelled (after I’d flown into CT for it), due to a major snowstorm. Instead I spent several days re-connecting with my family (from which I’d been estranged for years – more about that a little later). Also I managed to spend some time with Robin Cullen who was kind enough to drive across state, immediately behind the snow plows, to meet us for dinner and some hours of great chat time. The third and final trip for me was back to CT the following month for the re-scheduled date of the snowed out event. That night felt magical to me – possibly the best night of my life. Wally, Robin, Nancy W., Dale and I were all together for a dinner, reading, Q and A session, and book-signing for an overflow crowd at a community college in Norwich CT, my birth-town. It was so much fun, especially the “gigglefest” we women had out in the parking lot after Wally left! This was so much more than a book promo date for me, though; it was also a very healing homecoming for a little girl who’d run away without looking back, many, many years before.

    2. About the Wizard of Oz movie and sefl-comparisons w/Judy Garland -- no, I didn’t think of Judy Garland at all or even much about the character of Dorothy, as I wrote my essay, mostly I focused entirely on more disturbing images of the film, those son-of-a-you-know- whatin’ monkeys and also the “sing-songy chanting” of the witch’s castle guards (which I’ve since co-related to the chanting in my childhood cannibal nightmares). It was only after my piece was close to finished that I watched a video of the W of O and also a “made for TV” biography of Judy Garland’s life (I saw both of these roughly around the same time), that I began making comparisons between my own life and the lives of both the Dorothy character AND to Judy Garland and her eerily similar struggles in life. You see, even I have made some connections and learned some things in retrospect, concerning my own essay!

    3. Mal, about “de-toxing” in prison. I’m not sure about other facilities, but in the KY prison where I was incarcerated, it would be rare for a woman not to be fairly well de-toxed prior to arriving there. The prison is not used as a holding facility, so women generally do not arrive there until post-sentencing, and even then two or so weeks have elapsed in a county jail before transport to the prison. I did, however, witness some brutal de-tox incidents while I was in the county jail where no medical intervention was provided. On women de-toxing from dilaudid experienced a series of seizures that were reported to supervising officers by me and fellow inmates. In the three days I spent in a temporary dorm with the woman, I never saw her receive any medical attention. The same held true for a woman who was brought in for a DUI. After hours locked up, she begged for some sustinance, saying that she had diabetes and felt like she was going into shock. A Dr. was summoned only AFTER she actually did go fully into shock. All she asked for was a glass of juice or a piece of candy. In my own case, I experienced a rather severe asthma attack and had a prescription inhaler in my purse (which had been seized upon my arrest). No Dr. was notified; instead I was made fun of. On my third day in jail, with a badly stuffed nose, unable to speak because my voice was so hoarse, and with both eyes almost swollen shut from allergies, I was finally given over the counter Actifed, which actually helped immensely. I really do not understand having to wait 3 days to simply be afforded the ability to breathe adequately. And if that seems like whining or undue complaining (which trust me, it is according to some folks), then so be it; I don't think I'll ever be fully beyond complaining over that one.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 20, 2003 - 04:15 pm
    4: How long did it take to write my essay? About a year and a half (on and off). I believe I answered this one in much more detail during one of my online discussion visits.

    5: Ginny, I chuckled when I read your question concerning my psychological assessment and a diagnosis of “expansive personality.” You commented that it sounds like an asset. Let’s just say that most mental disabilities have labels that are a bit euphemistic. Here’s what the DSM IV (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) has to say about personality disorders in general: “Personality Disorders are distinguished by enduring, maladaptive, and inflexible patterns of perceiving, relating to, or thinking about one’s environment or oneself. The maladaptive patterns cause significant impairment in functioning and major distress to the individual.” An “expansive” personality would fall into cluster B of three distinct possible clusters. Cluster B is the “dramatic-emotional cluster, which includes Antisocial, Borderline, and Histrionic disorders.” Although a character living life through the distortion of symptoms in this type of personality disorder would make for great fiction, it caused me to be one screwed up chickadee for many, many years.

    6: An addict who wishes to hold true to the principles of her recovery must conquer her shame and regret over the past and, as much as possible, share her experience with others.” Elaborate? Hmmm, that’s a good one, but for now I’m going to put this particular question on the shelf for a little while longer; it’s so paramount to the entire thesis of my essay. Shame and secret-keeping, secret-keeping and shame; as far as I’m concerned they are deficits of character that are potentially a deadly duo. I want to think for a little while longer about trying to create a better understanding of what I mean, OK?

    7: Concerning the title, “Three Steps Past the Monkeys,” well, I want to thank all of you for humoring my request to tell me what your thoughts about it are! I’m impressed and also most happy to know that many of you readers really did “get” the true meaning of the title. Originally, I wanted it to be Three Steps TOWARD the Monkeys, and it definitely had everything to do with those first three of the twelve-steps of recovery, and my inability to look at any of the scary stuff from my past, without first getting past those initial recovery steps. Wally proposed the title, “Monkeys.” This was one of the few things we went back and forth a few times about. Getting “three steps” into that title felt really important to me, but Wally thought the simpler title might work better. I continued defending my case. I liked the play on words, and I thought out so many of the examples all of you came up with, even the monkey on my back, the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkeys, etc. Eventually, we agreed on my title, only with the word “toward” changed to “past.” I think I still would have preferred the word “toward,” since I certainly didn’t get past any monkeys or much of anything else for many years. As a matter of fact, in some ways still struggle to fully get there, but I compromised when I got to keep the “three steps” in my title!

    Malryn (Mal)
    December 20, 2003 - 04:27 pm
    NANCY, thank you so much for coming in and answering our questions.


    Malryn (Mal)
    December 20, 2003 - 05:05 pm
    GINNY, I have spent time today doing searches about the pending legislation in Connecticut. Without the number of the bill, it's hard to find much of anything. Do you have any idea what that number is?


    December 20, 2003 - 05:32 pm

    Costs of Incarceration seems to be the correct bill. I'll leave it to someone else to slog through it.

    I do think however, that Wally Lamb is a most reliable witness, particularly since he is involved.

    Nancy Birkla
    December 20, 2003 - 05:42 pm
    8-12 are all repeated questions. I will try to write more tonight, beginning with question 13.

    Until then, though, in order to maybe clarify questions about "stipends" upon release from prison, or any kind of "help" post-prison, here is what my experience looked like:

    My release from prison was a surprise to everyone involved, including me. My judge sent a be