Revision

Posted: December 15, 2008 in prison, general, prisoner writing, teaching
Tags: , , ,

I have been working with one man in the group at Monroe to try and infuse his essay on his efforts to become a teacher’s aide and receive a bachelors degree while serving time with more emotion. He freely admits to having a hard time including emotion in his writing. Easier to report it as just the facts, just the facts…less he should have to actually experience some of the pain his journey has caused him. I think about writing teachers who have told me, you have to write directly into the hard, dark places. But, of course none of us want to go into those places. Better to skirt around the outside of the story and hope no one notices what you are not saying. The only problem with this is, of course, the story that people really want to read, the story that people need to read, is the one where the emotion rests.  This is what I have been saying to this man in our group as I dutifully and willingly read various versions of the essay he is working on. He’s a strong writer, but a scared writer.

Of course, then he surprised me, as I suppose students are in the habit of doing to their teachers.

Recently he gave me a revised version of the essay, and asked me if I would type it for him, which is something I’ve offered to do for those guys who are willing to do some honest to goodness revision work (alas, like many beginning writers, most of the guys still consider revision to be changing a word here or there and calling it done). As I was working on typing his essay this weekend, I came to the end and this paragraph, all of which is new writing.

“To them [his family] I have become like a phantom character in Isabelle Allende’s House of the Spirits, a world “in which appartitions sat at the table with human beings, and the past and future formed part of a single unit and the reality of the present was a kaleidscope of jumbled mirrors.” In that sense I visualize my grown children as they graduate, play sports, appear in musicals, teach in China or serve in the USCG in Alaska. I attend my father’s memorial at the American Legion with my brother and sister and their spouses. I hear my son sing at his sister’s wedding in his kilt, wish my former wife well. I randomly drift in and out of the narrative, speaking words only they can hear. Separate and together, fading and reappearing, all woven into a larger story we co-author to pass on. Though my future is uncertain as I write, I must focus on who I am becoming, not what will become of me.”

When I give his essay back to him this coming Wednesday I will tell him, thank you, your story moved me. Not just informed me, but moved me.

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