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Incarcerated Women Share Their Stories

Incarcerated Women
Share Their Stories

Whitesburg, KY,
Unites States, 07/30/2008

The women at Otter Creek
correctional facility, located in Wheelwright Kentucky, don't often get
a chance to to share their stories.

This summer, however, 
for eight thought-provoking weeks, that dynamic changed as Dale Mackey,
of the Whitesburg Kentucky based media arts organization Appalshop,
conducted a creative writing workshop within the prison's walls.
Twelve Otter Creek inmates participated.

"I don't know if I
would recognize the world again if I didn't look at it through a
fence," one participant penned, giving birth to a line that would have
been at home in a Faulkner novel.

The workshop, which focused on encouraging the women to reveal their
personal histories in their own style and voice, went better than
anyone could have anticipated, producing the kind of sophisticated
literary cadences one usually finds among Stanford English majors.

"Each prison has a history,
you see, unique and all its own—an oral history passed on from inmate
to inmate," a prisoner wrote "like some sort of convict chronicle.  The more time
you serve, the more stories you collect until you, yourself, are a book—a
living tome that differs from person to person depending on the stories
they write on the pages of their memory."

Mackey, part of Appalshop's Thousand Kites project, wanted to be sure
that the women's stories were heard beyond the prison walls.  In the
coming weeks,  the 23 year-old will be working with formerly
incarcerated women in order to present a reading of the Otter Creek
workshop material.

The reading will take place at Whitesburg's Summit City
Lounge, on Wednesday 13th at 7 p.m.

While an appropriate climax, the reading won't signal the end of 
Mackey's relationship with the women of Otter Creek, the 750 bed
facility that houses women from Kentucky and Hawaii. Involved with
Appalshop's innovative storytelling project Thousand Kites, Mackey will
be returning to the prison to conduct more workshops, but to
help weave the words of  the women into a play that will appear on the
Thousand Kites website.  

The Summit City Lounge is located at 214 Main Street in Whitesburg, Kentucky.

 For more information contact thousandkitesproject@gmail.com or call 606-633-0108.

Funding, in part, provided by:
Kentucky Foundation for Women, Babcock Foundation, and the Kentucky Arts Council.