If you've attempted to write 50,000 words in one month, please raise your eyebrows. Then, imagine doing it like William Smitherman, from the confines of a prison on an outdated, tiny, flaky android tablet (feel free to keep your eyebrows raised and add a tilt of your head). The content you write can only be saved by sending it in one-electronic-stamp increments to the outside world while you sit in a noisy cage or hurtle to and from mandatory programs, struggling to avoid traps, obstacles, social obligations, and nearly poisonous food every single day (please move your head and eyebrows as you see fit). These kinds of descriptions can feel like hyperbole. In the case of the participants engaging in National Novel Writing Month while incarcerated, the reality each writer faces might actually put my expansive description to shame. Not only have the writers taking part in this challenge decided to meet the goal of writing a novel in one month, but they're creating their own writing groups in order to get there together. This includes figuring out where and how to meet, circumventing or working through systems expressly designed to inhibit communal activity, myriad rules, and arbitrary whim of the designated overseer. It includes gathering the resources, harvesting time, encouraging each other, and hoping against all evidence that the effort will be worth the stretch. William Smitherman is one of over 40 participants who have achieved this amazing feat since PEN America partnered with National Novel Writing Month […]
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