PRISONER INVITED TO DELIVER SPEECH IN NEW YORK
No, the Department of Corrections isn’t likely to let me attend in person, even though I promised to return.
The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature will be held in New York City April 25 – May 1, 2011, featuring more than 100 writers from 40 countries meeting to celebrate the power of the writer’s voice as a bold and vital element of public discourse. If you’d like to read more about the festival events, visit www.pen.org/festival.
I accepted an invitation to deliver a keynote speech on Thursday, April 28, 2011, at 9:30 AM at the Desmond Tutu Center Refectory. I am the third speaker, right after the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison.
Acknowledging my prisoner status, the PEN Festival organizers are seeking approval from the Department of Corrections to set up an internet webcast so that I can deliver my speech live. Considering how paranoid the DOC is, I’m not holding my breath on that issue. My speech is written, and “Plan B” involves one of the international writers reading it on my behalf.
Whatever happens, it is a great honor, and I am humbled to be included in such an accomplished group. What is it about, you ask?
“In 1986, Norman Mailer PEN American Center’s then-president organized a legendary conference titled,
The Writer’s Imagination and the Imagination of the State. In it he asserted that not only did writers use their imaginations naturally and gracefully to speak to one another across national boundaries, but that governments, too, were capable of using their visions to improve the world’s troubles. To mark the 25th anniversary of this event, the PEN World Voices Festival will hold a Working Day to revisit similar questions while addressing urgent issues facing writer-intellectuals in 2011. This workshop will begin with panel discussion, including keynote addresses. It will be followed by five breakout sessions, each addressing topics related to how writers can respond to current predicaments and help find peaceful solutions. At the day’s end, the participants will release a joint manifesto, drafted by one and signed by all – the first of its kind in the festival history.” (From the PEN.org web site)
My area of expertise is prison, of course. Tuesday, April 5, 2011, marked my 33rd year of continuous imprisonment – 12,055 days. I am speaking on how prison has changed in the past 25 – 30 years. If you’d like to read my speech, I will post it after the festival.
Meanwhile, Libby and I are working hard on my updated parole release plan and “LIFE IN PRISON – A Photo Exhibit.” A parole examiner is scheduled to interview me here in June, and a full parole commission hearing will follow in Tallahassee 60 – 90 days later. Hopefully, my PEN literary festival participation will be looked at favorably.