Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Dateline: April 24, 2008
Location: deep inside a prison cell in Florida

More Good News, I Hope

Yesterday I wrote about the PEN literary award for Continued Outstanding Excellence, and how much it means to me, to have the affirmation of such good people. I must be on a roll, since the latest mail call brought a letter from the "Anne Frank Center USA," also based in New York City.

The people at the Anne Frank Center sent me a very nice letter as a result of winning the PEN prize, asking me to write my version of a prison diary, a daily journal in the spirit of Anne Frank, from now until September 1st. How could I say no? They will send me a copy of the book, The Diary of Anne Frank, to re-read, a blank journal, and guidelines, and the rest is up to me.

This is not a difficult task, since I've been writing about my imprisonment and other subjects for over thirty years. But there are pitfalls.this morning at our twice-monthly communion service, my friend, Rev. Bob Anderson, offered his caveats when I told him about it.

One big difference in writing a diary from prison is that the prison staff reads your mail. Fortunately for mankind, the Nazis never got a hand on Anne Frank's diary, and it would have been really bad had they intercepted anything coming out of that concentration camp, though the end was just as inevitable.

Father Bob's advice, which I do my best to follow, is not to provoke the prison authorities by criticizing them in print. Do not throw rocks at sleeping lions. I walk a narrow path in here, a shaky tightrope, and one little slip either way, and I must pay. So, I will do my best to maintain my literary integrity along with submitting a daily journal of some validity.

I just wrote a new prison memoir, which my friend, Libby, is the first to read. In these memoirs, I've been mostly dwelling into the past, my early years in prison, and some of the horrible events I witnessed there at Raiford. Libby told me that had she not known me, and hadn't listened to me talking about these things, she would not have believed they could have possibly happened. I understand completely. That's why I am compelled to write these memoirs - "normal" people have no concept how it really is in prison, or how it was, what so many thousands of people endured.

I am a witness, and I must document and recount some of these experiences, so the knowledge won't be lost, so the world will know the truth. What do you think?


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