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A Lawyer Goes to Prison

I just returned from three weeks on Ocean Isle Beach, one of the barrier islands not far from Wilmington, North Carolina. I went there to take a new crack at telling the story of my odyssey several years ago in which I ended up working as a prison guard at a maximum security prison just north of Dover. It began with a throw of a dart–which landed in Dover–and ended with me walking the tiers as correctional officer.

I wrote the story once, and followed the advice of friends and editors that I needed to tell the story of who I was and why I did what it did. It turned into far too much of a memoir. I don’t write well about myself. It seemed glib and superficial (for reasons which only my therapist undertands). There was serious interest in the manuscript, but eventually I pulled it because I was unhappy with the mixture of memoir and prison.

So, I’m rewriting it now mainly as a prison book. People love prison stories, witness all of the stuff on TV, and it’s much different and worse inside than it has been represented in those shows. In fact, I don’t think you can imagine it. Which ends up, of course, being my challenge as the teller of the story.

I went to the island with 45 pages. After the second day, I threw those pages out and started over. I didn’t like the “voice.” I returned home a few days ago with 45 new pages. Let’s hope they survive. My goal is to have a draft manuscipt by the end of the summer.

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