Can inmates accomplish something worthwhile?

Posted: January 31, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison
Tags: , , , , , ,

My first novel was about a group of hard-ass American prisoners. They petitioned the government for an island to finish out their sentences, their families coming with them. The government gave them the island of Adak in the Aleutians, a former hard-duty Navy Station, a terrible place where it rains or snows 85% of the time. During WWII, the weather killed more people than the Japanese did. A fierce wind, called a Williwaw, rules the island.

No guards are on the island and no social workers or prison staff. The US Coast Guard maintains a constant surveillance of the island so no one escapes.

It was called Prisoners of the Williwaw.

One day I was teaching in a Pre-trial facility and a female inmate came up to me. She was a young woman, maybe in her early twenties. As with all inmates, I didn’t know why she was there.

“Hey, Mr. Griffin, I read your book.”

“Oh? Which one?”

“The Williwaw one. I really liked it.”

“That’s great. Thank you.”

She paused. She had more to say. “I know what you were trying to do.”

I expected the usual – write an exciting story, a page-turner. I try to do that with everything I write.

“You were trying to say that we inmates can accomplish something worthwhile. Your hero, Frank, he builds a society, despite a lot of opposition. He’s not some innocent guy accidentally put in prison, like we see on TV or the movies. He’s a convict, yet he does something amazing. He builds a society.”

Tears came to her eyes. “Thank you,” she said.

The buzzer sounded. The school for that unit was over. She was gone.

It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said about any of my writing. She saw through all the ins and outs of the plot and right to the heart of the story, the theme.

Writers don’t often get favorable comments, but I’ll never forget that one.Prisoners of the Williwaw

The book, Prisoners of the Williwaw, is still available wherever you buy your ebooks. I’m working on a sequel now.

  1. Marcella says:

    I’m going to have to read Prisoners of Williwaw now.

  2. Aren’t themes amazing the way they can illuminate a book? I’ve heard it said that a writer should never do those final drafts until they have the theme/s clear in their heads. Knowing what the theme was (often one doesn’t know at the beginning) helps with those final edits, is a guideline to help decide what stay and what goes.

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