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Writing and Publishing

This page is being built for those of you who are learning to write, those who enjoy the process and/or therapeutic value of writing, and even for the folks who write to have their work published. There’s something for everyone; from the step-by-step writing tips, to publishing books that will be printed or downloaded…including music books!

American Prison Writing Archive


The mission of the APWA is to replace speculation on and misrepresentation of prisons, imprisoned people, and prison workers with first-person witness by those who live and work on the receiving end of American criminal justice. As of 2.18.20 they have 2323 titles in English and 17 titles in Spanish.  The books, papers and poems are grouped by Titles (A-Z), Authors, Author Attributes, Languages, Prisons and States. Search information is on the left side of the page.


To submit your essay, book or poem, request their permissions questionnaire here:

The American Prison Writing Archive
c/o Hamilton College
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323-1218


VOLUNTEER!   Help transcribe essays to enter into the archive!  Fill out the application here:


PenPrisons Foundation

2512 Virginia Ave. NW, #58043
Washington, DC 20037


 If you are a prisoner who has written a book, or would like to write a book, we want to publish it. All books on any subject are welcome. There is no charge to you to publish your book and no charge to anyone who wishes to read it. You retain full rights to your book if you later wish to place it with a literary agent or commercial publisher. Placing your book on our website is in fact a good way to bring it to the attention of agents and larger publishers (and protect it under common copyright law). (Even bestselling author Stephen King had to self-publish and give away his first five books, which were eventually picked up and published by commercial publishers after he was “discovered.” ) When we receive your book, it will be scanned in its entirety, just as you submitted it to us…even if it’s hand written.


Click here for the BOOK SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINE information.


They also offer inexpensive Dictionaries (Webster’s) and Thesauruses (Roget’s) – in larger print.

If you purchase either book alone, the cost is  $3.95 + $2.75 shipping.

If you purchase both books together, the cost is $7.90+ $5.50 shipping, plus you will receive a free bonus book.

To purchase, send your full mailing information to:
2512 Virginia Ave. NW, #58043
Washington, DC 20037

Accepted payment: unused postage stamps, check or money order. The books can also be ordered on the website: www.prisonsfoundation.org

Writing Tips

by Kelly Patrick Riggs

Mr. Riggs has generously donated these writing tips.  You can check out his many publications on our Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Authors page! and also online.


This is the first and most important thing you’ll ever learn about writing. Writing is a career option that you’ll find can be accomplished anywhere you happen to be. Thus, you’re ultimately your own boss meaning that you work when you want to. Also know that because of that liberty you can put off starting just as easily as not. So it’s important to “just do something”, today and every day that you set aside to write. My suggestion is to write something as soon as you finish reading this tip. It doesn’t matter what you write just write something, get in the habit right now so you too will one day be able to write your own check.


 Life often requires us to deal with particular issues before we can proceed to others. Writing is very similar in nature. I have a book to finish this month and I have set a strict schedule that if followed will help me reach that goal. But, this morning I woke up with a writing tip on my mind. Providing writing tips is something I pledged to do and is now an irrevocable responsibility. My problem is that this writing tip is on the forefront of my mind and mingles with the material for my new book. This is not a problem as long as I take a moment to re-organize my day, by a few minutes. It’s time to get this writing tip out of my system so I can get back on my schedule- which had time for things just like this figured into it. I’m writing this tip early because it’s fresh on my mind right now. Doing it now is how I clear my thoughts to make room for the task that was scheduled for this morning. So, always take the time to get back on track, sometimes you have to take the time to GET IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM.


don’t mix business with pleasure, and I’m sure there are hundreds more variations of this principle. In its most basic form the idea is to create a separation between work life and home life. Even in the most simple environments you should define  some sort of difference between the two, to kick start your mind’s creative flow. I currently live in a concrete box that is eight feet wide and ten feet long, and every morning I get dressed, I drink my coffee, and I brush my teeth; before I sit at my desk to write. That’s correct, I get myself ready just like I’m going to work before taking a seat only four feet from where I sleep. I sit at my desk only to write, and I take my seat at seven o’clock sharp, every morning. So take a moment to define a difference, it will help you get your mind started.


I don’t care what you do in life, you will in one way or another be branded. Your brand is what you are known for and more importantly how you make people feel. It’s important to identify your brand and to keep it positive and consistent. You, just like me, will become known for something. But with some guidance, you unlike me, will recognize this fact and use it to your benefit early in your writing career. In simple terms your brand is the emotional effect that you have on the hearts of others-it’s what you are know for. So, identify your brand and keep it positive.


YOU. Writing often becomes an individual’s work of passion. And as with any passion, it becomes a love only when it is shared. Unfortunately when new writers start out, they rarely have huge promotion packages or unlimited budgets. They ordinarily must start from “Scratch.” Scratch, can be a very small amount and it still works. My favorite practice, even as a prisoner, is to add a facebook page for an individual book-don’t forget your brand as you put it together. Once the page is online I buy a promotion package through facebook for as little as $100. So if you’re just starting out, stop yourself from spending that first check, no matter how much it is, and invest a little of it in yourself with some promotion.


NO! Do for others BETTER than you would do for yourself. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that professional writers depend on how others feel about them. Bottom line is, if writers are stingy with their support and kindness then they can expect nothing different from those around them. As a writer you should always strive to have a positive impact on others. It’s never, too, late to adopt a win-win philosophy. This is simple, if you smile on others they are more likely to smile on you. If you want to galvanize this principle into your character, may I suggest that you take a shot at writing about something that helps others, at least once. And do be personal about it.


 Don’t let anyone talk you out of loving the life of a writer. It may be tough in the beginning-let’s face it, you, like me, are not destined for greatness just because you picked up a pen. But, just like any other art writing is a skill that is acquired by experience and study. And you are already an artist if you practice writing as an imaginative art.

 So love like you have never been hurt. Let us practice as though voices of the negative are silent. Even your worst and earliest writing may one day serve as an example to those who will struggle to express their passions in the future.


We’ve all heard about how we should manage our time, our habits, and our money. But how about our distractions? Distractions are probably one of the top ten killers of a writers productivity. Therefore, they must be managed.

Take care of unexpected problems and responsibilities before you sit down to write. Turn the phone off when possible and set some soft instrumental music to play in the background. Don’t get me wrong, things happen. They happen to me too. But I put my problems behind me as quickly as I possibly can. That way, I can get my mind back on my writing.


It doesn’t matter how good you think your memory is, everyone forgets something sooner or later. That goes for all classes of people of all ages, especially writers. That’s why I keep a journal. A journal is most often kept as a recording of the day’s events. A writer’s journal, however, should be a record of a writer’s thoughts.

Anybody in the world can have a great idea, and it happens more often than they think-and I do mean anyone. During a fifteen minute phone call my ten-year-old son, Tommy, he gave me a great idea for a new line of children’s books. It would be a shame for me to forget such a great idea, not to mention a disservice to my son’s future. As you can imagine I keep a journal.

A writer’s journal should be within arms reach first thing in the morning. The idea for one of my upcoming fiction novels, De-Ja Vu, came to me in my sleep. That’s why my journal is the first thing I touch every morning and it stays with me until the day’s writing is finished. If you want to be your best, keep a journal.




920-821-3006     home4writers@sycwp.com 

So You Can Write Publications is a publishing company designed to assist writers with their writing works. This company has a reputation built off good faith and character, we believe in making our clients feel at home during the publishing process. It is our greatest duty to provide ongoing services that meet the needs to each writer’s individuality. Helping our community build vision by understanding the talent that’s within. Your dreams are reachable!” (Formerly-Incarcerated-Person Owned)

About the owner, Kendrick Watkins:

“When I was released from prison in 2010 I had a vision and goals: to be free and become successful. Just because I have a prison record doesn’t mean my life is over.  Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and remove the people, places, and things that do not bring encouragement to the new you! I started writing because it brought peace to my world. I was hurting from childhood experiences, but I begin to heal myself mentally and emotionally through my writing. I encourage writers to write because it heals the very soul you must take care of.”

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Strategy for Writing While in Prison

Shared by an incarcerated author

I have often heard people in prison say that they want to write a book.  The number of people who have accomplished this goal still remains relatively small and I believe that this may be because they lack a strategy for effective book writing.  The following is the strategy that I use for writing my books while incarcerated.

  1. Think Big, Write Small Most people look at a book’s length (usually around 300 pages) and think that they could never write that many pages.  But look at it from another perspective: Most people can write one page (about 250 words).  So concentrate on writing one page per day.  At the end of the year you will have 365 pages.

  1. Just Do ItDon’t stop or lose time worrying about grammar, punctuation, etc.  Just write as ideas come.

  2. This is called brainstorming.  After a while you will have enough material to complete a chapter or maybe even the whole book.

  1. Know Thy Subject – Thoroughly research your topic.  When I was writing my urban fiction book (“hood novel”), I did not know much about the “drug game” so I spoke to people who had been extensively involved so I could provide an authentic experience for my readers.  Even if you have extensive knowledge about the subject, research will allow you to learn other perspectives from a wide range of people.  This makes writing easier because those perspectives can be incorporated.

  1. Make the Time – Set aside a specific time or range of time each day to concentrate on writing (whether brainstorming, researching, and/or writing).  I find that having a set schedule keeps me focused and motivated.  Generally, my writing time is in the early morning after I complete my daily workout (running the track helps me come up with ideas).

  1. Read, Read, and Read Some More – The more you read, the better your writing will become.  Read a variety of material (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) on a wide range of subjects, to increase your vocabulary.  Learn to identify and emulate the writing style of your favorite author(s).  As a side benefit, you can spend many enjoyable hours lost in a good book.