Inside Stories is our creative writing and illustration project for prison inmates. In January 2013, over a two-week period, Create’s professional writer and visual artist helped 16 fathers to write, record and illustrate original stories for their children. Here, Luke, who is currently serving a seven years sentence, talks about his experience. (This piece is from 2013.)
“I decided to do Inside Stories because I thought it would be good for my kids. It’s something personal, and when I did Storybook Dads they loved it. And with this they get to read it and listen to it. I was really pleased and excited when they told me I would be taking part in the project – I’ve never thought to sit and write a book for my kids before! I did art at school, but it’s been a while.
“My story is about a dragon that wakes from his sleep and can smell cakes and sweets. He can hear two princesses having a party, and as he is hungry he decides to go and eat everybody! When he arrives he is met by the 12-legged DJ spider that he is petrified of, so the partying princesses intervene. They all become friends and they eat lots of sweets and party into the night until they fall asleep under the twinkling stars.
“My partner on the project has two daughters so wanted to write about two princesses, and I thought I’d do something slightly different for my children and make them animals instead! Inside Stories has taught me that when you write children’s stories you don’t have to stick to the norm. They can be made to appear differently to what they would normally be perceived as. And for kids you don’t have to cram too much in – you can make the artwork detailed to tell the story.
“Carol [Create’s professional writer] did well in showing us how to break down our stories, to get your idea on paper and edit it down. Getting the initial ideas and developing them into a short story was quite good but probably the hardest part of it. The collage works quite well with the colours. It’s really interesting how you can make that work as opposed to drawing it freehand. The best thing about the project will be when you get your book and give it to your kids so they can take it and read and listen to it. I’m close to my kids anyway and I already read to them. They’ll definitely look at me differently. You’re doing it for them. They’ll love it!
“Projects like Inside Stories are very important in prisons. They create a bridge between you being in here and them being outside. They can read the book over and over again. For some people, it’s good to develop their confidence. I am a peer advisor here, so I tell people what’s on offer. I just tell people to give it a go. From now on, having actually done this project, I can give them more of an insight. I show them the previous books and they can’t believe they will be able to write a story, but I tell them they can!”
To protect anonymity, the name in the case study has been changed. This piece is from 2013.