Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writers On The Inside


There are a lot of things about myself that I don't normally share. All of my experiences have made me who I am today: the good, the bad and the ugly and I try to embrace them, or at least accept them, for what they are.  I make no excuses, I alone am/was responsible, but sometimes it's easier to tuck things away and just let them live in the past. Recently, I was told about a writing project at a juvenile detention center that hit at my very core, and in order to effectively explain why I am trying to support the project, I have to reveal a few things about myself. For the kids in the program, this is more for you than anyone else.

I was one of those teenagers that could easily be described as a parent's worst nightmare. I ran away from home twice and ended up in a juvenile facility at the age of sixteen after being shot in the head while doing something I shouldn't have been doing. Sure, surviving being shot should have been my first clue that it was time to straighten up, but, you know, hard heads are difficult to soften.

So I'm in the facility, my mother made it clear I was not welcome home if I ever got out, my Dad lived a thousand miles away. It's a hard place for a teenager, even a tough one.

We were allowed one book to read, the Bible, and I read it three times from cover to cover, the first time because I had nothing else to do, the second and third times because I liked the stories. Other than that, our only outlet was ping-pong. Not much of an outlet.

When I saw this particular project, I almost cried. Oh, how I would have loved to have had the opportunity to write while I was there. To share some of the stories running around in my mind, the true ones and the fiction. I like to think had I had someone that would have encouraged me to write at a younger age, things would have been different for me. But I didn't. You do.

Know that there are a lot of us that understand where you are and where you are coming from. We can't do much more than encourage you, but if you are anything like I was, that may be all it takes. Please keep writing, and if writing isn't your thing, try something else as an outlet: music, art, science. But find that way to express yourself that doesn't destroy you. Because no-one can do it but you.

After I got out of the facility I was in, no, I wasn't smart enough to turn everything around. I went right back to it and it took a second brush with death to finally open my eyes. I eventually moved in with my Dad and finished high school, which at the time, was something I never thought I would do.  I went to college, and now have two Masters Degrees under my belt. It wasn't easy, nothing ever is, but I finally realized I was the only one that could change me. So I did it. (And just so you know, getting a Masters degree is about two hundred times easier than living on the street).

So keep writing the stories, I'm enjoying them and I know others are as well. We may not always comment, but we are out there, and every story is meaningful because it comes from you.

And remember, nothing worth it is easy.

Please visit WritersOnTheInside.com and support these young writers. Bookmark it and check back frequently.    

 Writers on the Inside is the place where children who are currently being held in a maximum security facility can empower themselves through the publication of their stories, essays, poems, and art. The youth in the facility are locked up for various crimes and are awaiting transport to a sentencing facility. All youth are between the ages of nine and eighteen, but all of them have a story to tell.

16 comments:

Beth Garland said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Kelly. I know it was hard. I'll check out the kids' work.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Please do!

Gareth Young said...

Brilliant post. Too often we give up on people for one reason or the other. Your honesty on this subject was eye-opening and I hope more troubled children can find a way out like you did. Sometimes all anyone needs is for someone to believe in them...and then it makes it easier for them to believe in themselves.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I agree. When I first heard about this project, it brought tears to my eyes. I'm 30+ years beyond that time in my life, but remember it like it was yesterday. Thanks, Gareth.

Lorca Damon said...

It takes a lot of courage to let others know that sometimes there is stuff beneath the surface that they may not like. I'm working to get my students to create a brand-new surface! Your story will be very inspirational!

Suzanne Shumaker said...

I love reading your nonfiction Kelly. You are so self-assured and seem to have it all together, and it's good to see that wasn't always the case with you. Thanks for letting us in.

Erica Lucke Dean said...

This was a great post. Thank you for sharing it. I think too many of us forget how hard it is, even if we struggle with things ourselves.

Raine Thomas said...

So glad you're bringing attention to this wonderful site, Kelly. I worked with kids in these situations for a number of years, and I would have loved for them to have this kind of creative outlet. Excellent post!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I hope so, Lorca. Thanks for all you do.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Ha! I'm obviously a good actress then. Thank, Suzi.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

We all have our struggles, and they are all difficult. But, we can always help someone even if it's just by listening. :)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thank you, Raine. Thank you for working with kids in difficult situations. It's hard to do. I tried briefly, but I wanted to adopt everyone, and that didn't work out so well. LOL.

Rob Greene said...

You were a bit of a pill weren't you, KG? Back in the last '90s I spent about a year working as trail staff for a Massachusetts Department of Youth Services forestry program. Essentially I was part-prison guard, part-cook, part-English teacher, and part-mountain guide. It struck me, every time we got a new crop of kids in, that no matter what they'd done (and they'd done some sketchy things) they were just kids who were having a hell of a time getting out of their own way.

Rachel Thompson said...

So proud of you for sharing more of your fabulous soul w/ us, Kelly. I'm honored you discussed your er, second brush with death on my blog last month and are opening up more now.

Writing about the raw stuff hurts. And that's okay. At least you're here to feel it.

xo

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

That is a great way to describe them. And yes, I was a bit of a pill. :)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

It's easier to write about it if I feel I'm helping someone else. I do know how these kids feel, and I'm sure they appreciate that people are reading their work. It does mean something. Thanks, Rachel.