These men were not prisoners. They were writers, friends, teachers, creators, lovers, brothers, sons and fathers. In each of these stories lay the foundation of humanity. In word, inflection and intention was the truth: everyone has a story.
Ask an artist why he or she does anything to create their art and they will come up with explanations that often baffle the questioner. Especially if he or she must answer questions like: Do you know how your novel will end in advance?
Every time I walk into a bookstore and I see a novel written by a celebrity or some newly-minted reality star, I cringe. Yes, I'm jealous and resentful. But the truth is the book publishing business is a terrible business.
I wonder whether writing fiction matters in a digital age. Truth is, between emails, text messages, Facebook status updates, and tweets, we are all writing quite a lot these days. We are often overwhelmed by words.
Talk a lot and don't do anything. Rattle on to people who won't challenge you to act on your ideas. Regularly pepper your language with long lists of excuses, and shut down offers of help or suggestions for solutions.
Poetry contests are about the only remaining way to publish a first poetry book. And that's one way poetry is being killed in this country, reduced to consensus-by-committee, stripped of individual vision.