JH Artwork

JH Artwork

Writing Exchange 2006-2017

This blog was created to display some of the powerful writing being done by incarcerated youth. Participants currently include juvenile hall facilities in Siskiyou, Lassen, Placer, Fresno, and Butte County. Students are given journal topics and asked to write what needs to be written. Several entries are handpicked from each classroom site and posted to the blog anonymously. Students at each site then read the material together, discussing the writing and connecting with others.

Planned Exchanges 2016: Sept 14; Oct12; Nov 16; Dec 14

Planned Exchanges 2017: Jan 11; Feb 15; March 15; April 12; May 17

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

This month, students were given the following prompts:
1. What makes you happy? Explain what makes you feel alive, what you love to do, from hanging with friends to video games, skating to music, eating certain foods, a TV show, the ocean, and more.
2. Use the repetitive line, “What If…” If you get stuck, rewrite the line and keep going. If you get in a groove on one topic, stay on it for a while….what if…

Entry # 204 What Makes Me Happy
There are many things that make me happy. The crazy thing is, I don’t know what to say. Words are not coming to my mouth. I don’t want to write what’s on my paper. Maybe that’s what makes me happy. Having the decision to do something or not. Without being able to have a decision, everybody would have to do things they don’t like. Me, I can choose. I have a choice. So being able to not write the right words makes me realize what makes me happy the most: Decisions. That's what makes me happy.

Entry #205
Right From Wrong
What makes me happy? What makes me happy is spending time with my girlfriend. I tried drugs but they didn't make me happy they just covered my pain and sorrow. What if I never drank? Then I wouldn't have gotten a D.U.I. What if I never smoked pot? What if? The lucky ones grow up with both parents in their life. I grew up with my sisters and Mom part time. She was always working or busy doing something else. My dad was always more worried about getting spun out then having any relationship with me and he was always only a 15 minute walk away. Hmmm great life? I think not! My mom tries to tell me I’ve had a great life and that I’ve always had everything I’ve ever wanted. But what if the only thing I really wanted was a dad? She says she tried her hardest. I tell her it isn’t her fault I am where I am. She then asks what’s wrong. Why do you act up? I can't tell her the things I did, when I did go see my dad. The things I saw there maybe changed me for the bad. It's okay though, it aint her fault. Mamma tried! I’m going to be a better father than my dad was to me. I'll be there for my kids even when they don't need me. I'll be the best father any child could ask for. I will teach my child right from wrong. I will become a man not just in age and physical appearance but in the way I handle any situation.

Entry # 206
Fast Life
What if I would have just chose to stay home that tragic day? What if my friend would have let me sit shotgun? What if we could have just gone down a different street? What if I never chose to live this type of lifestyle? What if I get out and something like that happens to me? What if I get shot too and my daughter has to grow up without her daddy because her father was a gang banger? What if I never chose to live that "fast life?" What if seems to be a pretty good question right now....

Entry # 207
Goodbye
I look into a casket and what I see makes me crumble down to my knees.
Tears flood my eyes and run down my cheeks,
While these long lost memories come back to me.
Run away in these thoughts that are warm and sweet,
but reality pushes hard then knocks me off my feet.
I try to swim but the tears are just too deep.
I try to move but I'm too weak.
When I see my cousin lying down, my heart gets swollen and I can't breath.
I try to speak but my minds on freeze,
They drop the casket but I can't believe that I see this angel that has gone to sleep.
They drop the dirt and my heart feels a breeze.
I get a flower then drop down to my knees,
My heart swells up and skips a beat.
I see the grave but still don't believe,
Then I ask myself how can this be?
(This poem is dedicated to my close cousin that passed away last year. He passed away at a very young age of 21, because of drunk driving. R.I.P)

Entry # 208
Family First
What makes me happy? Well it used to be smoking dank and sipping heny with my boys at the park... I used to enjoy all that until I realized that my family is more important... What makes me happy now? Well that would be spending time with my two year old daughter and showing her new things in life. I always thought to myself that my boys were first in line before anyone, but I was wrong; family's first and there's no doubt about that. My daughter means the world to me, even though I’ve been a young father since the age of 16, I'm now 18. I know I’m not the best dad in the world, but all I can do is try to be that dad that my daughter needs in her life. It makes me happy watching her play, laugh, eat and speak... When I see her, I get a feeling inside I can't explain, like a cat caught my tongue... I miss that feeling; I haven't seen her over a week now since I've been in this juvenile hall facility. I'll be getting out soon though, so I can cherish those feelings once again in my life. Her name runs through my head day in, day out. I love my daughter to the fullest and hope to hold her in my arms in a couple of days. I'll be home soon mija.

Entry #209
Sewing
When I was younger I never pictured myself in a cell. I always thought of myself becoming a fireman or going into the army. I thought I was going to be the young man my family raised me to be. I look at my tiny mirror in my cell and think back to the "Good Times" when I was a kid and had no worries. When I would mess up and the consequences were minor. Man I miss those times. Now when I mess up I bring pain, disappointment, and sadness to those around me. I try to shrug it off and not let it get to me, but I was never good at putting up a front. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how things could have been. How things should have been. But everything happens for a reason right? We reap what we sow, but it's time I reap my past and sew up my future.

Entry # 210
In God’s Hands
Another day goes by. Another day sitting in the hall; when will I get out? When will I see the ones I love the most? 6 months and 25 days without a sentence. The pain I feel when fools get out and not three weeks later their back in.... The feeling I have when they say "When did you get back, homes?" My answers always the same, "What do you mean, sucker, I never left." Still it’s good to see old faces, now I got someone to hang with... Time goes by click, click, click, but it feels like it has stopped; it may be because I'm always in the same spot doing nothing, wasting away. The clock moves forward slowly as I’m thinking of the old time chilling on the block smoking, drinking, and getting down. It all seems like a dream. I don't know what will happen in court. Either I’ll get out or get life . Damn, the world seems so messed up, but it’s my fault I'm in here. It’s ok though. It’s in God’s hands now.

Entry #211
Finding Clues
I never thought I'd be a dad at 16. It's a crazy feeling, having a little person who completely depends on you. It's scary, but at the same time it's exhilarating. I remember when I found out my girlfriend was pregnant, like it was yesterday. We held each other and cried for hours. We knew right away we were going to keep him; abortion was out of the question and as far as adoption, I would never be able to deal with the weight on my shoulders of what could have been. So there I was, 15 yrs old and not a clue how much work having a child would be. I remember hearing his heartbeat the first time. It was crazy to know my girlfriend had our baby growing inside of her. I remember his first ultrasound, seeing him move around inside of her was amazing. When he was born it was probably the happiest moment of my life. To see a tiny piece of me. He is so perfect. I love him so much. He is my reason to clean my life up, to finish school, go to college, get a job, and actually do something with my life. I love my son so much; I don't even know what I would do without him....

Entry # 212
Peace
Living in a family with smiles, no regrets, and arguments would make my life better. A day without drinking my pain away would make me feel happy. What if my father was always there for me when I needed him the most, would I have been this way? If only I can bear my pain longer, I would choose to live it happy. If I could have the way of a family sitting together in the living room, laughing, catching up, getting along, I would take it. If I had one chance to change all this unhappiness; I would change it. Learning to cope by myself, with only hopes and dreams was only what I grew up with. How about if I could have some encouragement? That would help me. If only I had the chance and possibility to live happy, I'd take it. Happiness is one thing I can find. What if I can change the setting of where I'm at? I'd choose to sit on the beach peacefully and live peacefully. Peace and love from my family is what I imagine to make me happy.

Entry # 213
Regrets
What if I got out of this dungeon tomorrow? I would go to my mom and tell her sorry. Even though she would be a little mad at me for getting in this kind of trouble I still would show her the love she deserve that I didn’t give her when I was out. All I feel in here is guilt of what I did and the people I hurt. But more importantly what I said to my dad a couple times. My dad is always putting weight on me and judging, but it took all the way until I got locked up to realized he loved me. It’s kind of sad but at least I know now. I remember one day my dad talking to me about my need to change. I didn’t listen as much and I got tired of hearing his mouth so I said, "I Hate You" and slammed the door in his face with no regrets. That was the first time I told him, but it wasn’t my last. I've told him tons of times after that. Before I came in here I said, "I Wish You Were Dead," again with no regrets.
A week later he sent me a letter about how much he loved me. I didn’t understand my dad, but I love him too. My dad was a bad kid, worse then me. He’d been in a gang since he was twelve and got sent to the YA when he was fourteen. He got locked up and got out months later and was doing the same bad stuff. When I was born my dad didn’t see me because he got locked up. He got out and got locked up when I was in third grade.

Entry # 214
If only I had the chance
If I had a chance to change the things that I did that made me end up here, I would do so in a heart beat. I would change my outlook on life, the people I surround myself with, and most of all I would change a lot of my habits. I would change my outlook on life simply because a lot of the time, I do things, and I don't think about how the outcome of my actions could affect me in the future. If I thought about the consequences my actions could potentially have, I don't think that I would be sitting here in juvenile hall. I would change the people that I surround myself with, because like most people, I tend to do things I normally wouldn't if I weren't with them. If I had a chance to change my habits, I most definitely would. Most of all, I would change my habit of associating myself with trouble!

Entry #215
Day to Day
What if, what if life goes on after death? What if people weren't brazen enough to tote guns and blast at you at any given second? What if we didn't have gangs slang or places like the hood or block? What if we treated everyone like they we're family, willing to die for them at any given moment? What if the world was free of all these so called problems? Would it be a better place, or no? Right now I'm sitting here in juvenile hall thinking nothing but what ifs. I've brought myself here due to many problems. Now I'm wondering if I'm willing to change for the better, or will I continue this day to day grind, barely scraping by, seemingly getting nowhere.

Entry # 216
What If
What if I beat up the guy instead? What if I asked my aunt for a ride home? What if I didn't fall asleep? What if I got on my bike and rode away? What if I didn't go to there house that day? What if I went home with my cousin? What if I stayed with my dad? What if I spent more time with my mom? What if I didn't thrash that house? What if I still lived in Martinez? What if I still went to that school? What if I still had that one girl? What if I kept stealing from that store? What if.

Entry # 217
Two Fingers
What if my friend was still alive? What if one of my friends didn't get 59 years to life? How would my life change if they were still around? Many people ask me, "Why isn't there peace in the streets?" I tell them, "If you could bring my friend back then I will definitely throw two fingers up." I can see apathy in the faces of police; I can see my friends with eccentric clothes, but when I get out, everybody will notice that I’m back. It's time to change but memories bring unforgiveness. The police call me a problem, my friends call it the way, my family call me their love, and strangers call me low life. To me, I am anonymous, I am notorious; I am all of the above.

Entry # 218
A Simple What If
What if my life as a child wasn't as bad as it was? What if I never got locked up, and then what would I be doing? What if I'm thankful for getting locked up for the little things other than something big that could of put me away for a while? What if I never got tattoos, especially the one on my face that I now regret? What if I wasn't incarcerated for months, and was doing way better than I now am? What if my childhood wasn't deprived from me? What if my older brother's weren't such bad influences to me, and were actually outstanding role models? What if I didn't have to wear a yellow shirt and some beat up blue Bobs and was actually in my own comfy clothes? Most times I just wish all these "What If" were true...

Entry # 219
My Place
What makes me happy is a football field. There are a lot of different things in everyday life I enjoy, but above all things, being on a football field with cleats, a ball, my tee and poles to kick through. No better feeling than the smell of the grass, the view from the field and the touch of the ball to my foot. Life is very hard. So much to think about with ex girlfriends, probation officers, parents, old friends and all of those mistakes I have made. On the field I am free. I don't have to worry. I know exactly what I am doing when I am between the lines. Keep my head down, swing my leg through, deep plant foot and the ball will do the rest from there.
If I could live on the field I would. Being at practice with the guys is great. Friday night games are what I used to live for. The roar from the crowd has never put a bigger smile on my face. The high I get from that is greater than what any drug could do for me. Football has changed my life forever.
Once the season was over I found myself getting in trouble with the law. The Friday nights I once had are now gone, but there is still college football for myself to look forward to. Nothing is secure about playing at the next level though. That is something that I realize and have come to terms with.
Now that I slow my life down and get on a field I realize what an outlet it is for me. The football field is my happy place. Even if the games and a crowd for me may no longer be there, I have found a place to settle down. I can forget my worries and block out my troubles. A football field, for now, is the only place that makes me truly happy. Memories on the field will last a life time.

Entry # 220
Steel Doors That Lock
I’m just sitting in juvenile hall and will probably be here for another six months, however all together it will be 9 months. It will be boring in here, but there aint nothing I can do about it. What if I got out today? What would I do? Would I end up staying out of trouble or not? I hope I do stay out of trouble because it really sucks being locked up behind a steel door that locks and stuck in your cell until the staff wants to let you out for rec. I will need to stop smoking weed to stay out of the hall. I will need to go to school.

Entry # 221
Just Reading
Things that I enjoy doing that make me feel alive. I like to hang out with friends and crack jokes on each other till someone gets mad. I like to go tubing at the river like to play basketball with a lot of people. When I'm at home I like to play all types of video games and beat them all. I like to go to parties and dance. I like to listen to my music all day. Sometimes I read real good books. While I am in the hall I can’t do all the things I like to do that make me feel alive. The only thing I can actually do that I like is just read. That’s why I don’t like coming to this place. I'm always bored, feel like there’s nothing to do when you can’t do what makes you feel alive. That’s why I can’t come back here.

Entry #222
Like My Parents?
What if my grandma didn’t pass so fast? Would I still think of her like I do or cry when I see a pic of here? Why did I sit there and lie to her when she asked me to stay out of trouble and I said I would? What if I was not in here right now? I would be at home with my family eating what I want to eat. What if I wasn’t in here? Would my mom and dad still be mad or disappointed in me? What if I got out today? I would go home to see my dog. What if I was 18 with the things I’m doing? I would be in prison like my parents were.



Fiction 59 Entries: The following entries are a sample of some of the fictional stories that were written in EXACTLY 59 words…not one more or one less! Participants were able to enter a writing contest through the News and Review. Several of the pieces were selected and published.


Entry #223
Outliers
I read somewhere that the average human being will accidentally swallow over 49 spiders in their lifetime. A frightening statistic, but only now as I crawl through this eerie mountain range do I realize that Spiders George, who lives in a cave nearby and eats over 4000 spiders a month, is an outlier and should not have been counted.

Entry #224
Here Comes Trouble
It was a very sunny day in a little village. The local town people all were running their daily errands while the local troublemaker was planning on how to cause trouble again during this sunny day. The troublemaker decided to put banana peels on the sidewalk. The local villagers were too smart and simply walked around the banana peels.

Entry #225
Bicsuits
Tim had been in juvie for 90 days and he hated the place. He was determined he would not be coming back. Now, he liked the Friday morning biscuits and gravy, but couldn’t stand being behind blue locked doors every night. It was a Monday when he realized he had exactly 12 more mornings of biscuits before his release.

Entry #226
Brain Cells
"John, where is the pizza!"
"What pizza?"
"A******! You ate all the pizza."
"Call Dominos, but I swear I didn't eat it. I'm allergic to tomatoes!"
"What a coincidence, it was Alfredo sauce.... Oh, actually I just found it under the microwave."
"How the hell did it get there?'
"I have no idea. I'm still trying to remember yesterday.

Entry #227
Beyond Life’s Dimensions
On his third birthday, Sparky the dog was hit by a car. He barely returned to the living that day, but what the doctors didn't know was that Sparky could now see beyond life's dimensions, and observe the expansion of atoms and waveforms in milliseconds. He has no way to tell his owners, so he barks and chews bones.

Entry #228
The Dilemma
Alicia sat sullenly inside the classroom pondering what to write for the fiction 59 contest. Her muse, who happened to be a troll, was on vacation. She desperately wanted to win a pizza for her class. Hearing a groan inside her desk, she was ecstatic to see the troll emerge sulking and complaining about the cold weather in Alaska.

Entry #229
Open at Noon
Felix was walking home when he found what he thought was a dead snake. When he picked it up it was very much alive. Felix dropped the snake. While looking to see where it went, he spotted an old map. He decided to follow it; when he suddenly got to the end he was staring at the public library.

Entry #230
Magic
Vuiana's love was like a rainbow shining over a field covered in roses, while hate crept like a storm hunting through the seven seas trying to wreck her ship. Love was often at her front door, yet hate quietly snuck out the back. Her magic was much too powerful to face, and her love too real to be mistaken.

Entry #231
Philosopoly
The monopoly pieces lay in the game cupboard, discussing their worldly views. "Personally," said the iron, "I could not go on living if I did not believe in an underlying moral structure."
"Morality is subjective" countered the thimble.
"Not in an irrational scheme of perception" corrected the racecar.
Little Jimmy pulled out the board and they resumed their silence.

Entry #232
Metamorphosis
As the world is round, there are tunnels which go down into the core. The precarious man followed without time or light. He didn’t realize the creatures were playing a game. He descended to their lair, not understanding that he himself would be turning into something quite different. As he emerged from dirt, he stared into his monstrous reflection.

Entry #233
Western?
A lone rider on his horse. The wind at his back, the future at his front. Colt pistols at his sides, determination in his mind. Roaming the plains, wanting to see the elephant. Danger looks around every crack and every corner. He is a hero, he is a God. Bullets can’t touch him. He’s too quick on the draw.

Entry #234
Disappointment
I started this day in a good mood but it furiously changed on my way to school because I saw someone I really cared about in the same place as me. I never wanted to see my friend who is so close to me he could be my brother all locked up. I hope it’s not truly that bad.

Entry # 235
Another World
When the lights go out Jorge's mind wakes up. When he closes his eyes he's suddenly in another world, a world of Gods and magicians. He hovers above them as if he's a hawk looking for field mice. The magicians battle for the right to rule the land, but suddenly something terrible happens...Jorge's eyes slowly start to open.

Entry #236
Magical Laughter
Amber's glowing eyes see a world covered in with sunshine. They don't see a world filled with evil and fear. They don't know the real meaning of tears. Amber’s tiny ears only hear sounds of magical laughter and ice cream trucks. They can't hear the cries and shouts of fear. All she knows is that the ice cream's near.

Entry #237
Problems?
I took off on my exquisite komodo dragon. We were going like 60 when we came across Linda on her platypus. She asked if I wanted problems, so I was like, “yea,” and pulled out the light saber throwing it at her head. She dodged it and hit me with a bazooka, so it was game over for me.

Entry #238
The Super
The super hero is flying through the sky but he sees evil down on the ground. He has to take out the evil and has some good lives to save so he swoops down hitting one of them right on top of the head and knocks him out. Realizing he hit the wrong guy he looks for an escape!

Entry #239
Who am I?
My favorite color is neon green, and I usually wear neon green pants, a neon green shirt, and neon green shoes, and sometimes my socks are neon green. On Friday nights, I love to dance and glow. I love to dance and have fun till I’m exhausted.

Entry #240
MonsterJon looked around the corner, breathing heavily, scared to death. The monster was right there staring, not moving. Jon cocked his glock. The monster stood its ground. Jon took a breath, rounded the corner and unloaded the whole clip. Most of the mirror shattered. The monster stood there breathing heavily. Jon was unsure how he’d become such a beast.