The Ninth Annual Reading Anthology is out … just in time for the Tenth Annual Reading!

9th Annual Reading front coverSo I’m a little slow… took me nearly a year to get to completing the slim volume of last year’s 5-minute readings. But it has been out now for about a month and its appearance is coinciding with excitement about the upcoming reading on November 14.

The cover for this anthology features a painting by San Quentin artist (soon to be free) Mwasi Fuvi, entitled “Faith.” The writers include Wayne Boatwright, Kenneth R. Brydon, Micheal “Yahya” Cooke, Eric Curtis, Emile DeWeaver, Arnulfo T. Garcia, Ron Koehler, “Killa Clown” Medvin, James R. Metters Jr., JulianGlenn Padgett, Kevin D. Sawyer, Ivan Skrblinsky (aka Juan Haines), Paul Stauffer, Watani Stiner, Aly Tamboura, David Taylor, Rahsaan Thomas, Kevin Valvardi, and Michael Zell.

Ursula K. LeGuin said, The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. How much more alive does it become when the author is reading it aloud, and when the audience listens with a kind of holy attention, nourishing it with dignity and curiosity. Once a year the San Quentin Wednesday Night Creative Writing Class, a.k.a. Brothers in Pen, holds an Annual Public Reading where an outside audience is invited in, along with other men in blue, to listen to 5-minute pieces crafted by the writers especially for this event. For weeks in advance, the writing and revision process is underway, and the authors also push each other to improve in the particular skill of reading a story aloud. This book represents the product of that labor in an event which took place in the ARC building on the lower yard of San Quentin State Prison on November 15, 2014. It was the ninth such event in the history of this particular class. The stories in their written for9th Annual Reading back coverm have a different kind of
life than they do when read aloud by their authors, but are no less worthwhile.

To purchase this anthology (or any of the other ones), go to

Please leave reviews and feedback about the stories on the Lulu site or this site, or email to brothersinpen [at]

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The Next Reading is Coming!

San Quentin’s Brothers in Pen TENTH Annual Public Reading

(I was erroneously  calling this the Ninth… which was last year!)

Saturday, November 14, 2015 • 11am – 3:30pm

It’s that time again… time for the Brothers in Pen Annual Public Reading! A self-selected crew will come inside San Quentin to attend a reading of works by the Creative Writing class, a.k.a. Brothers in Pen. Each of the 24 members of the class will read a 5-minute work of fiction or memoir, and there will be time for Q&A. If you have ever attended one of these public readings, you know what an engaging, lively and unforgettable event this is.  

And we made last year’s readings into a small anthology which will be available very soon.

Stay tuned!Ron Koehler

Last year’s reading, November 15, 2014

(photo by Peter Merts)
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Long-time Brother in Pen Watani Stiner paroled

This is not new news… Watani paroled in January 2015, but just because it took me a long time to report it here doesn’t mean it’s not big news. Watani spent a total of 26 years in prison and 20 in exile.

I have heard he is spending a lot of time at the library–his “office,” as he calls it–writing articles and posts and reportedly completing his memoir.

He spent 12 or 13 years in the Creative Writing class working on that memoir and we all learned so much as that almost unbelievable story emerged over the years.

A couple of articles have been written about him since he paroled:

and he is continuing to write his “OG” column in the San Quentin News.


photo by Peter Merts
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Brothers in Pen Ninth Annual Reading, 11-15-14

BIP class photo 11-15-14

The Brothers in Pen Annual Reading took place on November 15. I thought I would wait to post until I had Peter Merts’ beautiful photos of the event. However, those photos were not cleared for publication till this week–hence the delayed post. Otherwise I’m sure I would have been extremely timely.

We had a record turnout, sixty-some people, squeezed into the ARC building on the lower yard. I like having the event on the lower yard rather than the chapel, as visitors get to take a little walk through the prison grounds and get a bit more of a sense of the place. A number of guys on the yard who were walking, exercising, or just enjoying the beautiful weather greeted our large group as we made our way across the yard.

BIP visitors walking 11-15-14

This time, unfortunately, we had no media there to record readings, so I can’t share any audio excerpts. Trust me when I tell you that readings were shared with passion, intensity, and humor. A portrait of Jeff Little (a former class member we’d recently learned had passed away since his parole from prison) presided over the event from behind the podium with a wise smile.

Wayne reading BIP 11-15-14

I opened the day with a quote from the foreword Tobias Wolff wrote for one of our anthologies:  “We are story-telling animals… It’s how we organize the past, and try to make sense of it—to see the patterns our actions and inactions create, to see how those patterns break or repeat themselves. Stories are the embodiment of those patterns, and in them—even in the stories of others—we can begin to recognize ourselves.” This self-recognition was popping all over the room as the many guests nodded, sighed, and made soft sounds of acknowledgment throughout the afternoon.

BIP reading 11-15-14

Human beings recognizing and appreciating the humanness of other human beings. It’s a good way to spend a day.

Here are links to Peter Merts’ photos:

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Good news about Brother in Pen Troy Williams!

Troy Williams

photo: Peter Merts

Congratulations are due to former Brother in Pen Troy Williams who was released from prison last month after 18 years. Troy was a member of the class for several years and wrote many moving stories. He participated in countless programs, events, classes and workshops and was very involved with San Quentin Media, creating documentaries and newscasts. In fact, just today on KALW’s CrossCurrents radio, there is a story about Troy receiving an “Excellence in Journalism” award, on behalf of San Quentin Prison Report, from the Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California. The SQPR was given the award for Community Journalism (Radio/Audio). You can hear the story here:

I know good things are in store for Troy in his new life. We’ve missed him in class but it’s exciting to imagine the world opening up for him now. Peace and blessings–




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R.I.P. Jeff Little

20121012_3290Tomorrow, November 15, is our Ninth Annual Public Reading, where twenty Brothers in Pen will read from their work in front of an outside audience of 60 or more.

I’ll post after that event, but one thing we will be doing tomorrow will be honoring the passing of one of our class members who was present at last year’s reading, Jeff Little.

Jeffrey Little was a writer, a journalist, a paralegal, and a legal clerk typist. Born in 1963, he was raised in Maywood, Illinois and moved during his high school years to San Diego, California, where he spent the majority of his life. It was relatively late in life that Jeff came to know writing as something he could enjoy. He also discovered it to be an excellent way to express his anger, pain and triumphs. Jeff Little paroled last year with the intent to write urban fiction that is “a little more substantial and outside the box” than “the usual urban novel.”
We heard from Jeff as recently as last May, when we invited him to participate in a reading at Alcatraz. He wrote:
I have been so busy that I haven’t had any time to do any writing. I am working at Sonic, and I have also recently purchased a vehicle. A 2009 Chevy HHR. I’m living in a Sober Living Home and I’m involved in N.A. and certain other groups. In regards to the May 18 Reading, I won’t be able to attend. My grandfather died recently and I was given permission to leave California to go to Chicago. I won’t be able to leave the county of San Diego until late July. I’m sorry I won’t be able to participate, I would have loved to.
I didn’t hear from Jeff again. Then, just a few weeks ago, we heard a rumor that he had died. I looked online for any information I could find, and all I found was an obituary from San Diego which said the following:

Little, Jeffrey. May 11, 1963 ~ August 23, 2014
Abbey Cremation Service

We don’t know anything about what happened to Jeff, and it is especially sad that his life ended so soon after his long-awaited release from prison. The photographer Peter Merts took some striking portraits of him last year. One of those was hanging at the Alcatraz exhibit and appears in many of the photos taken that day; Jeff’s gaze feels so alive and present as he appears to be looking through the crowd of people attending that event.

We honor his life and his passing.

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Brothers in Pen on Wanda’s Picks, Friday, Sept. 12, 8 a.m.

Wanda-SabirWanda Sabir, radio host and journalist for the Bay View newspaper, among other things, has invited some of the participants in next week’s BAN7 event to be interviewed on her internet radio show, Wanda’s Picks, this Friday. You can listen live and call in to ask questions too! Please join us from 8 a.m to 8:30 a.m. Friday, September 12 to hear Charles Talib Brooks, Henry Montgomery, Jerry Elster, Carl Irons, Ernie Laszlo, and possibly others talk about their experiences in the Prison Arts Program and about their lives.

To listen, go to website To call in, the number is 347-237-4610.

UPDATE: The interview is now available online if you missed it!

Wanda Sabir is a Bay Area activist, journalist, and creative writer—poetry and fiction. She hosts a bi-weekly radio show, publishes a monthly African Diaspora-centered calendar, and reviews film, theatre, literature and performance art via A columnist in the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper where she is Arts Editor, she has covered the arts scene for over 25 years. She is primarily interested in art for social change. She believes artists are the true revolutionaries, their work filled with raw uninhibited passion. She co-founded; it is an on-going healing ritual for people of African Descent. Her daytime gig is teaching composition to community college students.


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