Frances Stewart has been involved with Voices from Inside since 2001, when she first learned about VFI when she was incarcerated. After she got out of jail, she attended the volunteer training to become a writing group facilitator. She currently facilitates workshops at the Western Mass Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee, the After Incarceration Support Services and The Western Massachusetts Recovery and Wellness Center in Springfield. She says that she got so much out of the writing workshops that she wanted to return to the jail to offer these workshops so that other incarcerated women, could benefit from them too.
Frances also noted that her favorite thing about the writing workshops is how at the beginning of a workshop series, there are women attending who don't even want to speak, but by the end of the workshops, these same women are willing to read their writing aloud to the rest of the room. Most importantly, she feels like she has a community with the women inside the facilities where she leads the workshops.
When asked about what inspires her to write, Frances answered that she actually majored in English and that her father was a novelist as well - the writing workshops, it seems, are her opportunity to explore that creative side again. After 30 years of struggling with drug addiction, Frances is also proud to say that she has been clean for two years now, in part thanks to the writing workshops. She is hopeful and excited to see her 11-year-old granddaughter grow up as she enjoys time with her family free of addiction.
VFI IN THE News
VFI's Tara McNamara organized the "Breaking Free" poetry reading in Greenfield--read about it in this Greenfield Recorder story.
An excerpt from Voices Carry's performance at Forbes Library is available for viewing on Youtube, here.
VFI writer Daisy Diaz read a poem to open Hampshire Art Museum's exhibition "Made in America: Unfree Labor in an Age of Mass Incarceration." The exhibit runs through March 10. Check out photos in the February 7 post, to the left.
VFI writer Tara McNamara's poem "Dear Ex-Husband" is featured in the October 29, 2016, issue of the Write Angles Journal. See the poem on our Writing& Prompts page.
WWLP's Ashley Kohl interviews VFI board members about upcoming fundraisers for VFI, April 27, 2016.
From the Heart: VFI Poets interviewed in the Greenfield Recorder, February 12, 2016
Hampshire Gazette Reports on VFI Performance at Lander-Grinspoon Academy, February 7, 2016
Interview with VFI Poets on the Bill Newman Show, February 3, 2016
Loud and Clear: VFI at Holyoke Community College, November 18, 2015
Women Share Stories While in Jail, June 18, 2015