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Join Lauren Kessler, author of recently published Free: Two Years, Six Lives, and the Long Journey Home and A Grip of Time (2019), and local author Kimberly Bowker (Central Oregon Book Project) to discuss immersive reporting, deep-dive in-the-trenches research, the ethics of becoming part of other people's lives, and all kinds of writerly topics.
For these six people, going to prison was just the beginning.
95 percent of the men and women who go to prison are eventually released. But then what?
A gripping work of immersion reporting for readers of Evicted and Maid, Free shines a spotlight on the rollercoaster of re-entry: the exuberance of freedom, the rules and regulations that make you feel like you're still in prison, the often dispiriting work of looking for employment and housing, and more. Veteran reporter Lauren Kessler follows six individuals whose diverse stories paint a portrait of the search for redemption that many former inmates face as they fight to rebuild their lives.
"It is nothing short of phenomenal to read these stories of people who move from prison to freedom. Lauren Kessler's immersion journalism gives us a place from which to witness the world we've made, and how people who make mistakes must learn to navigate through it against impossible odds." — Lidia Yuknavitch, bestselling author of The Book of Joan and The Chronology of Water
"In this empathetic and visceral account, journalist Kessler documents the achievements and setbacks of six formerly incarcerated people.... This powerful argument in favor of a better support system for those who have served their time rings true." — Publishers Weekly
"With tenderness and empathy, Lauren Kessler speaks to how and where we fail the thousands of individuals coming out of prison every year. Kessler asks us to get to know these six men and women and to come to understand and celebrate their remarkable journeys. I love the writing in this important and timely book. These moving stories will stay with you." — Alex Kotlowitz, bestselling author of There Are No Children Here
Lauren Kessler is an award-winning author and (semi) fearless immersion reporter who combines lively narrative with deep research to explore everything from the gritty world of a maximum security prison to the grueling world of professional ballet; from the wild, wild west of the anti-aging movement to the hidden world of Alzheimer’s sufferers; from the stormy seas of the mother-daughter relationship to the full court press of women’s basketball. She is the author of ten works of narrative nonfiction, including her most recent, A Grip of Time: When Prison is Your Life, based on more than three years of running a writers’ group for men serving life sentences in a maximum security prison. Her other work includes Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts and My Midlife Quest to Dance The Nutcracker; Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging; My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, A Daughter, A Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence; Pacific Northwest Book Award winner Dancing with Rose (published in paperback as Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer’s), Washington Post bestseller Clever Girl and Los Angeles Times bestseller The Happy Bottom Riding Club — which David Letterman, in fierce competition with Oprah, chose as the first (and only) book for the Dave Letterman Book Club. Kessler appeared twice on his iconic late-night show.
She is also the author of Oregon Book Award winner Stubborn Twig, which was chosen as the book for all Oregon to read in honor of the state’s 2009 sesquicentennial. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, O magazine, salon.com, Utne Reader, The Nation, newsweek.com, Prevention, Ladies Home Journal and elsewhere. She blogs at www.laurenchronicles.com and hardly ever tweets. Kessler is an international speaker and workshop leader and the creator of two graduate programs in narrative journalism. She divides her time between homes in Crete and Oregon. Okay, so maybe the first one is aspirational.
Kimberly Bowker graduated from the University of Oregon with a master’s degree in literary nonfiction. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Middlebury College in Vermont – enduring eyelash-freezing winters studying history, anthropology, and African studies. Following Middlebury, Kimberly served as a news assistant and business reporter for The Bulletin newspaper in Bend, Oregon. After three years at the paper, she moved to Maui. Kimberly has published stories about craft beer, love, travel, scuba diving, and Central Oregon in various newspapers, online, and print magazines (please see Clips and Works). She now finds home, once more, in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains, writing and teaching. You might find her strolling on a trail or drinking a good beer or looking into the sky.