A big thank you to Terence Handley McMath a thought provoking interview for your national publication I look forward to seeing it in the coming days. In the meantime heres an excerpt from it
You take ‘the Little Book of…’ idea into hard reality – did you do this to
reach the sort of people who only read that kind of book?
The title came to me on day 2 of going into HMP I wanted it to be a guide book for first offenders and something that would be read by a wider audience. I think it will appeal to people who enjoy reading and have an interest in prison. If people want to know what prison is like its for them, if people need to know what happens in prison it’s definitely for them.
What was your own experience of prison life?
I always relish a challenge, I like new life experiences but this was extreme, I kept
my ears open and my mouth shut. Nothing prepared me for prison it was a nervous and dangerous learning curve, I put a front on which I was sure everyone could see through. I had to stay mentally strong the book helped me to stay focused.
What were the worst things about it?
Missing my children, letting my family down and hurting my wife so badly. My eldest was 6yrs 7 months it effected her the most her crying into mummy’s arms
holding a photo of daddy. My wife had to watch our little angel suffer helpless to mend the situation.
Why did you decide to write the book?
Sanity, I could not believe I was in Prison, I had to try and make sense of it and
writing down the process was a saving grace. It was pure humility I thought “well I’m here now lets do something constructive”. It felt good to be writing something that would help others and in doing so helped myself.
Please tell me about winning the award. What is the award? What do you think the judges were looking for? Where did your writing ability come from? Is it easy or do you have to work at it?
The Koestler Trust is a prison arts charity in its 50th year I came across it as the library orderly it was a pull out in Inside Time the national prison newspaper. I was already well into writing the book but it gave me a deadline to work to which kept me focused on the harder days (especially after a visit) I saw there was a section for writing and a section for non-fiction.
They had the theme HELP for the 2011 awards judged by Jeremy Paxton, I sent the book in under that guise. Fortunately they didn’t enter it there and Will Self judged my category and gave me the Platinum Award. I had always been keen on writing stories I wrote my first book at 9 about a Caveman, won creative writing competitions at junior school then lost interest when girls came along.
I started again in 2005, 18yrs later when I began commuting for the first time into central London. The project The Commuter Times.Com was my obsession I spent thousands on the website, trade exhibitions and vanity publishing but it did not get to market. (If at first you don’t succeed try try again as they say) I have always worked well under pressure and there’s no question that the book was written whilst under extreme pressure.
What did you learn in prison?
I wrote 5 golden rules in the book
1 Keep your head down, do your bird, ride out your bang up
2 Its nice to be nice, be positive, entertain and see the bright side
3 Don’t believe everything you hear in HMP
4 Pay your bills if you borrow
5 Never lose your cool
You can see the full interview in Church Times November edition www.churchtimes.co.uk , 80,000 copies distributed nation wide