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MAY 2015

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--- CREATIVE CONVICTS ---
26th May 2015

Creative Convicts
The second class for The Art of Creative Writing went well last night. The institution cleared the 4 pm count late so everything was running behind, which put me on a tight schedule because the class is from 6-8 pm and I need to get into the classroom and get organized and write stuff up on the blackboard before my free-styling felons arrive. So I skipped chow, and caught a guy on the sidewalk out in front of the chow hall that was selling bags of French fries, and bought a bag for two stamps. Then I put in my earbuds, clicked on the song HURT by Johnny Cash (originally done by Nine Inch Nails), slung my grey mesh bag back over my shoulder, and headed for the education building.

As everybody took their seats, I was standing in front of the blackboard finishing off the fries. I looked out at the group that includes black, Spanish, and white guys from all across the country, and also from different mobs, and I asked, "Does anybody have any mayonnaise on them?" That broke the ice.

The class this week was on Fiction and Non-fiction in writing. After I collected everybody's homework from the week before and did a couple of jokes (just so they'd feel like they got their money's worth), I explained the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Then I placed a large color photo of the Grand Canyon on the blackboard. It had been taken from the air, and showed a section of the canyon with a beautiful blue river running through it. I pointed to the photo, and said, "I want all of you to take out a sheet of paper and write 250 words of fiction. They all sat there and looked at me like this :-o until one of them finally said, "Uh, Mr. Frye, do you mean, like, right now?"
I replied, "That's Professor Frye, or Dr. Banks, and, uh, no, I mean next fucken week, Jerome. YES!!! I meant right now! Now get to it!"

As I said this, this white guy with long, thin, hair named Timmy whose geeky in a Big Bang Theory kinda way walked into the classroom (late) and quickly tried to take his seat. Timmy is socially maladjusted, a GED tutor here in the schoolhouse, and one of those guys who look to the left or right of you when he talks to you...but never directly looks you in the eye. If you want to get him to look at you, you have to look away from him, and only then will he look you in your eyes. When he slunk into the classroom and attempted to scurry to his seat, I stopped what I was doing and looked at my watch, then said, "Nice of you to drop by Timothy, I hope we didn't interrupt your evening." Properly shamed, Tim looked at the floor and said, "I'm sorry I'm late." I pretended to write something in my notebook that he most likely assumed was a demerit. What I actually wrote was, "Timmy's going to need some Rogaine in about five years." The things we do to entertain ourselves, huh?

One of the things that I'm trying to teach my little monsters is to make sure that what they write has a proper speech cadence when it's read aloud, and also that the punctuation and grammar makes the prose flow in the way that they want it to sound. In this vein, I chose random papers from them, and then I read them out loud to the class. It was funny and cool (and maybe a little scary with one guy) to see how all of these budding aberrant authors looked at the same photo, yet came up with wildly different scenes.

One guy wrote about the Hopi Indians and their settlement in the Grand Canyon, while another one wrote about Aliens landing in the canyon to harvest the fresh water, something that their own planet lacked. Then one guy wrote a scene that started out with him fishing a semi-conscious woman out of the trunk of his car, and then slinging her over his shoulder. Then as he walked with her, he told her he loved her...before throwing her off the side of the cliff down into the canyon. What do you expect? It's prison. After I'd read a few papers, I had them do the same exercise, except this time I had them write a non-fiction scene.

Two people took it upon themselves to write opening chapters to the prologue for THE LIFE OF RILEY that I'd handed out the week before. This is spite of the fact that it wasn't their turn to write a chapter yet. Convicts breaking the rules? Imagine that. It was fun though to see what they did. One guy turned Riley into a serial killer who was facing trial for 99 murders. I told Sammy (aka Adjunct Professor Garwood) that giving these guys my manuscript and letting them have their way with it is akin to handing five year olds knives and asking them to watch my puppy.

Wayne (aka Adjunct Professor Dowdy) was challenged on the proper use of an adjective in relation to plural verbs. Wayne claimed her was right, while the other guy claimed he was wrong. Things got a little tense there for a few minutes, and as they had a spirited debate, I wondered if Adjunct Professors carried shanks. Wayne finally went to the library and found a GED textbook to prove his point, and to show that he was right. He was. That's why he's my adjunct.

So that was class #2. No bloodshed. Just French fries, serial killers, aliens, and smooth-sailing shankless verbs. I'll let you know what happens next week.

Jeffrey P. Frye
murderslim.com
Bank Robber's Blog
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--- EDGEFIELD WRITERS GROUP ---
17th May 2015

Edgefield Writers Group 1

Edgefield Writers Group 2

Jeffrey P. Frye
murderslim.com
Bank Robber's Blog
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--- THE NUTTY PROFESSOR ---
9th May 2015

The Nutty Professor

The Federal Bureau of Prisons offers various classes to prisoners in a program that is known as the Ace Program. "Ace" is an acronym for Adult Continuing Education. The classes last for 12 weeks, and upon successfully completing one of them, the graduating convict receives a fancy certificate with a Gold seal, and they also receive credit for the class in the computer. This credit proves that, if nothing else, the Certified Convict is "Programming" and trying to better him or herself instead of just hanging out and drinking potato wine and chasing a pair of fives at the card table. Showing that you are programming is also advantageous because it has the potential to lower a prisoner's Custody Score and allow them to transfer to a less restrictive prison.

ACE classes are taught by convicts who do not receive any pay or credit for teaching the class. But they do receive the satisfaction of knowing that they shared their knowledge with others and put something positive out there into the world. The classes cover a variety of topics such as Algebra, Commercial Driving, and Personal Finance. Being taught Personal Finance in a federal pen by somebody whose been convicted of Mail and Wire Fraud would seem to be the definition of irony. But as they say, "Those who can, steal; those who can't, teach."

There's a class being offered this quarter that's called African American Film Studies. It's being taught by a fubsy, dark-skinned, bald guy named Rufus who has perpetually bloodshot eyes, and who wears a Olive Green towel around his neck all the time like he's Apollo Creed on his way to fight Rocky. I picture him standing in front of the class and holding up a DVD of a Tyler Perry movie and asking, "Now how many of you niggas done seen this here film?" I may end up dropping in on his class is I run out of things to blog about.

But I doubt that I'll be having much free time though, because Your's Truly has decided to throw his hat into the ring and teach my own class. No kidding. I named the class The Art of Creative Writing.

In order to have a class approved, I had to create a 12 week syllabus that delineates what the students will be learning each week. I also had to create pre and post tests, then submit them along with the answer sheet (and the syllabus) to The ACE Coordinator and the Head of the Education Department. After completing all of these prerequisites, my class was summarily approved. Word of this spread across the yard like a California wild fire, and on registration day, 12 Angry Men of varying races and cultures were culled from the criminal herd and chosen to participate in my class. I imagine that they felt much like Charlie Bucket did when he opened up a Wonka Bar and found a Golden ticket.

Just because you know how to do something doesn't necessarily mean that you can teach it. The best example of this would probably be the English language. You may be able to speak it, and you may know the difference between a noun, verb, and an adverb, but articulating how they all mix and get-down together to form a story is something altogether different. After getting my class approved and really giving it some thought, I determined that teaching it was going to be a challenge. The only thing that I've ever taught before was Sunday school, and that was to a group of five year olds that were rowdier than a bunch of manna-eating, desert-wandering Hebrews. So I took some time to consciously map out a strategy of how to take the class from There to Here. I also wanted to make it interesting and fun.

Because we're already in prison, and let's face it, no matter where you are, nobody wants to be held hostage by somebody who carries on and on and on about something that's boring. Been there, done that, got the ex-wife. So I decided to get jiggy with it, or at the expense of being Capt. Obvious, I decided to get Creative.

For their first homework assignment, I wrote down on paper topics that are related to our present subculture. Then I tore the pieces of paper into smaller pieces and folded them up into tiny squares and put them in an empty pill bottle that I'd removed the label from. I sat the pill bottle on the desk in front of the class so that they could look at it for a while and wonder, "What in the hell is THAT?" Some of the topics I chose were, "Smuggling fruit out of the chow hall" "My cellie" and "Hoes and housewives." I chose these cutting-edge topics because people tend to write more easily about topics that they know and feel passionate about. At the end of class, I popped the lid off the pill bottle and rolled the squares of paper onto the top of a desk like they were dice. Each person chose one, and their homework assignment was to write a 250 word blog about the topic. I plan on saving their papers, and returning them at the end of the class so that they can see how Fante, Fitzgerald, or Frye-esque they've become in just three months.

As my publisher, friends, and dedicated readers already know, I am writing my first full-length novel. If I actually spent as much time writing it as I do talking about it, it would probably be finished by now. But my class doesn't know about it, so I decided to use it as a class project. On the first night of class (Wednesday nights from 6-8 pm), I passed out copies of the Prologue to my book, THE LIFE OF RILEY. (You can read this by going to my website at bankblogger.weebly.com and clicking on "The Life of Riley" tab.) The prologue involves the main character (Shamus O'Riley) sitting in the holding cell of a federal courthouse waiting to go upstairs to begin his trial on the charges of murder. I gave the class this prologue and premise, along with the main character's name and the fact that he owns a pub and a 75 lb. solid White English Bulldog named General Sherman. But that's all they have to go on. Each week, a different student will write a new chapter to the story after having read the chapter that another student wrote the week before. They can create new characters, or expound on existing ones, and they can take the plot and/or storyline in any direction that they wish. The finished product will be a 13 chapter novella that I plan on typing up and then sending to my webmaster and Buckeye Buddy Jonathan (alexiusrex.weebly.com) so that he can scan it and then post it on my website. I'm doing this so that my students families can see what we wrote, and also so they can see that their loved one is back here doing something positive, and trying to be part of the solution, and not the problem.

When it comes to teaching old criminals new tricks, it truly takes a village. So I've enlisted the help of two friends of mine here to help me teach the class, and I've bestowed them with the honorary title of Adjunct Professor. Their names (and websites) are Wayne T. Dowdy (straightfromthepen.com) and Sammy Garwood (thelastcharlestonconfederate.weebly.com). Both of these guys are talented, published writers who possess literary credibility. They both bring unique styles and different strengths to the table. And, coincidentally, both of them are also doing time for liberating federally insured money just like I am.

Both Wayne and Sammy are good examples of how somebody can use writing to not only rehabilitate themselves, but also to utilize the good part of themselves to touch, entertain, and sometimes even help people in the Free World. They are good examples of how talent and a positive attitude can transcend concrete and steel. These two guys don't do it for the money, fame, or for the parole board. They write because they have a passion for it, and because they are writers.

So keep clicking onto the Bank Robber's Blog if you'd like to hear how the class is coming along. I'll be blogging about it from time to time. And please don't take points away from your criminal opinion of me due to the fact that I'm doing something positive. But the truth is that I think I might be a better writer than I was a criminal. But we'll keep that our secret.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Easter Day 2015
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Bank Robber's Blog
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