Countdown to Breakout is a 23-day blog series about the three-year writing process for BREAKOUT, which earned starred reviews from both School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. It’s about a small-town prison break and manhunt that change the way three kids see their neighbors and the place they call home. Why a 23-day series? Because this book was inspired by the 2015 Clinton Correctional Facility prison break that led to a 23-day manhunt in June of 2015.
Blue ribbons and point of view
If I’ve noticed anything in talking current events with people from around the country this past year, it’s that sometimes, two people can hear the same speech or read about the same incident and come away with completely different perspectives on what was said or what happened. That was an idea I knew I wanted to explore in BREAKOUT.
When our real-life Northern New York prison break manhunt was underway, people reacted in lots of different ways – with fear and anxiety, with shows of support for the searchers, and in some cases, with a new apprehension about anyone who seemed different. I paid attention to all of that and thought about how people from different backgrounds might view things like a blue ribbon tied on a tree as a show of support for law enforcement…
…or a request to deliver snacks and bottled water for police manning roadblocks.
How might those public shows of support be seen by a kid like Elidee, the sister of a prison inmate, who came from a city neighborhood where community relations with law enforcement were tense?
How might she see this sign, which I saw posted on a lot of social media pages around the time of the prison break?
This one was especially interesting to me, because in a sense, it divides the entire population of a community into three categories: prison inmates (referred to as “monsters”), law enforcement (the “we” of the quote), and “the weak” (everybody else). I understood why relatives of corrections officers would love the saying, especially at a time when their loved ones were facing criticism, even as they put their lives on the line in the manhunt. But I also wondered how those signs might feel to the relatives of prison inmates. I ended up using this as one of the documents that different characters talk about in the book. I also included the top-secret “Operation Michigan,” which we’ll talk about tomorrow. Here’s your writing prompt for today:
Your assignment: Write for a few minutes, reflecting on the “monsters and the weak” quote. You can write from your own perspective, or take on the voice of a corrections officer, prison inmate, inmate’s relative, or civilian.
Thanks for joining me on this part of the Breakout writing-process journey! If you’d like to read the other posts in this series once they’re all posted, you can find them here.
Buy BREAKOUT now:
- IndieBound (find a local bookseller near you!)
- The Bookstore Plus, Lake Placid, NY
- Barnes and Noble