This is Ear Hustle

Well the wait is finally over. Just today the book I was hired to illustrate was formally announced, which means under the terms of the contract I signed I can finally release all the excitement I’ve had and talk about it publicly.

If you haven’t heard of Ear Hustle, you’ve been missing out. Ear Hustle was the first podcast to be created entirely inside a prison, originally made at San Quentin in California. It was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize last year, and today the final episode of season seven was released. Season two had just finished when I discovered it, and I think I ended up binging both seasons in about a week. I’ve been listening to it religiously ever since, so when the hosts Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods chose me to illustrate their upcoming book about the podcast, This is Ear Hustle, I was completely overwhelmed. To say I am honoured is an understatement. This really is the opportunity of a lifetime and I’m just so happy to have been involved in the project at all.

You can read all about the book at its official website here. It’s currently available for pre-order and due for release on October 12, 2021. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to check out a few of the artworks (one example pictured) from the book before that date. I’ll be sharing a handful of the images on my Instagram account, @EmbersOfRetribution, over the coming weeks. But more importantly, I’m going to be part of an art exhibition in Sydney where you’ll be able to view the original images in person this August. Dates and location will be shared before too long.

I can’t really top news this big, but as always I have a few projects on the horizon. I’ll be announcing my next solo art exhibition shortly (separate from the Ear Hustle project), which will be held in Newcastle in July. And I’ll also be giving details about my own upcoming podcast at the same time. Watch this space.

Introducing the new editor of Paper Chained

It’s hard to believe its been five and a half years since I first put pen to paper in prison, creating what would become my now published novel, Scarred. It took five months for me to write the first draft, but along the way I did get briefly sidetracked writing a couple short stories. While I was happy with the finished products, I was incredibly frustrated not to know of any publication I could post my work to. With the advance of the internet, the day of the writing journal is long gone. But being in prison, of course, we didn’t have access to the internet. Accordingly, my writing stayed in my desk drawer until my release.

Months before my novel was published, I’d already become a paid contributor to the (sadly now defunct) Network Ten news website 10 daily. But I’ll never forget the first time my writing was published was in Paper Chained, an annual writing journal aimed at people affected by the prison system. Paper Chained was launched in 2017, after I’d been released. They put a call-out for submissions, and that reminded me of my unpublished writings, so I sent them one of the short stories I wrote in prison. I’ve submitted something for every issue of Paper Chained since then, and knowing how much difference a journal like this can make to people in prison, I’ve also helped spread the word about fundraising. So when the previous editor told me she couldn’t continue to produce the journal and asked if I’d be interested in taking over the helm, I didn’t have to think twice about it.

The latest issue of Paper Chained, and the last one to be published by the previous editor, just dropped yesterday. In it you’ll be able to read an article I originally wrote for the issue, as well as my introduction letter ‘from the incoming editor’. You can check out the issue here. Paper Chained is a not-for-profit journal run entirely for the benefit of those affected by the prison system. If you’d like to contribute to the costs of the journal, please check out our GoFundMe campaign here. And do reach out or spread the word if you’d like to contribute some art or writing to the next issue, which is due for release in January 2022. You can read the submissions guidelines at the official website here.

Aside from taking over as editor of a journal, I am keeping busy as always. I’m nearing completion of the illustrations I was contracted to do for the upcoming book (I still can’t give you more details about that until it’s officially announced in June), things are progressing slowly but surely with the publication of my memoir (publishing a book is a patient man’s game; fortunately prison teaches you patience if nothing else), plus I’m currently organising my next two art exhibitions, which will be held in June and August respectively. Rest assured you’ll find out more details about everything in due time. 🙂

Podcast, video and festival interviews

A brand new podcast interview with me just dropped today. Joshua from The Exiled Voice and I talk about the prison system, our personal experiences and how they have shaped the people we are today. Check it out here. And if you missed it, a video interview I did with Murray Bridge Library last December was also released a few weeks back. Watch it here on YouTube.

Tickets are also now on sale for my first public in-person talk about my novel and writing. As previously mentioned I’ll be on a panel at the Write Here! festival in Lake Macquarie on March 26, alongside authors Jacqui Svenson and Ron McCarthy. Bookings are essential so grab tickets from Eventbrite while you still can. The festival was one of four events I was booked to appear at in 2020 that ended up being cancelled due to COVID, so it’s wonderful to be able reschedule yet another one of the opportunities that I ended up missing out on. And if you haven’t got a copy of Scarred yet, I’ll also be available directly after my talk at the festival to sell signed copies.

New podcast interview with West Coast Radio

An interview I gave with West Coast Radio in Seattle has just aired today. You can listen here to us talking about the outrageous case of Bobby Bostic, a 16-year-old African-American sentenced to 241 years in Missouri for armed robbery. I’d go into more detail about the absurdities and injustice of that case, but needless to say if you want the whole story it’s there in the podcast, intermixed with how I got involved campaigning for Bobby, my own prison experience, plus we touch on my novel a little too. Please check out the links here if you’d like to help Bobby’s fight for freedom.

Things are busy as always for me. I recently recorded another podcast interview which should be released in a month or so. I’ve also now finished enough artworks for my next solo exhibition, and am negotiating dates for a gallery space. And I signed the contract to illustrate the upcoming book, as mentioned in my last post. I need to complete the artworks by the end of April, so that’s going to be where most of my energy is focused until then. Under the terms of the contact I can’t talk about the book online until it is released in October, but you’ll hear about it then for sure.

Just a few days ago I also gave my first in-person talk about my novel for a private members-only event in Newcastle. Thankfully the next event I’ve been booked to speak at is open to everyone. If you’d like to see my talking about my novel and upcoming projects in person you can catch me at the Write Here! festival on March 26. Hope to see you there.

New interview with Prison Pipeline

An interview I did with the podcast Prison Pipeline aired on KBOO radio in Portland, Oregon a few hours ago. Don’t worry if you missed it though, because you can still listen to it online here.

I hope everyone has stayed safe and well during the holiday period. I have been as busy as always. Earlier this month I was featured in my first group art exhibition (having only had solo exhibitions in the past). Newcastle Regional Library was kind enough to display artworks by myself (pictured) and other local talent. I also recorded another interview with a public library in South Australia, though I’m sure their holiday period has been just as crazy as everyone else’s, as they haven’t scheduled a release date yet.

Its been a challenging though extremely rewarding year for me, and 2021 is looking very promising at this stage. I’ve nearly finished enough artworks for my third solo art exhibition, plus I’m thrilled to report I’ve recently been approached by a publishing company to illustrate an upcoming book. I’ll tell you all about it once the details are confirmed. Two of the booked appearances I had for 2020 that were unfortunately cancelled due to COVID have also been rescheduled for February and March. Between all that, my day job, and trying to find a publisher for my now completed memoir, I think I’ll have my hands full. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

See you in the new year everyone. Best wishes.