MANZANITA — Authors Lauren Kessler and Nancy Miller Gomez discuss the transformative power of words for prison inmates, “Finding Humanity Behind Bars,” at the Manzanita Writers’ Series, at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 18.

The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Listen to two authors who spend time with some of the inmates — Kessler with “Lifers” in a maximum-security prison and Gomez with men and women in Santa Cruz, California, county jails and prisons. They’ll talk about the ways writing can heal, redeem and give meaning to life in prison, as well as how the experience has made a difference in their own lives.

Kessler will read from “A Grip of Time: When Prison is Your Life,” based on three years of running writing workshops inside the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Kessler says her mission was to “learn about this hidden world. So that we all could. I could teach these men to craft stories. They could educate me about prison life. I needed to know — I thought we all needed to know — who these people were that we put away, far away from us, in a country that puts more people in prison than any other coun-try on earth.”

Gomez will read from her poetry chapbook “Punishment,” a 2018 Rattle Poetry Chapbook Selection. Gomez teaches poetry workshops to inmates at Salinas Valley State Prison. These workshops foster creativity and self-expression, providing an opportunity for inmates to transform personal suffering into a shared experience through poems and stories. The workshops help participants heal emotional wounds and make meaning of their lives.

Kessler will also teach a writing workshop on Making Characters Come Alive during the day from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fee is $60. The workshop requires a minimum of six attendees so register soon at

Admission for the evening reading is $7. Doors open at 6:30.

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