Juvenile Detention Writing Workshop

In March 2005, I began to voluntarily run a poetry workshop with the teens incarcerated at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. The poetry workshop was inspired by Pongo Teen Writing  and the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop. In the Denney Poetry Workshop, we read young adult novels and memoirs with topics such as: addiction, love, romance, and teen pregnancy. We write poetry and flash fiction drawn from the youth’s life experiences.

I have written a young adult memoir, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention Poetry Workshop, which is currently being shopped to agents and editors. You can read the first three chapters of Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention Poetry Workshop on Wattpad here.

“Orange: Writing with Girls in Detention” was published on the Family Guiding Blog here. (October 2013)


Denney Juvenile Justice Center is lucky to have The Blanche Miller Art Exhibit Program which hires local artists to work with the teens in small group workshops. As a part of this workshop, we have published four books of the youth’s poems. Call It Courage, Please Brave Me Dry These Tears, and Because I Wanted to Be Love. These books can be viewed on our blog at http://www.denneypoetry.org

Other funding for the workshops has been provided by: BECU School Grants, Tulalip Tribes, and The Everett School District Foundation.

My writing work is often inspired by the youth in the detention center poetry.  My young adult novel, Weaving Magic, was heavily inspired by the poetry workshop, as are the following flash fiction pieces:

“Jailbirds,” published on Sarah LaPolla’s blog, Glass Cases.   Two teens are in jail. But who really committed the crime?

“Girls Unit 2W” Published in Edmond’s Community College Literary Journal, Between the Lines,(Fall 2010).

“Dead Body” Published in the Hoffman Center Literary Magazine, The North Coast Squid. (December 2013)

“Night Crimes”, published on Sarah LaPolla’s blog, Glass Cases  Things are not always as they seem in this quick piece of fiction about a gang leader and his night-time activities.

“Directions” published on Glass Cases. How to enter the juvenile detention center flash fiction.

Select Artwork

Select Poetry

There’s a monster within me
It’s anything but sane.
It’s anything but tame.
I hope me ad it never become one and the same.
It’s full of an evil blind rage.
Locked away, inside me
Like a wild bird in a cage
Just waiting for a chance to escape and fly free.
I hope me and it never become one and the same
For the monster within will never be completely tame.

Written in the YA/Memoir Poetry Workshop, June 2011

I am a blue diamond spiral.
I am a Cadillac Escalade Infinity and beyond.
I am Skittles from the rainbow.
I am a blue berry tree with emotional pain.
I am a microphone from California.
I am a bed where thugs cry.

I am a pit bull who buzzes around town.


Published in Call It Courage, August 2006.

Important Blog Links:

Denney Poetry