Local Inmates Win Awards for Creative Writing Contest, The Zebra, September 6, 2021

One of our favorite parts about our annual writing contests that we hold with the Alexandria Adult Detention Center and the Arlington County Detention Facility is the enthusiasm of our returning judges to be part of this event. Each of them has a strong background in writing, editing, and publishing, and each year they tell me and our authors (during the awards ceremonies) how much they appreciate this honor. Our judge Mary Wadland, Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, gives an insightful and interesting glimpse into what she learned and how she felt reading these inmate’s stories. “The Claw“, the first place fiction winner from the Alexandria Adult Detention Center, “had me on the edge of my seat…”, she write. Me too. Read Mary’s entire feature here.

Sharing our Poetry with Voices Unbarred and The Justice Arts Coalition

We created a little magic with Voices Unbarred and The Justice Arts Coalition! First, allow us to introduce our friends: Voices Unbarred is a nonprofit theater company whose actors were all once incarcerated. Lori Pitts created this amazing nonprofit, and will perform double duty in January as their founder and as the Artistic Director of the Ally Theatre Company. In October and November of 2021, Voices Unbarred actors read and performed at events hosted by The Justice Arts Coalition, run by the amazing Wendy Jason, throughout greater Washington.

We were thrilled when we contacted Lori and she asked us to send some of our favorite poems for the Voices Unbarred actors to read. It was hard to choose among all of the great poetry on our site, and eventually we sent “I Cry“, “Tough Love,” and “Untitled” – all prize winners written by authors from the Alexandria Adult Detention Center and the Arlington County Detention Facility.

Lori was gracious enough to share these photos with us, and we want to share them with you.

On the left, actors perform during the “We Belong Here: Reclaiming Space through Art” event on October 24 at Rhizome DC.

On the right, Lori and four Voices Unbarred actors strike a pose during The Justice Arts Coalition’s “Incarceration and Creation: Art as a Human Need” on November 6 at the Sandy Spring Museum.

This is not the last time you will hear from us working together to help the formerly and currently incarcerated be heard…stay tuned!

Our Director, Jane Collins, on Fox 5 DC

Did you know our founder and executive director, Jane Collins, is also an Air Force veteran? She served from 1981 – 2009 as an active duty and reservist, and was also attached to an Air National Guard unit in Springfield, Ohio. Talk about total force! Jane retired at the rank of colonel and continued serving in her post-Air Force life. Listen as Gwen Tolbart of DC Fox 5 interviews her about the importance of sharing stories as part of the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s Stories: The Veterans History Project. This is the largest oral history project in U. S. History.

Are you a veteran? You need to be heard! Share your story here.

Back to Basics with Heard’s Etiquette Class

We are thrilled to offer etiquette again with the residents of Friends of Guest House! After so much time being isolated and indoors, who couldn’t benefit from a little refresher on the basics? Our etiquette teacher Fannie Allen of The Allen Protocol & Leadership Institute, LLC brought it! Over the next month the residents will learn the finer points of social and business etiquette skills, presentation and dining (yes, dining!)


The Women of Friends of Guest House, October 2018

I gave him a dollar.

He gave me coins.


She rushed in to the house and tore off her scrubs.

Eight minutes later she was ready for dinner – heels, purse, little black dress.


Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses, pleads Miss Liberty.

Children to the right. Parent to the left. Your will be reunited after the hearing.


The smell of grandma’s ginger cookies.

The smell of potatoes, dumped from the cardboard box into boiling water.


He was captivated by me and endlessly fascinated.

He turns coldly away, ice leaving small entrails behind him.


The more things change the more they stay the same I’m told.

Change constantly repeating itself, like six-second gifs.

I want change on my terms.

My brain can change.

My body cannot.

My relationships can change, exactly as I dictate.

The world can change, but only if we become kinder, more compassionate, and committed to justice.

Otherwise things must stay the same.

I am still young.