Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New Blog

I thought that I would like to do something new for 2011. I have wanted to put special blogs up on the May December site but decided that it would be better to post them here.

You will find news here of my life on the inside (prison), what our thoughts are for May December Publications, and anything else that I might want to post for you.

This is My blog.

TW Brown

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Comments From Behind the Fence - 6

Death. Nobody really likes to think about it too much when it comes to our own mortality. Dying in prison? Alone? Isolated from anybody who cares about you? Take a moment and look into your heart. Is there anything about that idea that isn't depressing?

Men (I can assume women, but since I'm a guy...well...) in prison don't talk about dying inside. It is a fear for most, and prison isn't an environment where that emotion is acceptable. But it happens. Sometimes to strangers...sometimes to a familiar face. And, on occasions, to a friend.

A few years into my time I lost my best friend Steve to cancer. I still haven't been able to really grieve his passing. When I was accepted as a hospice volunteer, I went back to my cell and I told Steve, "This is for all you did for me." He never wavered in his friendship. He was an example,and in some ways, a role model.

Now, a couple of years in the program have passed. As I write this, I have an active patient. He was a compete stranger when this began. But now, we've had hours to talk and get to know each other. We've shared past accomplishments and past failures. We've talked about our lives, and he asks me about my future. He knows that I have one. And sometimes I feel guilty that I'll leave this prison and he will likely die before I do so. I'm emotionally vested in this person. When I see him, I don't see an inmate. I see a man. And this person has shown me what it means to die with dignity. He never complains about his lot in life. He has found peace in dying that most don't find in living.

And still, with all I've learned from this dying man, a selfish part of me remains. That selfish part wants him to keep living. Why is that selfish? Because, everyday he lives is a day of pain for him, and a day where I didn't have to hold his hand when he takes the last breath. That only means that I still have so much to learn.

These aren't the things normal citizens think about when they consider prison life. They'd rather watch programs like Lock up that go out of their way to show the worst of the worst. Stereotypes are a terrible thing. Clinging to them has never serves humanity, never contributed to progress, never done a single thing for the public good.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comments From Behind the Fence - 5

Teaching music can almost make a man forget he's locked up. Being involved in one-on-one instruction is very dicey in an environment such as prison requiring adaptability in a way that my contemporaries on the streets might not appreciate. I loved every moment of it.

Being able to play several hours a day really brought my own playing ability along and I feel that my crowning achievement was the guitar solo from Queen's "We Will Rock You." Pulling it off live in front of an audience of a couple hundred inmates goes down as one of my favorite memories during my time down.

Sadly, as this adventure was kicking off, I lost my best friend. Steve and I met in boot camp in the Navy. We've been each others Best Man and our sons were born one week apart. During this chapter in my life, he never wavered in his friendship. then, the same cancer that killed his mother, claimed him. To say I was devastated does not come close.

There are a lot of people who dont think prison is enough punishment. I know this because I was on of them before I ended up here. You have no idea what it is like to lose a person you love and not be able to grieve properly. The callous and unsympathetic types might have a number of mocking comments here, and if that's what you need to feel better about yourself, I feel sorry for you.

I've met a lot of men who know that they've made mistakes in life and want the chance to do better. Some feel that we as a society (meaning inmates) are not rehabilitatable. Not only are you misguided, you are absolutely wrong. But...I wont stay up on the soapbox because people with that mindset are seldom open for rational debate.

Shortly after Steve died, my prison started a hospice program. Knowing that there are men in here that have nobody outside was a real determining factor in my choice to apply. I have family and friends who love me no matter what. I'm lucky.

Being selected as a hospice volunteer was a lengthy process. It required an application as well as being interviewed by the medical and upper-level management staff of the prison. A dozen of us were picked from out of nearly a hundred applicants. During the class, we came up with a motto:

"No man dies alone."

Graduation was bittersweet. I was proud to be a part of the program. And then I realized what it would mean if I were ever called upon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Comments From Behind the Fence - 4

There is something wonderful about music: We all have songs that elicit certain memories. Some good...some bad. Having sung in a fair number of stage performances, I'd always been a little envious of guitar players. I mean really, David Lee Roth was cool, but Eddie is a legend.

Having made a goal to learn something new during my time locked up, I decided to pick up the guitar. I started out on a Takamine Acoustic. I sat in a corner with a very basic instruction book and played until my fingers could not bear touching the strings any longer.

I had a couple of guys show me stuff whenever they had time. I still remember the first time I played the intro riff to Enter Sandman by Metallica. Every day, I'd sit someplace and work through scale forms and chord changes; teaching my fingers how to move along the frets.

During a multi-cultural event, I played in my first concert as the rhythm guitarist. The first time we practiced, I still recall how freakin' awesome it was when I struck a simple E5 on the Jackson guitar that was plugged into a Marshall stack.

It was way cooler than I let on , but returning to work the next week and having many of my students expressing their approval on the degree in which we "rocked the house" was a bit of a rush. From there, I started hooking up with a couple of friends and practicing out on the yard during spring and summer.

Then, one day, I was asked if I would consider taking a job as a music tech and teacher in the institution's fledgling music program. Guys with 18 months of clear conduct could now take guitar, bass, keyboard, or drum lessons. I would be teaching guitar, bass and keyboards. That meant being able to practice every day. Plus, I was able to watch instructional videos. (I always tried to stay at least two lessons ahead of my first bass and keyboard classes.)

We had out fair share of students who wanted to be able to play like Eddie or Randy after their first lesson. They got discouraged when they saw how much work it took just to barely make a barred F chord and quit. But many others stuck with it. It was always nice when they could see their progress.

Things really started getting fun once the music program opened up to include band slots. Three times a year, inmate bands would be allowed to put on a concert. Honestly, it's the most fun a guy can have while being locked up. I would now be playing guitar AND singing in a band: Medline. I had no idea just how hard it was going to be. I mean...I could play at least halfway decent...and I could sing. But both? At the same time?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Comments From Behind the Fence - 3

One of the most important things an inmate can do during incarceration is to seek education. My own exposure to the education department at my prison opened my eyes to a culture that I hadn't really considered. It was while I was taking my first few classes that I encountered men pursuing their GED.

After completing my training, I took a job as a tutor where I would work for the next several years. It was the most rewarding experience of my incarceration. to work with men who were determined to end their cycle of failure and accomplish something that many have been told they were incapable of was awesome.

Anybody who experiences that feeling of having somebody walk up to them and than them for not letting them quit when it got tough and for giving them support and praise with an ear-to-ear grin and a look of pride in themselves knows. There is nothing that can adequately describe the rush. And every quarter there is a GED graduation at my institution. That meant seeing that look every three months!

What made it more enjoyable was sitting next to students I had tutored in a NDEP college class. I was thrilled during every single graduation. I attended and always hunted down "my" students to make sure that they signed up.

One day I was offered a job in the brand new prison music program. It happened at the same time a number of new teachers were taking positions in the education department. I decided that it was a good time to change jobs. I would now be teaching. Considering the fact that I'd never played an instrument before prison, this was something special.

A few years into my time, I decided to learn how to play guitar. A pair of guys both named Sam had a lot to do with teaching me. Now...I would be teaching others.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Comments From Behind the Fence - 2

Nobody says, when they're young, "When I grow up, I want to go to prison!" So, is this where I expected to end up? Nope. But, the reality is, I have nobody to blame other than myself. so, if I wanted to leave this culture behind, it would require effort from me and me alone.

The introduction of the New Directions Education Program was exactly what I needed to take the next step. Making fifty dollars a month doesn't leave you with a lot of disposable income. After you purchase paper, envelopes, and hygienic products...there isn't much left over. NDEP took that in mind and offered a deal too good to refuse.

NDEP is funded solely by donations form people who understand the value of education to inmates. (Check the stats for yourself and see how if affects recidivism.) When it began in 2000, an inmate paid ten dollars for a single college course. My first class was Intercultural Communications. The price has increased. but is still an amazing bargain. This program is why I received my Associates Degree in June 2010 and graduated with high honors (3.96 GPA, which I am very proud of.) I'll always owe a debt of thanks to the NDEP and the faculty of Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon for the opportunity they provided. (Those interested in donating can send their donations to:

New Directions Education Program
PO Box 393
Pendleton, Oregon, 97801

I changed jobs a few times. I worked in the bakery and learned how to become quite an asset in the kitchen. I also spent time as the clerk in the Creative Arts Department. Tragically, some of the most talented artists I've ever met exist behind the fences. (If you want proof, just look at the panels in the MDP anthologies or the covers of Zomblog II and First Time Dead.) And it is not just drawing or painting, there are sculptors, carvers, and musicians. It is tragic in many ways, but a reality of this environment.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Comments From Behind the Fence - 1

There's been a lot of questions these past few months. The more personal ones I will answer in direct correspondence. My address is available for just that reason. For (hopefully) obvious reasons, I'm not going to discuss the specifics of my case here with anybody. Although, I will set one particularly viscous and blatant lie straight. Yes, this company - May December Publications - is named after the birth months of my three children; Ronni, Cody and Alexander. None of them play ANY part in my case.

One of the most common questions by the curious has been: What have you done for the last twelve years? That is the one I will address here.

When I arrived at prison I did a lot of soul-searching those first few days. It took a while to get a grip on where I was, I wont pretend otherwise. You get a lot of time with your thoughts in this environment.l The reality of it took a few days to sink in, but I remember the exact moment it happened. An inmate threw a half-gallon pitcher of feces, baby oil and urine on the tier's unit officer. I never in my life had witnessed anything like it.

A short time later, I enrolled in a cognitive skills program. A lot of people hate these programs in here because they force you to look inwards and see where you've been going wrong. The first eye-opener was during a block about communication in a healthy relationship. I found out that I was a bonafide asshole. I was the guy who NEVER said "I'm sorry." And that was the least of my deficiencies.

Upon graduation I was offered my first prison job as a facilitator in the Cognitive Skills Program. For almost the next two years I was immersed in Pathfinders, Breaking Barriers, and Cognitive Skills I, II, and III. During that time I came up with my Groundhog's Day theory:

Prison is a lot like the movie, Groundhog's Day. It is the same thing day in and day out. The same faces, conversations, meals. Nothing seems to change. You can fight it and gain nothing, or make the conscious choice to put your time to good use. I set two goals: get my Associates Degree and have three books written and ready for submission by my release date.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Questions about Todd

Whether you’ve heard it by now or not, there are a lot of things swirling around and I am here to put the record straight. In 1998 I was arrested and sentenced to a prison term charged with 3 counts of sex abuse 1 for 3 out of the 4 of my ex-wife’s children- over 5 years after I had divorced her and moved on, remarried, and had two sons and a daughter of my own. I am not here to tell you what to think, how to think, or to post any sort of defense. If you have any questions – send them. If you want out of the anthology – you are welcome to withdraw with no hard feelings.

Having never hidden any of this and in one case early on when dealing with another publisher, I let him know, through my wife, why I could not call him directly when we were dealing with an issue of one of my stories to be published in one of his anthologies. Since then it seems to have been a personal crusade by him and another author, for whatever reason, to attack and discredit me. I will not get into a war of words with either of these two. They are entitled to their opinion, but the bottom line is – they don’t know me from Adam. First things first, you can direct any and all of your anger and hatred at me that you would like, but leave my wife out of it. She has been the person who has helped me pursue this dream despite this handicap and stigma. Secondly, if you want to have nothing at all to do with me or MDP, I still wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. I am not going to get into a war of words with anyone. I’ve defended myself as much as I need to over the past 12 years.

The following has also bent sent to all contributors to the anthology of First Time Dead however all future contributors should read this. Whatever your decisions, I wish you well and have a happy holiday.

Todd Brown

May December Publications

PS. My release is June 8, 2011 for those who care, and I will be happy to take any phone calls from any and all of you on the 9th. And also, when you’ve dealt with “ME”, you have done so while I was on the phone with my wife.

direct inquires can be sent to
Todd Brown
2500 Westgate
Pendleton, Oregon 97801

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Zomblog for Sale

Dear Readers,

I am proud to announce the release of my first full length novel Zomblog. It will be released on Amazon by the end of the month and will be available for sale here on this site, as well as and Amazon.

Thank you for your patronage and I hope you will enjoy the story.

TW Brown