Alexandria’s Inmates Participate in Creative Writing Contest

Sheriff’s Office staff and writing contest supporters listen to Nelly Davila’s powerful personal account which earned her first place in nonfiction. Photo by Amy Bertsch.

This summer inmates at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center took part in a creative writing contest organized by Jane Hess Collins and Heard, a creative arts program that gives marginalized adults the opportunity to be heard under the guidance of professional artists experienced in working with at-risk adults.

Inmates had the opportunity to write original works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction and then submit them in a competition. The panel of judges – City of Alexandria Poet Laureate Wendi Kaplan, Zebra Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Mary Wadland, and Georgetown University Professor Mike Long – considered each submission’s technical and artistic strength when determining the winners.

On August 16, the Sheriff’s Office held a ceremony at the jail to recognize the award winners and all the participants. Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and members of his command and Inmate Services staff welcomed Ms. Collins, author and volunteer Solveig Eggerz, Heard volunteer Nancy Carson, and Pat Miller, a longtime community leader and arts advocate. Ms. Collins and Sheriff Lawhorne both expressed their gratitude to those who made the writing contest possible. Sheriff Lawhorne also emphasized the importance of creative writing and encouraged contest participants to continue writing.

Gloria Wright, the Alternative Programs Manager, announced the following awards which were presented by Sheriff Lawhorne and Ms. Collins:

Poetry: 1st-requested anonymity; 2nd-Robert McCrickard; 3rd-Daryl Torain

Fiction: 1st-Isaura Garcia; 2nd-Jackie McBride

Nonfiction: 1st-Nelly Davila; 2nd- requested anonymity; 3rd-Joshua Mann

Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, Gloria Wright and Jane Hess Collins congratulate Isaura Garcia on her first place award in fiction. Photo by Amy Bertsch.

After the awards presentation, two honorees shared their winning entries with the audience. Staff, guests and fellow inmates applauded Mr. Torain’s poem, “For So Many Years,” and Ms. Davila’s account of a family tragedy, “A True Story,” brought several audience members to tears. (All winning entries are posted on the Zebra website at

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