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Popular Author's Prison Writing Program Under Investigation

Wally Lamb is being sued by contributors to upcoming book
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2019 12:44 PM CDT
In this 2013 photo, author Wally Lamb speaks at Book Expo America in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(Newser) – Wally Lamb, who shot to fame when his first novel, She's Come Undone, was selected for Oprah Winfrey's book club, has been leading a writing workshop at a Connecticut prison for two decades. Sounds great, right? Maybe not: the program is under state investigation, Lamb is being sued, and the publication of a planned book has been suspended indefinitely. The Hartford Courant explains the history: Lamb started the program in 1999, and in 2003, an anthology of autobiographical essays from the women in the program was published and became a big hit after being featured on 60 Minutes. A second book followed, and the third installment was due to be released in October. The problems have to do with that book, which was purchased for what the Courant calls a "modest" $20,000 by Counterpoint Press, a small publishing house.

Chandra Bozelko and Tracie Bernardi, former inmates who contributed essays to the third book, are suing Lamb; among other things, they say they haven't been paid. Bernardi also was disappointed by the $1,400 each contributor was to get, and took issue with Lamb's plan to donate any royalties and with the editing of her chapter. The women are also unhappy with the way Lamb spoke to those who complained; among other things, he allegedly told them via email to "dial down the hysteria" and complained about "frivolous hassling." Bozelko says Lamb has done good work for incarcerated women in the past, but says "this last book distorted everything the program was about." The writing program has been suspended while a probe takes place, and the AP reports Lamb has indicated he plans to end his relationship with it. See the Courant for more. (Read more Connecticut stories.)

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