A Few Perfect Ingredients

CWRITE is a free toolkit for anyone who wants to start a writing group in a women’s prison, rehab, shelter, or halfway house.  Here you will find free, downloadable ideas for how to run a group for a short time or for a longer time, a series of writing exercises, and a several weekly curricula for possible courses.  It’s all free.  We promise.  Because some things should be free.  And a writing group is one of them.

Melanie Almeder is an experienced writer and editor, has led writing groups in women’s halfway houses,at a battered women’s shelter,  at a public library, on public transportation, and, most recently in a homeless shelter.  Part of what motivated this website is her ongoing realization that the best staff in the best prisons, rehabs, and halfway houses in the world are often very understaffed and under budgeted.  So Melaniethought, what if we just built a website that a staff member could download and use?


What you have here is the result of her years of experience in community arts and as an award-winning creative writing and literature professor.  What you have here is also the result of her research assistant, Jonathan Cribb’s assistance researching  and designing further exercises you might use.  He was also the website design wizard for this site.

The only thing we ask: Just let us know if you end up using any of the material and how it worked for you:  an email that filters into


Guidelines for Running a Group (one link)

Writing is an intense, vulnerable, and empowering activity.  Because writing is all of these things, any writing group or community

MUST be a team, a good tribe

MUST be founded on the principles of respect and integrity

The first rule of any group:  no one in the group shall ever be ridiculed.  Any ridiculer will be asked to leave the group.  Anything written about in the group MUST stay confidential to the group.  Anyone who breaks the confidentiality of the group will be asked to leave the group.  In any writing group, we are our sisters’ keepers.  Our job is to write, to fill that page AND to listen deeply to our fellow writers.

A note on triggers:  Writing itself can be a trigger.  Obviously, some of the writing exercises on this site may trigger traumatic memories.  It’s important, if at all possible, to have a counselor in the group, as the lead of the group.  Or, at least, in the room, or available should someone need professional support.   It is also true that writing through and  the horror, the fear, the rage, can lead to a great sense of peace and power.

We wish you all the things that true writing in community can bring, and that the practice of learning the art and craft of writing can bring:  joy, laughter, grief, anger, an emergence from isolation into activism, strength, self determination, and well crafted connection to the world.  This website is not meant to be in any way, shape, or form, comprehensive.  It’s just ideas and resources to get the writing group started.  Hopefully, after doing a few of these writing exercises, you will be making up your own.

Sincerely,  Melanie Almeder and Jonathan Cribb.

Link Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

A writer’s notebook is a lot like a journal but it’s not only a journal.  It’s a space for all your dreaming, your ideas for stories and poems, and a place to record ideas you have read and thought about that influence you as a writer.  Writer’s use their notebooks differently:  some will keep a dream journal for a month.  Some keep a straight up journal:  this is what happened today and this is how I felt about it.  Some will keep an image notebook–everything they saw that day or week that struck them.  Some keep a book of quotes that trouble, inspire, drive them.  Some mix it all up, do any of the above as it strikes them, and tape stuff in there they find in magazines and on the floor and in the grass.    I advise people:  do whatever you feel like doing.  Let the journal be your haven, your sanctuary, your record or your thinking.

sublink: Here are some possible exercises for your notebook:

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