#192 Prison talk: The business end

May 17, 2010 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

Prison Writing: The Business End

I might blog something else later, but in light of a few things, I wanted to kinda blog out some thoughts here about what I am trying to do, and how there has to be a logical and sane way of going about it.

As you guys know, I have been writing on prison issues for quite awhile. The goal is to try to kickstart my writing into a venue where I can earn a living by writing books, cards, prison encouragement certificates, blogs, posts, and other things.

I spent part of my weekend trying to plan it out, and how I might be able to get from point A to point B…or C….or L…or W. The idea was first to blog, get supporters and win them over. If I can do that, then I can get the support financially, which I can then use to buy the materials needed to print off my books, cards and so on. If I can get that going in a relatively decent way, then I wanted to save enough money to get a back a bank account. If you read one of my earlier blogs, you know I lost my bank account because the fees slowly drained my money until I actually owed them $11.00. With no money coming in, I had to close the account.

So now it is imperative that I generate enough money to at least get an account back in the bank. So that is important. Once I can do that, then I should be able to move a little better in the elbow room needed to buy supplies, write, mail and the things necessary to make this work.

All this is important because if there is to be success, I have to be mindful of the money I hope to get, and how to wisely spend it. Now don’t get me wrong folks, there is nothing wrong with splurging on yourself every now and then, nobody wants to work to just pay the bills, we all want to pamper ourselves every now and then, it gives a great incentive to life, and rewards you and your self esteem.

But all within reason. it’s a lesson I seem to be learning with television, especially since I have a degree in Radio and Television from college. Just today, I learned that one of my favorite shows, “Heroes” was cancelled by NBC. Their reasons included the cost of production and lower ratings.

I want to use that example, and two others, to help myself talk through the mentality of money, in relation to what I am trying to do in prison writing.

The idea I am trying to sort out is that I realize how hard it is for an ex felon like me to ask for financial support from readers…most folks reading this believe I am trying to con them, so maybe I can take that month long trip to Tahiti…

(which isn’t a bad idea….hey, I’m being honest about that)

But the reality is that I have spent too many years trying to help others to take issue with people who see me that way. Yet when I write, I ask only for those that really feel that they want to support my blogs. But when I do that, I have to think about what I need to accomplish with the support, and what I can and can’t do.

There are a lot of things I might WANT to do, but I have to be sincere and wise enough to know that until I get to that level financially, I can’t expect people to support my endeavors. For example, right now, if I can ensure that I can buy ink for my computer, and get supplies like paper, card stock and other items, that is a good start. But if I am trying to get people to give me enough money to buy a Rolex watch…that might be over the top.

This is not without exceptions though. If I am fortunate enough to have a wealthy person come across my site and believe in me enough to want to give me a very healthy gift, then that could vault me into a higher plane of thought….but we can all dream, right?

But until I get there, I have to look at some of the recent events in television and try to learn from it and apply it to what I am trying to do with my prison writing. The first example comes from NBC canceling “Heroes”. As I said, one of the reasons they are canceling it is because of the cost of production.

Now, I don’t work for any television company or studio, but some of the basics can be explored. When the show first came out a few years ago, it was a MAJOR hit. People from around the world loved it, and it had over 17 million viewers. That was then…

Since then, in an attempt to keep the interest with the show, they did a whole lot of “spin off” productions for the main show. But the problem was they may well have spent too much money doing the spinoffs, which took its toll on the main show itself. Its like having a budget of $1 million for the show, but spending $500K of it on spinoffs, and then wondering why the main show isn’t making any money.

Granted the ratings are down, but maybe its because the foundation of the show, the Heroes show itself, fell under the weight of supporting all the spinoff programs they were doing. It literally could not support itself, and became a money pit.

I gotta be careful not to overdo myself in my desire to write. I mean, I have a LOT of ideas, from calendars, newsletters, short stories and many other things. One series I wanted to do is called “Scriptures for Inmates”, and when I restarted this blog a few months ago, I started writing a short story called “Defending Job”…which I have not finished yet.

I have to be mindful that all this is being done by one person…just me. Its just me, my old computer, my old printer and any help I can get by my supporters. I have to be careful not to burn myself out in being too ambitious. That does not seem possible initially, because in case you have not noticed…I LOVE to write, but still, there is wisdom in being patient. I don’t want to have too many projects that I can’t manage myself, and end up having it fall against the foundation of my writing. That does not mean I can’t do multiple projects, because I can, but I just don’t want to have 10 projects going on at the same time.

A second example is one I wish I could support, and hopefully one day will support…public broadcast stations.

Folks…I LOVE public stations. I cannot say that loud enough. Here in my state, we have the UNC public broadcast stations. Shows like “Sesame Street”, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” and other shows come on there, and they always provide excellent programming. Lately my mom loves watching the UK comedy, “Are You Being Served” which I think is brilliant.

Yesterday I was watching UNC-EX (for explorer) between the Celtics/Magic game, and I noticed they were having their fund raising event…wow, seems like they just had one a few months ago.

They mentioned that 75% of their funding comes from viewers like us…well, others since I have never sent anything to them. Not because I don’t want to, I just don’t have the money. Personally, if I had $10 to send, it still would not be my first choice…I would likely send it to a ministry…

(God comes first folks, that’s just how I see it)

But if I had it to send, I definitely would support the UNC stations. I cannot put in value how important those channels are to people like me. But I noticed something…

Why are there FIVE UNC channels?

Good gosh, when I was a kid, there was only one UNC station on the tv…now there are FIVE! There is the UNC TV, UNC HD, UNC Kids, UNC Mix and UNC EX. So I am watching the break between the UNC show (a very good program on Italy), and listened to these people tell us how they need our support and finances to keep those programs on the air.

Now, I agree totally for support for the stations, there is no way I am saying anything negative about what public tv gives, but I do wonder why so many channels? I mean, if the idea is to get funding to keep the programs going, how much responsibility does the asker have to keep costs at a minimum? I mean, does UNC REALLY need FIVE different channels? That is five times the programming folks, and that can be very expensive. Do they really need five separate channels?

It almost seemed to me that the justification of more money is based on the idea that they can spend it faster than they can receive it. Now, I know I sound like a jerk here, but when you truly balance the NEED with the WANT, how can you tell the difference of what a person really needs to have, when they base their expansion almost exclusively on donations? I understand the need to have better programming, and good equipment and good staff, I get that. By no means am I implying that they should pay their employees minimum wage. I have no problem with them running it as effectively as any other station… but because it is based on donations, I would hope that maybe they would not try to expand based on the idea that “if we go over, we can get funding”.

If you are depending on donations, you have to be able to work with what you get, not plan on getting more than what you want to work with. For example, a person sent me $50 last week, which was great. Some of you know I need to keep some ink in my computer, some of you know I need to keep the supplies of paper, card stock, certificate paper and other items, handy so I can continue to make my products. So those gifts are very helpful. Sure I could use a new computer and a printer, but until that gets into my realm, I would be very unwise to pressure anybody to help me get one. Now, if someone out there is in a position to do so, then that is fine, but I can work at it until I can afford to buy a new computer, or pay off my college debts, or help my family pay bills, or buy new clothes. So on and so on.

But to expand with the idea of expecting people to support me might be kinda brash. And yeah, I know some of it can be based on faith, but in the case of UNC, that faith is not in God (no offense to anyone working there), it is based on the faith that the supporters of UNC TV will send money to support five different channels…which to me kinda seems too much.

Don’t be misled folks, I DO dream about buying mom a car, or a house. I do dream about paying all my debts. I DO dream about taking a week long trip to Disneyland, or a weekend at a nice amusement park. I DO dream about front side tickets to a NFL or NBA game. I do dream…like you too. If I can get my prison writing to a point where people can see it as something helpful, I might put myself in a position to support myself and help many more than I am now.

But those dreams are based in my faith in God…not any person. Surely, if there is a God out there (and there is) then He has the ability to find people that want to support the things I am trying to do. I don’t expect a bag of money to fall from the sky and land in our back yard, the blessings come as He works through others… no different I suppose than He must be working through me to write as many prison blogs, answer as many posts or emails as I have over the last 8 years. No doubt, if He can touch my heart…He can touch anybody’s.

So I do have dreams, but I am trying not to expand it based on what I am hoping somebody will do for me. The endeavors I am working on might seem large for one person, especially if you don’t write as much as I do, but I feel comfortable that I can do it, as long as I don’t overdo myself. But I don’t want to get to the point where I am creating multiple projects that require more money, if I cannot support it myself.

Now, one might compare the blogs to the channels of UNC. I mean, right now I currently blog on 3 different sites, and every now and then I put one on Daily Strength… isn’t that the same thing?

No.

When I blog, I write everything OFFLINE first, then I copy and paste it to the three blogs. It requires no extra effort to do that, only about 3 minutes of time. And because those blog sites are free, it cost me nothing but a few minutes of time. Now, if I started up my own blog site, or a book site, and tried to do multiple ones, while trying to monetize it, then that could be like what UNC is doing.

Again, I support UNC with all my heart, they have a very, very special place with me as far as my childhood, and even now with the great programs they have. I think their travel shows are better than some of those on Travel Channel…but FIVE stations?

So I try to temper my desire to do more with prison writing, and keep it within reason so when I ask people to support, it isn’t like I need $10,000 to buy a state of the art computer with printer and staff to run copies of my “Grades of Honor” books. We’re not there…yet (smile).

The third example is something that completely baffles me here in our state…the NC Education Lottery. I remember this quite fondly because when the idea of the lottery came into main topics, I was working at a Christian radio station, shortly after I was released from prison in 2001. I think the lottery went into effect in 2002 or something like that.

I remember talking with some people about it, and there were a lot of people that were strongly against it. But my angle was that if the lottery was going to generate millions of dollars to the education system, why is this a problem?

I mean, at the moment out state desperately needed education funding, and apparently the people we elected had no idea how to do it, it just seemed that anything that generates millions to education would be helpful. I realize I speak as a moron, but I actually thought about all those “religious” folks that were against it and I almost said to one, “well, how much money are the CHURCHES putting to education?”.

To me, if you are against the idea, then find a solution. But if you DON’T have a solution, then shut up. I know games of chance aren’t exactly great, but if there is a chance to generate money towards education, then why not at least try?

My believe was that, if this lottery is passed and if it only generates $1 million dollars, that is one million dollars towards education that we didn’t have before. I mean, ANY money is better than none when it comes to education, right?

So the bill is passed and we have a lottery. But years pass, and I am reading how the state is now going to have to make serious cuts in education…

HEY!!!! Wait! Why are we making cuts when the NC Education Lottery has generated HUNDREDS of millions of dollars????

I don’t understand it. The idea of the lottery was to funnel money for our schools, and clearly it was doing that…but now it seems that instead of education funding shrinking, it seems to have expanded quite exponentially.

What’s going on?

I remember talking to some friends at home about it, and one of the things we wondered was, “so where is the money from the NC Education lottery going”? I read that the lottery has generated about $1,250,000,000 dollars….that’s over a BILLION dollars, towards education!

But if that is true…then why in the name of Moe, Larry and Curly are we making such cuts in education?

I worry that the money actually generated, and the money actually allocated, might be two completely different numbers. Sometimes when we try to do charitable work, we forget about all the “middle men” that have to take their “cut”.

Now, does that imply that something underhanded is going on…I can’t help but think so… I mean, the idea of the lottery was to put money into our education system, but the irony is that even with this going on, the education system is darn near broke.

Does this mean that some of that money is being filtered to other hands under the table? Maybe… or does this imply that some people are getting more greedy with the funding.

“What do you mean?”

Well, it happens all the time. When a group or organization gets funding, often times the desire to upgrade causes them to ask for more than they really need, or their fair share. A school, for example, might have a computer lab with 20 computers, all in good shape. But with this new venue for money, they might ask for 35 computers, all with the top of the line operating system. Do they REALLY need it…no, but hey, if they can get it, why not ask?

When I was a senior in college, we has started a small acting organization, and my professor went with us to the Student Council Meeting for funding. Because we were new, and part of the college campus, we could petition for funding to help us get started. We had to get a fair idea of what we could ask for, and hope to get it. I was thinking that if we could get just $5000 to start, we would be fine. Ambitious yes, because its not like we were the only college organization or group on the campus, and the student council had only like $150K to work with.

My professor told us to ask for $50,000, and after I picked my eyes off the floor, I wondered why we needed to ask for so much. He said that many times you have to ask for more than you need, so when they cut it down, you end up getting about what you wanted anyway.

So by his logic, if we ask for $50,000, they would likely refuse, because they simply cannot give us that much money, with about 100 organizations on the campus. But if we are lucky, we’ll get maybe $5000.

We ended up getting about $600.

The professor and I almost had to laugh at ourselves for such a foolish move…I mean, how did we think they were going to give us one third of the budget, for a newly formed acting organization on the campus, with over 100 other groups and organizations on the campus? I am sure they are still wondering what we drank before we stumbled in there…

(just a joke folks…I don’t drink)

But that kinda proves my point, something many organizations do very often. Its like if they get $100, they try to ask for $1000. If they get $1000, then they want $10,000. Not so much that they really NEED it, but if it’s there for the taking, why not ask for it. Its free money.

I have to believe something is wrong with this education lottery, because they are spending a heck of a lot of money on things other than education. In fact, the Charlotte Bobcats games on tv are often sponsored by the NC Education Lottery….WHY?

They spend millions of dollars to promote selling lottery tickets, and they said it has generated over a billion to our schools…so why are things worse than ever? I don’t get it.

If people take the time to contribute to a cause, there should be some form of growth or fruit in it…if its done with heart. If a church takes collections to buy a new organ, then sometime soon there should be a new organ in that church. If they go 2 years and have taken healthy collections 3 times a week, and twice on Sundays, but there is still no organ…something is wrong.

When people contribute to a cause, they should be rewarded with some fruit, it does not have to be tangible or even financial, it can be a peace of mind that they helped see a project or a situation continue or be resolved.

That Christian radio station I told you about, the one that fired me (you have to read the older blogs to know the story). For a few years the pastor of that church, and owner of that station, was taking collections at church to support the radio station. I never agreed with that, because I felt that the station was his separate project, and should not be funded from the church. If he needed money to run the station, let him pay out of his own pocket. But to ask the church to support his station didn’t seem right.

In fact, the station should have been supporting the church. If he ran it right, the station would have been prospering, and that extra money could have EASILY been put in the church to do any number of things, from a food drive, or sending a kid to college, or anything that helps the community.

But his efforts to support the station by his congregation seems to have failed. At this moment, they are not on the air…they are having financial difficulties with the station.

So the efforts of the congregation brought no fruit because the intent was not sincere to begin with. I wonder how much this resembles the lottery and our education system.

And I have to be careful with myself too. I feel a burden to try to do more, to do better when I sell my books, cards or get financial support. Its like I have to “up my game” when I get that support, because those people deserve to see some fruit. Now naturally, if a person buys a book from me, they expect to see the book….if not then I can be accused of scamming. Or if a person buys a few prison encouragement certificates, they can expect to get what they purchased.

But when I say “fruit” it also means more than that. It means that if I send you something, I try to add a little something free as well. If you buy my book, I try to add a card or two, or a prison encouragement certificate, or something else. But if you support my blogs, then you are not buying anything, you simply believe in me. That still requires fruit, because I need to let you know how much I appreciate your support, so I try to continue to blog, to share, to do the best I can….without overdoing it.

That’s important, because remember, I am doing all this myself. I have a whole list of future projects I want to share with you, including short stories from time to time. I got a lot of very positive feedback from the Mother’s Day short story I shared. I have written a few of those, and originally wanted to write one every month for the blogs. But it is kinda too ambitious right now, not that I can’t do it, I just don’t want to spread myself too thin.

Still, the supporters of my blogs deserve fruit, and I try my hardest to keep my blogs positive, encouraging and well…I can’t say shorter, because I don’t know how to make short blogs. I have been criticized for that many times, but I was under the impression that a blog was the written form of a person’s thoughts. Apparently I don’t think in short clips…I think in longer episodes…

So in blogging these things out, I have to be careful not to mislead anybody, but at the same time, be optimistic that I can continue to get support to blog. No, it does not cost money to blog…but is sure makes it a lot easier.

So there you go, I had to kinda talk to you guys about it, knowing that when I blog, anybody can read it. But in doing so, I am hoping I am being sincere to you, to let you know that I really am trying to help, and I am trying to win you over to see that I do want to help by sharing what I can about prison. Remember also, that “prison” issues isn’t just about your loved one in prison. It includes that, it includes what YOU go through with a loved one in prison, it includes life after prison, and it also includes what prison support sites do (or aren’t doing).

Anyway, it’s after 1pm, so time to take a break. Feel free to email me when you can, I do answer my emails from NICE people. Haven’t gotten to the point where I got 263 emails from supporters and readers yet…so be confident that if you email me, I will get back to ya. Until then….

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Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#191 Prison talk: Inform Yourself #193 Top Prison Blogs, ch 1

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