So there I was with my college degree in hand in a job I didn’t particularly like; working as a prison guard in a medium security prison. Not exactly my dream job, but it was good pay and it allowed me to live in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan where as they say, “nature is in abundance.”
As I whiled away the hours working the beat inside the tall fence among convicted felons I started doodling in a notebook, creating a rough outline for a book I wanted to write about gardening. Before long I had enough proposed chapters to send off the idea for the gardening book to a few publishing houses.
It wasn’t long before I got a bite. A small publishing house in Marquette Michigan accepted my proposal for a regional book titled: North Country Gardening: Simple Secrets to Successful Northern Gardening.
As I spent every bit of spare time at home writing my gardening book, as well as numerous articles for magazines, I was finding ways to utilize my writing skills at work.
A prison, as it turns out, needs a good writer to write various types of reports, case studies, newsletters and legal briefs. I got a chance to cut my teeth on all sorts of writing like this, in addition to profiles for a nonprofit agency the prison was supporting at the time: the United Way of Chippewa County.
As my writing skills continued to improve and I took on more increasingly vaired and challenging assignments at the prison facility, my career was progressing as well. Before I knew it I was trading my officer’s uniform and handcuffs in for a shirt and tie and briefcase.
The first rung up the ladder at the facility was a promotion to Program Coordinator, overseeing work programs inside and outside the facility, as well as worthwhile prisoner activities of all kinds including a prisoner newspaper and Child of the Month Club where donations were made to kids from a prisoner benefit fund. It was during this stint that I found out that I had the time and interest to create and regularly publish an in-house newsletter. The newsletter helped keep staff informed and entertained. It became a real hit with staff and the admininstration.
On September 3 of 1994 a near tragedy occured on the west yard. A group of inmates attacked a small group of staff. The staff narrowly escaped serious injury but it was significant enough that the media heard about it and started to close in with questoins.
The morning after the incident I went to clock in only to see a note on my time card that said “report to the warden’s office.” Although I didn’t have official status as a PR person everyone knew of my writing and reporting abilities and they immediately started reeling off the details of the incident. I jotted it all down in a notebook I happened to be carrying. I spent the rest of the day speaking to reporters from local newspapers and that evening I was on the evening news program describing the incident to thousands of viewers. At no time did the warden or warden’s staff look over my shoulder to make sure I was reporting the event like they wanted me to. I believe they were that confident with my abilities.
The next few years I worked administrative and supervisory jobs at the prison and continued to write occasional press releases and contribute to in-house and department newsletters.
Then in 1998 a position was created in our career and technical education center: the job of horticulture instructor. My experience of having written a book on gardening and managing inmates made me a shoe-in for the job. For the next twelve years I learned all I could possibly learn about all aspects of gardening: from growing petunias and poinsettias in a greenhouse, to propagating native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Over the course of my tenure I taught 5 different subject matters related to horticulture to hundreds of appreciative inmates. During this time period I was also able to pick up a diploma in Horticulture from the esteemed University of Guelph as well as other certificates and countless training programs.
When I left the prison and my horticulture teaching job it seemed like a natural fit to write blog posts, white papers, articles, newsletters, press releases, and even some ads, all on topics related to the passions for gardening and writing that developed in perhaps one of the most unlikely places.
I hope you liked my story. Let me tell your story in such a way that people will want to get to know you and your business and build trusting relationship where people will feel comfortable buying your products.
Since 2010, Green Industry Marketing, 7865 S. Nicolet Rd. Sault Ste. Marie, MI. Call me so we can discuss your next project: 906-322-9211 or shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.