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Interview: Jeff Hillard, Editor of RED!

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Jeff Hillard is an author, poet, and professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio. He also helps inmates find their way back into society through a number of courses he teaches at prisons. This work led Jeff to create RED! webzine which features “Stories of transformation in lives of prisoners and individuals re-entering society, and innovations inside prisons internationally.” Jeff discusses RED! and his vision for this new magazine.

What inspired you to create RED! the breakthrough ‘zine?

I conceived the webzine publication while actually trying to get work done toward a big book project in 2005. However, I stayed with the book project, which has not proven to work out as yet. In 2007, I got very serious about RED! and knew that it would take considerable time for me to utilize my far-reaching background skills in journalism, editing, publishing, and some leadership.

Other than that, my increasing experience teaching and ministering to and mentoring inmates in prisons and jails, as well as working with formerly incarcerated persons over the past seven years, gave me added incentive to put together an eclectic professional publication that told positive stories.

See, I also realized that no other online publication was showcasing, in a deep and unique way, stories of transformation in these inmates’ or former inmates’ lives in the way I envisioned. It was a culmination of my mentoring and publishing experiences that paved the way for RED!. Thus, we’ve also turned it into a nonprofit organization.

What kinds of stories appear in RED!?

Like our subtitle suggests, these are stories, news, and informative articles dealing with positive and healthy life changes in the lives of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. We also profile innovations and innovative programs and people who help make these changes a reality.

In our most recent issue, we have a wide range of stories; for instance, one of my columnists writes about her extraordinary gang intervention work, and there’s a feature story on perhaps the oldest living (former) mentor to prison inmates. There are multimedia, columns, book reviews, hard news, and a section called “The Zone,” which is a wonderful listing of important programs, agencies, or ministries across the country focused on worthy prison and jail work.

“The Zone” will grow each issue. Most importantly, we have writing by inmates around the country: essays, stories, poems, and artwork. We are most proud of this section. We’ve grown it since issue #1 in April, 2008. We like to consider RED! as the “print version” of the popular television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We simply provide stories of success in print and those that deal with situations I’ve mentioned already.

Who are some of the featured writers in RED!? How can someone write for or get involved with the magazine?

The writers vary in all ways, and that’s a great thing. RED!, first and foremost, is a volunteer effort. I have several staff writers that care about seeing such positive stories make the rounds globally.

They mostly write the journalism-based stories. I’d suggest any writer –- free-lance writer or incarcerated individual –- to check out the Editorial Policy page. One can reach me at editor@redwebzine.org. I also have two columnists writing from inside two different prisons.

Their lives have radically changed, and they are helping so many others inside their facilities. Two of my columnists are formerly incarcerated individuals. I have writers that have worked for daily and weekly newspapers. I have West Coast and East Coast correspondents. Again, check out the Editorial Policy. We’re open for story suggestions. I’m currently working with several writers from other states interested in writing for RED!.

How do readers keep up with new stories appearing on RED!? Is there a mailing list?

We have been coming out quarterly. It has been set up to be a quarterly webzine. However, in April, 2009, we are going to go weekly. Yes, a big leap forward. Each week we will feature a new story, interview, review, news, multimedia, or writing from incarcerated individuals. That is, something will be new each week and very relevant. We’re looking forward to ramping up RED! in this way. And we’ve only been publishing RED! for 10 months!

Yes, people can go to the site and click the button “Sign up for email/information”. Like RED! itself, this is a free e-newsletter that updates readers every 10 days to two weeks on things RED! tends to focus on and support. This is a very valuable e-newsletter for many people. It takes less than one minute to sign up.
Otherwise, our mailing address is: RED! Webzine P.O. Box 58613 Cincinnati, OH 45258.

Explain how RED! could be a helpful tool for those studying in the fields of psychology, criminal justice, social work, or other subjects.

We don’t like to nail down an absolute “target audience,” since this is actually a human interest publication, which basically means these are stories featuring challenges and triumphs, twin areas of life with which any human is incredibly familiar. Still, agencies, organizations, businesses, high schools and universities, and social service agencies, as well as churches of every denomination will find useful reading most all the stories in RED!

One thing RED! does that is special is take readers boldly into the heart of prison, jail, re-entry, recovery, and transformation issues unlike any other publication in existence, but we’re geared to profile the occasions and areas in which real positive and healthy productivity and change occur in these individuals’ lives. This is what most people don’t normally get from TV or newspapers.

There are three college classes that I know of that use stories from RED! on a regular basis. I’ve spoken on RED! to churches, schools, and social service agencies in the last year.

For more information, visit RED!

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.