‘Women Outside the Walls’ by Trisha Sugarek

 Many years ago I visited a state prison for men in Illinois. My first time ever, in a prison, doing research for one of my plays. I was there to see a confessed murderer, Bill, and was writing his story. (Cook County Justice)  I sat in the reception area, very nervous and scared; much like Kitty in the beginning of this story.

I was deeply moved by the nameless women around me who had come to visit their men. One woman told me that she was visiting her son and had been coming once a month and every holiday for thirteen years. During another time in her life she had faithfully visited her husband for fifteen years while he served out his time. Many of the children I saw had spent their growing up years in a visiting room behind bars.

The entry process that I write about [and went through] is accurate in this story. Most notable about the visiting room was the frustration, anger and fear, thick in the air.  In the visiting room, the rage and disappointment emanating from inmates was palatable.

There seemed to be two types of prisoners; ones like Bill who kept their heads down, caused no waves, and spoke in a monotone. Or the other type who were aggressive, ‘in your face’ bullies and troublemakers. Always running a hustle. As I sat there interviewing Bill, I was struck on a visceral level about how these women coped year after year. How did they come to be here? Was it a simple matter of choosing the wrong men? Did they grow up with the same dreams most women have about living with a good husband and raising wonderful children? As I sat there, I wondered: where did it all go so terribly wrong?

Praise for Trisha Sugarek

Women Outside the Walls~~ ‘Step inside the sisterhood of the women with men behind bars. These women all come together in the waiting room and then visitor’s room at the prison while waiting to visit their men. They all have one thing in common and that’s the fact that they love their men. This is an honest book, which means that it’s not always a happy book. It will touch your heart in ways that you wouldn’t expect and is a book well worth spending the time to read. You’ll come away with a new respect for women in this situation and a bit more understanding of why they continue supporting the men they love, no matter what.’ ~~ Fresh Fiction

 Love can see people through the roughest times. This novel, Women Outside the Walls, from Trisha Sugarek takes the reader along as she explores the nature of women outside the prison walls who are trying to get by as their men are serving time. Finding an unusual friendship through their tough time, more plight comes their way and challenges what they have left as independent women as one of their daughters goes missing. Women Outside the Walls carries a positive message, and shouldn’t be overlooked, very much recommended.’ ~ Midwest Book Review

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When A Story Takes You by the Throat!

Women Outside the WallsHow do writers find their stories??  This one came to me as I sat, one Sunday morning, in the waiting area of a state prison. I was there to interview a convicted murderer for a play I was writing(Cook County Justice) about his case. I found myself sitting with many other women;  wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers.  We all had one thing in common; we were there to visit a man behind bars and all of our shoe laces were untied. (They search you.)

Was I nervous?  Scared?  YES!  I’d never been in a prison before and I was about to enter a visiting room filled with convicted murderers, rapists, thieves and drug dealers.  The one thing these men had in common was they were someone’s son, husband, and father.

I have often advised new writers to write about what they know.  I did not follow my own advice.  These women had such an impact on me…..figuratively taking me by the throat and insisting that I tell their story.  So I did….with research, research, and more research.

This story is told by three diverse women married to men who made a bad decision. Continue reading “When A Story Takes You by the Throat!”

Freshfiction.com reviews “Women Outside the Walls”

FreshFiction.com reviewed my book and I couldn’t be more delighted.WOW.BanW._wow (3)

Meet the heroines of WOMEN OUTSIDE THE WALLS.
These women are all brought together through one avenue: Their husbands are all in the same prison.

First, there’s Alma. Her husband, Charlie, is in prison for murder. At first that sounds terrible, but there’s a story behind this that makes you see that everything isn’t so cut and dried as it may seem at first. Alma has been in love with Charlie since she was 16 and he was 23. But he knew he was too old for her and he went away so he could avoid making a mistake with her. Abandoned by her mother in favor of a boyfriend that didn’t want kids around, she was taken in by a neighbor that helped her get through the next couple of years until she graduated from high school. That’s when Alma found that she had a talent for exotic dancing. It was at the end of one of her performances in a high end strip club one night that she was reconnected with Charlie, quite by accident. The next thing she knows, Alma’s pregnant and Charlie runs again, at least temporarily. They do end up together as a family and all is well until Charlie gets in trouble.

Next is Kitty. She’s a woman of wealth and social standing. Her husband, Edward, is imprisoned for a white collar crime and she’s simply not equipped to handle it. However, she does take herself to the prison on visiting day to see him. He agrees to see her once and that’s only to tell her to get a divorce and make a new life for herself and their children. After that, even though Kitty comes faithfully on every visiting day, he refuses to see her.

Then there’s Hattie. She’s a proud, African American woman with a talent for cleaning, a head for math and a heart of gold. Her husband, Joe, doesn’t belong in prison. He’s only there because he’s protecting his little brother. But Hattie is counting the days until her Joe gets out and can come home to her and their kids. Joe loves Hattie and they both look forward to that day.

These women all come together in the waiting room and then visitor’s room at the prison while waiting to visit their men. They all have one thing in common and that’s the fact that they love their men. In the process of this shared experience, they become connected in a way that no one else would ever understand.

Life goes on in this way until the day that a tragic event takes place that will involve them all even more. Things may not end as anyone expects.

Told in both the present and past tenses, WOMEN OUTSIDE THE WALLS offers a bittersweet look into the lives of women that love incarcerated men. There’s laughter and tears but, most of all, there’s the strong emotional bond these women share.

This is an honest book, which means that it’s not always a happy book. It will touch your heart in ways that you wouldn’t expect and is a book well worth spending the time to read. You’ll come away with a new respect for women in this situation and a bit more understanding of why they continue supporting the men they love, no matter what.’ ~~Review~Freshfiction.com

Hope that your story doesn’t come out the way that you had planned!

Lillian Hellman once said, Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped.”

As a writer, that has happened to me over and over.  At first, in the early days of writing, I was appalled that the story was going somewhere that I had not planned for.   The characters would lead me down paths that I had no intention of going down or writing about.  Now I accept this strange phenomenon that happens not just to me but to other writers as well.


     A glaring, or perhaps glorious, an example of a story taking an unexpected turn was when I was writing “Women Outside the Walls”.  My plan for the storyline was that this would be a cozy little story of three very different women coming together while visiting their men in prison.

A third of the way through this project, Charlie, while sitting in the visiting room of the prison, jumps up, grabs Kitty and holding a shiv (knife) to her throat,  takes her hostage.  I  sat at my keyboard and literally wailed aloud, “No!  No, you can’t!  I don’t know anything about hostages……or hostage negotiations!” Too late! He’d already dragged Kitty to the back wall and pandemonium had broken out.  The prison went on emergency lockdown and there was nothing I could do! There I sat at my keyboard, dead in my tracks.

It took me four months of research on hostage negotiations before I could resume working on my novel.  I had not the faintest clue as to how I would finally resolve this room being taken, hostage.  And I want to stop here and thank the federal and state hostage negotiators who assisted me in my research. While they would not share any of their techniques, they agreed to look over my story and tell me where I was off base. They allowed me to send them this segment of my novel for them to critique and assisted in keeping my portrayal accurate.   Before you CO’s jump all over me about the gun, I did take dramatic license with that.

I have learned to anticipate and enjoy it when the story takes on a life of its own.  It’s my fondest wish to become the ‘typist’.  When my characters take control and tell me the story!






    I hope you will come out today for my

BOOK SIGNING !!dragons, elves, fairies, dragon, fairy tales, new book for your child, new fairy tales, running away, friendship

  Shaver Book Sellers, on Madison Square in Savannah  
to hold a book signing.

              This event will begin at

2PM today, November 17th.

              Shaver’s carries all of my children’s books, my poetry and novel, “Women Outside the Walls”.  Also available, today only, will be most of my play scripts.

Come by and say “hello” and enjoy this historic, iconic book store that is locally owned and operated.


326 Bull Streetgreed, ecology, elves, warlords, love, friendship

When was the last time you were behind bars? No, seriously!

This has been an incredible journey for me as a playwright turned novelist. In play writing you must tell your story in 100 pages or less, definitely in less than two hours and everything you want to relate to the audience must be conveyed through the dialogue.  In the theatre world there’s a term: “method acting” which means you get as close to your character as you can.  If the character you are going to portray is a prostitute, you follow and talk to whores. (been there, done that. Honolulu, 1992 ) If your character is a woman who’s husband has been in prison for the past 13 years, you get inside her head.

I’m a ‘method’ writer, (every chance I get.) 

In 1999 I had reason to visit a men’s DOC facility. (prison).  I was visiting a confessed murderer as research for one of my earlier scripts.  My writing has taken me to some unexpected places to say the least.  On a Sunday morning I found myself sitting in the reception area with three dozen other women.  Wives, sisters, mothers, daughters of convicted felons.  As I waited, I wondered how long they had been coming to visit; how long would a woman wait for her man behind bars; and what a terrible impact this must have on the children, visiting their fathers in this place.  Sitting there I was suddenly compelled to write their stories.  I tried to interview as many women as I could and this was no easy task.

Their closed society is cloaked in guilt and shame. But they finally let me in and I discovered, for the most part, incredibly brave and strong women.  They would tell their friends and neighbors, “my husband travels with his work” to explain the man’s absence.  Always appearing cheerful and strong while visiting their men, the women I spoke with, had a pull off down the highway where they would congregate (after leaving the prison) where they could cry, scream, and moan and be comforted.  Where they could share, with other women who understood, what their lives were really like outside the walls.  Away from the eyes of their men and the prison officials.

Fast forward to 2011: My heart had been nagging me for years that my stage play,(by the same name) had MORE to say. And it wouldn’t let up!!  The message was, “you have to tell the rest of these women’s stories. GET BUSY!!”

For someone who was so comfortable writing in the genre of ‘scripts’ this was a scary prospect. Yikes! I thought, a novel was at the very least 70,000 words and over 300 pages long. What could I possibly have to say?  One year and four months later I had a 335 page novel in my hands. Evidently my characters had plenty to say!  At times I was surprised and delighted with my women and their stories. At other times appalled. As many writers will tell you, at some point, the characters sort’a….no…they definitely take over and you become simply the typist.

I am hoping that my readers enjoy this journey and find some empathy for those women doing hard time outside the walls.

A Good “beach read”

women's fiction, prison, love, new fiction,   You won’t be disappointed!  This is just a darn good story based on real women and real events.  And it opens a door on a subject that most of us women have never thought about….having to visit our man in prison.

Just as you are thinking that you know and like these three women, the story takes a dramatic turn with a shocking event.  Changing the women’s lives and friendships with each other forever.

There’s humor, family, love, suspense and sex.

FreshFiction.com said,  “This is an honest book, which means that it’s not always a happy book. It will touch your heart in ways that you wouldn’t expect and is a book well worth spending the time to read. You’ll come away with a new respect for women in this situation and a bit more understanding of why they continue supporting the men they love, no matter what.’

Click here to visit the on-line store where you can purchase this book!  Be sure, in your order to mention if you would like an autographed copy.



Excerpt from “Women Outside the Walls”

stage plays, prison, scripts for women, innocent men behind bars


Reno, Nevada 1995

Scorching, desert sun soaked into the roof of the trailers, the aluminum so old and weathered that there was no reflection. Heat shimmered off the scarred mobile homes, the dirt, the abandoned tricycle with two wheels, the rusted out cars parked in the weeds. A young girl bolted out the front door of one of the older trailers and scrambled down the four wooden steps to the road.

“You get back here, ya little bitch!” a male voice bellowed from inside.

The girl sauntered down the street between other mobile homes just like hers. Her sandals flapped on the hot pavement. As far as the eye could see were rust streaked, silver trailers with faded trim, red dirt and black sticky pavement with not a shrub or a flower in sight. This was her life and she couldn’t wait to get out. The sun lit her red hair and it sparkled with fire. She wore pristine white short shorts and a pink sleeveless blouse tied off at the waist.

Even though Alma was only fifteen her body had matured and blossomed into that of a full grown beautiful woman. As she walked away she muttered to herself. It’ll be a cold day in you-know-where before I take orders from one of Mom’s boyfriends. I don’t take guff off nobody. Especially not from that lousy, drunken, pig of a step-father, or ‘uncle’ or whatever the heck Mom’s calling this one.Alma was concentrated on where she was going and what her future might hold when a deep voice called out.

“Hey! Lady Bug, where you off to in such a hurry?”
Alma’s head snapped up and when she recognized the voice calling from behind a screen door, a smile lit up her face. She slowed her angry march as she came up to the door of the neighbor-ing trailer, accenting the sway of her hips.
“Hey, yourself!” Alma said. “Just goin’ for a stroll; wanna come along?”
“Sure, lemme’ get my beer.” the man replied as he stepped back into his door and almost instantly reappeared. He joined Alma in the middle of the street and they began to walk. The man was in his early twenties, and what he lacked in height, he made up for in physique. He was unbelievably handsome, with shaggy, light brown hair that just touched the collar of his shirt. His cobalt blue eyes, with silver flecks, sparkled when he looked at her. As they walked Alma’s smile had slowly faded and she appeared deep in thought.
“Whas’ up, Bug? You’re awful serious today.”
“It’s nothin’.” Alma said.
“Come on, now, tell Charlie what’s buggin’ ya,” he replied.
“It’s just that creep my Mom’s got livin’ with us. What a loser!” Once Alma started the floodgates opened. Charlie was her best friend and always listened, really listened to her.
“He lays around all day, drinkin’ beer while she goes out to work. Then when she comes home he claims he was out lookin’ for a job. She has a few beers with him and then the fight begins. I don’t know why she keeps pickin’ these losers.”
“She moves one of ‘em in,” Alma continued, “pays the bills, and supports the bum.”
“In the end it’s always the same; they fight every night and finally he smacks her around and she kicks ‘im to the curb. I am never gonna’ have a boy friend like that! I’ve got plans, big plans, believe you me!”

Charlie stopped in the road and Alma walked a few steps before she realized he wasn’t beside her anymore. She stopped and looked around.
“What?” she asked.
“He’s not botherin’ you is he? Not touchin’ ya?”
“Ha! That’ll be the day! Just let ‘im try somethin’ like that! I’ll kill him!”
“You sure?” Charlie insisted.
“Whad’da you care?” she asked.
Charlie scowled at her. “I thought we were friends, Alma. Friends look out for friends.”
“Well, thanks, but you don’t need to worry. He wouldn’t dare try anything. Besides, he’s not my type.”
“Oh, really? And what would be your type be, at the wise ol’ age of fifteen?” Charlie laughed.
“Sixteen!” she corrected him. “Last week and you know it. Anyway, my type is none of your beeswax.”
“Okay, okay, don’t get your knickers….” Charlie cleared his throat realizing what he had been about to say. I’ve got no right to refer to a young girl’s knickers in any context. “Ah….I mean…don’t get all mad and everything. I was just wondering.”
He paused, thinking about her turning sixteen. “So…how does that old saying go? ‘Sweet sixteen and never been kissed.’ That you?”
Alma blushed at how close Charlie was to the truth. Why when he looks at me does he only see a child?
What I want is for him to realize that I’m a woman now and that he’s my type. How can I convince him of that when he’s with Cassandra? She wondered to herself. How can I compete with a tall, willowy blonde waitress who works a real job at the diner? I have to do something.

As they walked along, she smirked sideways at Charlie “You volunteering?” she asked.
“Me?! No way. In case you haven’t noticed, kiddo, you’re jail bait.”
It ‘s now or never. Alma decided. This is a perfect opportunity to get my first kiss and if I play it right, it could be Charlie.
“’Cause if you are, volunteering that is, I wouldn’t mind if it was you.” Alma buried her face in a fall of her long hair. She was dying of embarrassment. What if he turns me down? I’ll lock myself in my bedroom and never come out.

They had walked past the mobile home park and out into the desert. The sun was cradled in the saddle of the distant mountains and everything was turning a soft purplish pink. Charlie took her hand and led her off the road and under a mesquite tree. He playfully dusted off a large flat rock.

“Sit. Okay, here’s the deal, Alma. We’re friends. I hope you know I would never hurt you. So, I’m gonna tell you a few home truths. Don’t be in such a danged hurry to get your first kiss or… anything. You got lots of time. Be choosey. Don’t go with the first guy who asks you. And whatever you do, don’t sell yourself short or cheap.”
“Jeez, forget it! I don’t want your danged old kiss. I was just seein’ if you would.”
Charlie scowled down at her. “You know I’m with Cassandra for however long it lasts and I’m a one-woman-at-a-time kinda guy.”
Tears glistened in Alma’s eyes. “Are you sayin’ that I’m cheap?”
“God, no! I was just sayin’ slow down.”
“Oh.” Alma thought that over. She looked up at Charlie through her long, brown eyelashes.

“You never gave me a birthday present, Charlie.” Alma’s lightning change of subjects had Charlie scrambling to catch up with her.
“Well, I’ve been busy with work and all…”
Alma’s eyes flashed with mischief. “So, I know now what I want from you for my birthday.”
“And what’s that?” Charlie asked.
“My first kiss. From you…”
“Goddamnit! Alma, haven’t you been listening to a word I’ve been sayin’?”
Alma stood up. “Yes I have. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m now sixteen, have never been kissed and you owe me a birthday present.”
“Alma, don’t ask that of me. It’s not right. I’m twenty-three and you’re just a kid. I’m old enough to be your…” He fumbled for an example of a family member.
“Older cousin? Older ‘kissin’ cousin?” Alma grinned up into his face. “Come on, Charlie. I want my first to be from someone I lo…like… Who’s a friend and who has some experience. You do have experience, don’cha?”
“Knock it off, Bug. A’course I got experience. But the problem is, you don’t. I would feel like a perv.”
Alma decided she had to take matters into her own hands. Before Charlie knew what she was about to do, she grabbed his shirt front and mashed her body against his. Wrapping her arms around his neck she rose up on her tip toes and put her lips against his, not certain what to do next. His lips were so soft and warm she thought her bones would melt. There was an instant when the world stood still for both of them. Then Charlie’s arm encircled Alma’s waist and his other hand cradled the back of her head. He broke away an inch and looked into her eyes. They had darkened from their usual coppery hue to a rich brandy color.

I am so going to regret this, Charlie thought. This is exactly what I have been trying to stay away from…she’s just a kid, for Chrissakes. Groaning, he bent down and kissed her mouth softly. Alma made a purring sound in the back of her throat. Charlie lightly licked her bottom lip with the tip of his tongue. Her lips opened on a sigh. Need flooded Alma’s body. A growl emitted from Charlie’s chest.My God, Charlie thought, this is so wrong. Why does this feel like this is my first kiss? My heart feels too big for my chest and other parts are swiftly getting out of control. What the hell…? Space…lots of space between me and this young goddess, is what I need. He kissed her gently once more and, taking her firmly by her arms, set her away from him.
“There ya go, Bug, your first kiss.” He laughed to cover the storm of emotions that were bubbling up inside him. What was going on here? This is just a kid, a girl, never in a million years is she right for me. He laughed again.
Alma flinched at Charlie’s laugh. My first kiss ever and it’s more exciting than anything I’ve ever fantasized about and he stands here laughing? I won’t cry, at least not in front of him.
“Yep! And not half bad for an old guy,” she retorted. “Thanks, Charlie.”
Alma whirled around and ran down the road as if she was being chased by devils. Tears streamed down her face as she sobbed out her hurt. I’m in love for the first time and he laughs?
“Hey, Alma, wait a sec,” Charlie yelled after her. “What the hell just happened?” he muttered to himself.
Alma ran all the way back to her trailer, pounded up the steps and through the front door. As she stumbled down the hallway a drunken voice followed her.
“Hey, baby, get your Daddy a beer, would ya?”
“Fuck off!” Alma yelled back as she slammed her bedroom door and threw herself onto her bed in a torrent of tears.

* * * * *

A week later Alma still felt humiliated about ‘the kiss’. She made certain that she avoided Charlie and never went outside when he was home from work. It was seven o’clock in the evening and Charlie was working the night shift at the plant. Alma peeked out the front curtains. Chances are pretty good that I won’t run into him and if I don’t get out of the house, Alma thought to herself, I’ll surely go crazy. It’s probably safe enough to walk down to the laundry room even though it is across the street from Cassandra and Charlie’s trailer.

She stripped the sheets off her bed and gathered up the dirty clothes lying around and tossed them into a basket. Her mother’s loser boyfriend sprawled in a lounger, snoring in front of the television. Alma went to the tiny kitchen and took down the jar of quarters from the cabinet and stuffed a handful into her pocket. She walked through the living room and out the front door. The desert sun was setting and the temperature had dropped so it was a pleasant walk in spite of the heavy load of dirty clothes. Alma opened the door to the laundry room and backed through it with the large basket held tightly in her arms. As she turned around she realized that the room was not empty. Big as life, there was Cassandra cramming clothes into a machine. Isn’t this just great? Alma thought, can’t I catch a break, just once?
“Hi.” Alma said.
“Hi.” Cassandra said, not looking at Alma.
“How’re things?” Alma asked. Maybe she’d say something about Charlie.
Cassandra turned around and Alma saw that her eyes were puffy, her nose was red, and her skin was all blotchy.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Alma asked.
“Nothin’!” Cassandra snapped. “Mind your own business.”
“Okay, sor-rey. I was just askin’. You don’t have to bite my head off.”
Alma began loading clothes into two machines and angrily fed quarters into the slots.
Cassandra looked over. “Look, kid, I’m sorry, okay? It’s just something you wouldn’t understand.” Cassandra sniffled.
“Guy trouble, huh? You and Charlie have a fight or somethin’?” Alma asked, jealousy smearing her words.
Cassandra collapsed on a chair and began to cry. “He’s gone,” she whispered.
“What?” Alma cried.
“He left me. Said he won’t be back. I thought…” She began to cry again. “…I thought we had somethin’.”
“What do you mean, ‘gone’?” Alma’s voice was too loud but she couldn’t seem to help it.
“What don’t ya understand about the word ‘gone’, kid? Adios, left, vamoose, vanished. Get it?” Cassandra cried harder. “He told me he couldn’t hang around anymore. Told me it was great while it lasted. Basically, the bastard kissed me off!” Cassandra replied.
Alma stared at Cassandra for a few seconds, set her basket down carefully on top of the washing machine, turned, and walked out the door. She walked down the road, in a daze.

Charlie was gone? Without telling me he was going? Why? We’re friends. How could he do this and not tell me? How could he leave and not take me with him? She stumbled back to the trailer and up the stairs to the front door. As she entered the living room her mother’s boyfriend was awake and slugging down another beer. With a loud belch, he gazed up at Alma.
“Hey, kid. There’s a letter for you. I think I put it here somewhere.” He patted his dirty wife beater undershirt as if the letter was lurking somewhere between his hairy chest and the large stomach that hung over his belt buckle. He looked around and then laughed.
“Oh, yeah, here it is. Guess I was usin’ it for a coaster last night.” He sheepishly lifted his beer can off an envelope and wiped it against his T-shirt where the can had left a ring of water. “Opps, sorry ‘bout that.”
“Gemme that!” Alma snatched the envelope out of his hand.
“Jesus, you don’t have to get so pissy,” he said.
Alma rushed down the hall to her bedroom. The letter had to be from Charlie. No one wrote to her. She slammed her door shut, locked it and crawled onto her bed. The envelope had only her name across the front; no return name or address and no stamp. She carefully tore the end off and unfolded the single sheet. She quickly read the signature at the bottom. She smiled. It was from Charlie! He hadn’t forgotten about me entirely.


I’ll be gone when you read this. Gotta go, kid. Your first kiss was more than I bargained for and it would be a big mistake for me to hang around.’
Tears filling her eyes, Alma read on.

‘I’m not comin’ back and it would be best if you forgot about me. I’m sure gonna try to forget about you and that kiss.
Take care of yourself and remember what I said, about bein’ choosey.

Your friend, always, Charlie

Alma read it again and then a third time. She didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. The kiss meant as much to Charlie as it had to me. He loves me. But, he’s gone. It doesn’t make any sense. Why did he leave? It’s because I’m a kid and he’s older. But, doesn’t he know that I don’t care about that? Sobs erupted and tears streamed down her face. He was gone and her heart was broken.