Letters from the Editor - March 2008

Jeffrey Hillard


I could not have been more surprised.

I never expected to awaken at 2:00 a.m. in 2005 with a vision.

So, when I tried to go back to sleep, after trying to grasp the essentials of what you’re actually reading here in RED!’s first issue, I simply thanked God for the jolt. I was excited about a something I couldn’t clearly see.

I suspected it had to be an awakening of some degree, because ever since I got an idea of what this webzine might be, I’ve not gone one day without thinking about it, about its potential, or about the stories we’re destined to cover across the world.

Even when I was in the middle of another wonderful yet frustrating writing project from 2005-2007, I thought constantly about the webzine: how could I gather writers? The help? Where were the stories? What reach could the publication have? Would the writing be online?

I’ve spent the last seven years mentoring formerly incarcerated individuals or volunteer teaching in prisons and jails. In the process of upgrading my knowledge of the criminal justice system, I’ve met many people affiliated with the System (whether incarcerated or not) whose work, lives, achievements, and stories are as amazing and miraculous as one can imagine. I’ve written, edited, and published in numerous genres and, since the 1980s, have applied any small skills that I have as a writer toward helping other writers. I’ve been a (literary) magazine editor. I cut my teeth early, and I intend to pile most all my life-long “training” into RED!

The news stories I’ve come across need your attention. They deserve to be spun through your printer. Forward them to friends. It’s as if God has said, “Jeff, now get ‘em out, these stories. Get them down. Alert the world to what I’ve been doing. A lot of these people have been written off, cast aside, glossed over. We’re not forgetting them.”

We held our first RED! brainstorming meeting two years ago. We held our first editorial meeting in January 2007. Here we are.

I thank my friend Steve Sjogren, editor of Serve! webzine ( and senior pastor of Coastland Tampa ( for suggesting the title, RED! on a cold day at Chipotle restaurant in West Chester, Ohio.  It’s a vivid, evocative color, the color of transformation.

Recently I heard a talk radio host say, “I really wish I could read more Comeback Stories. I think we need them.”

You could say RED! is full of “Comeback Stories.”

RED! has feature stories, columns, five key departments: Phasing Up [news], The Zone [listings of ministries and outreach programs], Stand Up [interviews], Turn It [reviews, blogs, podcasts, and webcasts], Action Words [poetry, stories, and artwork by inmates], and a special section: The Psychology of Incarceration.

“The Zone” will blossom each month, as more and more we receive news and contacts from programs that are helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. Soon, The Zone will have its international scope.

I’m proud that I could share my vision with several instrumental big-hearted friends and family members who have given RED! its pulse. I thank Cheryl and Chelsea Hillard, Christine Grote, William and Betty Hillard, Jacqui Slabach, Cheryl McKee, Greg Goldschmidt, Amy Storer (, Joe Kruessel, Heidi Smith, Khalil Osiris, DeRon Smith, Kristi Jacobsen, Joan Green, Joe Daugherty, and Erin and Matt Campbell for their perpetual brilliance. I thank all those who were at the early meetings logging hours of input. Christine Grote’s long hours of editing and designing are a true reason you’re reading RED!

I thank each writer in this issue for penning his or her words. I cherish every word. Wait until you read future issues. Talk about amazing.

I look for news, stories, leads, and responses from you readers to start rolling in. RED! writers will gradually be traveling to gather stories. We have forthcoming correspondents in South America, India, Russia, and Africa.

RED! is a quarterly, with email updates regularly. We plan three issues in 2008, since we’re launching in March. We encourage you to consider donating to the publication. There is nothing quite like it out there. Not in the way this set-up and range exists.

RED! is a non-profit organization partnering with Something More, a Counseling Center of Fairfield, Ohio. Any donation you make to RED! is tax-deductible.

In the near future, donations and new sponsorships will allow RED! to expand its visibility and ability to publish the kind of stories and informational reach you see here. In the near future, too, RED! plans to offer forums, workshops, and outreach events around the country, in our effort to promote the reality of transformation that has occurred and is occurring in the lives of formerly incarcerated people.

We believe in serving. We want to help construct bridge of writing from prisons and jails to the outside world, projecting the voices of individuals who have experienced a changed life in a positive way.

Thank you for joining in. Thank you for believing in the vision. Thank you for reading.

I still wake up at night thinking about what RED! can become. This is The Breakthrough ‘Zine.More soon.

Jeffrey Hillard

Jeff Hillard

Jeff Hillard
Editor, RED!