Whether she’s writing about the pitfalls of addiction or the skyrocketing rates of diabetes in her community during COVID-19, Chanell’s articles are both personal and broad in scope. Her keen eye for detail and sensitive self-reflections enhance her journalistic reportings and personal essays. Chanell writes with special concern for women’s issues surrounding incarceration, from motherhood to access to healthcare. And as a student in PJP’s inaugural J-school class, Chanell is a writer who values growth and exemplifies the transformative power of storytelling.
Q&A with Chanell Burnette
As journalists, we always seek answers to the five most important questions we want our readers to know: who, what, when, where, and why. We sometimes throw in a how. We asked Patricia these questions so our readers get to know her better.
Who are you? Tell us a little about your background and what you’d like readers to know about you.
I was born and raised in Roanoke, Va. and am a 41-year-old mother of two awesome young men. I’ve been incarcerated for the past 16 years and am due to be released in 2024.
When did you start expressing yourself through writing? Tell us your origins as a writer.
As far back as I can remember, I have been writing. There was never a time when I was not writing! I began speaking out for justice in 2017 due to an injustice that was committed against me and I have continued expressing myself through my writing ever since.
What kinds of stories are you most interested in telling? What genres do you prefer?
I am most interested in telling the stories that I hope will touch the lives of others, be they related to incarceration or any of the other chapters and experiences of my life. I most enjoy writing essays.
Where do you find the inspiration or ideas for your writing?
My inspiration comes from my love for people and my willingness to help them overcome the things that were once struggles for me.
Why do you think writing is important for incarcerated men and women? Why should people on the outside read your stories?
It is imperative because there is a lot that people on the outside do not know about our experiences, or about us as individuals. We are not all bad people. We are human beings with feelings and unique experiences, dreams and aspirations and it is highly important that we be seen as such. People out there should read my stories because they help illuminate just that.
How would you like to be remembered and thought of as a person?
I wish to be captured in people’s hearts as one who was not afraid to stand alone and fight for the right cause! Remember me as a mother and new grandmother who loved her children beyond life itself, and did everything in her power to ensure that they have a future brighter than their past.