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An Innocent in the House of the Dead

Joanna Catherine Scott

When writers publish a novel, their greatest hope is that it will touch readers’ hearts and minds. But author Joanna Catherine Scott never expected to hear from a guy on death row about one of her novels. When she was contacted by inmate John Lee Conaway about her book, “The Road from Chapel Hill,” (Berkeley Trade/2006), she was taken aback. Scott knew nothing of America’s prisons, but her instincts as a mother and former teacher steeled her and she went to see Conaway in Central Prison in Raleigh. And she kept going, nearly every week for five years. Today, she and Conaway are family; she has adopted him as her seventh child. And they have collaborated on her newest book, a collection of poems called “An Innocent in the House of the Dead” (Main Street Rag/2011). Scott joins host Frank Stasio in the studio today to talk about writing, empathy and learning about life in prison.

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.